Politics & Policy

The hubris of O, &c.

There was a headline last week: “Obama’s ratings plummet in Arab World.” (Article here.) Obama’s ratings are below those of George W. Bush, when that much maligned president left office.

I couldn’t help thinking of something that Obama said during the ’08 campaign: “I truly believe that the day I’m inaugurated . . . not only does the country look at itself differently, but the world looks at America differently.” The candidate went on, “The world will have confidence that I am listening to them, and that our future and our security is tied up with our ability to work with other countries in the world.”

Was Obama an egomaniac or a fool? The thing about egomania, it tends to make one look foolish, among other things.

An Associated Press report about Syria bears attention. Tens of thousands marched through Damascus shouting “We want freedom!” You know what I think these Arabs mean when they shout “We want freedom!”? Oddly enough, I think they mean “We want freedom!”

Haitham al-Maleh said something rather moving. He is an 80-year-old lawyer and dissident, who has spent time in Syrian jails. He recently left his country “out of fear for his life,” as the AP says.

Anyway, Maleh was in Turkey, attending a conference. And he said, “The regime” — meaning the Assad dictatorship — has “kidnapped the entire state, and we want it back.” He also called the dictatorship a “fascist regime.”

Which is exactly what it is.

Let me do some quoting of that report:

Saturday’s opposition conference in Turkey — called the National Salvation Conference — was attended by some 400 dissidents looking to form a unified opposition to Assad, whose family has ruled Syria for more than 40 years.

Some more:

Organizers had planned to hold a conference in Damascus in tandem with the Turkey meeting, but it was canceled after Friday’s bloodshed. The Local Coordination Committees said at least 14 people were killed near a hall where the conference was to be held.

Think of the bravery — the reckless, nearly mad bravery — of those people for getting anywhere near that hall.

One more excerpt, please:

Opposition figure Mashaal Tammo, addressing the conference by phone from Damascus, said Assad had lost his legitimacy to rule and called on him to step down.

In an emotional speech, he said the “the existence of the regime was no longer justified,” and called for a peaceful transition to a civil, pluralistic and democratic state.

These people are really not much different from you and me, in their desires and hopes. People will spend all their time — using their very last breath — to tell you it isn’t so. That these Arabs belong to a different species, really. You don’t have to believe them.

And, if you can — go discover for yourselves. Not Syria, just now. But the Middle East in general.

‐Ron Prosor was Israel’s ambassador to Britain for four years. Last month, on leaving, he published an article in the Telegraph. Here is part of what he said:

In Syria, Bashar al-Assad, the London-educated ophthalmologist with a blind spot for terror, is crushing the vision of unarmed protesters. Yet on the streets and campuses of Britain, Assad will never receive the level of vitriolic condemnation for slaughtering his citizens that Israel receives for defending ours.

You got that right, baby.

‐Frankly, I’m not really sure what “blind spot for terror” means. It seems to me that Assad relishes terror, eyes wide open. I imagine I just have a blind spot when it comes to Ambassador Prosor’s wording.

‐Oh, hang on, I get it — must be some joke with “ophthalmologist.” Still . . .

‐As President Obama shuffles the Dalai Lama in and out of the White House, with no media permitted, I think back to Obama’s predecessor, glorious in so many ways. Here was a president who had the spine to appear with the Tibetan leader in public. In fact, he traveled to the Capitol Rotunda, to see the Dalai Lama receive the Congressional Gold Medal.

Want to see W. and the lama grinning together, enjoying life together? Check it out.

Beautiful.

‐I saw a headline yesterday: “Giuliani: GOP Should Stop Focusing on Gay Marriage.” That was a weird one. The GOP is focusing on gay marriage? I had no idea. And I follow things kind of closely, I think. Seems to me we’re pretty much budget-mad, as we well should be.

Lemme quote: “Saying that he believed marriage should be between a man and a woman, Giuliani nonetheless told CNN’s Candy Crowley that the ‘Republican Party would be well advised to get the heck out of people’s bedrooms and let these things get decided by states.’”

What in the world does gay marriage — the issue of whether marriage should be redefined — have to do with being the heck in people’s bedrooms? That is simply bizarre. When Teddy Kennedy was defending abortion, he would use that same language: that we shouldn’t snoop around people’s bedrooms. What in the world does that have to do with abortion?

Why are people — excuse me — such morons?

‐Every once in a while, I try to describe the mentality I grew up with, in good old Ann Arbortown. I know I have described it ad nauseam. Can you stand a little more nauseam?

Because President Obama and his cabinet have been illustrating beautifully the mentality I grew up with. People were always talking about the money others “needed,” or didn’t need. “No one needs that much money,” they would say. “He has far too much money, much more than he needs.”

The word “obscene” was always attached to wealth: “obscene wealth.” “He is obscenely wealthy.” You know how Orwell noted that “rabid” was always attached to anti-Communism (never anti-fascism)? Similar thing.

Anyway, Obama said, “I’m able to keep hundreds of thousands of dollars in additional income that I don’t need.” Think of the myriad and wonderful charitable uses to which that money could be put!

By the way, do you love that phrase “additional income”? Additional to what? The money O and his family “need”?

Also, our energy secretary, Steven Chu, talked about the banning of the light bulb as we know it: “We are taking away a choice that continues to let people waste their own money.”

Ladies and gentlemen, when people in power talk that way, be on your guard. And “take away” their power at the next opportunity.

‐I got a press release from the Philadelphia Orchestra, which is bankrupt. They are a microcosm of what has happened in Greece, Portugal, and elsewhere: Pension commitments and the like are killing the orchestra. The union has ruled the roost.

The orchestra’s fundraising slogan is “Listen with Your Heart.” To my ears, that is a guilt-mongering slogan. I would counter with, “Get off my back. Don’t pretend that I’m stingy. Why don’t you ‘Manage with Your Head’? Then get back to me, maybe.”

‐In a recent column, I said something about the expression “No soap.” That is an oldie, meaning, “No go,” or “No cigar,” or “No deal.”

A reader writes,

My mother used to tell of a family trip between Indiana and Florida in either the 1930s or the 1940s. They stopped at a motel to check it out for an overnight stay. My grandfather asked to look at a room and went into one with the owner. It was of quite dubious quality, and my grandfather said, “No soap.” The owner responded, “Ain’t got no towels either.”

‐Some colleagues have been providing memories of Dorothy McCartney, who worked at National Review her entire career, I believe. I’d like to contribute a little story.

I first knew of her because her name was in Firing Line’s closing credits: She was Bill’s — William F. Buckley Jr.’s — research assistant. So the credits would say, “RESEARCH: DOROTHY MCCARTNEY,” something like that.

When I first came to NR, I said to her, “You’re famous.” She sort of blushed and said, “No, I’m not.” I said, “Yes, you are, for the credits!” Grinning, she continued to protest. But then she confided the following: “Once, I was at a bank in Long Island, and handed over a document that gave my name. The teller said, ‘Are you the Dorothy McCartney?’”

Yes, she was. The.

#JAYBOOK# 

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