Politics & Policy

Another ‘heartless conservative,’ &c.

It was interesting to read Kate Trinko’s piece on Michele Bachmann and learn that the congresswoman had been a foster mother to 23 kids — 23 teenage girls. I thought, “Yeah, those heartless conservatives: never giving a fig about humanity.”

I was reminded of Jesse Helms — who, with his wife, adopted a severely handicapped boy (as I understand it). One of those kids who are supposed to be unadoptable. I interviewed Helms toward the end of his life. (Go here, if you like.) Of all the questions I asked, he declined to answer only one: my question about this son. I think a modesty or humility would not allow it.

Conservatives are called heartless because they oppose big-government schemes. Usually, they oppose them on the grounds that they are useless at best, harmful at worst. Anyone with a modicum of sense or experience knows that there’s more to life than big government. Even than smaller government.

Do you know this old line? “A Marxist is someone who loves humanity in groups of one million or more.”

‐I came of age during the Reagan presidency, and watched a lot of television. I heard Sam Donaldson say a hundred times, “Reagan would give you the shirt off his back, but, that same afternoon, he would cut a government program. He does not understand the disconnection between the two.”

Over time — and not very much time — I came to think that it was Reagan who had the better understanding. That Reagan understood the world a little better than Donaldson.

‐I know, I know: Reagan cut nothing. To have slowed the rate of increase: That was the great achievement in those years!

‐As you perhaps have, I’ve read many an article about Richard Goldstone and his repentance, or semi-repentance. I’ve read some of my favorite writers: David Horovitz (the English-born Israeli journalist, not to be confused with our David Horowitz), Melanie Phillips, Mona Charen, Martin Peretz. That is just a partial list. And I agree with them, needless to say: Goldstone, in his infamous report on Gaza, did a terrible, terribly damaging thing. He did it to Israel and the world. This was little short of blood libel.

But I’m glad he wrote the article he did — the article confessing his errors. It is very important. If it is not noble, it’s at least not ignoble. The radical Arabs are branding Goldstone a betrayer. He was a hero to them — and to the U.N. crowd, to use a shorthand. Chances are, it wasn’t easy for him to write his article. It cost him something.

Again, I’m glad he did it. Would it have been better if he had stayed quiet? No. His article — a mea culpa, really — abets the truth, is a victory for the truth.

‐I remember when Martin Amis published his book Koba the Dread, about Stalin. This was in 2002. A lot of people said, “Gee, Stalin was bad? A mass murderer? A monster? Martin Amis recognizes that now? A little late, don’t you think? What will he next say, that the bubonic plague was unfortunate?” My view was a little different. I thought it was good that such a “cool,” stylish, and acclaimed novelist had made a statement about Stalin and Communism. There are lots of people willing to listen to Amis who are not willing to listen to — well, me, or you.

I thought the book was welcome.

‐Consider that Britain’s favorite historian, E. J. Hobsbawm, who is perhaps the English-speaking world’s favorite, or most honored, historian, too, is an outright apologist for Stalin and his crimes.

‐The Goldstone article is late, as everyone says. But it could have been later. It could also have been never-appearing. This article is now part of the record. In a way, it corrects the record, a prior record. That is welcome. Goldstone is maddening, and damnable. His article is maddening in some respects too — and not damnable.

On to getting the Goldstone Report, that disservice to truth and the world, rescinded and effaced. Let it go the way of U.N. Resolution 3379 — which said that Zionism was racism.

‐Do you know about Ai Weiwei? You can get to know him a little through this article, which begins,

China blocked one of its most famous contemporary artists from taking a flight to Hong Kong on Sunday and police later raided his Beijing studio . . .

The artist, Ai Weiwei, is an outspoken government critic and has been barred from going abroad before.

China has launched a massive crackdown on lawyers, writers and activists . . .

Have just a little more:

Known for his distinctive scraggly beard and stocky frame, Ai was a consultant for the futuristic Bird’s Nest stadium at the Beijing Olympics before souring on the event. He was later beaten and detained while attempting to attend the trial of an advocate for victims of the devastating 2008 earthquake in the southwestern city of Chengdu.

Yes, that’s what they do: beat and detain, and worse. Countless anonymous people are bludgeoned by the regime in Beijing — for example, Falun Gong practitioners, whom no one cares about, or whom people consider a nuisance. Sometimes it takes the victimization of an artist or writer to interest the world.

But, hell, the Chinese government holds in prison the current Nobel peace laureate, Liu Xiaobo, and who cares about this? Not long ago, the 2009 Nobel peace laureate — Barack Obama — fêted in the White House the jailers and persecutors of the 2010 peace laureate. Great, just great.

‐Consider this report: “A prison camp in Northeast China has been put under lockdown after three Falun Gong detainees died there within two weeks and evidence of the sudden deaths was posted online.” If you can bear details, click on the link.

‐Look how Vietnam — remember Vietnam? — has gotten into the act: “Two Vietnamese Falun Gong practitioners are scheduled to stand trial Friday for broadcasting uncensored news programs into China, following a request from Beijing to crack down.” (To read more, go here.)

‐You have read that Media Matters, the Soros-funded group, has announced a campaign of “guerrilla warfare and sabotage” against Fox News. (I cite this particular story.) Imagine what the reaction would be if a conservative group announced “guerrilla warfare and sabotage” against a left-leaning network (which is to say, pretty much all the others). Wouldn’t the media at large condemn this as an attack on the free press?

I’m reminded a little of Christians — indeed, of believers in general. A great many of them do not regard people from other churches or faiths as fellow believers, or fellow spiritual strivers. They regard them as foes, to be put down, cast loose — certainly not to be rallied to or supported.

‐In Tuesday’s column, I mentioned, en passant, a twelve-year-old niece, visiting from Michigan. She likes stores. Boy, does she. So, walking down Fifth Avenue, she spots a store called Hollister, and makes a beeline.

The workers all seem to be about 16. Aren’t there laws against this? Some of them are dressed in almost nothing, just standin’ around. Everyone greets us with “Hey, what’s up?” The clad kids at the door: “Hey, what’s up?” The naked kids inside: “Hey, what’s up?” That has to be the greeting they are instructed to use. But it gets kind of comical when they all use it.

I found the store as a whole — its affect, its ambience — entirely creepy. But I felt I had gotten a glimpse into the culture . . .

‐Went to a newsstand, here in New York. Young fellow manning it — looked about 18. Bright-eyed, smiling, handsome. Slight accent. Obviously an immigrant. Dad or uncle must own the newsstand. The kid had before him a science textbook, which he was studying between sales.

I thought, “This is something wonderful about America, something that recurs generation after generation.” I think it’s possible to be so appalled by illegal immigration, and the failure of the political class to do anything about it, that one forgets the glory of legal and sensible immigration.

‐A little music? This piece in City Arts treats a concert by the NHK Symphony Orchestra, with André Previn, conductor, and Kiri Te Kanawa, soprano, and an evening of monodramas staged by New York City Opera.

‐More music? Have a piece by J. D. McClatchy, the poet, librettist, editor, and all-around littérateur. It appears in Opera News, and begins,

A few years ago, in his regular column for The New Criterion, music critic Jay Nordlinger wrote about the kind of nostalgia that can distort our memories of past performances by giving them more brilliance than they actually had. The syndrome is familiar: everything older is golder.

The piece to which McClatchy refers, if you’re interested, is here.

‐Finally, a letter, noting a phenomenon with which I am very, very familiar. Maybe you are too. The letter comes from a liberal reader who occasionally writes me, and always respectfully. She was responding to an item I had on the Corner: “‘Rush Babies,’” about people who became conservative because, when young, they listened to Rush Limbaugh on the radio.

Our reader makes clear she is no dittohead. But she says, “Rush is certainly not an ‘inoffensive beige house,’ if you know what I mean, and for that, I do like him.” Then she says,

More recently, listening to bits of his radio show on road trips, I’ve been struck by his affection for his personal acquaintances, whatever their political leanings. He can be harsh about the Left as an abstraction, but seems disposed to like individual people, really.

In general terms, acknowledging that there are all sorts of exceptions, I’d call that a common strength of conservative people — when they find out you’re a liberal, they’ll look quizzically at you sometimes, but will not start withholding warmth or congeniality. That’s been my general experience as a liberal talking with conservatives, anyway.

I’m exasperated to admit that just the opposite behavior seems to be, in general, one of the great weaknesses of liberal people. I fell madly in love with a conservative man about two years ago, and we are now engaged. When some (not all, and not the best) of my liberal friends meet him and find out his political affiliation, you can almost feel the resulting “cooling off,” as if they suddenly fear they may be speaking to a Bad Person.

My fiancé confirms, matter-of-factly and without resentment, that he has noticed all this, and even goes so far as to say that he can sense which kinds of people would be most distressed by his politics. He withholds information about himself accordingly, to avoid social discomfort.

And he’s a fiscal conservative ONLY!! Doesn’t give a toss about the social/cultural concerns of the Right. In other words, he represents the sort of conservatism liberals claim to like.

It’s the kind of thing that makes me laugh to keep from crying, really. I feel like a genial (dare I say DEMOCRATIC?) interest in each person who crosses your path in life is completely consistent with what I call liberalism — and there was a time when I would have pegged conservatives as generally more judgmental, but in my dotage, I find that life is, as always, much more surprising than that. 🙂

Well, I could sing on this theme for ages — but instead I’ll just say thanks to all readers, and see you later.




The Latest