Politics & Policy

Buckle your chinstrap, &c.

Five days ago, a New York Times article delivered a shot heard ’round the world. It came in the form of a statement by Eric Holder, the attorney general. About some of the criticism directed at him, he said, “This is a way to get at the president because of the way I can be identified with him, both due to the nature of our relationship and, you know, the fact that we’re both African-American.”

Buckle your chinstrap: We’re going to be hearing a lot of this sort of thing in 2012. Will it be all race, all the time? I hope not. But it could get very ugly. Left-wing Democrats stoke the fires of race in the best of times. What if Obama is losing?

His presidency was supposed to enhance racial harmony in America. Many of us worry that it will end up doing the opposite.

I talked to Thomas Sowell earlier this year. (For the resulting piece, go here.) He said that, if Obama loses, there could be rioting in the streets. Really? Well, think about it, said Sowell: Would the Jesse Jacksons and Al Sharptons simply sit back and say, “That’s the way the cookie crumbles in a democracy: You win some, you lose some”?

As I remarked in yesterday’s Impromptus, race is often the first refuge of a scoundrel. Republicans often wilt at the first charge of racism. They get the shakes, saying, “Please don’t hate me: I’m really a good person.” Then they get pounded all the more.

We’ll see . . .

Do some people oppose Obama and his attorney general out of racism? I’m sure. Are accusations of racism a way of deflecting honest criticism and defaming your opponents? I’m sure of that too.

Once more, buckle your chinstrap.

‐There is something that leftists say about people like me, who support a war on terror: We hate Muslims. I heard something similar in the Cold War: “You hate Russians.” No, we didn’t: We loved Russians enough to oppose the dictatorship ruling them.

When Congressman Ron Paul is around, you don’t need leftists. Did you catch his act on The Tonight Show? He was following up on his tussle with Michele Bachmann in the most recent presidential debate. They were tussling about Iran. There in Sioux City, Paul said, “To declare war on 1.2 billion Muslims and say all Muslims are the same, this is dangerous talk.”

Who talks this way? Anybody? Not that I know of.

When he got to The Tonight Show, Paul said about Bachmann, “She doesn’t like Muslims, she hates them, she wants to go get ’em.”

It’s true that Bachmann takes a hard line against the Iranian regime (for example). But guess what? Almost all of that regime’s political prisoners are Muslim. The girls the dictatorship stones to death, for the crime of having been gang-raped? They’re Muslim too.

As far as I’m concerned, to be against the dictatorship in Iran is to be for the people of Iran.

I’m against the Syrian dictatorship as well. Does that make me anti-Muslim? What about the people the dictatorship is mowing down? Are they not Muslim?

Etc., etc.

One of the worst things about Ron Paul is that, unlike some other libertarians, he doesn’t merely say, “Let’s have nothing to do with the world, wicked as it is. Let’s just withdraw, hunker down, tend our own garden.” No, he sneaks in little defenses of al-Qaeda, Ahmadinejad, and other beauties. He parrots their grievances and excuses.

I wish some conservative Republican would upend Paul in his district. I can’t believe that many citizens of that district think as Paul does. Yet he has been in Congress for, what, 50 years? Isn’t it time to fix this incongruity?

‐’Mid the gloom, the foreign minister of Zambia has given me a lift. A statement he made put a broad smile on my face. Did you hear about this?

George W. Bush was making a visit to Zambia and some other African countries. He has a great many fans in Africa — maybe more than he does here in the U.S.

Amnesty International is not a fan. They consider him a war criminal. They want him arrested. Last fall, they asked Canada to do the job (while Bush was visiting British Columbia). Canada declined. More recently, they asked those African states to do the job.

And here is what the Zambian foreign minister, Chishimba Kambwili, said: “On what basis does Amnesty International want us to arrest Mr. Bush? Tell them to hang, and also please ask them to create their own country and wait for Mr. Bush to visit their country so that they can arrest him to suit their wish and not here in Zambia.”

Any chance we could get Kambwili in the State Department?

‐A few days ago, I was reading in the Daily Telegraph about University Challenge. (Go here.) UC is a British quiz show modeled on our old College Bowl. The show tests general knowledge. Who was the emperor between Caracalla and Macrinus? What did Wellington say to Nelson on October 15, 1798? That sort of thing (as I understand it).

Anyway, the Telegraph informed its readers that alumni of University College London were squaring off against alumni of Magdalen College, Oxford. And I immediately thought of our David Pryce-Jones.

He’s an alumnus of Magdalen. There’s nobody more learned than he. He ought to be on University Challenge. He’d clean up, sweep all before him, be an even bigger star than he is. I can see it now! I’d pay to see it!

If I were the BBC — which carries the show (does another network exist in that country?) — I’d be on the phone to P-J yesterday.

‐Above, I mentioned Tom Sowell (as I like to do). A couple weeks ago, he published his annual “Christmas Books” column. Toward the end, he said, “My own new books this year include . . .”

How many could write those words? Astonishing.

‐John Derbyshire wrote up his experiences in Moscow. In the course of that engrossing diary, he said, “It is, I think, a fairly well-known fact that a Russian woman goes to bed on the night of her 32nd birthday looking like a supermodel, and wakes up the next morning a 300-pound babushka with a wart on her nose.”

Just so you know, I have a friend who speaks of “the babushka bomb”: “She was a real beauty, but then the babushka bomb went off”; “Poor Olga: It seems the babushka bomb has gone off.”

Mean stuff. But the bomb does not go off in all, for sure. There are beautiful and elegant older ladies in Russia, just as there are beautiful and elegant older ladies everywhere.

Consider Maya Plisetskaya, the prima ballerina assoluta. At 86, she remains one of the most stunning women around. I have a friend who knows her and her husband, Rodion Shchedrin, the composer. My friend saw them recently and described Maya as — I’m not kidding — “hot.”

Just so you know, my friend is in his thirties. And very discerning.

‐A little language? An article published a day or two ago said that a particular practice was “highly illegal.” I thought about that phrase.

Are there degrees of illegality? Are some things a bit illegal, others somewhat illegal, still others pretty illegal, and still others highly illegal? Is there a color-coded system, as with terror alerts?

In my understanding, things are unique or not. There is no “very unique” or “a little unique.” So it is with illegality: Things are illegal or not.

I hope I’m not being too Manichean . . .

‐A little music? Every once in a while, a Christmas carol or song enters what you might call the canon: the standard repertoire of Christmas songs. I was on a subway platform a few nights ago, listening to a steel-drum player. (They give you no choice.) He played some traditional carols — and then “All I Want for Christmas Is You,” the Mariah Carey hit.

It fit right in. It has arrived. (I imagine it did years ago.)

‐Get a load of this: I had to install something technological, and the package promised loudly that this would be done in “3 Easy Steps!” No. 1: Put the disc in your computer. No. 2: Click on (something). No. 3: Follow the instructions onscreen.

“Hey!” I thought. “That’s cheating. That’s not three steps!”

Are you with me?

‐In the mail came a tin of shortbread from my friend Martha. Her note said, “Merry Christmas and enjoy Jill’s shortbread.” In a phone call, I asked, “Who’s Jill?” There was a story behind it.

Martha’s parents owned and operated a hotel in Florida. During the war, they learned of a severe soap shortage in Britain. A hotel has a lot of leftover soap: A customer uses a bar once or twice . . .

Well, Martha’s mother gathered up this soap and, through the Red Cross, sent it to Britain. The contact there was a lady named Jill. Martha’s mother got to be known in that area of Britain as “The Soap Lady.”

After the war, Martha’s mother and Jill became fast friends. The one visited Britain, the other visited America.

Jill made a shortbread that wowed all who ate it. She shared the recipe with Martha’s mother. Martha is, of course, still making the shortbread. And she thinks that a closeness between America and Britain is something important in Western civilization.

I agree — and that the shortbread is fantastic.




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