For the last few weeks, something strange has been going on. When I make criticisms of Newt, or National Review does, we’re called “establishment.” Newt is an “outsider,” desperately opposed by establishmentarians like me.
Newt, remember, took about $1.5 million from Freddie Mac. I didn’t get a dime from Freddie Mac — or Fannie Mae! — although I might have given a few. (Not quite clear on how that works.)
Newt was Speaker of the House. Little ol’ me hasn’t even worked for the government, unless you count an unpaid college internship in the Senate.
Newt has been peddling his influence for many years, raking in million after million. I scribble my piddly lil’ columns and reviews and whatnot. Do I influence anyone? In any case, I take the subway. It wasn’t so long ago that I was a pro-shop rat at Leslie Park Municipal Golf Course in Ann Arbor. I feel only a couple of steps removed from that.
How about NR? We’re fairly established, true — turned 56 last month. But we have always had to sing for our supper. We’re always a week or two from Kaputsville. Like me, the magazine has never received a dime from Freddie Mac, or anything like it. We even have some historians who write for us who, I’m sure, would be happy to provide “advice”!
A political season always brings out some nuttery. Fevers run high. But the idea of me as establishment while Newt is an outsider . . . the idea of Establishment Jay oppressing Lord Newt of K Street . . .
Well, it’s too nutty even for a political season.
‐A short while ago, Tom Coburn was known as just about the most conservative member of the Senate, if not all of Congress. Now that he has declared himself against Newt, is he an establishmentarian RINO squish? Does he stay up nights reading the collected writings of Lowell Weicker?
Is his invitation to join the Trilateral Commission in the mail? Or does he belong already?
‐I’ve loved Newt since about 1982. I’ve been appalled by him for about that long as well. Newt is a mixture, like most people — only more so.
When he led the Republicans and got a House majority in 1994, I was amazed and elated. On cars around Washington was seen perhaps my favorite bumper sticker of all time: “Speaker Newt: Deal with it.”
Sometime in 1996 or so, I attended an event for Ward Connerly, the civil-rights hero. Newt addressed the crowd. Afterward, I pumped his hand, saying, “You ought to be Speaker of the House. You’re just the right guy. Thanks so much.” Almost nobody can get you as pumped up, politically, as Newt can.
And yet, there was the “baggage,” to use the euphemism and catch-all of today. What does it mean? The grandiosity. The ethics troubles. The fancifulness. The foolin’ around. The attraction to Big Government schemes. The weakness for liberal praise and approval. (Jack Kemp had this too, big-time. Worst case ever.) The indiscipline.
There was a reason the House Republicans pushed him out in 1998. They were not acting on some whim.
I said in my debate notes last Friday that Newt was “thrilling” — a “thrilling politician.” He is, when he’s on. What he has said lately about Israel, the judiciary, the U.N., and other matters — my heart could leap out of its skin. I get the now-proverbial tingles down my leg. But I don’t think Newt is suited to the presidency. Moreover, I don’t think he can win. And 2012 is too important to kick away. Conservatives should not be in the business of ensuring Obama’s reelection.
If we want to be thrilled by Newt — and we do — let us be thrilled as he rides the lecture circuit or performs on television.
I like Romney, like him a lot. I said as much in this late-October column. I like another candidate or two too. Will say more about all this later. Do these others have flaws? Of course. Do I? Oh, you bet. But I’m not running for president. You can talk about them when I do.
Or before, sure, if you really want to!
‐Incidentally, some of NR’s critics say we should have waited longer before coming out against Newt, editorially. (That editorial is here.) We should have given him more time, they say. Thought about it further. The thing is, NR has been covering and analyzing Newt for a good 35 years now. How much longer did we need? Should we have given it another decade or two?
I think of a song (whose words I may botch slightly): “If you don’t know me by now, you ain’t never ever goin’ know me — ooooh ooh ooh ooh.”
‐Several weeks ago, just before Herman Cain dropped out of the race, I saw a headline that cracked me up: “Cain to Meet with Wife on Friday.” Made me think of an event from the 1940 campaign. Wendell Willkie was the Republican nominee, and he was having a flagrant affair (with Irita Van Doren). GOP strategists thought it would be good to have a picture of Willkie and his wife, Edith, together. Mrs. Willkie assented. As the photographer snapped the picture, she uttered the immortal line, “Politics makes strange bedfellows.”
At least I think it went that way. The story long ago entered the realm of legend . . .
‐I’ve noticed something about some of Mitt Romney’s critics: When they want to mock him, they call him Willard, his formal first name. I don’t know why they don’t call him Mitt: They can dislike or hate him just as much.
In the 1988 campaign, when Dukakis wanted to mock Quayle, he called him J. Danforth Quayle. I don’t know why he had to do that: You could dislike or hate Quayle just as much while calling him what everyone else did.
Four years ago, some people took pleasure in saying “Barack Hussein Obama.” That was considered verboten, virtually a hate crime — until Obama was president, when he himself started to deploy his full name. Members of his administration did as well.
Funny old world . . .
‐Above, I mentioned the possibility of Republican suicide in 2012 (by the nomination of Newt). For some years now, we’ve been described as “the party of family values.” That is a phrase derided and spat at by the Left. Are we to do the same? Is our slogan to become “Live Left, vote Right?”
I heard that slogan years ago. A great many conservatives follow it to a T, believe me. It is their credo.
‐Boy, can Ron Paul tear into the Fed. But you know who can really do it? Louis Farrakhan. I noticed this when I was looking into some of his greatest hits, pronouncement-wise.
Here he is in March of last year: “The Federal Reserve is the synagogue of Satan. The Rockefellers, the du Ponts, the House of Rothschild — these are the people that have corrupted the entire world.”
Now, that’s how to Fed-bash! “Synagogue of Satan”!
‐Speaking of Satan and his minions, I have a piece in the current National Review on Zionism — on the word “Zionism,” actually, and its companion, “Zionist.” What do people mean when they call you a “Zionist”? Generally, they mean, “I hate you.” In any case, the word once had a meaning. In the last few decades, it has been twisted, out of ignorance and malice both.
Words often take strange trips. Consider “international,” which once meant, straightforwardly, “between or among nations.” When Ted Turner owned CNN, he banned the word “foreign” on the network. You were supposed to say “international” instead. “Foreign” used to mean one thing and “international” quite another. But Turner and people like him wrecked that.
These days, when you watch a PGA Tour event, a commentator will refer to a Spanish player, for example, as an “international player.” Like he carries four passports or something. The commentator really means “foreign,” but he won’t say it. When I’m in Spain, I’m a foreigner (and so happy to be there). Why isn’t a Spaniard a foreigner in America?
If you want to screw up the thought of a society, attack its language — as Orwell and others have known.
‐In our November 28 issue, I had a piece on Chen Guangcheng, one of the greatest men in all of China, one of the greatest men in the entire world. He is the blind “peasant lawyer” who blew the whistle on forced abortion and sterilization. He has been brutalized by the dictatorship for almost six years now, and is currently enduring a torturous kind of house arrest.
As I explained in the piece, various brave souls have trooped to his village, Dongshigu (Shandong Province), in the hope of seeing him. They have always been denied. For their trouble, they have been beaten, robbed, detained, shot at, etc.
Last week, Christian Bale, the actor, tried to see Chen. He, too, was denied, of course. A Reuters report explains what happened. I am very grateful to Christian Bale for his noble act.
‐A friend of mine works for a large corporation that has dealings with a range of universities around the world. He writes,
’Trone [don’t ask],
Typical for this time of year, I’m starting to get “holiday” cards from a whole bunch of universities. The first one came in from Notre Dame and hoped I was “enjoying the blessings and the joys of the season.” The second one was from a secular German university wishing me “Merry Christmas.”
What’s the world coming to?
‐Speaking of Germany, I have a friend from that country who now works in Switzerland. He speaks near-perfect English. Last week, he wrote me, saying, “Clean is pronounced ‘cleen.’ Cleanliness is pronounced ‘clenliness.’ What about cleanly? I’m strongly leaning towards ‘cleenly,’ but I have a doubt.”
I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again: How does any foreigner ever learn to pronounce English? What a baffling, while magnificent, language.
‐Several readers have sent me a wonderful name, belonging to a player on the St. John’s (New York) basketball team: God’sgift Achiuwa, a Nigerian son of a minister. That does beat all.