Politics & Policy

Partnering Obama, &c.

I see that Obama has played golf with Boehner and Kasich — nice. Glad. Early last year, I wrote a piece for National Review about Obama and golf: “Hail to the Golfer-in-Chief,” here. Let me quote a little swatch from toward the end:

On the golf course, as I have indicated, the rest of the world can sort of melt away. Also, a camaraderie, or brotherhood, can develop. The legendary teacher Harvey Penick once wrote a book with a memorable title: “And If You Play Golf, You’re My Friend.” I imagine that President Obama and Rush Limbaugh would enjoy a round of golf together. I’d like to make a third! And maybe the president could suggest a left-leaning fourth, so that our group is philosophically even?

I still think a round with Rush would be a good idea — good for the whole country. And I have a feeling that both men — Obama and the Great One — would enjoy their time together.

‐Actually, an Obama-Rush date has been suggested by someone with more clout than I have. It has been suggested by Zev Chafets, Rush’s biographer, who has White House connections (and connections all over). He floated the idea to the White House. The answer came back: Nothin’ doin’. Pity.

I wrote about this little episode last May — May 2010 — in a blogpost, here.

‐A speck more golf (not that we’ve really done any)? I wrote a little something — again, just a little blogpost — about Rory McIlroy and his stunning, smashing victory at the U.S. Open, here.

By the way, the Open was held on this course — Congressional — in 1964. My grandfather, a local links legend (D.C. area, we’re talking), was a marshal. Ken Venturi won, as you recall.

‐Not long ago, I saw a headline: “Juppe says Assad has lost legitimacy to rule Syria.” Juppe is Alain Juppe, the French foreign minister. Assad is — well, the Syrian dictator, like his (monstrous) father before him. Since when did these people have legitimacy at all?

‐One of the best, most encouraging pieces of news I’ve heard in a long time is that Ryan Crocker is going to be our ambassador to Afghanistan. He’s just about the best we have, certainly for that part of the world. For a recent news story about him, go here. Crocker has been ambassador to Lebanon, to Kuwait, to Syria, to Pakistan, and to Iraq. I met him when he was in Baghdad. May I quote something I wrote?

. . . before we leave the room [I’m talking about some colleagues and I], I ask a standard journalistic question: “Is there anything else you’d like to say? Is there anything you wish people could know?” He says yes, actually: and gives what, to me, is a very moving and impassioned statement — an impassioned statement from an understated, careful, and, from what I can tell, cool man:

“Iraq is really, really important. How things go here will transform the region and America’s role in the region, one way or the other. If Iraq is successful in establishing itself as a democracy, where the rule of law is paramount, that will be something remarkable for the region.” America will be judged, as well as Iraq: “Ultimately, how we leave and what we leave behind will be more important than how we got here.”

Crocker continues, “People are tired of Iraq. They say, ‘Let’s get it over and done with. We don’t want to watch the Iraq movie anymore.’ But the Iraq movie will go on for many more reels, with or without us. And it will have a big effect on us, whether we like it or not.”

That was in October 2008, by the way. Since January 2010, Crocker has been dean of the Bush (41) school at Texas A&M. It speaks well of President Obama, I think, that he plucked Crocker to go to Afghanistan. It may also speak of how challenging the situation is.

‐I’m looking at a headline: “Amnesty condemns sharp rise in Saudi beheadings.” Yeah, they do like their beheadings there. And I’m thinking: I wonder what Human Rights Watch is saying. HRW, as you recall, went fundraising in Saudi Arabia: because the Saudis tend to be not so fond of the Israelis, and neither does HRW.

Can you imagine: a human-rights group fundraising in Saudi Arabia? You don’t have to imagine much — ’tis real.

‐I put this in the category “Thank the Lord for Small Favors.” In 2001, the United Nations held a “World Conference against Racism,” in Durban, South Africa — a conference that degenerated into a festival of anti-Israel and anti-Semitic hate. The American delegation walked out.

“Durban II” took place eight years later, in Geneva. The United States did not attend at all. The marquee performer at this conference was Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, that paragon of peace and humanity.

“Durban III” is set for this September in New York: the tenth anniversary of 9/11, and the tenth anniversary of the first Durban conference. President Obama waited a long, long while to announce that the U.S. would not attend — but he has finally done so. That is the “small favor.”

One of the first Presidential Medals of Freedom he awarded was to Mary Robinson, the Irish politician who presided over the original, toxic Durban conference.

I’d just like you to know — not that you asked — that I’m against Durban IV already.

(Granted, I borrowed that language, a bit, from the Left: specifically, from their bumper sticker “I’m Against the Next War Already.”) (Well, I know that plenty of righties could ride with that bumper sticker, too. But I think it’s mainly on Left cars — Leftmobiles.)

(In truth, we’re all against war. It’s just that some people think that, at times, it’s right and necessary. There is no “pro-war” camp, unless it be populated by sadists and psychopaths. “Pro-war” is one of the worst, most misleading designations around.)

‐You know how everyone says that Jeb Bush is just about the best, sharpest, wisest, most leader-like, most confidence-inspiring politician in the land? By “everyone,” I mean many, many conservatives and Republicans — including other politicians. You know how there’s this Myth of Jeb?

I must report that it’s true: that the myth is on the money.

Last week, I had an hour with Jeb down in Miami. I trust you’ll see the results later. I told him that, before I left New York for Florida, many people said to me, “Convince him to run, would you?” He said that this was flattering, of course. But he also said that it was demeaning to the Republican field — which is a fine field, he believes, from which someone great may well emerge.

Give it a chance, he was saying . . .

Couple of more tidbits? He talked about how noble his father was after the loss to Bill Clinton in 1992. You can tell a lot about a man by the way he loses. Jeb Bush said that Jimmy Carter, for one, could learn lessons in graciousness. Has he ever quite gotten over his loss to Reagan in 1980?

As regular readers know, I have been a Carterologist for a long, long time. (It’s a lonely and sad profession.) It seems to me he has had a chip on his shoulder, and a grudge against the American people, for over 30 years now. He has never forgiven them — forgiven us — for turning him out of office.

And he may well be a paragon of forgiveness compared with Mrs. C. . . .

Jeb Bush told me that, one day, he said something critical of Clinton — maybe something snarky, I’m not sure — in the presence of his father. And it upset his father quite a bit. I find that rather remarkable.

One more tidbit about Jeb, and I’ll drop the subject, for now. What you hear a lot is, “It should have been Jeb in the Oval Office, not W.” Jeb hears it a lot himself. And it annoys the hell out of him. As well it should.

You know, if Jeb had been president, rather than W., legions would have said — would be saying — “It should have been W., you know. He was the one. He was the Bush.”

More later . . .

‐Last December, I had a few notes on a Cuban-American democracy event at the Coral Gables Biltmore. I stayed at the Biltmore again. Grand old place, redolent of a Florida past. You half expect to see Jackie Gleason in his plus fours, martini in hand, ready for nine holes of golf.

Couple of further notes about Coral Gables:

Some of the trees seem positively prehistoric.

On some streets, the trees make such a canopy you don’t even need a hat, at noon.

The Coral Gables water tower is a prettier structure than some communities’ best building.

And a note about Miami in general, particularly in summer? Sultry weather, sultry women, a place of both torpor and possible trouble. People have been bewitched by Miami for a long time, and understandably.

‐Care for a little music? Here’s a piece in City Arts, on Cyprien Katsaris, the Lisztian pianist, and the current woes — which are substantial — of New York City Opera.

‐I have a question, more like a complaint: For the last million years, whenever a plane has landed, there have been Alec Baldwin and Tina Fey on the little monitors. Why? Why them? How long is this going to last? I always see their mouths move, and they look like they think they’re real cool.

Sorry, just having a curmudgeonly moment (which can stretch into hours . . .).




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