Politics & Policy

Intolerable black men, &c.

Supreme Court justice Clarence Thomas

There is something about the world that can’t stand an independent, conservative black man. Let me take an unpleasant walk down Memory Lane. I’m going to flick the scabs off a couple of wounds. (Nixon used to say this. Not very nice, I realize.)

A white cartoonist once drew Justice Clarence Thomas as a puppet on Justice Antonin Scalia’s hand. Scalia articulated a legal opinion. Then the bubble-lipped, grinning Thomas puppet said, “Oh, yeah! Say what?”

Another white cartoonist drew Condoleezza Rice as Prissy from Gone with the Wind. This was when Rice was national-security adviser, and there was drama over Saddam Hussein’s WMD. The cartoonist had Rice say, “I knows all about aluminum tubes. Correction. I don’t know nuthin’ about aluminum tubes.”

Recently, the head of the North Carolina NAACP had some words for Tim Scott, the Republican senator from South Carolina. “A ventriloquist can always find a good dummy.” The NAACP guy believes, or claims to believe, that Scott is a tool of far-right elements who control him. Republicans asked the national NAACP to disavow the statement, which the NAACP refused to do.

The senator, for his part, responded with good grace — extraordinary good grace. More than I could summon, probably. And get this: The host of Meet the Press asked him whether there was a “dark vein of intolerance” . . . running through the Republican party.

I didn’t make that up.

#ad#‐I have long believed that black Republicans, black conservatives, are among the bravest people on earth. What these people have to put up with, from various quarters, is amazing, and disgusting.

Once, Michael Steele, the Maryland Republican, said to me, “I have thick skin. I’m an elephant, after all.”

Another time, I asked Thomas Sowell, “Who has treated you worse in your life? Fellow black people or white liberals?” He shook his head, chuckled, and said, “It’s too close to call.”

Last week, I attended a gathering of a Republican club in Queens, N.Y. A black woman said, “I like people who think for themselves.” So do I.

There was a candidate for office who spoke heavily accented English. He said his name was Jesus Martinez, and he pronounced “Jesus” in an English way, not a Spanish way (not “Jesús”). I can’t remember ever hearing that.

There was another candidate, or former candidate, who was Chinese-born, apparently, and spoke heavily accented English. He wore an American-flag tie and was notably gung-ho, Republican-wise.

It was a very American crew, a very American evening. I thought of left-wingers, in politics, academia, and the media, who portray Republicans as a bunch of whitebread country-clubbers. These people, these left-wing stereotypers, make me gag.

‐You will remember the 2008 presidential-election campaign. The Democratic nominee, Barack Obama, said that President George W. Bush had basically destroyed U.S. foreign policy. He had embarrassed our friends, created new enemies, and besmirched our good name. That’s what Obama said. Under him, things would be different, yessir.

Everything else aside, have you listened to his latest ambassadorial nominees? They are real beauties. Bundlers, bunglers, and beauties. (A bundler, you may remember, is a type of big campaign donor.)

Let’s begin with Our Man in Norway, or our proposed Man in Norway. In his confirmation hearing, he had a terrible time of it. And he was offensive, to boot.

John McCain asked him about the Progress party. Longtime readers of this column know about the “Progs,” as some of us call them. They are the Reaganite, or Thatcherite, party of Norway. They include some friends of mine, and I have discussed this party on many occasions. In 2010, I wrote a magazine piece: “Among the Progs.”

At the time, they were the second-largest party in parliament. Today, they are in government, in coalition with the Conservative party. The Conservative party is much less conservative, or Reaganite, than the Progs. In fact, their leader, who is now the prime minister, attended the 2008 Democratic convention in Denver, which, of course, nominated Obama.

#page#Anyway, McCain asked Obama’s nominee about the Progs. The nominee proceeded to explain that, in a free and open society such as Norway’s, “you get some fringe elements that have a microphone, that spew their hatred. And — although I will tell you Norway has been very quick to denounce them. We’re gonna continue to work with Norway to make sure” — at that point, McCain cut the guy off.

I might have let him keep going, to see what he would say next.

Our Norway guy has never been to Norway, which is okay, I suppose. It’s a big world. And our proposed ambassador to Iceland has never been to Iceland. Which is okay, too. But did he never want to go even to gawk at the girls?

Our bundler in Argentina has never been to Argentina — which is slightly strange. That country has been a fashionable destination for years. Rich kids like to hike in Patagonia, and they further like to hang out in “B.A.” (Buenos Aires).

Our bundler in Hungary has been to Hungary, I think. But, in her confirmation hearing, she was as ignorant as the Norway guy.

Max Baucus, the longtime senator from Montana, is going to China. He said, “I’m no real expert on China.” This is not too worrying. Baucus has been soaked in world affairs for years. You can’t help it, when you’re in the Senate. Plus, even the experts on China sometimes prove not very expert.

#ad#Look, none of this is worth getting too bent out of shape about. There are nominees and appointments in every administration who are lemons. But this administration is so arrogant — regards itself as so exceptional and pure and smart. Moreover, as I have said, Obama campaigned on the alleged malfeasance of his predecessor. Have they learned no humility, after all their bungles?

George W. Bush, John McCain, and Mitt Romney are lions of foreign policy, certainly as compared with the hash-maker who won in 2008, and won again in 2012. Ask yourself: Since January 2009, has the standing of the United States in the world grown? Or shrunk? Have our influence and power, and the esteem in which we are held, increased? Or decreased?

Come on.

‐All right, let me throw some music at you. For my “New York Chronicle,” in the February New Criterion, go here. And here are some links to extra pieces on The New Cri’s blog, Armavirumque:

On Christian Zacharias, the pianist. On Daniil Trifonov, another pianist. On a mishmash of people and issues. On a master class by Marilyn Horne.

There’s more, but that oughta hold you.

‐Let’s do some Olympics. T. J. Oshie, the U.S. hockey star, was told that he was considered a hero back home. He said, “American heroes are wearing camo. That’s not me.”

It’s only February, but we have the statement of the year, don’t you think?

‐Some people think Meryl Davis, our ice dancer, is weird-looking. That may be. And à chacun son goût. But I think she’s the most beautiful and beguiling girl in the history of mankind — and won’t hear otherwise.

‐Mikaela Shiffrin, our ski champion? Her face is freshness itself. It ought to be on every cereal box in America. (And check out the funkified spelling of her first name. Furthermore, her last name is unconventionally spelled, with that second “f.”)

‐Speaking of language, let’s end on some. One of the problems with e-mail — one of the problems with writing — is that a reader can’t hear tone. The other day, I wanted to write “Thanks a lot.” But that can be read, can be heard, as sarcastic. So I wrote something else (“Thanks very much” or whatever).

Bob Bork once related a tale from his school daze: He was sent to the principal’s office simply for saying “Thanks a lot” in a sarcastic tone of voice. He mentioned this because he wanted to illustrate how conceptions of school discipline have changed.

Anyway, thanks a lot. See you later.

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