As regular readers know, Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R., Fla.) is one of my favorite people in public life. She is chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. And she is leading the drive to reform our funding of the United Nations.
The State Department, of course, is ticked. An official named Esther Brimmer said, “We oppose the backwards calls we again are hearing to withhold U.S. dues, given the impact doing so would have on U.S. influence and leadership across the U.N. system.”
Ileana responded, “I don’t think it’s backwards to demand transparency, accountability, and reform. But I do think the adjective ‘backwards’ too often applies to what we’re paying for at the U.N. We pay for a backwards U.N. Human Rights Council, where human-rights abusers like China, Cuba, and Saudi Arabia have hijacked that body and use it to demonize democratic states, like Israel, while real human-rights abuses around the world are often ignored.”
She could have done without the “often.” To see a news article on this dust-up, go here.
You can see — can’t you? — why I love this woman so. (I ain’t talkin’ the State Department official.) Can you blame me?
‐In a column last week, I mentioned that Bill Richardson, our former U.N. ambassador, was in Cuba, trying to see Alan Gross. Gross, you remember, is the American aid worker who has been held hostage and prisoner by the Castros since December 2009. The dictatorship refused to let Richardson see Gross. The ex-ambassador has now given up, gone home.
According to this report, he said, “Unfortunately, after this negative experience, I don’t know if I could return here as a friend. The next step is up to the Cuban government, but they have not treated me like a friend.”
Huh. Has Richardson ever been a friend to a one-party dictatorship with a gulag? Does he expect or want friendship with such a regime? How odd.
‐Earlier this year, former president Carter was in Cuba, and he saw Gross. He also saw the Castro brothers. He referred to Fidel as an “old friend.” Sure.
In an interview not long after, I asked Oscar Biscet, the democracy leader, about Carter’s characterization of Castro. He said, “One can have different ideas, and they should be respected. But to call a tyrant a friend is truly horrible.”
At a minimum. (To see that interview with Biscet, go here.)
‐The recent Republican discussions of Social Security have put me in mind of George W. Bush.
By the way, are there any discussions of Social Security, except among Republicans? I mean, real discussions? What Democrats say is, “The Republicans want to push your grandmother over a cliff. Social Security must not be changed in any respect,” unto the day of ruination.
In 2000, Bush, running for president, ran on Social Security reform. This was very peculiar, and near suicidal, as some of his aides said. Social Security was the “third rail of American politics.” If you touched it, you would die.
Bush not only touched it — he grabbed it, hugged it. He would say, “I’m runnin’ for a reason.” In other words, he was seeking the presidency in order to do big and necessary things. It wasn’t a matter of living in the White House, hearing “Hail to the Chief,” and marking time.
Down in Florida, Joe Andrew, the chairman of the Democratic National Committee, promised gleefully that Democrats would “fry” Bush on the third rail. They almost did. If not for Bush’s embrace of reform, and the Democrats’ demagoguery, he probably would have had a clean, undisputed win in Florida.
(What most hurt Bush, of course, in the final days of the campaign was the DUI revelation.)
As I recall, not much happened on Social Security in Bush’s first term. Other things took precedence. Then in 2004, he ran on reform again — and he devoted the first part of his second term to achieving this reform. That’s how he chose to spend his political capital.
He barnstormed around the country, appealing to the people, saying why reform was needed. I remember covering an event in Maryland, where the president was joined by Gov. Bob Ehrlich (another uncommonly brave politician).
Bush got nowhere. The Democrats weren’t with him, of course, and the Republicans were all hanging back, scared. Even the conservative movement wasn’t all that supportive. Why Bush never got more credit from conservatives, for what he was trying to do, is a mystery.
After Bush’s flop — his noble, valiant flop — I often said, “No one wants to fix the roof while the sun is shining. It takes a storm. Then they scramble up, in desperation.”
That storm may be coming soon. Then people will be willing. But Bush was there first, practically alone. I admire him, hugely.
‐Here is an article headed “Freed of Gadhafi, Libyans expect post-war boom.” Interesting. A man the article describes as “one of Libya’s biggest entrepreneurs” says, “Definitely, Libya is an El Dorado. It has great resources that really allow it to turn around in no time.”
From his mouth to you-know-who’s ear.
‐In this article, a Qaddafi lieutenant repeatedly refers to the dictator as “the Guide,” or “our Guide.” Sick stuff. A guide into utter darkness and depravity, is what he has been.
‐This report tells us that the South Korean government is threatening to send Falun Gong practitioners back to China. It has done so in the past.
The Falun Gong people in South Korea have escaped persecution. And by persecution I mean captivity, torture, and death. Every week, Falun Gong practitioners die — are killed — in laogai, the Chinese gulag. Naturally, they seek a safe haven.
Why do liberal-democratic governments deliver innocent people to their tormenters? To their would-be torturers and murderers? It’s one of the most depressing, and most infuriating, facts I know.
‐Well, let’s get a little lighter — what couldn’t be lighter, right? I’ve talked before in this column about a local company — a Manhattan company — that sells storage space. Their ads, their billboards, are lefty-snarky. They very much know their clientele — good capitalists, these snarky lefties.
A friend sent me a photo of their latest ad. It reads, “Michele Bachmann says God told her to run for president. How come God never talks to smart people anymore?”
That makes you want to run right out and do business with these people, yes?
But I saw something on the streets that made me smile. It was a van, a work van, visiting from New Jersey — the guys were doing work on some wealthy person’s apartment, for sure.
The van had three bumper stickers: “Don’t Tread on Me”; a Tea Party sticker (“Come Join Us and Be Heard!”); and — get this — a sticker that said, “Equal Opportunity, Not Equal Distribution.”
In Manhattan! In a ritzy area. I thought I’d fall over dead. Out-of-towners, for sure. And workingmen, of course. Did my heart good. Hope the van got out of there in one piece — unkeyed and all.
‐Care for a little music? For my column in City Arts, on music and 9/11, go here.
‐A reader sent me something quite interesting — fun. It is a video of John Boehner and Joe Biden, talking before the president’s recent speech. They are on “live mikes” (I can never quite write “mics”), unbeknownst to themselves. Boehner is talking golf. I consider it almost a parody of guyness.
‐End with a little language? Reader writes, “Hi, Jay: One of my favorite ‘Irishisms’ is, ‘There it was, gone!’ Let’s say a car has been stolen. ‘I went to get me car, and there it was, gone!’”
Love it. And here I am, gone!