A couple of nights ago, I was watching University Challenge, the British quiz show. (There is little I like to do more.) Jeremy Paxman was putting a question to the team from Trinity College, Oxford. The question related to America.
“In 2000, which Oscar-winning actor and NRA president taunted opposing organizations with his declaration that they could have his gun when they prized it, quote, ‘from my cold dead hands’?”
The Trinity-Oxford kids guessed Clint Eastwood. Paxo made a face and guffawed, “He’d be mortified. No, it’s Charlton Heston.”
This took me aback. Would Eastwood really be mortified? Mortified to be associated with the NRA? This well-known conservative, this (surprise) speaker at the 2012 Republican convention? I had always thought Heston and Eastwood similar in their politics.
I did some Googling around — and found that both sides, pro-gun and anti-gun, like to claim Clint. He has indeed supported certain gun-control measures, saying, for example, “I think it’s very important that guns don’t get into the wrong hands.”
Who could disagree? (Not many.)
Eastwood has also quipped, “I have a very strict gun-control policy: If there’s a gun around, I want to be in control of it.”
I’m reminded of what Alan Simpson, the former senator from Wyoming, said: “Where I come from, gun control means steady aim.”
On at least one occasion, Clint Eastwood told a story. A cop pulls a woman over for a traffic violation. She has a concealed-weapons permit. She has one gun in the glove compartment, another gun under a seat, and still another in her purse. And lots of ammo.
The cop says, “Good God, woman, what are you afraid of?” The woman smiles and says, “Nothing.”
What Eastwood says is: This is how I feel about guns.
Anyway, an interesting man, commonsensical, it seems to me, not an ideologue of any flavor.
(For that exchange on University Challenge, go to 5:29, here.)
‐If you’re an American, you probably found that question that Paxman asked easy — all too easy. Some of the American questions are that way, to us Americans. (Some of them aren’t.) But the questions in general? If you get maybe seven in an episode, you’re doing damn good, I would say.
‐Recently, President Trump made a deal with Charles Schumer and Nancy Pelosi — “Chuck ’n’ Nancy” — stiffing the Republicans. He reveled in the deal. So did his “base,” as far as I can tell.
I thought of the 2016 Republican primaries, when Trump blasted his chief rival, Ted Cruz, for being unable to work with Democrats. He, by contrast, would get along great with them. Or so he said. And he has proven true to his word, I think.
In January 2016, a headline from The Hill read, “Trump: I’ll work with Democrats.” (Article here.) Said the candidate, “I think I’m going to be able to get along with Pelosi — I’ve always had a good relationship with Nancy Pelosi.” He also said, “I always had a great relationship with Harry Reid.” And so on.
Of Cruz, Trump said, “He is a guy that nobody likes and nobody trusts.” And so on.
As I noted at the time, the Right usually dislikes and distrusts Republicans who promise to “reach across the aisle.” The Right has had enough of “reaching across the aisle.” They have been burned so many times.
But the Right, or much of it, makes a great exception for Donald J. Trump. This has been the subject of many articles (including by me) and will be the subject of many books (including by me?).
Interesting times, today’s politics.
‐Reading a column by Bret Stephens — hailing the education secretary, Betsy DeVos — I had a thought: “Because he is anti-Trump, he is hated by the Right, or much of it. Because he is a conservative, he is hated by the Left. Will he have enough friends?”
‐In recent months, I have been writing about Sweden and its military — a subject I once would have regarded as a joke but is no laughing matter now. The Swedes have moved troops back to their island in the Baltic Sea, Gotland. They have reinstated the draft.
And they have begun their biggest military exercises in more than 20 years. Almost 20,000 Swedish troops are participating, alongside U.S. and other NATO troops. Sweden is not a NATO member, as you know. A spokesman for the Swedish military said that the exercises are meant “to deter potential attackers and force them to carefully consider the risks of attacking our country.”
That is very wise. And it is what Putin has wrought. Sweden may even join NATO in coming years. That, too, is what Putin has wrought.
Stay tuned …
(For an article on the latest, go here.)
‐Hong Kong was supposed to enjoy an exemption: to be an island of democracy and liberalism, attached to a one-party dictatorship (with a gulag). How did we ever believe that? Did we?
The government has now jailed three students who have led democracy protests. The judge in the case said that the sentences were necessary to derail a “sick trend”: namely the belief of some Chinese that they should live in a democracy. Such thinking is “arrogant and self-righteous,” said the judge.
(Perhaps our current Right would say “moral preening” and “virtue signaling.”)
One of the students — Joshua Wong — said, “You can lock up our bodies, but not our minds! We want democracy in Hong Kong. And we will not give up.”
‐Last week, some of us National Review types returned to New York aboard the Queen Mary II. We sailed into the harbor before dawn. The Statue of Liberty looked terrific. I suppose we’re supposed to be in a surly mood about immigration and America and all, but I don’t care: The statue, Lady Liberty, is still heart-pounding (and I like the poem, too).
‐The infuriating thing about looking at the water’s edge is no World Trade Center. I am not sad, I am not pained. I am furious. The absence of those towers is appalling, maddening, and wrong. Let us prosecute this War on Terror, shall we?
‐There was some interesting language from Jim Harbaugh, the Michigan football coach. “There’s nerves, there’s butterflies, and you get experience on how to handle them. At some point. I mean, it’s like, me, I’m 53, it’s gone dead. I’m dead in here. It’s like burnt wood in terms of nervousness and butterflies and emotions that way.”
Fascinating. (I think I could use a little more burnt wood.)
‐A few days ago, I had a note, a blogpost, about language. I talked about “sing, sang, sung” and other such verbs. (“Shrink, shrank, shrunk.”) I pointed out that we have only “swing” and “swung” — not “swang.” Little kids say, “I swang at it.” Who can blame them? How screwy and inconsistent is English?
Well, have this from the Bible (King James Version): “And David put his hand in his bag, and took thence a stone, and slang it, and smote the Philistine in his forehead.”
I love “slang.”
‐A little music? A reader writes,
You mentioned Elgar in today’s Impromptus [here]. My first born was one of those children who will not go to sleep at night. She did not want to miss anything. I used to give her the “grand tour” every night to get her into bed. The “grand tour” involved putting on Elgar’s Cockaigne Overture, Enigma Variations, Serenade for Strings, and Salut d’Amour and carrying her around the first floor of the house until she fell asleep. Upon hearing about the “grand tour,” my dad sent me this article about how Elgar soothes elephants in the zoo.
‐Shall we help a reader with a conundrum?
Hey, Jay –
My wife and I were discussing something this morning that may have happened in your world as well. When we were growing up in the late Sixties, in Nutley, N.J., just across the river from Manhattan, on Saturday nights guys from Nutley would get in a car and go down to Belleville, the adjacent town, and beat up any male teenagers they saw hanging around. Then the Belleville kids would come and do the same thing to the Nutley kids. I moved to Nutley when I was ten, in 1965, and I found this phenomenon puzzling. But it was how life was. And yet by the time I was a teenager, scant years later, this was no longer happening. And we were speculating on what occurred to make it stop. It was stopped dead. No one drove over to Belleville to beat up random teenagers any longer. I think something very interesting sociologically was going on, but I do not know what it was.
Me neither. Sex? Television? If readers have any bright ideas, e-mail me at email@example.com.
‐A little girl — about three — was expecting a baby brother. He indeed arrived on a Saturday night. The next morning, the little girl burst into church announcing, “He’s out!”
See you soon.
A word from the National Review Store: To get Digging In: Further Collected Writings of Jay Nordlinger, go here.