Culture

Fearless but misplaced, &c.

Fearless Girl faces Charging Bull on Wall Street. (Photo: Cpenler/Dreamstime)
On two sculptures, Devin Nunes, President Trump, Carlos the Jackal, and more

Do you know the story of Charging Bull and Fearless Girl? A contemporary, and outrageous, story it is. I will tell it, briefly.

Arturo Di Modica sculpted Charging Bull in the wake of a stock-market crash — 1987. He meant it to be a pick-me-up, a confidence-booster. He meant it, in his words, to represent “the strength and power of the American people.” The bull is the symbol of dynamism, you see. (A bear, in Wall Street terms, is a symbol of pessimism.) Charging Bull has been a fixture on Wall Street since 1989.

Then came International Women’s Day 2017. And the investment firm of State Street Global Advisors decided to pull a stunt. They commissioned a sculpture of a little girl and placed it in front of the bull. She is defiant. She is standing up to the bull. And she is supposed to be making a statement about gender equality in the financial sector.

She is a neat-looking little girl, for sure. But do you see how she has changed the meaning of the bull? The bull meant something good (at least in the eyes of American capitalists like me). Fearless Girl turns him into something bad and menacing — something to be stood up to.

Fearless Girl was supposed to be temporary, gone by the beginning of April. She has now been given an extension — until next year. How much do you want to bet that she will be permanent? Political correctness will see to that, I’m afraid. Can you imagine if someone tries to dislodge her? Can you hear the hue and cry?

In the Reagan years, we spoke of a “domestic Brezhnev Doctrine.” We conservatives spoke of it sardonically. The real Brezhnev Doctrine — promulgated by the Soviet premier Leonid Brezhnev — said that, once a country became Communist, it would remain Communist. (The Reagan Doctrine was designed to reverse the Brezhnev Doctrine.) By “domestic Brezhnev Doctrine,” we meant that, if a government office or program came into being, it was forever. Or almost impossible to dislodge.

My worry is that some kind of Brezhnev Doctrine will apply to Fearless Girl — who, again, is wonderful, but in the wrong place. Her backers have warped and perverted the meaning of that bull. This stinks.

‐Devin Nunes met his super-secret source on the White House grounds. Sort of romantic. Not as romantic as a pumpkin patch. And much more romantic than a garage.

(Pumpkin patch = Hiss-Chambers case. Garage = Watergate and Deep Throat.)

‐President Trump said to an interviewer, “I can’t be doing so badly because I’m president and you’re not.” I remember when righties liked me knocked Obama for his arrogance and condescension. But the cat will have many tongues for the duration of this current presidency …

‐Trump has a tendency in his tweets (as do many of his supporters). He ends them with “#MAGA,” alternatively “#MAGA!” (with exclamation point). For instance, Trump ended a recent tweet with “Trump Russia story is a hoax. #MAGA!”

It seems to me that “#MAGA!” is sort of a secular, political “Amen.” I find it culty and creepy, but I know that many millions love it.

‐“Culty and creepy” is a charge we used to level at Obama and his crowd, regularly …

‐He watches Fox & Friends a lot, Trump does. He frequently praises it, and frequently tweets about it. He did it again earlier this week. There is an expression: “a man and his dog.” I think of another: “a man and his show.” Even more than Hannity, I think, Fox & Friends is the president’s show.

‐“Watch Fox & Friends!” he’ll say. “Watch Judge Jeanine!” I sometimes think that Fox should pay our president a publicity fee.

‐After Tomi Lahren praised Trump on Hannity, the president called her, to thank her and converse with her. To see a story about this, go here.

Look, a president needs friends, like everyone else, and I can certainly understand a guy calling Tomi Lahren. But will commentators alter what they say in search of a pat on the head from POTUS? Even a phone call?

This is a concern, I think. And yet the media are so diverse, there’s room for everybody, including cheerleaders. (I have cheerled myself on occasion, no doubt.)

‐Something mighty interesting in TrumpWorld: Jamie Gorelick is legal adviser to Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner. A deputy attorney general in the Clinton years, she was a bête noire of conservatives. These days, she is taking heat from the Left for her services to the presidential daughter and son-in-law.

We do have a great system, don’t we? At least a danged interesting one.

‐So, Carlos the Jackal has been sentenced to life in prison for the third time. (To read a story, go here.) Good. Give him a fourth, if necessary.

It occurs to me — forgive me for putting it this way — that Carlos was terror before terror was cool.

‐Have you heard about the Daily Mail? (The most widely read publication in the English-speaking world, I understand.) On the front page, they ran a photo of Nicola Sturgeon, the Scottish “first minister,” and Theresa May, the British PM. Both women were strikingly leggy, in the photo. So, the paper ran the heading, “Never mind Brexit, who won Legs-it!”

And the world wet its pants. (Misogyny, etc.)

My view: The Daily Mail is a tabloid. This is what tabloids do. Fish swim, birds fly — and tabloids do this.

Chill out, y’all. Geez.

‐Speaking of things British: The National Gallery announced that The Morning Walk, by Gainsborough, “has been fully restored and is now back on display in Room 34.” Room 34 holds British paintings from 1750 to 1850. Daniel Hannan tweeted, “Arguably the finest room in the world.”

Which brought up the question: What is the finest room in the world? What would you argue? I always thought the Main Reading Room at the Library of Congress — Jefferson Building — was kind of nice. And there are any number of rooms in Italy.

So, what do you think? Any room that has Jefferson dining alone? (Ha ha.) Seriously, if you have thoughts, or nominations, e-mail them to me at jnordlinger@nationalreview.com.

‐Stay with things British: As readers may know, I am a great fan of University Challenge, the quiz show. (I wrote a little piece about it — my fandom — for Standpoint magazine, here.) Teams are four-man, and each of the teams has a captain. This season, two captains in particular have captured imaginations: Bobby Seagull, of Emmanuel College, Cambridge, and Eric Monkman, of Wolfson College, Cambridge. Seagull is known for his casual, peppy, friendly style (and of course his brilliant play — if “play” is the word); Monkman is known for his idiosyncratic omnicompetence.

They probably should have met in the final. Instead, they met in the semi-finals. It was a clash of titans, one for the ages. To see it — go here.

(One thing I loved was the sight of Monkman’s teammates shaking their heads in wonderment at what he knew.)

‐I enjoyed a lead from an AP report: “That mustang in the rearview mirror turned out to be a real horse running on a Northern California highway — followed by a mule.” Nice, huh?

‐News from the North — from Canada: They will legalize pot there by the summer of 2018. My feeling is, Aren’t Canadians mellow enough already? They are certainly polite. Also: What will this do to their hockey? Will they turn to hacky sack? Frisbee?

‐“Great president,” said Trump. He was speaking of Lincoln. “Most people don’t even know he was a Republican.”

Is that true? For eons, Republicans have referred to their party as “the party of Lincoln.” It is virtually a cliché: “party of Lincoln.” One that makes Democrats roll their eyes.

But maybe Trump is right, if the state of American education is as bad as people say.

‐Can you name your kid whatever you want? Not in Switzerland. Parents in that lovely, mountainous land wanted to give their daughter the middle name of “J” — just “J,” no period or nothing. A registry office said no. Can you believe it? Believe it. (Report here.)

First they came for the J’s, and I said nothing. Then they came for the K’s …

‐Let’s have a little language — though not our own language. A headline read, “Non merci: French voters reject corruption in politics.” (Story here.)

In my understanding, just “Merci,” said in a certain way, says “No, thank you.” Perhaps Frenchmen among us can weigh in…

‐Roger Wilkins, the lawyer, civil-rights activist, and writer, has died. (To read the obituary in the New York Times, go here.) I contacted him for a couple of pieces — because I wanted to talk things over with him. One of the pieces was about Clinton in the Lewinsky scandal, I recall. Clinton was leaning heavily on his black supporters. I was writing about that.

Anyway, each time I called him, I found Wilkins helpful, smart, and gentlemanly. I’m glad for those couple of contacts.

‐I was talking with a friend of mine, and I asked her, “Who were your outstanding professors? Who are the best professors you ever had?” She named two famous figures, Sidney Hook and Louis Hartz — and then someone I didn’t know of, Robert McCloskey. A professor of government at Harvard, who lived from 1916 to 1969. I wish I had known him.

He was the father of Deirdre McCloskey, by the way. She is a well-known economist, historian, etc.

Have the opening of Robert McCloskey’s obit in the Harvard Crimson:

Hollywood, Time magazine, and other institutions that regard higher education as a branch of the entertainment industry would have difficulty understanding why Robert G. McCloskey was regarded as one of the most gifted teachers of his time. His lectures were not flamboyant, his writings not “popular”; he cultivated no eccentricities, and struck no poses. Though he loved the theater he detested the theatrical.

The gift he had was that of lucid speech, clear prose, and serious reflection. In an age that has made “communication” its shibboleth if not its romantic illusion, Robert McCloskey quietly expressed the best of the scholarly tradition, both in his clarity of thought and in his commitment to serious learning.

Don’t you wish you had studied with him?

Have a sentence from the closing paragraph: “Many will remember him most for the calm manliness in which was revealed a rare joining of openness and strength.” I’m not sure you could write “calm manliness” today.

You should — especially when it’s appropriate.

Thanks, dear readers, and catch you soon.

 

A word from the National Review Store: To get Digging In: Further Collected Writings of Jay Nordlinger, go here.

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