Politics & Policy

The tone trap, &c.

Over the last couple of weeks, there has been great concern, whether sincere or fake, over the Republican “tone.” I find all this kind of dumb.

Is there a great tuner in the sky, with a bass control, a treble control, and so on? Does some unseen, all-determining Republican hand twist these knobs?

The Republican party is composed of millions of people and hundreds or thousands of politicians. These are all human beings. They could not possibly have the same tone. We are individuals, speaking in our individual ways, though we have common beliefs and aims.

Take the governors: Susana Martinez, Chris Christie, Mike Pence, Rick Perry . . . Each is an individual, and each has his own “tone.”

Or many tones! Do you have just one tone? Of course you don’t. A person has as many tones as a pipe organ. I’m liable to use different tones in the same paragraph — or in the same sentence. Anybody with a speck of artistry in him does, even a speck of humanness.

The Left likes to say that Rush Limbaugh screeches and bellows and huffs. Sometimes he does. He has other tones too: playful, thoughtful, sarcastic, sentimental, ebullient. He is a performer, and a man in full.

The Republican party should not be conformist or monotonal. It should be its diverse and star-spangled self.

Have you noticed that it’s the Republicans’ “tone” that is always spoken of? Never the Democrats’? Shall we have a discussion of their “tone”?

I think one of the worst things about Obama and Biden is their “tone.” Think of Obama’s angry, accusatory “you didn’t build that” speech. Think of Biden’s “They’re gonna put y’all back in chains!” Think of Harry Reid, charging that Mitt Romney had refused to pay his income taxes.

Think of Stephanie Cutter, suggesting that Romney is a felon. Think of Obama’s claim that Romney delighted in stripping Americans of their jobs, and shipping those jobs overseas. Think of Biden’s comportment in the entire 2012 vice-presidential debate. Think of Obama’s cry of “Romnesia!” Think of his ad proclaiming, “Mitt Romney. Not one of us.”

Oh, what lovely tones those Democrats produce!

How about those angry, bellowing, semi-mad men on MSNBC? I see clips of them, once in a while. Why doesn’t anyone ever talk about the Democratic or Left tone?

If I were the Republican party — there’s a funny concept! — I wouldn’t take this tone bait. Don’t fall into the tone trap. What I think Republicans should do, and people should do, is say what they think, in the best way they can. And let the chips fall where they may.

What else can you do? It is certainly unreasonable to ask millions of human beings to speak in the same tone. Undesirable, too.

‐“I’m so proud of my country.” How many times have you heard that since Election Day? When people say, “I’m so proud of my country,” they mean they’re proud of it for reelecting Obama.

This is Michelle Obama territory. You remember what she said, more than once, when her husband was picking up steam in the 2008 Democratic primaries: “For the first time in my adult life, I am proud of my country . . .”

And if a relative handful of votes, in this great big country, had gone the other way on November 6? These people saying how “proud” they are would be singing a different tune: They’d be condemning America as racist.

The conditionality of their pride is a little unsettling to me. Obama wins, we’re innocent — and they’re proud. Obama loses, we’re guilty — and they pin the scarlet R on us, for “Racist.”

Well, nuts to that.

‐I myself think the reelection of Obama reaffirms a rot in America — but, again, “reaffirms.” The rot set in quite a while ago.

Furthermore — I know I’ve said this in previous columns — I’m not real big on pride. I think there’s too much pride around, and not enough humility. When did pride become a virtue, in people’s minds?

Talk about a “fundamental transformation” of America!

I am not necessarily proud of my country. For one thing, I didn’t have a damn thing to do with its greatness. For another, I was lucky, nothing more, to be born here.

What I am is grateful for my country — grateful for its Constitution, its Anglo-Saxon inheritance: the rule of law, individual rights, separation of powers, free enterprise, the English language, equality of opportunity, equality under the law, E pluribus unum, “In God We Trust.”

And I was grateful for these things long before Election Day ’08, or Election Day ’12. I am still grateful for this republic — and hope we can keep it. Hope, rather, that a majority still wants it.

‐One benefit of Obama’s reelection is this: He will be a much more bearable ex-president. One reason Jimmy Carter has been so bad, I feel sure, is that he is bitter and angry at being rejected by the voters in 1980, when he ran for reelection. He has spent the last 30-plus years taking it out on us.

I have written about this ad nauseam, as longtime readers know. For that matter, Carter has addressed the subject, with a degree of candor: the effect of the 1980 election on him.

Obama should be a more bearable ex-president, simply because the country did him the favor of reelecting him. In fact, the Left at large should feel better about America. Will it? Does it? Will they cut us some slack now, seeing as we have done what they’ve wanted?

Or will gay marriage have to be cemented? And what will be the next crusade? The next demand, the next condition?

Anyway, Jimmy Carter would be a much different ex-president if the country had given him another term. Students of Carter know this. Besides which, it’s perfectly human. (Although Bush 41 doesn’t seem to be an America-attacking wreck, does he?)

‐The Left is very happy about the killing of Osama bin Laden. Exultant, celebratory, proud, boastful.

A question: Would they be happy about the killing if our people had accomplished it under a Republican president? Would they be indifferent to it? Unhappy about it? Would they say, “America stooped to the level of the terrorists themselves,” or, “He should have been captured alive and given a fair trial, in a civilian court”?

I remember when our people found and captured Saddam Hussein: not much celebration on the left.

Conditionality, conditionality . . . (That, to be sure, is perfectly human.)

‐Remember when the Left hated the Guantanamo Bay prison, attacking it as an American gulag? Remember when the Left hated the Patriot Act, attacking it as an assault on the Constitution and human rights?

Now that a Democrat is president — not a whimper.

‐Republicans are doing what Republicans always do, when we lose a presidential election: attacking the nominee and his campaign. If only Stuart Stevens (Romney’s campaign manager) hadn’t been so dumb. If only Romney had said this, that, or the other thing. If only he hadn’t made those “47 percent” remarks. If he had picked Rubio, we might have won Florida. If he had picked Portman, we might have won Ohio.

Etc., etc. I play this game myself. I’m rather good at it (I fancy).

But I also remind myself that Democrats make mistakes too. They have bad luck too — just like Republicans. Think of Obama’s “you didn’t build that” speech. That wasn’t so hot, for Democratic hopes. Think of God and Jerusalem, yanked from the Democratic platform — and the reaction in the convention center when God and Jerusalem were railroaded back in. How about the Benghazi debacle?

I mentioned this to the great Mona Charen the other day, when we were podcasting. And she made a very good point (natch): Republican mistakes are magnified, by the media and the culture at large; Democratic mistakes are minimized, when not covered up altogether.

I understand that. But the voters, I think, had adequate pictures of Obama and Romney. They knew what the two stood for, basically. They were hardly Tweedledum and Tweedledee. They stood for two distinct Americas.

And the people said, “Four more years. ‘Forward.’ More.”

That, dear ones, is our problem. Sometimes the people aren’t on your side. Sometimes they know perfectly well what you’re selling, and don’t want it. People are responsible for their votes.

We conservatives are always preaching personal responsibility, in the various departments of life. That ought to include the voting booth.

And yet, and yet — I like a particular point of Mona’s: Romney and the Republicans let Obama and the Democrats cast the bad economy as George W. Bush’s fault. And if they hadn’t done that: Who knows?

I don’t know.

‐Care for some sports? I’ve been talking to some friends of mine about our Detroit Tigers, and their loss in the World Series. To get into the Series, we swept the Yankees. Then we were swept by the Giants.

What you often hear is this: The Tigers had a long layoff, after they swept the Yankees. The Giants kept playing (going to the full seven games against the Cardinals). When they faced the Tigers in the World Series, they had momentum. They were sharp. The Tigers were rusty and sluggish, after their layoff.

Okay. But if the Tigers had won the Series, I bet you would have heard, “The Tigers had an advantage in being able to rest, after their American League Championship. The Giants were simply spent.”

A memory from 1995, if you will: We’re at St Andrews, for the British Open. John Daly is in the lead, and he has finished. Costantino Rocca is on the 72nd hole. It looks like Daly has the tournament in the bag. Rocca is in the Valley of Sin, with an absurdly long putt — which he holes. Pandemonium.

Daly is stunned and crestfallen (it appears). Now he has to go out and have a playoff. Rocca, say the commentators, has an advantage in the playoff, in that he has the Big Mo — tremendous momentum. The wind has been taken out of Daly’s sails. He has to go out once more and fight. Rocca gets to keep going, without pausing.

Huge psychological advantage for Rocca.

Then Big John (Daly) handles him in the playoff. And the commentators say, “Well, what would you expect? Daly got to rest. Rocca was spent after the excitement of the big putt. He had played his heart out. That was the climax. He made the putt, and he had nothing left.”

That’s the way I remember the commentary going. Very human.

‐Leave you with some music? Not real music, unfortunately, but music criticism: For my “New York Chronicle,” in the current New Criterion, go here. For my latest column in CityArts, go here. The chronicle covers many subjects, many performers; the CityArts column touches on Thomas Adès’s opera The Tempest and the cellist Alisa Weilerstein.

Happy post-Thanksgiving (and way pre-Christmas)!


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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