Remember when Al Gore referred to George W. Bush as “snippy”? (He was, too, or could be.) Well, our current president is very, very snippy. And somewhat mean. And bluntly partisan. You can see all this in his reaction to Republican budget plans and ideas.
He doesn’t say that those plans and ideas are merely misguided. “My friends on the other side are well-meaning. We all want to save the country from this mess we’re in. But they have it all wrong.” Obama never says anything like that. Instead, he says that Paul Ryan & Co. are dishonest, un-American, and out to starve your grandma.
Obama’s sheer lack of class could be a boon to Republicans in 2012. An obnoxious Obama will be easier to beat than a gracious Obama. Remember that guy? The one who gave the keynote address at the 2004 Democratic convention? Mr. One America? Strangely, he has not really been that as president.
And, again, Republicans are lucky. You can be likable, charming, and ecumenical, as you socialize the country. But Obama has been something else. In demeanor and rhetoric, he has been like a DNC chairman — Debbie Wasserman Schultz, at her feistiest.
Walk with me down Memory Lane for a second. In the 2000 general election campaign, Bush had a very, very bad first debate. He came on strong in the next two. But he floundered in the first one. It could have sunk his campaign. But Gore had behaved like such a jerk — rolling his eyes, sighing, etc. — all the post-debate attention was on that: Gore’s boorishness, not Bush’s stumbles.
That was lucky, for Bush and the Republicans. They — we — were also lucky in this: The two Democratic nominees who faced Bush, Gore and John Kerry, were two of the least likable men in public life (as I see it). And the first opponent got more votes than Bush; and the second came very close. What if those Democrats had been peaches?
In the past, Obama’s likability was one of his great assets. As I look at things, that asset is gone, because the likability is. Or, as I’m doing my looking at things, am I doing so through thickly partisan glasses?
‐I want to quote this report from Syria: “They opened fire from roof-tops as mourners marched from a mosque to a cemetery . . .” What sort of people would do such a thing, gun down innocents as they march in a funeral procession? Such people can be found in any society, I’m sorry to say. Dictatorships rarely have trouble staffing up.
I will now quote the Telegraph quoting al-Jazeera: “There was a crowd crossing an overpass. They were met by a hail of gunfire. There were incredibly chaotic scenes. It was quite clear that there was a funeral procession — and it was met by gunfire.” Of course.
Where has the United States been, as this evil has been perpetrated? Have we recalled our ambassador, made a fuss at the U.N.? Zero. This Washington Post editorial correctly tells of our national shame.
A final word, for now: When Israel announced the expansion of some housing in its capital, Jerusalem, the Obama administration went nuts. Absolutely nuts. Everyone — president, vice president, secretary of state — was mobilized against Israel.
When the Syrian government mows down unarmed innocents in the streets — nothing. For more than two years now, we’ve seen the worldview of the Obama administration, expressed in foreign policy. Are you sickened yet?
‐This report says, “Authorities in China have launched their toughest clampdown on dissent in years . . .” Oh, yes. We also learn that the U.S. will have “human-rights talks” with China. Leading our delegation will be Assistant Secretary of State Michael Posner.
Do you remember that name? He’s the one who, last year, expressed guilt to the Chinese over the new immigration law in Arizona. You know how it goes: China is a one-party dictatorship with a gulag; some Americans are trying to make sure that immigration is legal, rather than illegal. Both of our societies have moral defects, and we can discuss them in a spirit of humility, without judgments.
Let me jog your memory, re our assistant secretary of state. He was asked by a reporter about the issue of Arizona in the talks with China: Who had raised it, we or the Chinese? Posner said, “We brought it up early and often. It was mentioned in the first session, and as a troubling trend in our society and an indication that we have to deal with issues of discrimination or potential discrimination, and that these are issues very much being debated in our own society.”
I think the Obama administration, much of it, is distilled in this one episode.
‐A bit of news from Tajikistan: A statue of Lenin in the city of Khujand is being moved from a prominent place to a less prominent place. Khujand used to be called Leninabad, by the way. To read an Associated Press report from last week, go here.
The report quotes the leader of the Tajikistani Communist party, who is none too pleased: “Nobody can rewrite the history. More than half the world’s population supports the ideas of Lenin and understands that socialism and equality are what we need, not democracy, which creates a fake sense of equality.”
Is he right? Does more than half the world’s population support some kind of collectivism, whether the softer socialism or full-blown totalitarianism? I would hate to think he’s right. But I can’t say he isn’t.
People in the general National Review orbit always talk about how the idea of freedom can’t be killed. Which is true. I myself say it perpetually, in various ways. It’s also true, however, that the idea of collectivism can’t be killed. Which is vexing.
‐May I point you to a beautiful column in the Telegraph by Charles Moore? Well, they all are, his columns. But I wish to spend a second on this one, which is about the upcoming marriage of Prince William and Kate Middleton, and the meaning of it.
Here is a morsel:
In 1981, when Prince Charles married Lady Diana Spencer, the young [Richard] Chartres [now bishop of London] was chaplain to the Archbishop of Canterbury, so he attended the wedding in St Paul’s. After the ceremony, he was walking down the street in his clerical clothes when he found himself surrounded by a gang of skinheads. Had he just been to the wedding, they asked him. Nervously, he admitted that he had. At this news, the skinheads all hugged him and sang the national anthem.
And one more morsel, please:
I have always found it moving that Anne Frank, in her hiding place in Amsterdam, pinned up little postcards of Princess Elizabeth and Princess Margaret Rose — pictures of young people who, for her, stood for better things. I hope and expect that teenage girls today, leading blighted lives in horrible places, will download and treasure their pictures of William and Kate.
I think I have told you this in Impromptus before: My mother still remembers that, one year, Princess Elizabeth and Princess Margaret went without new winter coats. This was during the war. They made do with the coats from the winter before. This is the sort of thing, dwelling in the realm of the symbolic, that can matter. Or at least make an impression.
‐Let’s have a little music — and not classical music, either. Well, classical music in a sense. Maybe “classic music” would be a better way of putting it. Anyway, enough foreplay.
I was at another James Taylor concert the other night. I know I mentioned one in a column the other day. Taylor is doing a series at Carnegie Hall. I will write a little about it in an upcoming piece for The New Criterion.
One of Taylor’s guests, at this second concert, was Alison Krauss. He introduced her by calling her “perhaps the best singer there is.” (I’m sure he meant no offense to Dorothea Röschmann.) When she got to the microphone, she said, “Gee, what a scary way to introduce someone. Yikes.” Taylor then said, “Let me rephrase that: Recovering from grueling throat surgery, and hoping to limp her way through a couple of songs, is Alison Krauss.”
Just by the way, I have never known a better, more amiable, more engaging talker to the audience than James Taylor.
Another guest, who emerged at the very end, was Tony Bennett. How old is he, 109? Doesn’t matter: Handsome as hell, and smoove.
(I say this in part as an homage to my old friend Billy V., who worked at Leslie Park Golf Course in Ann Arbor, and who, preparing a shot, would sometimes say, “I’m goin’ smoove it.”)
‐Do you yourself say “an homage,” as I have, or “a homage,” with a pronounced aitch? I myself can’t help saying “’omage.” Just raised with it, I guess.
‐Let’s end with a little language — a little more language. On NRO the other day, I watched a clip of our Rick Brookhiser on the Stephen Colbert show. (Here.) As I remember — I have not rewatched — Colbert said “The National Review” a couple of times.
We always get that: “The National Review,” instead of our name, “National Review.” If Bill Buckley had wanted a “The,” he would have put one there. If Handel had wanted to call his oratorio “The Messiah,” instead of “Messiah” . . . If Wagner had wanted to call the last installment of The Ring “Die Götterdämmerung” (“The Twilight of the Gods”) instead of “Götterdämmerung” (“Twilight of the Gods”) . . .
These lil’ things matter. Don’t you feel it?
For as long as I can remember, we have fought against “The National Review.” The New York Times stubbornly gets it wrong. Couple of months ago, the paper said “The National Review” — but that was in print. Our correct name, no “The” in sight, appeared in the online version. We felt a surge of jubilation, here in the office.
Was it the other way around? Was the print version right, and the online version wrong? I can’t remember. But one of them, amazingly, was right.
Tell you a funny story. Years ago, when I was managing editor of the magazine, a young man on our staff — delightful, wonderful guy — had “The National Review” in his voicemail greeting. “Hi, this is Joe Blow at The National Review.” I teased him about this, and expected him to change it. He never did. I didn’t press. Gotta pick your battles, you know?
Just thought of something: No one has ever said “The National Review Online” — right? In any case, whatever the name of our mag or site, I’m signing off, and I thank you, dearhearts.