Politics & Policy

You gotta have heart, &c.

Donald Trump and Ted Cruz at the Republican debate in North Charleston, S.C., January 2016 (Randall Hill/Reuters)
On Trump, Cruz, Vietnam, China, Cosby, golf, and more

Not long ago, President Trump celebrated the health-care bill passed in the House, but then he called it “mean.” He said that health-care legislation had to have more “heart.” This gave me a memory of the 2016 campaign — the Republican primaries.

Discussing health care, Trump said, “I have a heart. I want people taken care of.” Discussing his rival Senator Cruz, he said, “Maybe he’s got no heart.” Prior to that, he had lauded Canada’s way of health care.

A story is relevant here. In 2010, the premier of Newfoundland, Danny Williams, went to Florida to have surgery — heart surgery. Criticized by his fellow Canadians, he answered, “This is my heart, it’s my health, it’s my choice.”

That could almost be an American campaign slogan.

‐The other day, President Trump tweeted, “So they caught Fake News CNN cold, but what about NBC, CBS & ABC? What about the failing @nytimes & @washingtonpost? They are all Fake News!”

It would be interesting if Trump provided a list of outlets he does not consider “Fake News.” Also, he and his people cite stories from the “Fake News” outlets, when they like them — for instance, the Washington Post’s superb report on Russian interference in our 2016 election and President Obama’s response to it.

When Trump talks the way he did in that tweet, a lot of people say, “Oh, that’s Trump being Trump — not to be taken seriously.” But I bet a lot of people do take it seriously, admiring their president and wanting to believe him.

One more thing: When Trump says that the New York Times is “failing,” what does he mean? If he says it enough times, will it be true?

‐Speaking of the Times, their report on our spy ring in China is superb — but heartbreaking. Horrifying and maddening. (“Killing C.I.A. Informants, China Crippled U.S. Spying Operations.”)

‐In the past, President Trump has referred to Senator Schumer as the “Head Clown.” Now, in his tweets, it’s “Cryin’ Chuck.” Obviously, this delights many Republicans, probably the great majority of them. But what do conservatives think? Personally, I am not a fan of Schumer but not a fan of name-calling either, especially when the president does it. The president sets an example, we used to say. It’s still true.

‐More Trump: “I will say that never has there been a president — with few exceptions; in the case of FDR, he had a major depression to handle — who’s passed more legislation, who’s done more things than what we’ve done.” He further said, “Many bills — I guess over 34 bills that Congress signed.”

Again, this reminded me of the campaign, when Trump talked about judges’ signing of bills. He is the signer, the man with the big pen — and he will get used to it, if he’s not already. He has been in the Oval Office less than half a year.

‐From the Associated Press, we learn about a Vietnamese dissident, Pham Minh Hoang, who has been deported to France. Sixty-one years old, he is a math lecturer, and a democracy blogger.

He said three police officers burst into his house on Friday and grabbed his arms when he refused to follow them while wearing only shorts, an undershirt and slippers.

“Once outside, I was horrified to see that there were not three, but a hundred policemen in uniform and in plainclothes around my house and in the neighboring streets,” said Hoang …

Dictatorships always do this — use massive force against lone, unarmed dissidents. They don’t send two, six, or ten agents. They send multitudes.

I’m reminded of Antonio Ledezma, the mayor of Caracas (technically). When the chavista agents came to arrest him in 2015, they numbered 120. A hundred and twenty! They arrested him brutally, breaking glass as they went.

They like to put on a splashy, often bloody show.

Pham Minh Hoang spent a year and a half in prison and three years under house arrest.

And I will quote the last paragraphs of the AP report:

Today, he doesn’t know who will take care of the disabled brother who lived with him in Ho Chi Minh City. He hopes he’ll be able to stay in regular contact with his wife and his 13-year-old daughter.

“I will continue to help my daughter do her homework, using internet video or other secure means,” he said.

Hoang assumes he will have to remain in France for a long time and said he is determined to continue his political activism — “my raison d’être” — as an exile.

“I still have a little hope, one day, to come back to live and die in Vietnam,” he said.

A patriot, obviously. And apparently a wonderful man.

‐Recently, I wrote about Grace Gao, the daughter of one of the bravest, most abused, most admirable dissidents in China, Gao Zhisheng. Rick Brookhiser sent me a striking note. Before quoting it, I have to quote some of that piece:

When [Gao Zhisheng] was away in prison, a team of eight state agents lived in the Gaos’ apartment. They watched everything they did, including in the bathroom. Outside the apartment, there were ten, twenty, thirty other agents, at all times. Just for this one woman [Gao’s wife] and her two children.

See what I mean about the multitudes of agents? The overkill?

They followed Grace to school, every day — seven or eight agents. At school, too, they observed her in the bathroom. They warned other students not to talk to her. If they did, the agents said, their parents would go to jail, just like Grace’s dad. The other students “avoided me as if I had some contagious disease,” says Grace. Furthermore, the agents would beat her up in front of her classmates.

You can imagine what this did to a girl. She attempted suicide, more than once.

Here is Brookhiser, whom I will catch mid-note:

Also: what a petty thing tyranny is. We know it robs and kills. But to send eight or nine men with a girl to school — and follow her to the bathroom?

There was that book a while ago, Hitler’s Willing Executioners. What is this — Xi’s Willing Toilet Sniffers?

Evidently, there are men and women in every country willing to carry out this vile work, and that would include, if the situation ever arose, I am certain, our own.

‐In 2007, I wrote a piece called “Taiwan’s Two Dozen: Who will dare have relations with Free China?” (I can’t find the piece on the Internet.) At that time, there were 24 nations that had diplomatic ties to Taiwan — that recognized Taiwan. Now there are 20. Because Panama just dropped out.

The PRC will not let a nation recognize both it and Taiwan. The ChiComs (as we used to call them) make you choose — and they have tremendous financial leverage, and other leverage.

The PRC will do anything to make Taiwan a pariah nation and eventually obliterate it, or subsume it. Taiwan is dangerous to the PRC: because it sets an example of Chinese democracy. It proves that democracy is indeed compatible with Chinese culture. And if people on the mainland see that — they might get wild ideas …

‐A question: Is there a jury in America that will convict Bill Cosby? Another question: Does anyone doubt his guilt?

‐I was talking to my colleague John Fund, who has interviewed countless people over the years. He says his favorite people to talk to are about 20 years old and about 80 years old: They are interesting and candid.

‐Let’s do a little language. John Cornyn, the senator from Texas, was talking about the difficulty of getting his fellow GOP senators to endorse the current health-care bill. “Every time you get one bullfrog in the wheelbarrow, another one jumps out.”

‐A big news bulletin: Cheese is now the official dairy product of Wisconsin. Well, hasn’t it always been the official dairy product? (Shouldn’t it be the official product, plain and simple, too?) No. It only now is.

I guess cheese was a no-brainer for the title. But custard may be miffed …

‐Steve Stricker is a golfer from Wisconsin. He went to the University of Illinois, where he was a huge star — by far the best player in the Big Ten.

He won his first PGA event in 1996 — it was the Kemper Open, outside D.C., and I was present for it. After he won, in the press tent, I asked him a question: “When did you first figure you would win a PGA Tour event? When you were in junior high? High school?” He said, modestly, “I didn’t know I would until today.”

Later, I shook his hand and congratulated him. He had tears in his eyes.

Steve Stricker is known as an extraordinarily nice and admirable guy. Recently, he hosted a senior event in Wisconsin, won by Fred Couples. In this article, Couples is quoted as saying, “We had a blast. I can’t say enough about Steve Stricker. He’s been one of my favorite people forever.”


‐I love what Daniel Berger said, after he finished second at last week’s PGA event. Jordan Spieth beat him on the first playoff hole. He did it by holing out a bunker shot. Berger commented, “Jordan does Jordan things. So there’s not really much you can say.”

Jordan does Jordan things. It’s so true.

Also, Jordan said something very Jordan-like. He is a modest, good guy — Stricker-like. On that playoff hole, his drive was errant, but clipped a tree, landing in the fairway. After the tournament, this is what he said: “If I was in Berger’s shoes, I would be cursing Jordan Spieth right now, for the break off the tee and then holing a 30-yard bunker shot. That’s a lot of luck.”

Well, people such as Spieth — not that there are many of them — make their own luck. (For an article on this tournament, go here.)

‐End with a little music? I will tell you a story — a story of self-recognition. That’s not the right term, really. It’s a story about how, when you create something really, really good, you know it.

Samuel Barber’s famous Adagio for Strings comes from his String Quartet, Op. 11. It is that work’s slow movement. The quartet was supposed to be premiered on a certain date, but Barber did not have it ready. He explained this in a note to the cellist. And he said, “I have just finished the slow movement of my quartet today — it is a knockout! Now for a Finale.”

Yup, it’s a knockout, all right. It ain’t braggin’ if it’s true. Well, it is bragging, but it’s true nonetheless.

See you later.


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


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