Politics & Policy

Michelle’s proclamation, &c.

Said Michelle Obama, “This president has brought us out of the dark and into the light.” Whoa. I’m all for being enthusiastic about your candidate. I’m even more for being enthusiastic about your spouse.

But if a Republican first lady had said that — do you think we’d be hearing cries of “theocracy” and whatnot? Shouldn’t Michelle’s kind of talk be reserved for . . . like the Messiah?

Anyway . . .

‐Over the years, I’ve observed President Obama’s little bumbles: the “Austrian” language, 57 states, “corpseman,” etc. I don’t really care. We all make mistakes. The double and triple standards of the press are what bothers me. Reagan, Quayle, W., Palin — they could get away with nothing. Were forgiven nothing.

So, Obama has now referred to the Malvinas as the Maldives. No big deal. But I was perplexed by this statement in the Telegraph: “Barack Obama made an uncharacteristic error, more akin to those of his predecessor George W Bush.” A) I’m not so sure the error was uncharacteristic of Obama. B) I don’t recall Bush’s making errors of that nature. Do you?

C) An American president should not be calling those islands the Malvinas anyway. We should stand with our British allies, who in any case are in the right: “the Falklands.”

‐I wish to quote something from a Michael Barone column: “His experiences in university neighborhoods and Chicago politics have apparently left Obama ignorant that there are intellectually serious arguments against liberal policies. So when presented with such arguments by [Paul] Ryan and others, he scowls, calls people names, and does the intellectual equivalent of stamping his feet.”

Yes, exactly. Barone continues, “Someone needs to tell him that combining arrogant condescension with intellectual shoddiness is not a winning political tactic.”

Let’s hope not (is all I can say).

‐Did you read that North Korea’s new dictator gave a speech? He did. And I was surprised to learn the following fact, from an Associated Press report: “His father, late leader Kim Jong Il, addressed the public only once in his lifetime.”

Wow. That kind of taciturnity outdoes even Calvin Coolidge. And yet Kim Jong Il apparently got reelected over and over . . .

‐News from West Virginia — Martinsburg, in particular. They have put up a pedestal for a new sculpture of Adam Stephen, the Revolutionary War general who founded the town. But a local artist wants modern art, not a traditional monument — so, in protest, he placed something else on the pedestal: a toilet.

Isn’t that the sort of “art” that wins the Turner Prize and all? For an AP report on the matter, go here. And you remember what Andy Warhol said: “Art is what you can get away with.”

‐In this Age of Obama, we’ve been chewing over some fundamental questions: a classical-liberal society, a more social-democratic society. One of the things we classical liberals have been saying is: All the innovation that America has been responsible for? It will dry up, if we allow the government to grow too big, too domineering, and too confiscatory.

I thought of this when reading about a penny — an American penny from 1792, which fetched $1.15 million at auction. On the front side, the penny depicts Liberty and calls her the “Parent of Science & Industry.”


‐A friend sent me an e-mail with the Subject line, “Stasi in Vermont?” He was driving in that beautiful state and saw an official vehicle marked “State Security.” He attached a photo.

I’m sure it’s all very innocent, but, for heaven’s sake: unfortunate naming.

‐I want to tell you about a trip to Minnesota, but first, I want to jot one Broadway note. My cousin and I went to Memphis the other day. There’s a lot to commend. But I can’t commend this: While celebrating the music of Beale Street, the show puts down Perry Como. Beale Street, cool; Perry Como, very un-.

Actually, Perry Como was very good at being Perry Como. And Beale Street was very good at being Beale Street (and perhaps still is). Each is outstanding in those separate genres. You don’t need to put down one in order to praise the other.

Why do people do that, every day, in a thousand different ways? Must be something ingrained . . .

‐Okay, Minnesota — went to Minneapolis-St. Paul. Before I left New York, I heard a nickname for the first of those cities. Had never heard it before: the Mini-Apple.

Spoke at two events, a dinner and a lunch (in that order). My co-hosts were the Center of the American Experiment and Power Line. The center is a “point of light,” as the first President Bush would say — a think tank and a public service. Power Line is one of conservatism’s, and America’s, most distinguished websites.

The founder and president of the center is Mitch Pearlstein, a native New Yorker who has spent a good deal of his career in the Twin Cities. He worked in the federal Education Department under Reagan and Bush 41. If there has to be a Department of Ed — Mitch would make an excellent secretary of it.

His latest book is From Family Collapse to America’s Decline. Family collapse is a horribly serious matter, as readers of National Review Online don’t need to be told. Mitch also wrote a biography of Al Quie, a retired Minnesota politician and an exceptional man.

I know you know the guys at Power Line: Scott Johnson, John Hinderaker, Steve Hayward. Recently, Paul Mirengoff returned, causing hosannas all around. Power Line does what a website should: keeps you informed and keeps you company. What a gift.

‐In the Twin Cities, I spoke on my topic du jour: the Nobel Peace Prize, about which I’ve written a book. If you’d like me to speak to your own group, give me a shout. If you think I’m better from a distance — I understand!

‐Among the luminaries I met in Minnesota was Kathy Kersten, that brainy and brave writer. Braininess is common; Kathy’s kind of bravery, not so much. Her pen is a threat to nostrums and cant. Naturally, some people don’t like it.


‐One of the guests at our noontime event was a high-schooler. As I was signing his book, I said, “Hey, shouldn’t you be in school about now?” He said his dad allowed him to come — because all he was missing was lunch and gym.

Lunch and gym? Aren’t they the two best parts of school? (Maybe not gym. Depends.) (Maybe not lunch either.)

‐Touring Israel and the PA, I heard the term “West Bank” quite a lot. Touring the Twin Cities, I heard the same. Sort of threw me, at first.

‐In the company of Scott Johnson, I visited the Minnesota state capitol — one of the most beautiful state capitols I have seen. Majestic, elegant, tasteful, democratic — what an American capitol should be.

There’s even a monument to Columbus outside! New, or at least recently refurbished! I thought Chris’s name was pretty much mud these days . . .

‐Inside, I noticed a plaque to Mrs. Andreas Ueland, 1860-1927. Never heard of. Looked her up later: Clara Hampson Ueland, a suffrage leader. The plaque reads,

“May her memory save us from pettiness, all unworthy ambition, all narrowness of vision, all mean and sordid aims. As there was no weakness in her words, no weariness on her brow, no wavering in her loyalties, so may there be none in us. As she fought ever, without malice and without hatred, so may we fight.”

You can see why I was struck by it. May all of us receive a tribute like that one day, and be worthy of it!

‐I had the great good fortune of staying with the Johnsons — Scott and his wife Sally Zusman, and two of their daughters: Eliana and Deborah. Eliana is a former NR-nik, and she has now gone on to greater glory. She’s a Yalie. Deborah is a violinist, among other things. She’s a Dartmouthian (if I have used a correct term). The youngest daughter, Alexandra, is at Dartmouth now.

Sally is famous for her cooking, and I must say that, apart from my own sainted mother, she is definitely the best cook in the entire Upper Midwest. Maybe even a broader region . . .

‐Exploring their neighborhood, I saw a bumper sticker that said, “Mondale! [Peace sign] on earth.” Well, thanks to Reagan, and Reaganism, there was a lot more peace on earth. But people are surely entitled to their bumper stickers.

Catch you later, Minnesotans (and others).




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