Politics & Policy

Leave your dagger at the door, &c.

So, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the “Christmas bomber,” is being put on trial. According to this report, he “came into the courtroom Tuesday wearing an oversized prison T-shirt and U.S. District Judge Nancy Edmunds called a brief recess to allow him to change into clothes more appropriate for court, after acknowledging and denying his apparent request to wear a ‘Yemeni belt with a dagger.’”

Such is the Draconian nature of U.S. justice — no dagger.

By the way, back when Abdulmutallab was caught, and being referred to as “the Christmas bomber,” or “the Christmas Day bomber,” a reader wrote me to say, “Shouldn’t that be ‘holiday bomber’?”

Yes, we can be awfully insensitive at times.

‐The subhead over this Bret Stephens column was “To Barack Obama, America is lovable in proportion to the love it gives him in return.”

Yes, and I always thought the same was true of Jimmy Carter. I don’t think he ever quite forgave the American people for “firing” him in 1980. I think he has taken it out on us ever since. I think Rosalynn was even more unforgiving.

And if Obama loses in 2012, I think he’ll be much the same kind of ex-president as Carter — in attitude, I mean. I hope I’m wrong. (About Obama’s ’tude, that is. I hope that the electorate will replace him with the Republican nominee — natch.)

‐In this column, I griped about the rush-rush nature of the Republican primary season. Everyone was moving his primary up to, like, the day after New Year’s, amid the bowl games and all. I said, “Listen, why don’t we just settle the nomination the year before the presidential year, and be done with it? Should we have our nominee by Thanksgiving . . .?”

Now I read the following, in this article: “Nevada Republicans have decided to move up their presidential caucuses to stay ahead of Florida’s newly scheduled Jan. 31 primary . . .”

We see the domino effect (if that’s the right expression). Forget Thanksgiving. Maybe we should have our nominee by Halloween? Labor Day?

Come on . . .

‐I had a note, maybe two, about the first President Bush. A reader has written me,

I voted for GHWB, so let’s get past that. But to this day I have the image in mind of him glancing at his wristwatch during a debate. Regardless of his superiority to Clinton, that sent a message that he didn’t want to be there and felt he had better things to do.

From that day on, I have removed my wristwatch and placed it in my pocket when I go into business meetings. Regardless of how I feel, I don’t want to convey impatience with people I need to deal with.

I understand. But I had a completely different interpretation of that moment — the moment when Bush glanced at his watch, impatiently. I thought he was saying, “Clinton has been going on and on in this answer. Are we sure his time isn’t up?”

This article caught my attention. Its headline: “Anti-terrorism success may not help Obama in 2012.” Yes, he has had anti-terrorist successes, a string of them. He came into office trashing everything George W. Bush ever stood for. But he soon sobered up, where the War on Terror was concerned. The presidency will do that sort of thing to a man.

Just as GWB, and many others, said.

Good gravy, Guantánamo Bay is still open for bidness!

‐In Syria, our ambassador was subjected to something of a mob attack. He and others were “pelted with tomatoes and eggs,” as this article says. The State Department then gave the Syrian ambassador to the U.S. a big-time dressing-down, as the article also says. A Foggy Bottom spokesman put it this way: The Syrian was “read the riot act.”

I wonder how that phrase was translated back in Syria, back in the Arab world: “read the riot act.”

‐My impression is that the PLO never, ever pays a price for its transgressions. It does whatever it likes, and America and Europe keep pouring money into it. So this report came as real news (to me, at least):

Palestinian officials said Monday that the U.S. has suspended West Bank development projects worth tens of millions of dollars after Congress froze funding to dissuade the Palestinians from seeking U.N. recognition of an independent state.

It’s the first concrete sign of repercussions for the Palestinians’ decision to defy Washington on the issue.


‐I thought of Jan Palach the other day — he was the Czech student who burned himself to death, in protest of the Communist dictatorship that ruled his country. I also thought of the monks in Vietnam.

Here is what this dispatch from Beijing tells us:

Another monk has set himself on fire to protest against China’s tight grip over Buddhist practices in Tibet, an activist group said.

Free Tibet said Monday that the monk, aged 17 or 18, is from the Kirti monastery in Aba in western Sichuan near the Tibetan border. A statement from the group, which calls for self-determination for Tibet, said it is the fifth such self-immolation incident this year.

It said the monk, Kalsang, was holding a picture of the Dalai Lama, Tibet’s exiled Buddhist leader, and calling for religious rights and freedoms in Tibet when he set himself on fire in a vegetable market in Aba.

Like you, perhaps, I have mixed emotions about suicide as a form of political protest. But it is certainly an act of desperation — maybe the supreme act of desperation. And the Chinese stranglehold on Tibet is horrific.

‐Have you been following the story of George Wright, the American radical who murdered and hijacked, then proceeded to a new life in Portugal? For 41 years he eluded justice. Now he has been nabbed. Highly interesting story. His wife is saying that she knew nothing about his criminal past. To read an article, go here.

In addition to telling us about the wife, the article says that “a former acquaintance,” Curtiss Reed, was “floored” when learning about Wright’s past. Mr. Reed is the executive director of the Vermont Partnership for Fairness and Diversity.

I was thinking, “Did he vote for Governor Dean? How about Bernie Sanders? And how about Obama? Did he vote for Obama, or did he pull the lever for McCain-Palin?”

The Vermont Partnership for Fairness and Diversity — beautiful.

‐This is really beautiful: Surfing is to be an official high-school sport in Hawaii. Just as it should be. For a news story, go here. You have your doubts about surfing as a high-school sport, even in Hawaii? Well, better than soccer, I say. (Sorry, sorry, sorry — I had closed this subject, a long while ago . . .)

‐Does President Obama have a surfing past? I have never heard about it. All Hawaii kids surf, don’t they? (But we know that Charlie don’t surf.)

‐I haven’t heard about that birth-certificate thing in ages. That issue was killed off immediately. The second Obama released the “long form” — the issue was dead. He could have released it months and years before (is my understanding).

Think the Democrats miss it? The issue, I mean?

‐You know who else grew up in Hawaii, or did part of his growing up there? National Review Online’s own Michael Walsh. He went to a rival high school to Obama’s, I believe. And I wonder: Did Michael surf, like a good Hawaii kid? Or did he read everything under the sun and study music, making him the world-beater he is today? Or all of the above?

‐Wangari Maathai, the Kenyan environmentalist who won the 2004 Nobel peace prize, has died. I’m going to say a little about her now, and much more about her later. For now, let me just tell you a little about her and America.

In 1960, when she was 20, she came here for college. She was part of the same study program as her countryman Barack Obama — the man who would soon become Barack Obama Sr., father of the future president (and Nobel peace laureate). Obama had flown to Hawaii in 1959. He and Maathai were among the hundreds of young Africans who were taking advantage of American scholarships.

Maathai flew to New York — she had never been on a plane before — then took a Greyhound bus out to Atchison, Kan. She attended Mount St. Scholastica College, graduating in 1964 with a degree in biology. She then went to the University of Pittsburgh, for a master’s degree in the same subject.

For her doctoral studies, she went back home, to the University of Nairobi. According to legend, she was the first woman in either East Africa or Central Africa to earn a Ph.D.

There’s good and bad to say about Maathai. What’s bad? Well, she did her part to spread the myth that the U.S. government cooked up the AIDS virus. She later said, in effect, “I take it back.”

In any case, I liked her, on balance — a woman who accomplished much good. I’ll have more to say about her, and a hundred-some other laureates, in my history of the Nobel peace prize, to be published in March.

By the way, the United States has educated millions and millions of people from around the world, often at no charge to the students. An incredibly generous country, America has been, with its money, its knowledge, and its opportunities. (Not to mention its military.)

‐Speaking of American help, I loved this headline, from earlier this week: “With Arizona help, fabled Arab antelope lives anew.” Story here.

‐A little music? My “Salzburg Chronicle,” in the current New Criterion, is here. I discuss Anna Netrebko, Antonio Pappano, Grigory Sokolov, Christian Thielemann, András Schiff, Riccardo Muti, Arcadi Volodos, Mariss Jansons, and a host of others.

I learned that phrase, “a host of others,” from golf commentary. A TV announcer would say, “Nicklaus leads, followed by Weiskopf, Miller, Watson, Kite, and a host of others.”

‐I know I’ve never mentioned this before — ever — but I’m from Ann Arbor, Mich., and Ann Arbor is a left-wing town. A local publication, The Ann, has published an article entitled “Has Ann Arbor lost its liberal mojo?” I am quoted (which is about the least significant thing about the article). If interested, go here.

‐Heard about the advertising promises of a Texas exterminator: “You got ’em, we’ll get ’em. They come back, we come back.”

I’ll come back too, eventually. Thanks so much for joining me, and catch you soon.




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