Politics & Policy

Biden’s act, &c.

I’ve been sick of Joe Biden’s act for — well, I think it’s about the 25th anniversary. Do you remember his rip-off of Neil Kinnock during the 1988 campaign? (Biden ran for the Democratic presidential nomination that year.)

In clumsy imitation of the British Labour leader, Biden said, “I started thinking as I was coming over here, why is it that Joe Biden is the first in his family ever to go to a university? Why is it that my wife, who is sitting out there in the audience, is the first in her family to ever go to college? Is it because our fathers and mothers were not bright? Is it because I’m the first Biden in a thousand generations to get a college and a graduate degree that I was smarter than the rest?”

Maybe Biden should have worked for a further degree in English grammar.

Anyway, this was Biden a couple of weeks ago, before a conference of mayors: “My dad never worked in a Food Fair. My dad never wore a blue collar. Barack makes me sound like I just climbed out of a mine in Scranton, Pennsylvania, carrying a lunch bucket. No one in my family worked in a factory.”

People get a kick out of ol’ Joe. I’m more in the kicking school. To me, one of the sweetest things about an Obama defeat in November would be Biden’s exit from politics.

‐Above, did you notice the “Barack”? Biden likes to refer to the president by his first name in public. This is, I’m pretty sure, unprecedented in American history. And interesting.

I did a piece two years ago called “‘Barack and I’: What’s in a first name?” Go here.

‐Now to the media. Sometimes the mask slips, or falls thuddingly to the ground — and we are better off for it. In the first week of this month, Les Moonves, the head of CBS News, attended an Obama fundraiser in Hollywood. He said that “ultimately journalism has changed” and that “partisanship is very much a part of journalism now.”

Again, this is a better world — where the head of CBS News can attend a fundraiser in Hollywood for a liberal Democrat, and do so openly and without apology. At least once, the New York Times’s Supreme Court reporter, Linda Greenhouse, participated in a “pro-choice” rally.

Why not? The “mainstream media” have pretended for too long. (Still, I think it would be swell to have some neutral media — strictly the news — and then opinion outlets, such as our beloved magazine, National Review.)

‐Barack Obama made up several key parts of his world-famous autobiography. Ho-hum. People think it’s no big deal, or even kinda cool: What an artiste our president is! No boring old reality for him!

Yet if a Republican such as George W. Bush had made up his autobiography . . . If Sarah Palin had . . .

For eight years, I heard from the Left that Reagan claimed to have liberated concentration camps, personally. I remember this classic Ann Arbor woman, throwing it in my face . . .

‐In my new history of the Nobel Peace Prize, I have a section, of course, on Rigoberta Menchú, the 1992 laureate. (She won in that year because it was the 500th anniversary of Columbus’s discovery of, or encounter with, America, and the committee wanted to stick it to ol’ Chris, somehow.) In 1983, a book was written in her name: I, Rigoberta Menchú. In the late 1990s, it was found to be fraudulent in respects both major and minor.

Menchú responded that she had spoken “my truth.” And that she had “a right to my own memories.” Her publisher, Verso (significant name), cited the peculiarity of “oral cultures,” saying that “the distinction between what has happened to oneself and what has happened to close relatives or friends can be easily lost.” The response of our professoriate was typified by the chairman of Wellesley’s Spanish department: “Rigoberta Menchú has been used by the Right to negate the very important space that multiculturalism is providing in academia. Whether her book is true or not, I don’t care.”

‐People tell things the way they want it to be, I guess. It’s why Elizabeth Warren says she’s Cherokee. There is this weird longing to be part of a victim group or victim saga.

“Maybe I’m not Cherokee, but I should be.” “Maybe my grandfather wasn’t tortured by imperialists, but he should have been.” “This is my truth.”

‐When I was growing up, there was this expression on the left, almost a slogan: “The personal is political.” There could be no truly private sphere; nothing apart from politics. Everything, no matter how apolitical, was actually political. It was one of the reasons I rebelled against the Left: I thought this sentiment, this belief, was repellent, and soul-destroying.

I thought of it when reading that the Obama campaign was asking people to give campaign donations in lieu of wedding, birthday, and anniversary gifts. Nothing says “Congratulations on your big day” like a hundred bucks to the Big O!

Do you attend weddings laced with politics (always from one side, of course)? I do. A recent one — which was glorious in every other respect — sounded like the Democratic convention come early. I said I couldn’t wait to get back to National Review so as to be in a less political atmosphere.

‐Every day, we hear that conservatives oppose President Obama, and are eager for his defeat, because he’s black. Because, of course, we conservatives just love Joe Biden, Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, John Kerry, Al Gore, Barbara Boxer, Chris Dodd, Hillary Clinton, Barney Frank, Debbie Wasserman Schultz . . .

Is it not enough that the Left is malicious and defamatory? Do they have to be so all-fired stupid too?

‐If you’re surprised that recent guests at the Obama White House flipped their middle fingers at the portrait of Reagan — and took celebratory photos of themselves doing so — you don’t know the Left like I do. Grew up with them. Was educated by them (sort of). Was surrounded by them.

This is them. Trust me.

If I were with the Romney campaign, I’d put those guests and their photos in an ad — an ad asking for a different kind of White House. Can you imagine the reaction? You can see why I wouldn’t last long in politics . . .

‐While I’m dispensing political advice: I think this announcement of who’s being “vetted” for VP — and, by implication, who isn’t — is unseemly. Gross. The campaign should be quiet about it altogether. These public statements have several bad effects, including: hurt feelings on the part of the non-vetted, and their fans.

‐I heard about two minutes of CNN, when it was absolutely unavoidable, in an airport. Trapped. A woman was interviewing some guest about the rash of national-security leaks out of the administration. She, in her questions — which were more like pronouncements — defended President Obama and his people against all accusations. The interviewee, after the pronouncements were made, did the same. Actually, he was more measured in his defense of the administration than she was.

My point is this, ladies and gentlemen: This was like a right-wing parody of CNN, and a pretty heavy-handed one at that. If there were some right-of-center Saturday Night Live, a spoof might look just like the real thing — just like what I actually witnessed on CNN.

I haven’t been much of a television-watcher lately (meaning since Sanford and Son, practically): Is Fox as guilty, from the other direction? I’d be amazed.

Here is an article about an interview given by Nancy Pelosi. I’d like to highlight two things. First, she said that George W. Bush is “really a lovely man” — which comports with reality. Second . . . well, here is what the article says about Bush’s (doomed) Social Security reform: “Bush’s proposal was a ‘gift,’ Pelosi said, adding that the key to Democrats’ success was resisting entreaties to offer their own plan to shore up Social Security’s finances.”

Exactly. What a nice admission.

‐Want to check in on our friends the Chinese Communist Party? The people President Clinton called “our “strategic partner”?

A human rights lawyer from northeast China who was jailed for seven years for defending Falun Gong practitioners is in serious condition. Authorities are denying him medical attention, putting his life in danger.

Mr. Wang Yonghang is being held in Shenyang No. 1 prison in Liaoning. His wife recently relayed to Chinese Human Rights Defenders (CHRD) that he is suffering from tuberculosis and showing signs of paralysis, including losing all feeling below his waist. Since his detention, Wang has been repeatedly beaten in custody. 

Bastards, bastards, bastards. Fight them, in any way possible. What is wrong with people?

Another question: Who in the world would defend Falun Gong practitioners, on Chinese soil? Wang Yonghang would. Obviously a great, a recklessly brave, man. (For more on this, go here.)

‐I was sorry to learn that the U.S. Golf Association has decided to call the U.S. Open medal the Jack Nicklaus Medal. Understand, please, that there’s not a worse — a greater — Nicklaus idolater alive than I am. And that includes Barbara (his wife).

Some years ago, some friends and I were sitting around answering the question, “If you could have dinner with three people — any three people, from the beginning of time to the present — whom would you choose?” Nicklaus came up. Seriously.

But look: The U.S. Open is bigger than any one man, including Nicklaus. Its medal should be bigger than any one man too. Not everything need have a name on it.

I love what a venerable judge told me when we were talking about the Daniel P. Moynihan Judicial Building, or whatever the hell it’s called. (It’s in lower Manhattan.) He said, “You know what the best name for a U.S. courthouse is? ‘U.S. Courthouse.’” Right on.

P.S. Nicklaus would have gone even higher in my estimation if he had said, “Thanks, guys, but I don’t think it’s a good idea.”

‐I love what Jack Fleck said, during the recent U.S. Open broadcast. He was reminiscing about his victory in 1955. He said, “I putted well that week, for me.” He emphasized that twice: “for me.”

What a gent, this champion born in 1921.

‐On the radio, I heard a hymn, arranged by Mack Wilberg, I believe, and performed by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir: “My God, My Portion, and My Love.” Marvelous thing, marvelously arranged and performed. I thought, “This should accompany a Romney campaign ad, in mid-October. That would be absolutely in their face.”

You see why I’m not in politics?

‐But I’ll be in Houston on Thursday night, 7 o’clock, the Brazos Bookstore. I’ll be talking about Peace, They Say: A History of the Nobel Peace Prize, the Most Famous and Controversial Prize in the World. And other matters, if you like. For more information, go here and/or here.

And have a great week! (Very partisan Impromptus today, I realize. Red meatish. Well, a little red meat belongs in every diet.)

‐P.S. I want to wish the best of luck today to Sen. Orrin Hatch, running for reelection in Utah. I’m all for rotation in office. But Hatch is one of the finest men in public life, and I’m not quite ready to see him go. One more term, I say. He’s a rare touch of grace in an often-shabby business. I value Hatch’s presence in this business more than I deplore his occasional lapses from orthodoxy. He says that, if he wins reelection, his last six years in the Senate will be his best and most important. Okay, then. I look forward. 

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