Politics & Policy

To the finish, &c.

In the third and final debate, Mitt Romney looked like a man confident he would win the presidency. He debated like a man who expected to assume the presidency shortly. He hardly debated at all — hardly engaged Obama at all. To the extent he engaged Obama, it was to agree with him: on Iran, Egypt, Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, and other issues.

But my purpose here is not to rehash debate commentary. My purpose is to say, I hope Romney isn’t complacent. I hope he doesn’t think he can coast to the finish line. That the election is a done deal. I hope he thinks he has to scrap and fight for it. I hope he’s hungry. Obama certainly is.

Reagan always wanted his people to run as though they were ten points behind — even when they were up in the polls. That’s the spirit.

‐Conservative critics say that Obama is getting personal and cheap — talking about “Romnesia,” Big Bird, binders, and so on. Saying Romney is a “bulls***ter.” This kind of talk, say the critics, is the talk of a loser.

I hope so. I remember the end of the 1992 campaign. I liked what Bush was saying. But the pros said, “It’s a sign of desperation, it’s a sign he’s losing it.” He called Gore “Ozone Man.” He said about Clinton and Gore, “My dog Millie knows more about foreign affairs than these two bozos.”

Again, I liked it. I got a rise out of it. I liked the spirit. But the country did not, I guess . . .

‐It’s bad enough when Muslims make excuses for extremism: “It was those cartoons in Denmark.” “It was that film trailer.” But when American officials make excuses for extremism, and terrorism: horrifying.

‐One thing I’ve said in this column for years is: The Chinese Communists get a huge kick out of imprisoning old people and torturing them to death. It’s the strangest predilection.

A recent example: “A 65-year-old woman from southern China is dead after three weeks of physical abuse at a brainwashing center. Police abducted her from her home in advance of the 18th Communist Party Congress, announcing that she ‘had some learning to do,’ according to sources in China.”

There’s more here, if you can stand it. The report ends, “Ms. Jiang, a ‘healthy and strong-willed woman,’ according to her family, had survived at least three years of forced labor in the past for practicing Falun Gong. When five police officers came to abduct her on September 7, her husband in his seventies, along with several neighbors, attempted to dissuade the police, but they were unsuccessful.”

Presidential debaters and so on always talk about the Chinese Communists as though they were human beings. They are beasts, monsters. Will no one stand up to them, except these old women, who are quickly tortured to death?

‐Yoani Sánchez, the Cuban dissident, was faced with a ballot: a ballot in one of those fake elections the Communists periodically run. She took it and wrote “Democracia” on it. To see this extraordinary ballot, go here.

‐Every now and then, on my way to work, I pass a man who holds up a sign that says, “Pray to End Abortion.” I don’t know whether it’s an abortion clinic he stands in front of or what. He simply holds the sign, looking intently ahead. He doesn’t say anything (in my observation). I always give him the heartiest thumbs-up I can.

Not in a million years would I hold up such a sign. I can’t imagine myself participating in an anti-abortion demonstration, in front of a clinic. I am not the demonstrating type, I suppose (except in print).

If I have grandchildren, and they say, “What did you do to oppose abortion and the abortion culture?” I’ll have to say, “Squat. I did nothing.” I wrote some articles. I gave some speeches. I voted for pro-life candidates.

That’s it. It seems like so little.

‐Out and about over the weekend, I saw a man in a Romney-Ryan T-shirt. This was on the Upper West Side. The only time I have seen those names on the Upper West Side.

Astounding. One brave hombre (unless he was an innocent tourist).

‐Around the same time, I saw a boy in a Che T-shirt. He seemed about eleven. He was with his mom. I was thinking, “Child abuse.” The same mother, presumably, would not allow the boy to go around in a Himmler T-shirt. If there were one.

Maybe a Beria T-shirt? Striking bald head, he had.

‐Was at the southern tip of Manhattan. Noticed, for the first time, the Battery Maritime Building — the ferry terminal for Governors Island. Beautiful thing. Beaux-Arts, built in the first decade of the 20th century.

My longstanding, and whining, question: Why are things old beautiful, and things new so ugly? Not always, of course — but often. Why? Why did mankind, at least in America, lose all sense of artistic taste?

Or did that just happen to our elites?

‐For my latest column in CityArts, go here. I discuss an Elixir of Love at the Metropolitan Opera, and a performance of Carmina Burana by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, under Riccardo Muti, at Carnegie Hall.

‐Speaking of music, this was a little discouraging: “WQXR Brings Back ‘Beethoven Awareness Month.’” That’s what the PR notice in my inbox said. Beethoven Awareness Month? Is that really necessary? Isn’t that like saying Food Awareness Month or Oxygen Awareness Month?

‐Couple of years ago, I wrote about a young American professor who was born in Cambodia and escaped the holocaust. His dad was killed. The rest of the family, I believe, got out.

His name is Sophal Ear. He was a speaker at the Oslo Freedom Forum. He has now published a book, Aid Dependence in Cambodia: How Foreign Assistance Undermines Democracy.

I have a memory. I met a West African government official. I said to him, “I know that foreign aid has its pluses and minuses. But tell me: Is foreign aid more a help or more a hurt?” He fixed me with a look — kind of a mischievous one — and said, “Do you know the difference between AID and AIDS? The letter S.”

‐It’s been a while since I told a story about my nephew, I think, so I think I’m due another one. This may make the ten-year-old sound bratty. But he is far from it, certainly in my experience. Try to hear the sheer sparkle and fun. You would see and hear it in the flesh, I promise.

Anyway, he’s walking to school with his mother (or she’s walking to school with him):

Son: “Mom, why do you always wear those ugly clogs and throat-chokers?”

Mom: “I wear clogs and, ahem, turtlenecks because they’re warm and comfortable. Other than that, you think I look pretty fabulous, right?”

Son: “Well, there is the issue of your weird nose. But I guess you could say it gives you ‘individuality.’”


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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