Politics & Policy

‘You’re [expletive deleted] dead!’ &c.

On the floor of the Wisconsin assembly, a Democrat threatened a Republican, obscenely. The Democrat was a man named Gordon Hintz; the Republican was a woman named Michelle Litjens. He pointed his finger at her and shouted, “You’re f***ing dead!” He did not use asterisks.

When Republican congressman Joe Wilson called out to President Obama “You lie,” the opinion-making class (for lack of a better term) said that we all had to engage in deep soul searching about civility. Maybe we can spend a second on this little episode in Wisconsin? And the larger episode in Wisconsin?

No one likes a conservative who gripes about media bias, but here I go: Do you think that, if the shouting man had been a Republican and the target of his obscene threat had been a Democratic woman, this story would be a teensy-weensy bit bigger, nationally, than it is?

I think . . .

‐I’m thinking that, if a Republican man pointed his finger at a Democratic woman in a legislative chamber and shouted, “You’re f***ing dead!” he would be on the cover of Time or Newsweek, or both. He would be famous. A sample headline: “The Angry Right: Is America Itself Threatened?”

‐Okay, get ready for the ho-hum: Chinese authorities have tortured another Falun Gong practitioner to death. I know, stifle your yawns. A man named Pei Yangqing was picked up in September, for the crime of telling some people about the persecution of Falun Gong practitioners in general. He lasted until February 20. Then he expired.

As this report tells us, “Pei had previously been detained multiple times for practicing Falun Gong, the longest stint being 75 days. While in detention, he was subjected to severe torture, including being whipped with barbed wire and shackled such that his feet were chained to his handcuffed wrists, causing excruciating pain to the point that he lost consciousness.”

You know what we should do? We should put on a lavish state dinner for the boss of the Chinese Communist Party at the White House, and we should have Lang Lang play musical tributes to this glorious party. Yeah, that’s what we should do . . .

‐Speaking of glorious Communist parties: Alan P. Gross, the American aid worker, has been held by the Cuban dictatorship for a year and three months. Jesse Jackson has volunteered to go win his release. He told the Associated Press, “I am not making a legal case. I am making a humanitarian plea, a moral appeal. I hope that Raúl and the governing officials see the advantage of letting him go. Every time a prisoner is let go, it opens the door for increased dialogue and possibilities.”

The point, as far as I can tell, is not that it’s wrong to hold an innocent man hostage and prisoner. The point is that there may be an “advantage” to “letting him go.” And don’t you love the phrase “Raúl and the governing officials”? Such sweet language, to describe the brutes of a dictatorship, holding a people in subjection.

For the AP article on Jackson, go here.

‐There is also this article by the reverend — “reverend”! — himself, which begins, “I appeal to His Excellency President Raul Castro to release Mr. Alan P. Gross on humanitarian grounds.” I did not want to read after “His Excellency President,” but I did. What is excellent about a totalitarian dictator (or even the brother and frontman of the real totalitarian dictator)? Why is this dictator, or frontman, a “president”?

Anyway, Jackson said, “With the assistance of the Catholic Church, you rightly released several Cuban dissidents to Spain last year and I commend you for your courage in doing a difficult but moral thing.”

If you know what that means, you are a better Jackson decoder than I am.

‐You may recall what the “reverend” shouted on a trip to Cuba some years ago. “Viva Fidel Castro! Viva Che Guevara!” Bill Buckley asked Jackson, on television, whether, when he wished long life to the dictator, he meant, at the same time, to wish short life to his prisoners. (A short life, given the brutality of the Cuban gulag, could be better.)

‐If Jesse Jackson’s sucking up to the dictatorship, and the dictatorship’s sense of PR, springs Alan Gross, I would be all for it. One must be extremely pragmatic in these matters. What counts is the man’s release. I felt the same way about Goodman and Syria. Remember when the Assad dictatorship made a gift of that American airman to Jackson? That was in the early 1980s. The Gipper said, “You can’t argue with results.”

Some conservatives burned — and they had a point — but Reagan was right.

(Incidentally, the brave Robert O. Goodman was black. There was race involved in what Syria and Jackson were doing, as there so often is in life.)

‐I wonder if Jackson would consider making a cause out of Dr. Óscar Elías Biscet. He is the Afro-Cuban physician and democracy leader who has been in the Castros’ dungeons for a very long time. His models are Gandhi and Martin Luther King. George W. Bush gave him the Presidential Medal of Freedom (of course). (Biscet, somehow, didn’t show up to accept.)

Do you think Jackson would ever take an interest in him? That would surprise me. I think Jackson’s — and the American Left’s — attachment to, and affection for, the Communist dictatorship in Cuba is simply too great.

‐I wish to quote Charles Moore, whom I could quote all day, every day, on almost everything:

“It is often said that anti-Israeli feeling is growing in the West because Israel does not, despite its claims, live by Western values. I sometimes wonder if the opposite is the case: Israel, because of the constant threat to its existence, reminds us of the high cost of defending our freedoms. And that, to Western wishful thinkers, is intensely irritating.”

Oh, yes. I remember Norman Podhoretz making this point, a long time ago. Famous essay in Commentary. And it is still, stubbornly, acutely true. (For the Moore column in which the above sentences appear, go here.)

‐I read a headline, over this article: “Gorbachev, at 80, gets Russia’s highest honor.” I’m thinking, “Well, can’t be the Lenin Prize. Sure can’t be the Stalin Prize. Putin Prize?” Turns out it’s the Order of St. Andrew. I somehow think of Scotland and golf.

Incidentally, remember how we used to call the Soviet leader “Gorby”? (Also, expressions of extreme Western enthusiasm for him were called “Gorbasms.”) The address of his website — I’m not sure “address” is the right word — is www.gorby.ru.

‐Not long ago, I was in Norway, talking with some politicos — right of center. (Well, in Norway, you could be a socialist, and still be right of center. I mean “right of center” even in American terms.) I said, “Obama is the perfect American president for the Norwegian political culture, isn’t he? I mean, no wonder they gave him the Nobel prize. He’s left-wing, he apologizes for America, he wants a more Norwegian-like state, he’s pro-abortion, he’s anti-Israel, he venerates the U.N. — he’s even black. He’s perfect.”

One of the Norwegians said, “No, he could be gay. Then he’d be perfect.” I said, “I stand corrected, my friend.”

‐In a recent column — or some Corner posts, or both — I spoke of graciousness among colleagues (basically). Tell you what I mean. I recalled what the pianist Gilels said, when he first toured the United States: “Wait’ll you hear Richter.” And I told the story about Caruso and McCormack. (One says, “It’s an honor to meet the world’s greatest tenor.” The other says, “I was just going to say the same thing.”)

My friend Robert Marshall, the eminent musicologist, sent a note about Haydn and Mozart. They admired each other tremendously, and praised each other to the skies. Marshall thinks there may be nothing else quite like it in history. Often, a big artist feels comfortable praising someone long dead — not someone alive, kicking, and working.

Marshall writes,

You remember Haydn’s famous praise of Mozart, expressed personally in 1785 to Leopold [Mozart’s father] (who naturally — and surely expectedly — passed it on to Wolfgang): “Before God and as an honest man, I tell you that your son is the greatest composer known to me,” etc. That same year, Wolfgang published those six incredible string quartets, accompanied by a most flattering dedication to Haydn — the kind of public tribute musicians typically addressed to patrons and aristocrats, not to colleagues.

I then recalled something Lorin Maazel said to me, in an interview. (Maazel is one of the leading conductors in the world.) (Not talking trains.) I forget how this came up. But Maazel said, “At the highest level, there is no envy or rivalry, only mutual esteem.” Marshall then remembered a colleague of his at the University of Chicago: Edward Lowinsky.

The issue was faculty recruitment (which can be very, very touchy). Lowinsky said, “First-rate people want first-rate colleagues; second-rate people want fifth-rate colleagues.”

That strikes me as very true.

‐Several years ago, I met a bright and interesting young man from Mississippi, with the excellent name of Lucien Smith. (If I were a Smith, I’d want a first name like Lucien.) He is still a bright and interesting young man from Mississippi: and is running for treasurer of his state. I hope he has a long, fruitful, beneficial career in public office. (His website is here.)

‐You know how I sometimes write about the rise of Indians in America? (I’m talking about Indians of the South Asian kind.) I was reading about Rajat Gupta, the corporate titan who is in deep doo-doo. Here is the last paragraph of the article:

While Gupta and at least two other managers of Indian origin are under the gun, it turns out that the investigation and prosecution of the case is also in the hands of Indian-Americans. The SEC probe is being handled, among others, by Sanjay Wadhwa, of the Commission’s Market Abuse Unit in New York. Rajratnam, meanwhile, is being prosecuted by Preet Bharara, who is the Justice Department’s Attorney for Manhattan.

Indians, Indians, everywhere you look. Good.

‐I’d like to share with you an interesting observation by Ignat Solzhenitsyn (middle son of the writer; a pianist and conductor):

When I was growing up, I loved reading, in adventure books such as The Three Musketeers and The Count of Monte Cristo, about passwords. They seemed to breathe an olden time, a time of secrets and gallantry and bravery and intrigue, a time that would never come back. That was my only contact with passwords.

Who knew that, a few short years later, one’s whole life would seemingly revolve around passwords, and that any Joe Schmo, presumably without mediaeval gallantry in his mind, would have several passwords just to get through one day?

Funny. Interesting. True. (And it’s very Solzhenitsyn to spell medieval the old-fashioned way. I like it.)




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