Politics & Policy

The other N-word, &c.

Just about the cheapest, and commonest, thing you can do is call someone a Nazi. It is almost never justified. But I have recently read of an interesting case.

First, a little background. Several years ago, global-warming people started to call their critics “deniers.” That is a clear, nasty parallel to “Holocaust deniers.” Environmental activists have long liked to use the language of Nazism and the Holocaust (as virtually everyone does, really).

In an op-ed piece for the New York Times in 1989, Al Gore warned of “an environmental holocaust without precedent.” That piece was headed “An Ecological Kristallnacht. Listen.” Gore wrote, “Once again, world leaders waffle, hoping the danger will dissipate. Yet today the evidence is as clear as the sounds of glass shattering in Berlin.”

Gore won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007, along with the U.N. global-warming panel (the IPCC, or Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change). Let me quote from Peace, They Say, my history of the peace prize:

Skeptics or critics were called “deniers,” in a parallel to “Holocaust deniers.” Gore is one who regularly uses this term. A reporter for America’s most important television news program, 60 Minutes, was asked why he did not include skeptics or dissenters in his global-warming reports. The reporter, Scott Pelley, said, “If I do an interview with Elie Wiesel, am I required as a journalist to find a Holocaust denier?”

Okay, the recent and interesting case I mentioned. At the Daily Caller, I saw the headline “Climate scientist will say ‘global warming Nazis’ until they drop ‘denier’ label.” What an interesting move, or counterpunch. The article began,

Former NASA scientist Dr. Roy Spencer is sick of being labeled a global warming ‘denier’ by politicians and environmentalists. So sick of it, in fact, that he’s going to start calling detractors “global warming Nazis” until he is no longer called a “denier.”

You know, I’m usually not one for tit-for-tat. We have to rise above, etc. Two wrongs don’t make a right. But I don’t know: I like Dr. Spencer’s spirit, and even, in a way, his idea. This “denier” thing has been a nasty offense for a long time.

‐I realize I quoted from Peace, They Say, in yesterday’s column, too. Sorry about that! (The Nobel Peace Prize, it do come up.)

‐Ike’s Tree was the most famous tree in golf. I spoke of it on a podcast with Mona Charen last week. The tree was on the 17th hole of Augusta National, the home of the Masters, in Augusta, Ga. Why was it called “Ike’s Tree”?

Eisenhower was a member of the club from 1948 until his death in 1969. He loved golf, and he loved Augusta National. He did not love that tree on the 17th hole. It interfered with his tee shot, and it interfered with everybody’s.

One day in 1956, when he was president, he raised the issue at a club meeting. The tree should be removed, he said. According to most versions of the story, the club chairman, Cliff Roberts, told the president he was out of order, and that was that. The tree stayed.

And, with loving irony, it was known ever after as “Ike’s Tree,” or “the Eisenhower tree.”

The thing was felled by an ice storm — a rare occurrence in Georgia — the other week. So, R.I.P. And here’s the point I want to make:

Augusta National would be the last place most people would think of as democratic. It has been criticized, and reviled, for its admissions policies, among other things. But what could be more democratic than a golf course, a private club, telling the president of the United States, who had won World War II, to stuff it?

Throughout all history, rulers and leaders have gotten their way. They have certainly gotten their way on such piddly issues as tree removal. But here, in this democratic country? Sorry, Ike.

There is a lot wrong with this country, but, blessedly, a lot right with it, too.

‐But let me go dark (or a darkish gray): In the Telegraph, there was an item headed “Did Margaret Thatcher lose the battle for Britain’s soul?” I could not help thinking of Reagan and America.

The writer, Harry de Quetteville, begins,

Few doubt that Margaret Thatcher’s economic vision for Britain triumphed. . . . But did Mrs Thatcher lose the wider battle — cultural and moral — for Britain’s soul?

Looking back, we may think that the great political debate between Left and Right in the late 1970s was about trade unions and taxes. In fact the debate was much broader — about what kind of country people wanted to live in.

Etc. Sobering (from a conservative point of view). (If you’re on the left, you can kick up your heels!)

‐Boris Johnson writes a column for the Telegraph. His other gig is to be mayor of London. I thought of America, and our political culture, when I read the opening of a recent column of his:

I’ve just got back from the French Alps and the place is just as beautiful as it was when I first went there 30 years ago: the air like champagne, the sky blue, the snow like gulfs of icing sugar wafting over your skis — and the mind-numbing beauty of those high white landscapes, silent except for the soft clank of the lift. Yes, it’s still the same, the French skiing experience . . .

Could any American politician possibly get away with talking like this? Britain is supposed to be riven by class envy. But no American politician could write as Johnson has. Everyone has to pretend to be a prole.

Could Michelle Obama write the following, or begin a speech with the following? “I’ve just gotten back from the Costa del Sol, and . . .” Even with the Obama-smitten media, she probably couldn’t get away with that.

(Frankly, it’s probably true that no other British politician could get away with what the perpetually forgiven Boris does . . .)

‐Coach Mike Ditka said something fogey. But, I have to tell you: I liked it, and agreed with it. (Uh-oh . . .)

He was talking about Matthew Stafford, the quarterback of my NFL team, the Detroit Lions. (No comments from the peanut gallery, please: I’m a Michigander — a Greater Detroiter — and all my teams are Detroit teams, good and bad, in sunny seasons and rainy.) Ditka said, “I think he can make all the throws. He’s a smart kid. I wish he’d put the baseball cap on frontwards instead of backwards all the time.”

I’m not sure why — this is not typical of me — but I feel sort of the same way.

‐A little music? For a review of Jonas Kaufmann, the German tenor, in recital, go here.

‐A little language? Above, I quoted Boris: “I’ve just got back from the French Alps . . .” And then I imagined Michelle Obama: “I’ve just gotten back from the Costa del Sol . . .” Why did I say “gotten” there, instead of “got,” à la Boris? Why did I spoil the parallelism?

Because that’s what we Americans say: “I’ve just gotten back.” There is no “gotten” in British English, as far as I know. It’s strictly an American word. Do the Brits speak of “ill-got gains”? I’m not sure I’m right about this. I’ll have to do some (further) checking . . .

‐Sometimes, you don’t know about a person until he dies. People have been remarking on that for a long time. I was amazed to read an obit of Anne Heyman, “who rescued Rwandan orphans.” I’m going to quote several paragraphs, if you don’t mind. Sorry for the small type:

When Anne Heyman learned in 2005 that the genocide in Rwanda had orphaned 1.2 million children, she saw a glimpse of salvation for the country in the experience of Israel.

“It popped out of my head: They should build youth villages,” she told The New York Times last year.

Ms. Heyman, a South African-born lawyer who had given up her legal career in New York to devote herself to philanthropy, was thinking of how Israel, as a new nation state in the late 1940s, had welcomed and cared for tens of thousands of children who had been orphaned by the Holocaust. The Israelis set up residential communities called youth villages to nurture them.

“Israel had a solution to the orphan problem,” Ms. Heyman, a supporter of Jewish causes, told The Jerusalem Post last year. “Without a systemic solution, this is a problem that won’t solve itself.”

Ms. Heyman knew no one in Rwanda and little about the country, but she plowed ahead, raising more than $12 million . . .

There’s a lot more. What a woman, what a life. I am filled with admiration.


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