Politics & Policy

A November wish, &c.

I know you heard Harry Reid’s infamous statement. Which one, you ask? The one he made recently before a group of his Hispanic supporters. He said, “I don’t know how anyone of Hispanic heritage could be a Republican, okay? Do I need to say more?”

No. In a way, I don’t know how Harry Reid could be majority leader of the United States Senate, okay? Do I need to say more?

It is high time for this spectacularly crude and offensive man to go. Of all the things I want in November, I want nothing more than that Sharron Angle beat him. Oh, people’s heads would explode. Democrats’ heads would explode, of course. (Can you imagine the media coverage?) And so would those of anti-Tea Party Republicans. I think I want Sharron Angle to beat Harry Reid even more than I want Marco Rubio to beat Charlie Crist, which is saying something.

Hey, isn’t Rubio a “Hispanic Republican”? In truth, he’s an American and a human being. That’s a concept, of course, that many people have difficulty with.

Consider another of our majority leader’s greatest hits: the statement that Obama is a “light-skinned” black “with no Negro dialect, unless he wanted to have one.” I fear there is nothing that Harry Reid can’t survive. Maybe Angle’s challenge will be what at last upends him.

She has shown shakiness as a candidate, to be sure. I imagine she’s an underdog. But I think she has a basic integrity — a sincerity, a spirit of goodwill — that is missing in her opponent. (For a write-up I did about Angle, recording early impressions, go here.)

A final comment about Reid, before I stop huffing. (I have many more topics to huff about.) Actually, this is more a comment about his party: Did any Senate Democrats take offense at their leader’s wonderment that any Hispanic could be a Republican? Did any prominent Democrats at large take offense? Did any wince inside? I hope so, but I can’t be sure of it. You?

‐I’ll tell you what a hot race is: the one for Maryland governor between Martin O’Malley, the Democrat and incumbent, and Robert Ehrlich, the Republican and challenger. Ehrlich used to be the governor, until O’Malley beat him. Now Ehrlich is trying to turn the tables. And he is one of the most interesting and impressive Republicans — and interesting and impressive libertarian-conservatives — in the country.

For a piece I did on him in a June National Review, go here. That piece is called “Back in the Game.” It was the third piece I had written about him — I could be accused of stalking. I first wrote about him while he was governor, in 2005. That piece was called “All-American.” (Ehrlich was a football standout.) Then, when he lost to O’Malley, I did a sort of thanks-and-goodbye piece: “Exit of a Champion.”

Well, not so fast . . .

‐Another candidate to keep an eye on? This one’s running for the U.S. House, down in Florida. (“Down” for most everybody, right? For most every American, that is.) He is Allen West, a former military man and absolutely fearless: a nice combination of thoughtful and fearless. He is a rock-ribbed Reagan Republican. And, for those keeping racial score — and what do Americans like to do more? — he is black. I wrote about West for a May NR. Go here, if you’re interested.

He has the habit of signing himself “Steadfast and Loyal” — I believe it is true, too. And steadfastness and loyalty are among the most precious human qualities.

‐What do Americans like to do more than keep racial score? I don’t know, but I’ll tell you what they like to do as much: sue. I think it long ago passed baseball as our national pastime.

‐A few months ago in New York, I was talking with some diplomats from East Asia. These people had been in America for several years; I had known them a little. I said, “Let’s talk turkey. No need to be diplomatic. What do you dislike about America? What do you think is unattractive about this country?” To break the ice, I gave a little list (racial hang-ups, litigiousness, extreme political correctness in language, etc.). One woman, somewhat hesitantly, said, “Americans don’t save anything. Everything is thrown away, quickly. And things are made not to last.”

Ah, “the disposable society.” We used to talk a fair amount about that one. I had sort of forgotten about it.

‐A friend of mine sent me an e-mail headed, “An Illustration of Good and Evil.” Well, he must be a terribly simpleminded friend, right? Because there is no such thing as good and evil. Only Manichean blockheads can think so.

Dunno. My friend sent me two pictures; they can be found accompanying a column by the magnificent Jeff Jacoby, here. Here is the caption to one picture: “Hodaya Ames, 9, cries at her parents’ funeral after they were killed by Hamas terrorists last week. Hodaya’s mother was nine months pregnant with her seventh child.” Here is the caption to the other: “Palestinian children in Gaza, waving green Islamic flags and making a victory sign, participate in a rally to celebrate the terrorist attack that killed four Israeli Jews near Hebron on Aug. 31, 2010.” Those “four Israeli Jews” included Hodaya’s parents.

There is a world of commentary — not to mention Commentary — in this, but I have commented for many years, and will move on . . .

But not before saying this: Have you ever seen a picture of Israeli kids celebrating the murder, or even the deaths, of Palestinians? Even of Palestinian terrorists and mass-murderers? Let me know if you spot one.

And just one more comment: It is very, very hard to make peace with people who teach their children to celebrate the murder of your own people. Very, very hard. Which is why, many years ago, I learned to cut the Israelis slack — miles of it.

‐By now, you may well have seen, or heard about, an article by Peter Baker in the New York Times. It was about Obama as commander-in-chief. And it contained a quotation made famous by Charles Krauthammer, in a column of his. For the Times article, go here; for the K’hammer column, go here.

That quotation comes from an adviser to Obama, and it goes like this: “Our Afghan policy was focused as much as anything on domestic politics. [Obama] would not risk losing the moderate to centrist Democrats in the middle of health insurance reform and he viewed that legislation as the make-or-break legislation for his administration.”

Chew on those words a bit: Our Afghan policy was focused as much as anything on domestic politics. No Republican foe said that — a presidential adviser did. Why doesn’t the world stop until this is sorted out? Do you know what I mean? Why doesn’t the Staten Island Ferry stop running, Halladay stop pitching, and water stop pouring over Niagara?

It’s just one line in a newspaper, I know, but . . . holy Moses, what a statement, from such a source.

‐So, there was the guy who drank in Al Gore and took hostages at the Discovery Channel building, threatening to kill them and to blow the joint up. He was shot by the police before he could kill anyone.

A little Memory Lane — dark alley. I remember distinctly when Rabin was assassinated in Israel: The Left said that the Likud party had “created the climate” — that was the buzzphrase, “created the climate” — in which this could take place.

Some months before that, McVeigh and his helpers had blown up the Oklahoma City building. President Clinton strongly suggested that Rush Limbaugh, and conservative talk radio, was responsible. I thought this was just about as despicable a thing as a president could do. Do you remember his commencement address at Michigan State University? Vile.

Five years ago, Hurricane Katrina bore down on New Orleans. I wrote a piece called “All the Uglier: What Katrina whipped up.” It was about the reaction to the disaster, especially the blaming of George W. Bush, Ronald Reagan, and anyone else who ever looked askance at the Sierra Club. I recently re-read that piece. I am not easily shocked, I promise you, but I was shocked all over again at what people said, and got away with: RFK Jr., for one. Anyway, that piece is here.

Did I have a point, in this little impromptu? Oh, yeah. When people commit horrid crimes, or natural disaster strikes, we ought to be a little careful — sober — about holding politicians we dislike responsible. As far as I’m aware, Gore has not received the treatment meted out to Netanyahu, Rush, and other conservatives.

Although I do remember some snarky remarks that the Unabomber’s manifesto resembled Gore’s book Earth in the Balance. There were side-by-side comparisons and so on.

‐Did you hear Deval Patrick, the governor of Massachusetts, reacting to Glenn Beck’s rally on the Mall? He said, “It’s a free country. I wish it weren’t, but it’s a free country, and you gotta respect that freedom.”

I thought of President Obama in China last year, talking to students. One of them asked him — this is almost a heartbreaking question — “Should we be able to use Twitter freely?” An easy question — right? — especially for the leader of the country that stands for freedom in the world. Our president began, “Well, first of all, let me say that I have never used Twitter. My thumbs are too clumsy to type in things on the phone.” Uh-huh. Then he continued, “I should be honest: As president of the United States, there are times where I wish information didn’t flow so freely because then I wouldn’t have to listen to people criticizing me all the time.”

Eventually, he got around to a defense of freedom, in this unfree country, China — took a while, though.

Weird times. Weird high-office holders.

‐You have heard Mark Thompson, the director general of the BBC. He said, “In the BBC I joined 30 years ago, there was, in much of current affairs, in terms of people’s personal politics, which were quite vocal, a massive bias to the left.” He claimed, of course, that things are different now. But bless him for acknowledging the massive bias of the past!

Would that there were an American figure — our equivalent of Mark Thompson, or a near-equivalent — who would do something like the same. Now, if Thompson could get the BBC’s Middle East coverage to be as fair as, say, al-Jazeera’s, that would be icing on the cake. (Seriously speaking, I know a media expert, who studies these things minutely, who says that al-Jazeera’s coverage is considerably fairer than the Beeb’s.)

‐Did you get a load of Karel De Gucht? Name sounds Flemish, right? Right you are. He is Belgium’s former foreign minister, and he is now the European Union’s trade commissioner. Here’s our guy on Belgian radio:

Don’t underestimate the opinion . . . of the average Jew outside Israel. There is indeed a belief — it’s difficult to describe it otherwise — among most Jews that they are right. And a belief is something that’s difficult to counter with rational arguments. And it’s not so much whether these are religious Jews or not. Lay Jews also share the same belief that they are right. So it is not easy to have, even with moderate Jews, a rational discussion about what is actually happening in the Middle East.

Yeah, I know, that’s such a drag. You know what other people think they’re always right, in my experience? EU officials. Very hard to have conversations with.

Our guy continued, “Do not underestimate the Jewish lobby on Capitol Hill. That is the best-organized lobby. You shouldn’t underestimate the grip it has on American politics — no matter whether it’s Republicans or Democrats.”

For sure, that lobby always sends a shiver up my spine, too. And I recall the words of Archbishop Tutu, that great moral leader: “People are scared in this country [America] to say wrong is wrong, because the Jewish lobby is powerful — very powerful.” Shiver shiver shiver.

I think that the likes of Karel De Gucht and Desmond Tutu can’t conceive of a country where the people actually support Israel — where they admire and even love it. Therefore, if the country’s government is pro-Israel, it must be the result of a nefarious lobby, thwarting the popular will.

Never before, until this era, have people said that a Jewish minority is frustrating the majority will and destiny. Never before have people said that a Jewish tail is wagging a great national dog. Right? And never before has this assertion been a prelude to strikes on Jews. Right?

‐I noticed the cover of The National Interest. Bearing a photo of Neville Chamberlain, it says, “Appeaser!” Then it says, “Paul Kennedy on the Most Abused Word in History.” Munich gave appeasement a very bad name, it is true. (That was a lesson taught to me by a history professor of mine, who otherwise wasn’t worth much.)

But I believe that, quite possibly, the most abused word in history — where politics and world affairs are concerned — is “peace.” And then, possibly, “fascism.” Of course, the most abused word of all time — any sphere — is “love.”

‐A little language? I saw a headline I liked very much — I’m not used to hearing the Minnesota Vikings referred to as the “Vikes.” So I just smiled over, “Harvin Out of Hospital, Back with Vikes.” I will try to work the term into my own writing. (But how? The Vikings don’t come up much, in my work. Maybe a reflection on Fran Tarkenton? Hey, I have an idea: a piece or note on Alan Page’s jurisprudence?)

‐I was doing a little Googling about Whitman’s Chocolates — because I was mentioning them in a piece — and I saw an ad from 1918. I think it is my favorite ad of all time now. “In peace times a pleasant luxury. In war times a fighting food.”

‐A little memory of James Jackson Kilpatrick — Kilpo — who died recently. A memory of him and his wife, Marianne Means. They were both newspaper columnists. Kilpo was a righty, Means a lefty. They were a Carville-and-Matalin couple, though not nearly as well known for that. They married quite late — second marriages, I assume. In their seventies (I believe). When we lived in Georgetown — back in Washington days (obviously) — I would see them kind of toddling on the sidewalk, and I found this sight rather touching. Here was an elderly couple much enjoying each other’s company, or so it seemed.

I bet Kilpatrick had not struck most people as the kind of conservative who would marry a liberal — and a professional, public liberal at that.

‐Spent a few days in Toronto recently. A few observations? The people seemed exceptionally nice — but maybe not exceptionally nice for Canada. On the street, a man bumped into me and said, “Excuse me.” I thought, “Baby, you ain’t in Manhattan no mo’.” (I jest — Manhattan is a perfectly friendly place. In a way.)

Thought of a song lyric: “I had the time, the time of my life. I saw a man who danced with his wife, in Chicago . . .” I was bumped into by a man who said, “Excuse me,” in Toronto . . .

‐The ushers in the ballpark were very, very nice. “Thank you for coming. May I help you find your seat?” Holy mackerel — it wasn’t like this in Tiger Stadium when I was growing up, I can tell you.

‐Back in Michigan, back then, the Canadian dollar was kind of worthless. It wasn’t a real dollar; it was a toy dollar, worth 75 cents or something. I worked at golf courses, and sometimes Canucks would come in and try to pay their greens fees with Canadian dollars. We would just laugh. Hey, hoser, might as well offer up beads, eh?

Well, who’s the joke on now? I found, in Toronto, that the American dollar is worth less than the Canadian. Great, just frickin’ great.

‐On one of the Canadian bills, I saw a picture of Queen Elizabeth. It was good to see her — a “beautiful old lady,” as Charles Moore called her, correctly, in a recent column. And I had forgotten about Canada’s connection to the British crown. One can do that.

On the flip side of that bill was the legend, “Would we know each other the slightest without the arts?” Oh, for heaven’s sake. I like music and painting and all, but let’s not get carried away.

‐A beggar held a sign the likes of which I’d never seen before: “Broke and Ugly.” Was funny. Strange thing was, the man wasn’t ugly. Broke, I’m pretty sure.

‐Liked a billboard, by the side of the road: “Hey texty, pay attention!”

‐Would you like some music? Because you know, without it, we wouldn’t know each other in the slightest. For my “New York Chronicle,” in the current New Criterion, go here. And that whole issue, of course, is stuffed with arts-and-letters goodness.

‐A little more music? At the Toronto-Detroit game, they played the William Tell Overture, and I loved the thing all over again. Perfectly crafted, clearly inspired — touched with a really intelligent spirit. I wish Rossini could know the enduring popularity of it. Wonder if he does.

I have often quoted one of his statements — a statement he made about his posterity. He said (something like), “I hope to be survived by Act III of Otello, Act II of William Tell — and all of The Barber” (of Seville).

Memo to itchy-fingers: Please don’t write me to say that Verdi, not Rossini, wrote Otello. Rossini wrote one too. Thank you!

I went with a friend, a couple of years ago, to a concert that included Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No. 2. My friend said, “An old joke has it that an intellectual is someone who can hear the William Tell Overture without thinking of the Lone Ranger. Well, I can’t hear that concerto without thinking of Bill Buckley.” The concerto’s third movement — a trumpet showpiece — was the theme music of Firing Line.

But you know that, glorious NR-niks and Buckleyites! (Nixon used that term, in the 1960s, and not kindly: “Buckleyites.”) Thanks for joining me today, and us every day.




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