Politics & Policy

President ‘Regular Guy,’ &c.

Saw a headline that made me smile, I swear: “Obama’s team banks on his ‘regular guy’ appeal.” (Article here.) Our president, regular guy? Where? An Antioch faculty lounge?

‐Herman Cain was explaining to Fox News why he was facing questions about sexual-harassment charges in the past: “A lot of people have a problem with the fact that I’m doing so well and I’m so likable.”

You know the thing about likable people, or so likable people? They usually don’t say they’re so likable.

‐Michelle Obama is a piece of work, there’s no doubt about that. She was lauding her husband’s Supreme Court choices (the Wise Latina and Kagan). And she said, “Let’s not forget the impact those decisions [his choices for the Court, I guess] will have on our lives for decades to come — on our privacy and security, on whether we can speak freely, worship openly, and love whomever we choose. That is what’s at stake here [in the 2012 election, I think].”

Dare we try a little analysis? I think I get “love whomever we choose.” I think she’s talking about gay marriage — but isn’t her husband against?

“Privacy and security,” I don’t understand. Is she talking, somehow, about the right to abort? How about “speak freely”? As far as I know, all the speech codes on campus are imposed by the Left, right? By people who are fans of the Obamas.

“Worship openly” has me completely stumped. Completely. I pride myself on understanding the Left, but sometimes I fall short.

‐UNESCO has now admitted “Palestine” as a full member. The PLO has long had some partial membership. In the Seventies, you may recall, Israel was kicked out. (It was readmitted later.) And this leads me to one of my favorite stories:

It was told to me by Bernard Lewis, the great Middle East scholar. He had invited Golda Meir to speak at Princeton. When she faced the students and the rest of the audience, she said, “Look, you know my views. I’ve been in public life for a long time. I won’t give a speech. Why don’t you just ask me some questions instead?”

In the course of the session, someone said, “Prime Minister, why is it that the PLO belongs to UNESCO while Israel does not?” She said, “Well, let’s think about it. ‘UNESCO’ stands for ‘United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization.’ Obviously, the Palestinians have more to contribute to education, science, and culture than we do.”

This must be one of the finest uses of sarcasm I know of.

‐Impromptus readers are well familiar with Chen Guangchen, the blind lawyer in China who has drawn attention to forced abortion and sterilization in his country. For what he has done, the state has punished him with jail, torture, isolation, and all the other cruelty it can muster. It has done everything but kill him, so far.

I should note, however, that recent reports say that Chen is, in fact, dead. That they have at last killed him. These reports are unconfirmable.

But a recent event is perfectly confirmable: “. . . on October 30, 2011, 37 rights defenders and netizens who attempted to visit [Chen] in Linyi, Shandong Province, were beaten by around 100 unidentified individuals. Many of them were injured, and seriously.” I have quoted from Human Rights in China, an invaluable group. Their full report is here.

Among Chinese, there is something called “the sunglasses campaign.” Chen, like many blind people, wears sunglasses. Chinese have begun taking photos of themselves in sunglasses, and posting the photos to a website, in solidarity. What other action is available to them? Precious little.

A group based here in the United States is supporting this sunglasses campaign. This group, too, is invaluable. For the website of Women’s Rights Without Frontiers, go here.

The group’s president, Reggie Littlejohn, said, “The way the Chinese Communist Party has jailed, tortured, and starved this innocent blind man is nothing short of hideous. Chen is one of the greatest heroes alive today. He is the very heart and soul of China — the conscience of the nation.”

‐So, the genocidalists of the Khmer Rouge are on trial by the U.N., as you may know. One man, Ieng Sary, the former foreign minister, 86, has refused to testify. He is exercising his right to remain silent.

They’re funny, these genocidalists. They murder a fifth or a quarter of the population, and then they get all prissy about their rights. They are so funny.

(For an Associated Press report, go here.)

‐A Pakistani Sesame Street? Yes. A version of that show will propagate humane values in that country. And we are paying for it.

I quote this report: “The U.S. is bankrolling the initiative with $20 million, hoping it will improve education in a country where one-third of primary school-age children are not in class. Washington also hopes the program will increase tolerance at a time when the influence of radical views is growing.”

As far as I’m concerned, this is money very, very well spent. I guess my position is this: I’m against public funding of Sesame Street here in America — it can fly on its own — but in favor of it for Pakistan.

Go figure!

Here is an interesting and moving story: “Hundreds of Yemeni women on Wednesday set fire to traditional female veils to protest the government’s brutal crackdown against the country’s popular uprising, as overnight clashes in the capital and another city killed 25 people, officials said.” If you have the time, the whole report is worth your while.

And Tawakkul Karman, the Yemeni woman who shares this year’s Nobel peace prize with two Liberian women? A bona fide heroine. I will have more to say about her in due course.

‐That was one of WFB’s great (and frequent) phrases: “in due course.”

‐A few winters ago, I was visiting my friend John Gross in London. (He was the great literary critic who passed on earlier this year.) There had been heavy snow, and John noted, with displeasure, that the buses had suspended operation. Why, even in the Blitz, he said, the buses ran.

I thought of him, and that, when reading this article by George Carey, the former archbishop of Canterbury, in The Spectator. It is about London’s equivalent of the Occupy Wall Street people. He says, “The Blitz only closed St Paul’s for four days. By contrast, the Occupy London Stock Exchange protesters, camped outside Wren’s masterpiece, managed to put it out of business for a week.”

‐My friend Marilyn Minden was also a friend of John’s — they worked together on the New York Times. She wrote me on Monday, “All day long, people are mispronouncing Halloween. Where did this ‘Hollow’ nonsense come from? I wonder how they say the Lord’s Prayer — hollowed be Thy name?”

I thought about it, and, you know, I say it wrong too: “Holloween.” How I started that, I don’t know. Must have crept in. It is “Halloween.”

Thanks, Marilyn! (And Lincoln did not say, “. . . we can not dedicate, we can not consecrate, we can not hollow this ground.”)

‐On Halloween morning, I said to a friend, “Happy Halloween!” He said, “Happy Halloween!” Then he said, with a big grin, “No — Happy Holiday.”

Now, as far as I know, my friend is not political at all. The only political sentiments I have ever heard him express were left-leaning. I’m not sure he knows that I am a conservative, or write political journalism.

I thought his remark was hilarious. The mockery of PC makes me think that PC may not ride high in the saddle forever.

‐Let’s end with a letter — this one is from a reader who lives in Brno, the Czech Republic. He writes,

A while ago, I was traveling through the Vienna airport to visit my girlfriend, and I saw that Austrian Airlines has “Das dichteste Netz in Osteuropa seit dem KGB” — “The thickest network in East Europe since the KGB.”

Nice, to compare your airline to a bunch of heinous spies! I guess “The best-traveled organization since the Wehrmacht” was left on the adman’s desk.

Have a good one, y’all.




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