Politics & Policy

Political knowledge, &c.

Ted Cruz is running for president. I want to say a quick word about political predictions and political analysis.

I sometimes get e-mails that say, “Your boy Cruz can’t win.” Or “Jeb can’t win.” They are cocksure, these e-mailers. Absolute. As though they were talking about scientific law.

The best political minds I know never talk that way: not Michael Barone or Byron York or Robert Costa. Bob Novak didn’t talk that way, and neither did Jack Germond. Theodore White didn’t talk that way, and neither did Walter Lippmann.

Etc., etc.

Sometimes, the more a guy knows about something, the less certain or categorical he is. He is unlikely to be cocksure.

You probably know people today who say that they knew Barack Obama would be nominated and elected in 2008. I would be skeptical.

I knew a lot about politics when I was in college. I know a lot more now, believe me (after decades in political journalism). I’m probably humbler now. (Better be.)

‐Believe it or not, the North Korean foreign minister addressed the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva. He called defectors “scum.”

As it happens, North Korean defectors and escapees are some of the bravest and best people I have ever encountered. They have come through hell and seek to help their countrymen left behind.

Last fall, I interviewed a young woman named Yeonmi Park. For the resulting piece in National Review, go here. This story is one of the most unusual you’ll ever hear. But it is representative of North Korea.

“Scum” is probably too light a word to describe North Korean officialdom. They and their system are practically a definition of evil.

This report from the Associated Press plays the violin for Israeli liberals or leftists. It weeps for them. “Israeli liberals woke up after national elections with a demoralizing feeling,” it begins. A writer-actress is quoted: “Drink cyanide, bloody Neanderthals. You won.”

You know, I have been on the losing end of many elections. I think of November 2012 in particular. No one ever weeps for me, really — certainly not the mainstream press. They never drop by to try to understand my pain.

In a democracy, you suck it up. And you get another election.

I admire Isaac Herzog, the Labor candidate who lost to Netanyahu. Let me quote a couple of paragraphs from the AP report. You’ll see.

. . . rage rippled through liberal Israel this week. Social media was full of embittered Israelis accusing Netanyahu’s supporters of racism, and some vowed to stop donating charity to the underprivileged whom they perceived as being automatic supporters of the right.

The prime minister’s main rival denounced such attacks. “Attempts to divide, vilify and spread hate in Israeli society disgust me, and it doesn’t matter whether it comes from the right or the left,” wrote [Herzog].

Marvelous. All honor to him.

‐You may have seen this story. “Barron’s Educational Series, the maker of popular Advanced Placement study guides, has apologized for linking Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas to fascism and comparing him to the KKK.”

Well, the apology was nice.

The study guide “linked Thomas, who is black, to the racist KKK, stating that both ‘want things like they used to be.’”

Yes. That is the perpetual charge.

Recently, I reviewed Shelby Steele’s new book, Shame: How America’s Past Sins Have Polarized Our Country. To read the review, go here.

Steele says that the Left portrays conservatism as “an ideology born of nostalgia for America’s past evils — inequality, oppression, exploitation, warmongering, bigotry, repression, and all the rest.” The ability to “taint conservatism” with “America’s past shames” has been a bonanza for the Left: “a seemingly endless font of power.”

Damn, is it true. I mention the following in my review. It relates to another country, but, still, it relates, strongly:

A few months ago, I was writing of the oppressive nature of the Castro dictatorship. A writer for a Left magazine responded that people like me “pine” for the days of the Batista dictatorship (the military regime that the Castros and their fellow revolutionaries overthrew in 1959).

In truth, people like me “pine” for freedom and democracy. The Left never ceases trying to associate us with systems, personalities, and situations that have nothing to do with us.

Don’t let them get away with it, if you can help it.

Incidentally, I was born after the Batista dictatorship died. Since the first day of 1959, Cubans have known nothing but a totalitarian dictatorship. They deserve something better, all democrats should agree.

Many years ago now — almost 15, I bet — I interviewed a Cuban dissident named René Montes de Oca. Afterward, some jerk in the media labeled him a “Batista stooge.” René, like me, was born several years after the death of that dictatorship.

What he is, is a democrat. A liberal democrat. Too bad the hateful Left won’t accept that.

‐Readers of National Review are well familiar with Chen Guangcheng, the blind legal activist and dissident from China — the “blind and barefoot peasant lawyer,” as he once was called. I first wrote about him in 2011, when he was still in his home country, being suffocated. For that piece, “A Hero of Us All,” go here.

In 2012, he managed to escape to the United States. An exciting tale. (All too exciting for those involved.) I interviewed Chen the following year, as you can read here.

Chen has now written a memoir, reviewed by David Feith in the Wall Street Journal. I have not yet read the book, but Feith tells us something interesting: Hillary Clinton says that, as secretary of state, she did everything she could to help Chen. This book contradicts the former secretary, baldly.

When it comes to the truth-telling of Chen versus the truth-telling of Hillary — I’m goin’ Chen.

‐Do you tweet? I just started, a couple of weeks ago. Want to share something I tweeted: “In my book, there’s no good time for either a leftist or a weak prez. But some times are worse than others. And this is a very bad time.”

Yes. Just wanted to say it again. I’m not even going to go beyond the 140 characters.

‐In midtown Manhattan, I passed a store called “ZERO Halliburton.” Luggage store. Once related to Halliburton the oil-and-gas company. I was pretty amazed to see that name “Halliburton” in Manhattan. In bright lights.

Is it still a bogey word on the left? Or has the fever died down?

It used to be that “Enron” made them shake or faint. That got replaced by “Halliburton.” There is bound to be another one.

(“Dow” used to be big. So did “Domino’s,” for abortion reasons. Both of them are companies from my home state of Michigan, by the way.)

Maybe people think the “ZERO” cancels out the “Halliburton”?

‐Let’s have a little music. For a review of Piotr Anderszewski, the Polish pianist, in Carnegie Hall, go here.

‐Previously, I reviewed a concert of the London Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Michael Tilson Thomas, with Yuja Wang, piano soloist. Here. Wang played Gershwin’s Concerto in F, and I want to quote something from my review:

At the end of the first movement, many in the audience applauded, as well they should: this ending is made for applause. A pianist should acknowledge it, even if she doesn’t rise and bow. Wang did not acknowledge it (and neither did Tilson Thomas, who should know better).

A friend of mine commented, “The orchestra is there to please the audience, not the other way around.” Funny, but I had never thought of that, or had never thought to put it that way. Smart cookie, this friend.

‐Finally, I want to note this news report from Yemen: which speaks of U.S. troops “evacuating” and al-Qaeda militants “seizing.” That is all wrong, in my book.

In any event, I thank you, and I’ll see you.


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