Politics & Policy

The pride of O, &c.

In an interview with the sportswriter Bill Simmons, President Obama said, “I am very proud of the fact I do not cheat when I’m playing golf.”

Well, a non-cheater is better than a cheater — an Obama is better than a Clinton, you could say. But I thought of Bobby Jones.

In the 1925 U.S. Open, he called a penalty stroke on himself. It may well have cost him the tournament, which he wound up losing by a stroke. Praised for his honesty and sportsmanship, Jones would have none of it. In fact, he bridled: “You may as well praise a man for not robbing a bank.”

Yes.

‐I saw a headline that said fear of Obama’s reelection was occasioning a “burst of gun sales.” You see, he is stimulating the economy.

#ad#‐Speaking of elections, let me praise them: This year’s election is making a pro-Israel warrior out of Barack Obama. He says, “The United States will always have Israel’s back.”

And as he was sitting politely next to Benjamin Netanyahu, I thought, “Gee: Obama needs him more than Bibi needs O, now.” A highly interesting development.

Yes, elections can have salutary effects (as well as unsalutary ones). But what would an Obama second term be like?

Before the 1980 election, ex-secretary of state Cyrus Vance told Mayor Ed Koch that Jimmy Carter would sell Israel down the river, if he got a second term. I’m a little nervous about O too. Better not to find out.

‐At a press conference — a very, very rare Obama press conference — a reporter asked the president whether he welcomed higher gas prices. Many do, you know: They say they wean us off oil.

Obama said, “Ed, just from a political perspective, do you think the president of the United States going into reelection wants gas prices to go up higher?”

I was reminded of something a national-security official in the George W. Bush administration said to me, when I asked him about the hunt for Osama bin Laden. Democrats were saying that Bush had taken his “eye” off bin Laden, so eager was he to rule Iraq (or something).

The official said (I paraphrase), “First, it’s not true. But second — just from the crudest, most dishonorable political standpoint, don’t you think we’d kind of like to capture Osama bin Laden?”

‐Last week, I was talking to a man who works for a small college. This college has seen very, very few conservative speakers. He was wondering whether he could get me through — get me approved by the speakers committee. It would be no sure thing: I might be regarded as too extreme, beyond the pale.

Heaven forbid the kiddies should hear an hour of conservatism, in their four-year college careers!

When I hung up the phone, I thought of the battles we have on the right: We’re at one another’s throats in the current primaries. But to the Left, and particularly the campus Left, we’re all the same.

I must confess that I often have the same feeling about the Left: Their squabbles, to me, are just the Bolsheviks versus the Mensheviks. In 2008, there was a protracted battle between Obama and Hillary Clinton. In my eyes, there wasn’t a dime’s worth of difference between them. You could have flipped a coin (that dime).

Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, Bill Clinton, John Kerry, Joe Biden, Chris Dodd, Al Gore, Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi — to me, they’re one bloc. If they have differences, they’re teeny-tiny, and they have mainly to do with style, I think.

Several years ago, I spoke on a pretty campus, and I was having lunch with the College Republicans. Their faculty adviser was there too — a Democrat, because there were no Republicans on the faculty. This Democrat had kindly volunteered.

He told me that, in the late 1960s, the campus had seen a conservative speaker: Bill Rusher, the publisher of National Review. I asked whether they had had any conservatives since. The professor couldn’t think of one.

I’m afraid I said, “That sounds about right to me: One conservative speaker every 40 years, or two generations. Wouldn’t want to overdo it!”

I am jolted by the difference between RightWorld, in which I spend a lot of my time, and the rest of the world. In RightWorld, George W. Bush, John McCain, Bob Dole, and Bush 41 aren’t conservatives. They’re moderates or squishes or RINOs. In the rest of the world, they’re either conservatives or right-wingers.

#page#Consider the case of Dole: In 1976, he replaced Nelson Rockefeller on the presidential ticket, because Ford needed to placate the Right. Dole was known as an “attack dog” of the Right. He had won reelection in 1974 by playing the issue of abortion, very hard. (I’m talking about the Senate seat.)

When Howard Baker was majority leader, the righties said, “It’d be so nice to get that moderate, compromising Baker out of there and have a real conservative, like Dole.”

Now the Right talks about Dole as if he were George McGovern.

#ad#When Rick Santorum had a big night in Missouri, Minnesota, and Colorado, he said he had “shocked the moderate establishment” — i.e., the backers of Mitt Romney. Now, who backs Romney? John Bolton, Ann Coulter, Tom Coburn, Kelly Ayotte, Rick Snyder, Eric Cantor, Nikki Haley, Chris Christie . . .

Of course, in RightWorld, Christie is not a conservative. To normal people (pardon the expression), he’s a conservative hero (or maybe a conservative villain). But in RightWorld — no conservative at all.

Santorum calls Romney “a liberal governor” who “passed socialized medicine” and “is in bed with Barack Obama” and is “an Occupy Wall Street adherent.” Last week, a colleague of mine said, “I think that’s fair.” To the rest of the world — it’s puzzling, if not bonkers.

I live in kind of a split world. There are people in New York, particularly in the arts world, who will not shake my hand. Who will not be in the same room with me. Because I’m a conservative, working for NR.

And then I get home to my computer, and there’s mail from readers accusing me of being a total moderate sell-out.

Remember this about the Left — and, again, particularly the campus Left: To them, we’re all the same. If we’re conservative, it doesn’t matter whether we’re the most elegant Oxford don — Noel Malcolm, say — or the crudest, dumbest blogger. We’re all the same, beyond the pale.

Kind of interesting.

‐Al Sharpton said this about Dennis Kucinich, who lost a primary: “He was the dependable guy with the progressive community. He’ll be missed.”

The use of the word “community” has long amused me. There was a woman in D.C. politics, some years ago, who would begin most sentences, “As a member of the black community . . .” You always hear about “the gay community.” And, hilariously, you hear about its opposite number, “the straight community.”

As if almost all of humanity lived in a neighborhood somewhere, with a church, a school, a tavern, and a bowling alley.

‐In Monday’s Impromptus, I said something about bilingual ballots in New York, on which you can read “Yes/Sí,” which is bad enough, but also “No/No,” which is just too much. Why aren’t Spanish speakers ever insulted? As if, living and voting in America, they didn’t know the words “yes” and “no.”

A reader writes, “In Portugal, I saw ballots that offered you ‘Não/Non/No/Nein.’” Any EU national can vote in many a Portuguese election. Our reader adds, “The new prime minister’s name, in English, is Peter Rabbit.”

Pedro Coelho. Peter Rabbit. Wonderful.

‐Speaking of wonderful, I read Tony Daniels’s piece in the new New Criterion. It’s about Coventry (today’s Coventry, which is ugly in that assaultive modern way). Tony ends,

When I told friends that I was staying a few days in Coventry, they stood amazed, such is its reputation. They would not have been surprised if I had proposed to go to the interior of Borneo, or bicycle in the Sahara — but Coventry? I come away with my prejudice confirmed: everywhere is interesting.

I couldn’t agree more: Everywhere is interesting, to those prepared to be interested. To those who are receptive to the interesting.

I think the same of people (basically). Bill Buckley used to quote someone — I can’t remember who it was — who said, “Ninety-nine of every hundred people are interesting, and so is the hundredth, for he is the exception.”

‐A quip from a reader: “So, we learn that Barack Obama telephoned Sandra Fluke. What do you bet Bill Clinton did too?”

If that’s hate speech — sue me. See you!

 

#JAYBOOK#

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