Politics & Policy

Presidential ingratitude, &c.

Meeting the Press (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

A few days ago, a New York Times reporter said, “I think Obama hates the press.” (For the relevant story, go here.) Really? Does President Obama hate the press? If so, that is, among other things, ungrateful.

‐A Washington Post columnist said, “Reporters had been told the two leaders would not take questions, and understandably so. That would inevitably bring up unpleasant things.”

The two leaders were Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel and Obama. And what were the unpleasant things? Well, one was “Netanyahu’s incendiary speech to the United Nations last week calling the Islamic State and Hamas ‘branches of the same poisonous tree.’”

Netanyahu’s statement about ISIS and Hamas should be as unremarkable as the notion that Wednesday follows Tuesday. The plain truth may be unpleasant to some — but incendiary?

Yeah, I guess so. How weird. If Americans or others had to live next door to Hamas, they would find Netanyahu’s statement utterly matter-of-fact.

‐The Israeli writer Yossi Klein Halevi had a piece that included this arresting line: “Israelis watch the fate of the Yazidi and Christian minorities in the Middle East and tell each other: Imagine what would happen to us if we ever lowered our guard.”

Yes, exactly so. Israel, don’t ever lower your guard. (Same goes for America, actually.)

‐James O’Keefe has done it again. The journalistic impresario has performed a sting operation on the campaign of Alison Lundergan Grimes — she’s the Democrats’ Senate nominee in Kentucky. He got Grimes’s staff to admit that the candidate’s warm words for the coal industry are all a ruse. She doesn’t mean her words; she is merely reciting them in order to get elected.

Or, as a Grimes staffer said, “It’s a lying game, unfortunately.”

(To read about this O’Keefian sting operation, go here.)

The great strength of James O’Keefe is that he confirms what we on the right have long suspected about the Left. He did this with his operation on National Public Radio. At the time (2011), I wrote,

Like you, maybe, I have mixed feelings about these journalistic “sting operations” — in which people assume false identities, catching other people in the act of being themselves. But what these operations uncover is marvelous. The targets speak very, very frankly. And, the more frankness, the better.

‐Alison Lundergan Grimes has a strikingly musical name, doesn’t she? Actually, it’s kind of a sing-song name. “Alison Lundergan Grimes” reminds me of “Tinker to Evers to Chance.”

I’ve been thinking of putting the candidate’s name to a jingle …

‐Above, I mentioned a New York Times reporter. Another one said that the greatest threat to civilization is not nuclear proliferation or radical Islam — but global warming. (To read about it, go here.) I immediately thought of Bill Clinton.

At Davos in 2006, Clinton was asked what his three greatest concerns for the world were. (I wrote about this in a journal, here.) The first words out of his mouth were “climate change.” Then he listed inequality and cultural divides.

Bret Stephens pointed out to me that terrorism and nuclear proliferation didn’t crack Clinton’s top three.

A minute ago, I referred to “nuclear proliferation or radical Islam.” The combination of those may be the biggest threat currently.

‐In New York last week, a weary couple sat down on the concrete edge of a flower bed. They were tourists, I think — friendly-looking people. Immediately, a guard came up (a security guard from a building). He said, “You can’t sit there.” The couple stood up, awkwardly.

I burned a little. There is no place to sit. It is uncivilized not to allow people to sit. You should be able to sit without having to spend money at a restaurant, especially when you are neither thirsty nor hungry — you just want to sit for a second, to collect yourself.

This is an old theme of mine. May I quote from a 2007 column?

Chicago, Ill.: I’m in the lobby of the Sears Tower, waiting for a friend. I have been standing for a while, and wish to sit down — but there are no chairs or benches, this being America, the most inhospitable place in the world (sometimes). So, I sit on my suitcase — which, by the way, has been run through a security machine. And a guard comes up to say, “You can’t sit down.” It doesn’t matter whether it’s on my own suitcase — I just can’t sit down. Presumably, I could stand all day — but I can’t sit down. This being America — or at least the Sears Tower.

Ladies and gentlemen, sometimes America is utterly nonsensical, and maddening. You know that I’m a dedicated anti-anti-American. But there are societies that, in a situation like mine, would find you a drink, maybe some cookies.

I will return to the subject of America the Nonsensical and Inhospitable in a future column.

You know what I did that day, in Chicago? I exited the Sears Tower and sat on the edge of a flower bed outside — and waited for my friend there.

I think that cities have removed places to sit in order to discourage bums. In the bargain, they have shafted everyone else.

To be continued …

‐As it happens, I was in Chicago on Sunday. I was pleased to see Mozart Street. When did they put that in there?

‐Speaking of names: At the airport, I met a TSA agent whose name tag said “Fashion.” I said, “Your name is Fashion?” She said yes. I said, “Anyone call you ‘Fash’?” She smiled a quick and bright smile and said, “Yeah, my mom!”

‐Back in New York, I saw a man sitting down with a remarkable sign: “6’ 7” Jew, Rap for You.” I swear, if I’d had the time, I would have paid him.

‐I read an obit of a writer I had never heard of: J. California Cooper. Regardless, I love her. Let me give you a dollop of the obit:

Ms. Cooper was clear about the religious values that informed her stories. “I’m a Christian,” she told The Washington Post in 2000. “That’s all I am. If it came down to Christianity and writing, I’d let the writing go. God is bigger than a book.”

‐This weekend, I heard a woman say, “Someone called me and asked, ‘Are you a Democrat or a Republican?’ I said, ‘I’m a Christian.’”

‐I’ll tell you what is next on my viewing list — and it is a very short list: an episode of Conversations with Bill Kristol. The guest is Peter Thiel, the entrepreneur and intellectual. I can only imagine that a conversation between those two sparkles. (I’m also hoping for, and expecting, a bit of disagreement — healthful disagreement.)

‐Do you want a little language? I am an absolute bore on the placement of “only.” The placement of “only” is important — and very often it is misplaced.

Here is a line from the Telegraph: “Homosexuality was only legalised in 1967.” Better is “Homosexuality was legalised only in 1967.” You see why, right? The first sentence means, “All that happened to homosexuality in 1967 is that it was legalized.”

Here is a headline from the Telegraph: “Ditching Ed Miliband will only help if Labour learns the lessons of his tragedy.” The “only” is much better placed after “help.” You see?

‐To heck with language, let’s have a little music. For a review of Opening Night at Carnegie Hall — the Berlin Philharmonic et al. — go here. For a review of a Marriage of Figaro (Mozart) at the Metropolitan Opera, go here.

When in the Midwest, I heard a song called “Daniel Prayed” on the radio. It was performed by New Tradition. It was well-nigh electric. I can’t find that recording on YouTube — but I’m glad to have found the Johnson Mountain Boys, here.

See you.

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