Politics & Policy

The Jindal-Ryan type, &c.

Bobby Jindal (left) and Paul Ryan

Last week, we saw Bobby Jindal, the governor of Louisiana. He dropped by National Review’s offices, talked to us for an hour about health care. He was bright, earnest, public-spirited, eager, open-minded, thoughtful — concerned. He struck me as an especially good staffer or policy analyst who just happened to be the officeholder, too.

A month or two ago, I spent some time with Congressman Paul Ryan, the Wisconsinite who chairs the House Budget Committee, and thought basically the same thing.

And as I listened to Jindal last week, this question occurred to me: Does the Democratic party have people like this? Are there analogues on the other side?

I know I’m a hopeless partisan, but it seems to me that the Democratic party is full of hacks like Joe Biden, or ideologues like President Obama. If there are Jindals and Ryans on the other side, I’d love to know about them. It would be reassuring.

‐In the last several weeks, you have heard this, from all quarters, or most quarters: Everyone has gotten Putin wrong. Certainly George W. Bush did, and Obama has, too. People love to quote Bush on Putin’s “eyes” and “soul.” See what an idiot ol’ W. was!

Let’s review the historical record. In June 2001, Bush was five months into his presidency and standing with Putin at a joint press conference in Slovenia. Ron Fournier, the American reporter, said,

A question to both of you, if I may. President Putin, President Bush has said that he’s going to go forward with his missile-defense plans basically with or without your blessing. Are you unyielding in your opposition to his missile-defense plan? Is there anything you can do to stop it?

And to President Bush: Did President Putin ease your concern at all about the spread of nuclear technologies by Russia, and is this a man that Americans can trust?

Bush said, “Yes.” Then he said, to Putin, “Do you want to go first?” Putin answered Fournier. (See the transcript here.) Then Bush said,

I looked the man in the eye. I found him to be very straightforward and trustworthy. We had a very good dialogue. I was able to get a sense of his soul; a man deeply committed to his country and the best interests of his country. And I appreciated so very much the frank dialogue.

At the end of that year — in December 2001 — Bush gave notice of withdrawal from the ABM Treaty. This allowed the United States to go forward with a defense against nuclear missiles. The Democrats howled their disapproval.

In coming years, Bush saw Putin in a very clear-eyed way. Obama and the Democrats promised a “reset” with Russia. Ask yourself: A “reset” from what? The answer is, from Bush’s approach to Russia, which was obviously tough-minded. Do you recall that Hillary Clinton had a prop — a big button with the word “reset” mistranslated into Russian?

If Bush had harbored a naive view of Putin, there would have been nothing for Obama & Co. to reset from.

But I feel sure this will be forgotten — it already has — because people are in love with Bush’s June 2001 statement. They want to hang it around him forever. Which is not just unfair but d-u-m dumb.

‐I wish I could ask President Obama what he meant by “flexibility.” In March 2012, he said to Medvedev that a number of issues could be “solved,” “particularly missile defense.” But “it’s important for him to give me space.”

Him? Who him? Putin, of course — the boss.

“Yeah, I understand,” said Medvedev. “I understand your message about space.” Obama continued, “This is my last election. After my election, I have more flexibility.” Then he patted Medvedev on the arm, knowingly, reassuringly. Said Medvedev, “I will transmit this information to Vladimir.”


There are lots of journalists — not me — who are in a position to question President Obama. I wish one of them would ask, “When you promised Putin more flexibility, what did you mean, sir?”

Maybe someone has asked this already. If so, I’m unaware (and would like to be apprised).

‐Here are the opening sentences of a recent report out of Kabul: “The Taliban assailants apparently thought they were attacking an unprotected Christian-run day care center. But they mistakenly burst into the compound next door, where an American government contractor’s employees were heavily armed and ready . . .”

There is a lot packed into those sentences, isn’t there? A ton of meaning, a ton of truth — about bullying, about terrorism, about guns, about readiness. About other things.

The poor Taliban: It’s so nice, so easy, to attack unprotected Christian-run daycare centers. And then you make a mistake and face heavily armed and ready Americans.

‐I saw a headline: “Is Christie’s Slim Down Setting The Presidential Stage?” (Story here.) I thought of Nixon — who used to say, “You know Ted Kennedy is running for president when he slims down.”

‐I saw another headline: “Man does C-section on dead porcupine, saves baby.” (Story here.) I thought, “Hmmm: What would NARAL say?”

For one thing, cut the “baby” talk. It’s a fetus, dammit, and a meaningless blob of protoplasm, basically. Porcupine protoplasm.

‐I thought this was nice: “A man who lost his legs in the Boston Marathon bombings, then helped authorities identify the suspects, is engaged and an expectant father.” (Story here.) Sure, it might have been preferable to have the pregnancy after the marriage. But how wonderful, how really wonderful.

‐Why do I love America? Here’s one, small illustration: “Michigan tourist returns stolen Hulk Hogan shoe.” (Story here.)

‐What’s a little less lovable about America? Well, “NY college to offer Miley Cyrus class, twerk-free.” (Story here.) Thank heavens for the twerk-free, though.

‐You know how people say, “Our thoughts and prayers are with [so-and-so, usually a family]”? I often think, “You lyin’ sack, that’s just boilerplate: Your thoughts and prayers aren’t with [so-and-so]. It’s just a reflex, meaningless line. You’re not praying, and you’re probably not even thinking.”

‐The other day, I was reading an article by one of the best writers there are. Making some point, he said, “. . . even though it was against their self-interest to do so.”

I have always been against that sort of wording. If you have “their,” you don’t need “self-.” “Even though it was against their interest to do so.” Or you could say, “Even though it was against self-interest to do so.”

Have you ever heard someone say “his own self-interest”? About a million times? That is really gilding the lily.

‐Let’s close with a name — and a letter from a reader: “Driving through Tennessee recently just north of Nashville, saw a billboard for Mark Cutright, MD, Orthopedic Surgeon. You’d sure hope so!”

Happy spring, y’all. Hit ’em straight (and cut ’em straight, or right).


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