Politics & Policy

Cruise Journal, Part I

Ladies and gentlemen, I’ve written you many journals from Norway in recent years. Why? Have I bought an igloo in the north of that country? No. I’ve been attending the Oslo Freedom Forum, the annual human-rights conference, and I wrote a book centered in Norway. (Peace, They Say, a history of the Nobel Peace Prize.)

Well, I’ve been back again — because National Review cruised there. So, here comes another journal from Norway — not so much a Norwegian journal as a cruise journal. A cruise journal with some Norway in it.

Like . . .

‐There are 193 members of the United Nations. I’m sure I’ve been to fewer than half those countries. But I’m pretty sure of this: There is not a more beautiful country than Norway.

Some years ago, I wrote a piece about Mozart conducting. And I said (something like), “No one has ever conducted Mozart better than Szell.” And a fellow critic, the next time he saw me, slammed me with, “So, no one’s as good as Szell, huh?”

No, that’s not what I said. I said no one was better — which I believe. Similarly, there are no doubt countries as beautiful as Norway. I could name a few. (The one I’m in now, Austria.) But more beautiful? I really doubt it.

‐On the stage of our ship, we have a conversation with Allen West. I say, “You can call him Colonel, or you can call him Congressman” (or Allen). I prefer Colonel. I’m more impressed by that title.

At some point in our hour, I ask him about military spending: Many Americans want it reduced, including some on the right. West remembers our days of the “hollowed out” military. He had to serve in it.

What does he say of those who think we can get along with less? For one thing, “They’ve never been shot at.”

He says a lot more, of course, on this and many other topics. I wish I had a transcript for you . . .

‐John Sununu says something I like a lot (I’m speaking of the former governor, not his son the former senator): A party that has been losing does not have the luxury of much internal bickering — to say nothing of civil war. The Republican party needs unity.

Then again, theres a lot to argue about — with the Left, sure, but within the Right, loosely defined, too.

‐I recall something William Safire once wrote: “I know how to spell ‘Sununu.’ I just don’t know when to stop.” And David Pryce-Jones, who knows everything, informs me that, in Arabic, “sununu” is the name of a bird — the swallow.

‐I talk with a longtime cruiser of ours, who grew up in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Her parents were Finnish. Many in that community spoke a mixture of the two languages — “Finnglish.”

‐When we get to Bergen, it’s raining cats and dogs. I mean, a sustained, unrelieved downpour. A reader of ours who lives in this city, and grew up in it, e-mails me, “Sorry about the rain, but it’s how we roll.” Very idiomatic English, this Norwegian speaks. Many of them do.

I come to learn, Bergen is the rainiest city in Norway — and it’s a rainy country anyway. Apparently, Seattle is practically San Diego by comparison.

‐Grieg’s home is called Troldhaugen, and it’s almost a shrine in the musical world. I don’t visit during this stop; I visited a couple of years ago.

I know a lady who visited in the early ’70s, I believe. Then, you could play Grieg’s piano, which she did. (One of Grieg’s Lyric Pieces, of course.) These days, the piano’s roped off. But I imagine if you sweet-talked a docent . . .

‐Onstage, we have a discussion with Anthony Daniels — a.k.a. Theodore Dalrymple — and Ed Whelan. In my introduction, I say that Tony is possibly the best writer-doctor since William Carlos Williams, if not Keats.

There is a website you should get to know, a website devoted to his works: The Skeptical Doctor.

Ed Whelan is from Whittier, Calif. — like you-know-who. Ed went to Harvard College and Harvard Law. Nixon was offered a scholarship to Harvard, and to Yale. But he could not accept, because his parents couldn’t afford travel and living expenses. And he was needed to help out the family at home.

So, he went to Whittier College — and worked his tail off to rise (and fall).

‐This is absolutely amazing: At dinner one night, I meet a man who, years ago, went on a business trip to Texas. One of the guys he met there was a member of Augusta National — and invited my friend to play there.

Now, Augusta National is just about the most vaunted and desired golf venue in the world. My friend had never swung a club — ever. He took six lessons, and then played Augusta. The first round he ever played in his life was at Augusta National.

Of how many people can that be true? Very few, I’m thinking — possibly the children of members.

My friend has played relatively few rounds since. He started at the top! Incidentally, the caddie he had that day, in Augusta, had worked at the course for 61 years — since he was ten years old. The caddie walked and carried the first nine, then rode the back.

My first round, ever? I think it was at Pat’s Par 3, in Ypsilanti, Mich.

‐During a session on the judiciary, I hear Ramesh Ponnuru say something that strikes me as thunderously acute. I’ll be quoting it a long time.

He’s talking about President Obama’s criteria for judges. Obama wants his judges to have “empathy,” you see — but this empathy is particular and limited, Ramesh points out. How about empathy with the guy trying to start a business? Or whose property is being seized? How about empathy with the woman trapped in a ghetto, who would like to buy a gun for self-defense? How about empathy for the unborn — and we were all unborn, once upon a time?

Yes, I will remember this — especially when Obama & Co. start yapping about empathy.

‐Some of us take a little excursion through the fjords, on a small boat. A guide tells us there are wolverines about — at which I prick up my ears. I’m a Michigan kid, and one thing a Michigan kid learns early on is that there are no wolverines in our state (the Wolverine State).

Glad they exist somewhere!

‐You always hear that employers in America are holding off on hiring because they’re unsure about Obamacare and its effects. I mean, you hear this from conservatives, and you read about it in conservative media.

One night at dinner, I talk to a reader who’s in business. He tells me he has held off on hiring — because of Obamacare. It’s interesting to hear this right from a businessman’s mouth. He has not merely read about the problem (as I have). He is living it.

So too are job-seekers, of course.

That’s kind of a grim note to end on — but let’s knock off for today, and finish tomorrow. Part II will have its share of fun, I guarantee! Thanks and see you.


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