Politics & Policy

The Herminator, &c.

I was reading the news over the weekend about Herman Cain’s winning the straw poll. And I thought, “The Left has been telling you all your life that the Republican party is racist. The Left has been telling you all your life that conservatives are racist. The Left has been telling you for the last two and a half years that the Tea Party is racist.” Cain is, of course, a Tea Party favorite. This blogpost from Kate Trinko shows a picture of Cain signing a “Don’t Tread on Me” flag for a man dressed in Tea Party garb.

(I guess you can write on that flag. Old Glory, not so much.)

You may remember something I put in my “Salzburg Journal” last month: I overheard a big liberal from New York telling two European ladies that the central fact about the Tea Party was racism. They nodded solemnly.

Have you ever had the feeling, as I have, that the Left has lied to you, about some pretty important things, your entire life?

And it will never stop. To them, the Republican party and the Tea Party and evangelicals and conservatives at large will always be racist — because that’s the way they want it to be, no matter what is.

‐President Obama was raised by his white grandparents in Hawaii. Cain grew up in Georgia with parents who earned their living cleaning. To our mainstream media, which candidate is likely to be the more “authentically black”?

This is a screwed up country, ladies and gentlemen, and not just fiscally.

‐My Impromptus on Friday was about the Republican debate in Orlando. It did not suffer from too few items. Yet I want to add one here. To one question, Ron Paul gave a short and complete answer. The questioner — I think it was Chris Wallace — said, “Don’t you want to fill your time?” (I’m paraphrasing.) So Paul went on. He should have resisted.

Sometimes less is more, you know? (But let’s not be too pat: Sometimes more is more. It all depends.)

‐After I published my column, I got several e-mails from readers who said, “Everyone disagrees with you! You’re out of step with the conservative blogosphere!” Uh-oh. What’s the penalty for that? Is it, like, more Singaporean or more Saudi?

My readers were referring to my view that Rick Perry did a little better than he had in his first two debates; and that Mitt Romney did a little worse than he had in those debates.

Perhaps I committed “the soft bigotry of low expectations” against Perry. As I saw it, he did everything but drool in the first debate. He was frighteningly shaky. I thought he was a little better in the second debate. And a little better yet in the third. I’m surprised that everyone reacted with horror to his performance in Orlando. After the first two debates, what were they expecting from him? Ciceronian smoothness? Oxford Union finesse?

True, he was at sea in his Pakistan answer, as I wrote. I said, “Perry fumbled woefully . . . Needs coaching bad.” (The question on Pakistan was very poorly framed, by the way.) And, yes, he flubbed his shtick on Romney — the “before and after” thing. (“Botched it hideously,” I wrote.)

But I was expecting those flubbings from Perry. They were the chaff. There was wheat, too. There were some very good and sound answers. And I like the way he stood his ground, on the children of illegals, for example. “But didn’t you hear the people booing?!” someone wrote to me. Yeah, so what? America is bigger than one auditorium in Florida. Plus, politics is full of “pander bears” — and Perry strikes me as less of one than most.

Standing his ground, he looked like a dignified hoss, as others were yapping at him. Yapping petulantly and furiously. Perry looked like a man amid querulous boys.

Take Rick Santorum, one of my senatorial heroes. He was yapping at Perry about the realities of Texas. Like he knows more? And his claim that Perry is “weak on national sovereignty” — ay, caramba. Perry is a right-wing governor of Texas. Come on, Senator Rick. JFK once said, “Sometimes party loyalty asks too much.” Sometimes campaigning does, too.

The charge that Rick Perry is weak on national sovereignty is a joke, and beneath Santorum.

Romney, too, was graceless in his criticisms — what’s new? He is much better when he is positive. Also, I’ll repeat what I said last week: If I were Romney, I’d avoid attacking others on grounds of inconsistency or “flip-flopping.” Pot and kettle and all.

Finally, can we give the vaccine thing a rest, at long last? How long have we been talking about that, and making a melodrama out of it? Thirty years? It was a relatively minor event in an eventful ten-year governorship. Perry has said he screwed up and would do it differently, if he could. Enough already. Grow up, candidates, get a life.

Are we going to have one more debate devoted to Rick Perry’s obvious hatred of “twelve-year-old little girls”?

I found Perry just about the most likable person onstage Thursday night, along with the Herminator. The more the others piled on him, the more I liked him. The more sympathetic he grew, to me.

You know, Rick Santorum may not become president. But, by gum, he’s let the American people know that Rick Perry is weak on national sovereignty! Must feel real good. What a way to pass one’s days.

‐Let’s take a break for language. Paul Tsongas, the late senator from Massachusetts, coined the term “pander bear,” to describe Bill Clinton. They were competing against each other in the 1992 Democratic primaries. But, in most of the country, Tsongas’s jest backfired on him. You see, he pronounced “panda” “pander”; and he pronounced “pander” “panda.” A real New Englander. So, when he said “pander bear,” it sounded to people like “panda bear,” not “pander bear.”

Bill Clinton is a panda bear? they were asking. What does Tsongas mean by that?


Tsongas very much wanted people to understand. He’d keep trying. He’d say — and here I’ll write phonetically — “Governor Clinton is a panda bear, not a pander bear. Don’t you see?”


‐Once, a group of us students visited Tsongas in his office. One of my friends and classmates was from Massachusetts. We somehow got on the topic of his possibly running for office in his home state, sometime in the future. Tsongas asked him, “What’s your name?” My friend said, “Kevin O’Leary.” Tsongas said, “That’s a start.”

‐Okay, I’m going back to picking on Mitt Romney (speaking of those who run in Massachusetts). Was there something unseemly about his riff on the children of illegals? There he was, dripping money, worth hundreds of millions. And he was carrying on about those kids and their big $100,000 discount at the University of Texas. He was carrying on about them like they were enviable or something.

I mean, really: He talked about them almost like Obama talks about “corporate-jet owners.” They were ripping us off, with their ill-gotten discount. Mitt, a little self-awareness!

‐Let me be clear that I myself wish to drip money, and be worth hundreds of millions, one day.

‐I’ll settle for a million, and the weakest of drips.

‐More on Mitt and self-awareness, since I’m in attack mode: He keeps saying — keeps bragging — “I haven’t spent my life in politics! I’m a conservative businessman. I’m not a career politician!” A fair point. He first ran for office when he was 47. But, if the voters had cooperated, he’d have gone to the Senate in 1995. And he has done a lot of running since then (winning once, and governing well, as far as I know). His thirst for politics, and his hunger for office, is clear. (“Are”?)

‐Here is another way of saying what I was trying to say above: If you’re Mitt Romney, you might want to be a little careful about begrudging, or appearing to begrudge, the children of illegals the in-state tuition they pay. You know? This is quite apart from whether the Texas law is right or wrong.

‐A note to itchy-fingers: When I write critically of Perry, I get mail that says, “Why do you hate Perry?” When I write critically of Romney, I get mail that says, “Why do you hate Romney?” I don’t hate nobody. But, as a journalist — an opinion journalist and critic — I write critically. Those interested in reading only praise of candidates can go to those candidates’ websites.

‐There’s a lot I want to write about this piece, which appears in The American Scholar. It is one of the most interesting political pieces I have read this year. It’s called “Dubya and Me,” and it’s by Walt Harrington, a former journalist who now teaches at the University of Illinois. As the title tells you, the piece is about the 43rd president, and it’s also about the 41st. I’m going to make several points about the piece in my next column. In this one, I’d like to single out one slice.

In the months between the 1992 election and the time Bush 41 left office, Harrington saw him. He said he was sorry about the loss. “. . . President Bush stopped and looked me in the eye. ‘You know the worst thing about it, Walt? The embarrassment. It’s just so embarrassing.’”

That is the most interesting thing about the presidency or politics I have read in ages.

‐Shall we have a little language — some more language, I mean? In recent weeks, I’ve been writing about some of the choice expressions in Irish speech. My homie Ed Craig contributes this: When you enter an Irish home, they’re liable to greet you with, “You’re welcome” — which makes perfect sense.

You know who else did this? Bill Buckley. Not every time, but now and then. He’d begin his remarks to a gathering in his home, “You’re welcome.” Confused me at first.

We’ve mentioned, in these scribblings, the expression “to wake up dead.” “My uncle went to bed that night feeling ill, and woke up dead.” Now a friend of mine points me to II Kings 19:35 (King James Version): “And it came to pass that night, that the angel of the Lord went out, and smote in the camp of the Assyrians an hundred fourscore and five thousand: and when they arose early in the morning, behold, they were all dead corpses.”

P.S. There was a time when “dead corpses” wasn’t redundant — when “corpses” meant “bodies,” plain and simple. Of course, this was long, long before President Obama invented “corpsemen.”


P.P.S. In the verse from II Kings, those who “arose early” were, of course, the living — but it’s still fun, in our context.

‐Was in Newport News, Va., last week. A hotel marquee said “Pray for Our Troops.” Is that legal? I mean, not the praying, but the sign? Has the Wise Latina weighed in? I shudder to think.

‐In a barbecue joint, a waitress just up and sat down across from me, for a little talk. Natural as can be. I loved it. One wasn’t in Manhattan anymore (and I don’t mean Kansas).

‐There was a little notice for an event in a club. It said, “Sexy adult atmosphere, so dress to be admired.” If I can say it once more — ay, caramba. I’ll tell you more about this in a future column.

This Impromptus has gone on way too long. See what happens when I get to ranting about politics? Sorry, and see you!




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