Politics & Policy

Cruz under a maple leaf, &c.

The New York Times seems to have a special interest in Ted Cruz — in particular, his relation to Canada. As I noted in a February column, the Times referred to him as a “Canadian-born lawyer.” True, but such a curious thing to slip in, given that Ted is about as American — as Texan — as they come.

Ted’s mother, a native of Delaware, and Ted’s father, a refugee from Cuba, lived in Calgary for a while. Their son was born there. They moved to Houston when he was four (as I understand it). I borrow an old saying: Ted got to Texas as quick as he could.

In a June piece, I said he was “as American as apple pie,” “as Texan as a steak.”

Anyway, the Times recently had an article dealing with Ted and Canadianness. They said, “Canada is not particularly beloved by American conservatives.” The blessed magazine with the blue border, National Review, “memorably ran a cover in 2007 depicting a group of Mounties with the headline ‘Wimps!’ The article inside complained about the country’s ‘whiny and weak anti-Americanism.’”

Well. First, that cover ran in 2002. Say what you will about the biases of the Times, the paper has usually been thought accurate. People used to say, “The Times is where you go to settle a bet.” But second, there’s a more recent NR cover the Times might have cited.

Just last March, we ran a cover that trumpeted “The True North!” We hailed “the best-governed country in North America and its exceptional leader” — Stephen Harper, the Conservative prime minister. To read the piece inside, go here.

The Times is not wrong, necessarily, in its depiction of American conservatives and their view of Canada. But the paper may be a little out of date. Don’t tell me they’re not reading our every issue, with bated breath, goggled eyes, and an expanding mind.

‐Reading Michael Ledeen — the great and invaluable Michael Ledeen — I thought of something Bernard Lewis once reported. (Lewis is great and invaluable too, needless to say: the dean of Middle East scholars.) Writes Michael,

We invaded Iraq in the name of the War Against Terror, which President George W. Bush defined as a war against terrorist organizations and the states that supported them. That should have made Iran the focus of our strategy, since Tehran was (and still is, now more than ever) the world’s leading sponsor of terrorism.

Lewis said that a friend in Iran told him, “You,” meaning America and its coalition, “should have gone in alphabetical order.”

‐Into my inbox came a press release: “DAVID SHUSTER JOINS AL JAZEERA AMERICA.” I thought the name sounded familiar. (Shuster, not AJA, or however they abbreviate themselves.) And then I remembered.

In 2009, I wrote a piece called “Rise of an Epithet: ‘Teabagger’ and what to do.” “Teabagger” is what many on the left call a member of the tea-party movement. Forgive me if I do some quoting — some gross but necessary quoting — from my piece:

I have no doubt you are sexually hip, but just in case you’re not, please know that “teabag” has a particular meaning in certain circles. In order to have a discussion of our general topic, we must be aware of that meaning, and I call on the Source of All Knowledge, Wikipedia: “‘Teabagging’ is a slang term for the act of a man placing his scrotum in the mouth or on or around the face (including the top of the head) of another person, often in a repeated in-and-out motion as in irrumatio. The practice resembles dipping a tea bag into a cup of tea.” I could quote you more, but you have had enough. 

I should say. And here’s where our al-Jazeera guy comes in:

MSNBC had an outright field day. Rachel Maddow and a guest of hers, Ana Marie Cox, made teabag jokes to each other for minutes on end: having great, chortling fun at the conservatives’ expense. And here is the performance of another host, David Shuster: 

“For most Americans, Wednesday, April 15, will be Tax Day, but . . . it’s going to be Teabagging Day for the right wing, and they’re going nuts for it. Thousands of them whipped out the festivities early this past weekend, and while the parties are officially toothless, the teabaggers are full-throated about their goals. They want to give President Obama a strong tongue-lashing and lick government spending.” 

Shuster went on to say that Fox News personalities were “looking forward to an up-close-and-personal taste of teabagging.” Etc., etc., etc. All the while, MSNBC was picturing Republican figures, and the following words were on the screen: “TEABAG MOUTHPIECES.”

This is the sort of thing many Americans like. But will al-Jazeera go for it? Will Shuster be able to talk dirty on this Gulf Arab station? If you find out, let me know. Though I’m not sure it would be worth anyone’s while to watch.

‐Speaking of al-Jazeera, I enjoyed a line from a Wall Street Journal piece on the Saudi prince Bandar:

At a meeting to coordinate arms shipments last summer, Prince Bandar took a swipe at Qatar, a tiny nation with one of the region’s largest broadcasters.

Qatar is “nothing but 300 people . . . and a TV channel,” the Saudi prince yelled into a phone, according to a person familiar with the exchange. “That doesn’t make a country.”

‐Reading a book review in the Financial Times, I thought of Paul Johnson, and his father. Let me explain. More than once, I’ve heard Paul say that his father didn’t like Winston Churchill very much. It was “Churchill” this, and “Churchill” that. But as the Second War loomed, the senior Johnson said, “I guess we’ll have to have Winston back.” The young Paul noticed this: the switch to the politician’s first name.

The review I read is of a book called The Roar of the Lion: The Untold Story of Churchill’s World War II Speeches, by Richard Toye. Doing the reviewing is Peter Clarke. He writes,

In November 1939, as he turned 65, Churchill was an immensely gifted but widely distrusted politician who was teetering on the edge of superannuation. Yet he succeeded in winning the confidence of his compatriots. They felt that they knew him, and perhaps knew him all too well. “Winston is not a man I admire in peacetime,” one voter, who would hardly have been on first-name terms, wrote in his diary on November 12 1939, “but right now he seems like the right man for the job.”

‐For many years, I’ve written on what you might call “human-rights fashion” — a curious topic. What stirs the human conscience and what doesn’t? Why? For instance, the government in Khartoum carried out genocide in the south for 20 years. Very few cared. But when the government started genocide in the west — a region called Darfur — the world was aroused (though we did nothing). Why?

From 1964 to 1992, South Africa was banned from the Olympics (owing to apartheid). At the same time, athletes from totalitarian countries all over the world participated in the Olympics. The Games themselves were held in the Soviet Union.

That one can be explained, of course: race. Almighty race.

Anyway, for an essay I did on this topic last year, go here. That essay is called “Many Boots, Many Faces: The problem of moral selectivity in human rights.”

Which brings me, believe it or not, to the Metropolitan Opera. This month, the Met will begin its season with Eugene Onegin, the opera by Tchaikovsky. In the pit will be Valery Gergiev, and on the stage will be Anna Netrebko, portraying Tatiana. Both of these performers are friendly with Vladimir Putin.

So a petition drive was started, asking the Met to dedicate its opening night to gay rights. The Putin government has been anti-gay, as well as anti-other things. The Met’s general manager, Peter Gelb, responded, “As an institution, the Met deplores the suppression of equal rights here or abroad. But since our mission is artistic, it is not appropriate for our performances to be used by us for political purposes, no matter how noble or right the cause.”

Think what the Russian authorities have done, over the last many years. The torture to death of Sergei Magnitsky (lawyer and whistleblower). The offing of any number of journalists. And it’s anti-gay laws that have aroused people against the likes of Gergiev and Netrebko?

I will have more to say on human-rights fashion, no doubt, for a long time to come . . .

‐Let’s have some music: For a round-up of recent recordings, published in The New Criterion, go here. For an article on a New York piano festival, published in CityArts, go here.

‐I read obits of Jack Germond with a sigh. I watched him for years on The McLaughlin Group. He was a liberal, and I wasn’t. But he knew a helluva lot about politics, and I learned from him. I had an opportunity to tell him this once.

For example, when you win, you win. When Jones beats Smith, Jones beats Smith. Mandate, schmandate. Winning is winning.

Also, it’s hard to stay on a high perch for long. It was hard for Thatcher, who tumbled, or was pushed. It was hard for Mario Cuomo, in Albany.

These are just a couple of tidbits from Germond. Years ago, I asked Bob Novak, Germond’s main foil, I think, to review a Germond memoir. He said, “I’d love to, but you have to understand: I love Jack.” I understood.

‐Let’s have a little slang — coming from the world of baseball. The other week, I was watching the Tigers play the Mets on television. Keith Hernandez, in the booth, said that Prince Fielder (not Prince Bandar) sorely wanted a “ribeye steak” — an RBI.

‐On the streets of New York the other day, I was walking behind a wiry, jumpy guy — semi-homeless. Every now and then, he would quickly stoop to pick up a discarded cigarette from the sidewalk. He’d light it with the one he had been smoking. Then he stooped to pick up another, and lit that.

I thought I was looking at a stark picture of addiction.

‐Another bum type boarded a subway car. He had a spiel, and he was charming — very charming. Charismatic. He began, “Welcome to New York City, where all the girls are pretty — and have jobs.” (Meaning, they can support the men.) He did a little singing. Then ended, “Remember, smile: It won’t mess up your hair.”

Have a good one, y’all, and see you soon.


The Latest