Politics & Policy

Pangin’ for Jeb, &c.

There’s been a lot of Jeb talk lately — certainly in our mag and on our site. I’m a big Jebber, from way back. This column was filled with arguments about why he should run in ’08. “Dynasty, schmynasty” was a phrase I used more than once, I’m pretty sure. I had the temerity to oppose Barbara Bush on this one. (I’m talking about Mrs. 41, not the granddaughter.)

Jeb has said absolutely no to ’12. And ’16? He’s open to that, but . . . it’s a lifetime away. There may be a Republican incumbent, who will want the nomination. And many other Republicans will have risen: your Paul Ryans, your Chris Christies, your Bobby Jindals, your Marco Rubios — many more.

Jeb’s time is now. But he has said no. And a man has a right not to run for president. It’s almost refreshing.

Anyway, I probably told you this tale, way back, but I’d like to tell it again. The 2004 Republican convention was in New York, remember. And, here at NR, we had a parade of Republicans come through. Several of them were governors. And I was struck by how they said, almost unanimously, “Jeb is the best of us. He’s the one showing us how it’s done.”

I don’t know about your field, ladies and gentlemen, but in politics, this sort of talk, this sort of praise, is very, very rare.

I’m reminded of a cherished story from the Cold War. Emil Gilels, the great Russian pianist, was one of the first Russian artists to appear in the U.S. I believe we were in the midst of a cultural exchange, some sort of culture thaw. Everyone was wowed by Gilels, of course — he was one of the greatest pianists ever. And he said at a press conference or some other gathering, “Wait’ll you hear Richter” (i.e., Sviatoslav Richter, another Russian pianist). I think that was just about the humblest and most gracious thing anyone ever said about a colleague.

And then there was this — do you know this story? Enrico Caruso meets John McCormack. Caruso says, “It’s a privilege to meet the world’s greatest tenor.” McCormack says, “I was just about to say the same thing.”

‐In the past few weeks, I have written about the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty, signed in 1979. A good many of us are worried about whether the next Egyptian government will abide by that treaty or renounce it. Go here, for an item of mine on the matter. A couple days ago, someone sent me an interview that Mohamed ElBaradei gave Der Spiegel. Speaking of the Israelis, he said, “At the moment, they have a peace treaty with Mubarak, but not one with the Egyptian people.”

I believe that ElBaradei meant, “It’s important that the whole of the Egyptian people embrace the treaty, embrace peace with Israel — not just an undemocratic government.” I don’t believe he meant anything sinister by it. Still: a statement that causes chills.

Plus, isn’t it slightly strange that he said “with Mubarak,” when it was Mubarak’s predecessor, Sadat, who signed the treaty?

‐A reader writes, “I have the new Golf Channel show Morning Drive on in my office.” “Morning Drive,” cute! “They are interviewing Lee Elder” (an esteemed pro born in 1934). “They keep saying ‘African American.’ They say it so often, it sounds ridiculous. In his own comments, Mr. Elder says nothing but ‘black.’”

The reader continues, “They are interested in the racial discrimination that he has endured,” understandably. Elder endured his share. “But he says that the highlight of his golfing career was playing in the Ryder Cup and seeing the American flag being raised. Not being the first black man to play in the Masters, but being on the Ryder Cup team.”

Some years ago, I was talking to Condoleezza Rice. She said she preferred “black” to “African American.” For one thing, it’s parallel to “white”: “blacks,” “whites,” “a black player,” “a white player,” etc. But, most important, “blacks have been part and parcel of this country for 400 years.” Africa plays about zero role in the consciousness of black Americans. Why should it?

In the current issue of NR, I have a piece on Thomas Sowell, whom the playwright David Mamet has called “our greatest contemporary philosopher.” May I give you a lil’ excerpt from that piece?

Sowell has little patience for the relatively recent term ‘African American.’ In fact, he has almost a spitting contempt for it. He believes the term increases separatism, a racial apartness. Moreover, “the average black family has been in this country longer than the average white family,” in all probability. “I never heard Eisenhower referred to as a ‘German American.’ I never heard FDR referred to as a ‘Dutch American.’ Even in colonial times, most blacks in the United States had been born in the United States.” He remembers something that Edward Brooke once said. Brooke is the ex-senator from Massachusetts (Republican) who grew up in Washington, D.C., and went to the famed black high school, Dunbar. There was no emphasis on Africa in those classrooms. “We studied Africa like we studied Finland.” The students themselves were Americans, and there was no distant, continental motherland.

Hear, frickin’ hear. Sowell said more than that, a lot more — oh, you should have heard him! One of the most glorious talkers ever. And a writer who has taught many thousands, including me.

This piece by John Tierney in the New York Times has received a fair amount of attention. It features an academic, Jonathan Haidt, a social psychologist at the University of Virginia. (Not sure what a social psychologist is, but I’ll move on.) Haidt thinks his colleagues should get out more — should acquaint themselves with views beyond the faculty lounge. He advises them, Tierney tells us, “to subscribe to National Review and to read Thomas Sowell’s ‘A Conflict of Visions.’”

Okay, forget the National Review part — this is what I wanted to tell you: When we were discussing his books, Sowell confided that his favorite is A Conflict of Visions, whose subtitle is “Ideological Origins of Political Struggles.” It came out in 1987. A subsequent book, published in 1995, was called The Vision of the Anointed: Self-Congratulation as a Basis for Social Policy. Sowell said, “It’s sort of applied Conflict of Visions — it gets into contemporary issues.” And the second chapter “really says most of what I have to say about what is wrong with the agenda of the Left, and the tactics of the Left.”

Very, very juicy.

Sowell has written in the neighborhood of 40 books, I should point out. Approaching Buckleyan levels.

‐My being a little shaky on what a social psychologist is: Does that mean that I, my own bad self, should get out more? Like visit a contemporary faculty lounge? (I take it a social psychologist is a shrink who analyzes a whole society, not just a society one patient at a time.)

This article, published on Monday in the Daily Mail, gets right to the point:

An Afghan physiotherapist will be executed within three days for converting to Christianity.

Said Musa, 45, has been held for eight months in a Kabul prison were he claims he has been tortured and sexually abused by inmates and guards.

Mr Musa, who lost his left leg in a landmine explosion in the 1990s, has worked for the Red Cross for 15 years and helps to treat fellow amputees.

He was arrested in May last year as he attempted to seek asylum at the German embassy following a crackdown on Christians within Afghanistan.

He claims he was visited by a judge who told him he would be hanged within days unless he converted back to Islam.

But he remains defiant and said he would be willing to die for his faith.

I believe that the Afghan War is right and necessary, messy and agonizing as it is. But when you hear about Said Musa — and I can’t vouch for the accuracy of this article — you think, “To hell with them.” To hell with the Afghans, and lifting a finger for them. At least, that is a temptation.

In any case, the Afghan War is in America’s interest, as well as others’. We are lifting a finger, so to speak, for ourselves. Still . . .

‐Al Gore and Keith Olbermann, together. A perfect pair. Stomach-turning, to some of us. But perfect. (In case you haven’t heard, Olbermann is to be the leading light of Gore’s television network.)

‐Now and then, I get mail from people who tell me about the enthusiasm that various organizations and individuals have for travel to Cuba. Oh, don’t I know it: Been tracking this for years. The more “progressive” alumni associations, for example, will gush. “See the Granma, on which Che sailed! Sooo cool!” Yesterday, I got an e-mail about the Chicago Bar Association.

I also heard from a woman in “little old Mobile, Alabama,” as she put it. She told me about a lady — a “non-native Mobilian”! — who lauded the Castros’ Cuba at a recent community meeting. “This woman carried on about the beauty, architecture, fun, frolic, fine food, and accommodations Havana has to offer the tourist.”

Hey, don’t forget the underage prostitution! Don’t forget the joy of violating young girls. That’s why many Hollywood types, and many Europeans, and many others have gone there for years. It’s a dirty little secret. Everyone who knows about Cuba knows about it. But of course — most people don’t know.

A question: Why would anyone want to go to a place whose own citizens aren’t free to leave? Who will be shot in the water, if they try to escape? Isn’t that a little . . . inhuman? Why would anyone want to frolic in a police state? Avail himself of segregated beaches, restaurants, hotels, and so on? (Ordinary Cubans are barred from specially designated tourist areas and establishments. Some refer to these practices as “tourism apartheid.”)

I find that, in general, people’s sense of solidarity is nil. They just wanna get they freak on, you know?

‐I’ll give you a slice of New York. There is a storage company here that has politically oriented ads — left-wing ads, of course. A capitalist knows his clientele. You see this company’s signs on the street. For example, I saw one, some years ago, that said, “The only thing scarier than your closets is Dick Cheney,” or something like that. Everyone’s supposed to nod in agreement: Yeah, Dick Cheney is scary, just like the Times and Saturday Night Live say! And Sarah Palin’s dumb! Aren’t we great?

Anyway, was walking along the West Side Highway the other day and saw a pretty good one. Thought I’d snap a picture for you: here. The ad says, “NYC: WHERE PEOPLE ARE OPENLY GAY AND SECRETLY REPUBLICAN. WHY LEAVE?”

Those secret Republicans — bless ’em. (Just as people have a Secret Santa, could they not have a Secret Republican?) (Are you allowed to say “Santa”? Is that too religious? Except when referring to Santa Fe, New Mexico?)

‐Let’s have a little music — a little music criticism, I mean (which is not nearly as good as music, to be sure): For my latest piece in City Arts — on the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, conducted by James Levine, and the pianist Joshua Rifkin, a specialist in Joplin — go here.

‐End with a little language? Okay. In a Daily Mail article, I was drawn to the following: “The Liberals rapidly became an irrelevance; a faintly ridiculous party with nothing to say to a modern world dividing between left and right. They lost their majority but clung on in 1910. By 1923, Labour had overtaken them as the main opposition to the Conservatives. By 1951, a party which had ruled a mighty empire was reduced to six seats.”

I appreciate the history, but somehow I was charmed by a phrase: “clung on.” “. . . clung on in 1910.” I wish to incorporate it at the earliest opportunity. Thanks for joining me for this somewhat odd — but not dull? — Impromptus.




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