Politics & Policy

Our national god, &c.

Every once in a while, I remember, Oh, yeah — this is why the Left repelled me, back when. One big reason was the racialization of everything. The refusal to let people be people, for good or ill. The insistence on making race the be-all, end-all.

I was reminded of this when reading what Bill Maher said of Barack Obama: “In many ways — especially for progressives — he is too white for them. He plays golf, he’s too cozy with bankers. But when it comes to knowing how to fight, he’s black.”

Take the golf thing. I grew up in the Detroit area. Was part of the golf culture, worked at golf courses. The idea that black people don’t play golf would be a shock to anyone with his eyes open.

And how about the notion that Obama “fights like he’s black”? Does that mean he fights dirty? If a conservative said that, wouldn’t that be deemed . . . racist?

There will come a day, I hope, when race is not our national god. But it’s hard, right now, to see that day coming.

‐Out on the stump, Mitt Romney made a statement about the current campaign — and it is one of the best and truest such statements I have seen:

Over the last four years, this president has pushed Republicans and Democrats as far apart as they can go. And now he and his allies are pushing us all even further apart by dividing us into groups. He demonizes some. He panders to others. His campaign strategy is to smash America apart and then cobble together 51 percent of the pieces.

If an American president wins that way, we all lose.

Not only a fine piece of rhetoric, but an excellent piece of analysis, in my opinion.

‐George Will ended a recent column with this sentence: “One of Ehrlich’s advisers, John Holdren, is Barack Obama’s science adviser.” Ehrlich would be Paul Ehrlich, the ecologist who got nearly everything wrong. And I throw in the “nearly” just to be polite. Remember the “population bomb” and the end of the world from the depletion of all our resources?

I wanted to say a word about John Holdren: He and President Obama have something in common: They have both given Nobel peace lectures.

(I was once uneasy about using double colons, as I have above — but one day I saw that Naipaul did it, and that cured my unease for life.)

In 1995, the Norwegian Nobel Committee gave its prize to Joseph Rotblat and the Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs. Rotblat was a Polish-born British physicist and fellow-traveler. I have been blunt here — maybe even crude — but, in a column like this, there’s not a lot of time to beat around the bush.

Pugwash was founded by Cyrus Eaton, a Canadian-American industrialist and — oh, yes — fellow-traveler. A fierce apologist for the Soviet Union.

As for the Pugwash conferences themselves, let me quote from Peace, They Say, my recent book on the Nobel Peace Prize:

They were held all around the world, and their participants were stars of the anti-nuclear scene. Among the countries hosting the conferences were Romania, Czechoslovakia, Poland, and, of course, the Soviet Union. Dictators were happy to pin medals on the Pugwashers, and freely did. The conference in Poland was held in 1982, after General Jaruzelski had imposed martial law. Some suggested that the Pugwashers go elsewhere that year, in a gesture of solidarity, to Solidarity and to the Polish people in general; the organization was unmoved. The year before, Pugwash had denounced Israel for its destruction of Saddam Hussein’s nuclear facility. You might have thought that an anti-nuclear group would be at least partly pleased.

In December 1995, Rotblat, as co-laureate, gave one of the Nobel lectures; the other was given by John Holdren, on behalf of the Pugwash organization. You can read these speeches, and related materials, here.

Holdren is not stupid, far from it. But that does not mean, of course, that he is other things, such as wise. In any case, an interesting character, and perfect for the Obama White House.

‐We righties are congratulating the Republican ticket on its boldness, particularly where entitlement reform is concerned. We’re further saying that this boldness will pay off, electorally. I hope so.

In 2000, Governor George W. Bush did something very bold indeed: He grabbed the “third rail,” calling for — indeed, campaigning on — Social Security reform. “I’m runnin’ for a reason,” he’d say. Then he’d make the case for reform.

Down in Florida, the chairman of the Democratic National Committee, Joe Andrew, promised that his party would “fry” Bush on the third rail. They sure did. Just before the election, they ran a “push poll” in Florida, telling seniors that Bush would deprive them of their Social Security. (A lie, of course.)

That made Florida very — historically — tight. In all likelihood, nothing had a bigger impact at the end of that race than the Social Security issue and “DUI” — the Dems’ last-minute revelation of a Bush drunk-driving arrest.

In his first term, Bush did not do much on Social Security. There were other priorities, particularly the War on Terror. He won reelection in 2004 — then decided to spend his political capital on Social Security reform. He embarked on a crusade, going from town to town, holding forum after form. He had almost no support.

The congressional Republicans hung back, afraid. Other Republicans hung back too. They practically wet their pants. From Democrats, of course, you could expect no support whatsoever. Any reform, they pretended, meant cruelty to “America’s most vulnerable.”

So, all honor to Romney and Ryan. My worry, however, is that people like bold reform in theory more than they like it in practice.

On the other hand: Marco Rubio’s victory in Florida two years ago is very, very encouraging. He ran on entitlement reform, in the state where the DNC “fried” George W. Bush. And came through with flying colors.

One more thing: Most Republicans, these days, are loath to give Bush credit for his bold, and lonely, attempt at reform. They are loath to give him credit for anything. Bush has cooties, apparently. People in the future, I think, will see things differently, and better.

‐I have been getting mail — spam — from the US-China Business Council. You know the type: Walk on eggshells around the Chinese Communist Party. Don’t do anything to upset them. We’re all gonna make our money, nice ’n’ quiet, and no one had better utter a word about the gulag, Tibet, or anything like that.

(How about the fact that China imprisons the 2010 Nobel peace laureate?)

One of the council’s e-mails was headed “State leaders ignoring anti-China rhetoric, pursuing Chinese investments.” When someone says “anti-China,” you have to consider what he means. In the Cold War, people who spoke up for human rights were sometimes called “anti-Russian.” It was said that they “hated Russia.” Actually, they were pro-Russian, and pro-Russia — to the extent of wanting people in that country to have rights.

Foes of the Kremlin were also accused of “poisoning the atmosphere of détente.” Remember that one? If you mentioned Sakharov, Solzhenitsyn, or Shcharansky (as his name was then spelled) — if you mentioned the boot stomping on the human face — you were told, “Are you trying to poison the atmosphere of détente? Do you really want to start a war?”

Similarly, people who favor democracy and human rights in Cuba — i.e., are pro-Cuban — are sometimes called “anti-Cuban” or “anti-Cuba.” To be anti-Castro, in my book, is to be pro-Cuba.

The “People’s Republic of China” — which is not a republic and whose people have no say whatsoever — is a one-party dictatorship with a gulag (laogai). When a business council says “anti-China,” remember that those accused of being “anti-China” may well be pro-China, pro-Chinese — pro-human.

Another way to put this is: The CCP does not equal China, though, of course, it pretends it does. Why should people in free countries pretend along with them?

‐Routinely, Falun Gong practitioners are abducted, tortured, and killed. I get a report every few days. I think it’s worthwhile, once in a blue moon, to mention one of the victims. Actually to name her name.

Consider Xu Chensheng. Beautiful woman, just by the way. Forty-seven years old, lived in Hunan Province, killed within hours of her abduction. Can’t have been a pretty death, either.

To read a report — strong stomachs only, when it comes to the CCP’s murders of Falun Gong people — go here.

‐For about ten years now, readers have been sending me PR materials for alumni trips to Cuba. I’m talking about trips organized by the alumni associations of American universities. The PR materials usually make for sickening reading: about the wonders of the Castros’ socialist paradise. You know how it goes.

In recent days, several readers have sent me materials for a Harvard trip to Cuba. I’m afraid I’m about talked out — talked out on the subject, after years of talking, and explaining, and investigating, and reasoning, and correcting . . .

Lately, I’ve resorted to sarcasm: Enjoy the underage prostitution! Take advantage of the “tourism apartheid” — separate hotels, separate restaurants, separate shops, separate clinics, separate beaches! Don’t think about the political prisoners as you sip your mojitos!

A few weeks ago, one of the island’s leading dissidents died in one of those “mysterious” car crashes that dissidents sometimes meet with. Actually, two dissidents died in that crash. How efficient, the Castros’ state security!

(The dissidents I refer to — I must not let them go unnamed — are Oswaldo Payá and Harold Cepero.)

Though I may be talked out, Ron Radosh, fortunately, is not: Read him here, about a classmate of his who raved about his journey — or pilgrimage — to the Castros’ realm.

Really, I’m not talked out. Defeatism is a sin, right? I may be just resting, for a day or two . . .

‐A little music — for a column in CityArts, on some pianists in some interesting repertoire, go here.

‐In a forthcoming piece for The New Criterion, I mention Atom Egoyan, an Armenian-Canadian director born in Cairo. I was fascinated to read something about the origin of his name — his first name: “. . . he was named Atom to mark the completion of Egypt’s first nuclear reactor.”

Alas, people with names like Egoyan found it expedient to leave Egypt, when Nasser hit his awful stride.

‐A few years ago, I interviewed Ferruccio Furlanetto, the great Italian bass. I said, “Are you the most famous Ferruccio since Busoni?” After a pause, he said, wryly, “Yes.”

Well, the other day, my friend Troy Feddersen said to me, “Do you know Busoni’s full name?” I did not. The answer: Ferruccio Dante Michelangelo Benvenuto Busoni.

Beat that, as Bill Buckley would say. That has to be the most beautiful name — Italian division — ever.


To order Jay Nordlinger’s new book, Peace, They Say: A History of the Nobel Peace Prize, the Most Famous and Controversial Prize in the World, go here. To order his collection Here, There & Everywhere, go here.


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