Politics & Policy

Cruise Journal, Part II

James L. Buckley

In yesterday’s installment, I mentioned Jim Buckley — James L. Buckley. He is a guest speaker on this cruise (National Review’s post-election cruise, a biennial affair). Introducing him to our audience, I recall the night he won election to the Senate, in 1970. He said, “I am the new politics.”

At least, that’s what I say he said. He interjects with a gentle correction: “The voice of the new politics.” Quite right: What Senator-elect Buckley said that night was, “I am the voice of the new politics.”

You know what his brother Bill was heard to say in the audience? “La nouvelle politique, c’est g**damn well moi.”

After serving in the Senate, Jim Buckley worked in the State Department — this was under Reagan. Then he was president of Radio Free Europe. Then he went on the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.

And he is, of course, a marvelous cruise guest. I tell the audience, and him, that I witnessed something at dinner a few years ago. Maybe more than a few. Anyway, someone asked Priscilla where she stood in the Buckley family of ten children. “I’m three,” she said. “I’m six,” Bill piped up. I got the impression they had been saying these things all of their lives.

I ask Jim, “So, what are you?” “I’m four,” he says. There was a movie last year: I Am Number Four. (My dear cousin Pasquale worked on it.)

‐On the panel with Jim Buckley are John Yoo and Ed Whelan. John is a law professor at Berkeley. I ask, “Did they know you were a conservative when they hired you? Were you one then?” Yes, he says — he was, and they knew. He is the only conservative on the faculty. All the top law schools, or most of them, have just one, he says. Two would be too much.

I can’t believe this doesn’t make a difference — this lopsidedness on faculties. Why do people tolerate it? Why do parents, students, administrators, society at large? They just do. It’s just normal, I guess.

Sometimes, normal stinks.

People are always yapping about diversity — they mean diversity in skin color and ancestry. They don’t give a rat’s behind about diversity of thought or diversity of opinion, which is just weird, in my opinion.

‐Ed Whelan is president of the Ethics and Public Policy Center, and a star contributor to National Review Online — particularly to our Bench Memos blog. I am feeling pretty gloomy about the election. Ed says, in effect, “You can’t out-gloom me.”

‐May I just say it’s amazing what people are willing to call orange juice? The most foul liquid, without a hint of orange — “orange juice.”

Might as well call a carpet a cactus.

‐Deroy Murdock puts on a very good show: He gives a talk entitled “How the Music of Memphis and Motown Helped to Bury Jim Crow.” It includes slides and recordings. There is a song I’ve never heard before, or don’t remember hearing: “Blue Moon of Kentucky.” Lovely, semi-haunting thing.

‐As the cruise continues, I talk to a number of businessmen. I ask them in what ways, specifically, the government is hurting them. They get very specific. I think, “Why in the world does the government want to do this? Don’t they want employment and growth?”

There was a saying in Russia: “If only the czar knew . . .” I think the czar knows (and knew).

‐I talk to a Hungarian American, born in 1946. So he was ten when the Soviets came in. He says, “We were in the basement, and they were cannoning Budapest for an entire week.” They were turning his city into rubble. They were venting their fury. The Hungarians had had the nerve to rebel.

We talk about what a clever, talented people the Hungarians are. Think of all those musicians, from that one small country! They definitely “punch above their weight.” “It’s a wonder,” says my new friend, “that the Hungarians aren’t able to build a really dynamic economy.”

Yes, that’s a strange thing.

‐Another passenger was an American soldier in Salzburg — this was after the war. I say, “I bet you met your share of Nazis.” “Oh, we had a whole pen of SS men,” he says. I’m sure it could have been larger.

His least pleasant duty involved the transfer of East Europeans to the Russian zone. He stood around the trucks with a gun, to make sure no one escaped. These people knew what awaited them. They would probably have been better off trying to escape, regardless.

A sickening episode in our history.

‐In George Town, Grand Cayman, I see a Domino’s Pizza outlet. I feel a little pang — not because I’m hungry, but because this chain started, I believe, in my lil’ hometown of Ann Arbor, Mich.

‐I’m way out of town, on a walk. Not sure how to get back to town, exactly. A couple is pulling out of a gas station. They give me directions. The lady says, “Would you like a drop-down?” — would I like them to drive me to a particular point?

No, thanks. But I’m delighted to know that expression! A drop-down.

‐Onboard, a couple tells me about their children: committed left-wingers. “Frankly, we don’t want to spend Thanksgiving with them. We’re dreading it.” Because they will be gloating.

Which is a lousy thing to do (on anyone’s part).

‐One afternoon, Kathryn Lopez talks to Norman Podhoretz and Midge Decter, onstage. She asks them about the “war on women,” which Republicans are alleged to wage. (What a stupid lie. Not just a lie, but a stupid one.) (The Left must be attracted to the alliteration, in part: “war on women.”)

Norman points out that there’s more like a war on boys. If they act like boys, society wants to drug them. Etc.

It so happens that, the day before, I rode on a tender with two boys sitting across from me. (A tender is a boat that ferries people from a moored ship to the shore.) They were redheads, certainly brothers, splashed with freckles. Ages probably 14 and 12. They spent the whole ride jabbing each other, physically and verbally. They were having a ball.

And I was having a ball watching them. Why would anyone want to drug them out of their boyness? I mean, really? Even their parents and teachers at their most exasperated would not want these boys zombies and neuters, instead of what they are, naturally.

‐Norman and Midge talk about the importance of preaching to the choir. The choir needs to be preached to — oh, does it. The choir needs consolation, reassurance, fortification. I am one choir member grateful for the preaching!

‐A friend of mine tells me about his grandmother (age almost 100). She refers to CNN as the “Noticias Comunistas.”

Did I mention that the lady is Cuban?

‐I have another friend onboard, born in Cuba. When he was an adolescent, he attended a summer camp on the North Fork of Long Island. This was before Communism, of course. He eventually became a counselor at that camp. The owner — a Republican, says my friend — doubled his salary every year, because he was such a hard worker.

My friend wanted to be part of this country: “If you worked hard, you could get ahead. There was nobody blocking you. There wasn’t nepotism. No one cared what your family background was — they just cared about what you could do. When I was 18 years old, I had married men working under me. Think of that!”

It’s amazing what Americans have taken for granted, for so long . . .

Have you had enough of “Cruise Journal”? I haven’t (for better or worse). I’ll have a final installment tomorrow, with notes on tropical life, a great scholar, and much more. Join me if you like. Hope you’re getting your pumpkin pies together . . .


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.


The Latest