Che in our faces, &c.

Che Guevara’s face on a shoulder bag at a protest outside Trump Tower in Manhattan in 2017. (Eduardo Munoz/Reuters)
Guevara, Trump, Corker, Tillerson, Bannon, Stephens, Mozart, Pipes, and more

October 9 was the 50th anniversary of Che Guevara’s death — his execution — and there has been a lot of writing about him. For and against. The Irish government put out a postage stamp, honoring Guevara. What a disgusting act.

I have written a lot over the years about Guevara. I don’t have much to add now. I refer you to Maria Werlau, a tireless and excellent researcher into Cuba, whose website, Cuba Archive, is here. She has just published an article titled “Che Guevara’s Forgotten Victims.”

As I recall, Maria’s father knew Guevara.

I will give you one little thing — little but telling. Yesterday, for reasons I could get into, I was re-reading a piece I wrote last year on Danilo Maldonado Machado, a.k.a. El Sexto, the Cuban street artist and human-rights activist, who is in and out of prison. I interviewed him at the Oslo Freedom Forum.

At the end of our interview, I asked him a standard question: “What do you wish people could know?” And you know what he said? You know what were the first words out of his mouth? “Che Guevara was a murderer.  He wasn’t a hero.”

Mind you, we hadn’t been talking about Guevara. We had been talking about other things.

On his way to the Freedom Forum, Maldonado had flown from Havana to Paris. He sat next to a man who was wearing a Che Guevara T-shirt. The man was a foreigner, probably a Frenchman (as the plane was going to Paris). Maldonado wanted to explain to him about Guevara — but they didn’t have a language in common.

Let me quote from my piece: “Maldonado says he can excuse Cubans who wear Che shirts: They have been propagandized all their lives. He has a much harder time excusing men and women from free societies.”

One can imagine.

‐Last summer, I wrote a blogpost titled “A Separate Question: Veracity.” I’ll give you the gist of it. A lot of people say, “Trump shouldn’t tweet, his tweets are inappropriate,” etc. But what they seldom say is, “Are they true?” Are the tweets true? What about the lying? That matters, right?

In June, Trump tweeted about “low I.Q. Crazy Mika” — his name for Mika Brzezinski, the television host. Among other things, he said that she “was bleeding badly from a face-lift.” This was at a party or some other gathering.

Question: Is it true? Was Brzezinski indeed bleeding badly from a face-lift? Do women go out when they’re in such a condition? Brzezinski herself said that this was untrue — “a lie,” in fact.

Okay, let’s get to the latest. The president tweeted, “Senator Bob Corker ‘begged’ me to endorse him for re-election in Tennessee. I said ‘NO’ and he dropped out (said he could not win without…” Corker says this is nonsense: that the president assured him of his endorsement repeatedly.

Trump further tweeted, “The Failing @nytimes set Liddle’ Bob Corker up by recording his conversation. Was made to sound a fool, and that’s what I am dealing with!”

On the contrary, Corker knew that the Times was taping the conversation in question. It was an on-the-record interview. Also, he had his own aides taping.

The senator said, “I don’t know why the president tweets out things that are not true. You know he does it, everyone knows he does it.”

But do enough people say it? Enough people on the conservative and Republican side? Does it matter whether the president tells the truth? No matter what we think of a president’s politics or personality — shouldn’t he tell the truth?

I think so, and I don’t think you have to be a babe-in-the-woods to think so. Frankly, I don’t know why more people aren’t bothered by the lying. I imagine that they’re numb to it — that they hardly notice it.

‐Do they notice the name-calling? “Liddle’ Bob Corker”? “Low I.Q. Crazy Mika”? Does it matter?

‐On the subject of IQ: Trump tends to think his is high and that others’ are low. He was at it again when he challenged his secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, to a kind of IQ-off. “And I can tell you who is going to win,” said the president. I don’t think he meant Tillerson.

In 2013, Trump tweeted, “Sorry losers and haters, but my I.Q. is one of the highest -and you all know it! Please don’t feel so stupid or insecure,it’s not your fault.”

Who talks like this? Who writes like this? The president of the United States, and the leader of the Republican party, that’s who.

‐You may recall that a statue called “Fearless Girl” was placed in front of the iconic charging bull on Wall Street. I wrote about it in an essay last spring: “Girl, Misplaced: A tale of two sculptures.” Fearless Girl became a symbol of feminism worldwide.

It now transpires that the firm behind the statue, State Street Corporation, has agreed to pay out $5 million — to settle allegations that it underpaid female and black employees.

I loved the headline at CNNMoney: “Awkward!

‐My favorite opening line of any column this year comes from Bret Stephens, late of the Wall Street Journal, now with the New York Times: “Suppose you’re a Republican. Since you’re reading The Times, suppose hard.” (Full column here.)

‐Back to Senator Bob Corker, or “Liddle’ Bob,” as our president calls him. (I don’t really know what that apostrophe is doing there.) Interviewed by Sean Hannity, Steve Bannon said, “If Bob Corker has any honor, any decency, he should resign immediately.” More: “This is what they think about President Trump behind closed doors. He happened to tell the New York Times exactly what he thought. It’s totally unacceptable. In a time of war — we have troops in Afghanistan, in the Northwest Pacific and Korea, we have a major problem that could be like World War I in the South China Sea, in the Persian Gulf, we have American lives at risk every day.”

In a free country, you can criticize the leader, even when the country is at war. For example, we exercised this right freely during the eight years of Obama.

Sometimes people on the Trump right take great umbrage when you suggest that Trumpism is not quite democratic. But you can forgive people for thinking that, or fearing that, I think.

‐Very, very chilling news has come out of Stockholm. Let me quote the Associated Press:

For the second consecutive year, there were no women among the 2017 Nobel prize laureates.

The head of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences says the committees that choose Nobel Prize winners will meet this winter to discuss gender and ethnic diversity issues in the prestigious awards.

Oh, no. This looks like curtains for the Nobel prizes. If people think that the committees have their thumb on the scale, in favor of women and people of desirable ethnicities and races — the prizes will be terribly degraded.

And if you won one, how could you be sure that your sex, ethnicity, or race was not taken into account? Wouldn’t that prick at you?

I’ll tell you who would be really, really ticked: Alfred Nobel, the testator, the author of the will — the willer of the Nobel prizes. I got to know him a bit when I wrote a history of his peace prize. Some of his spirit can be glimpsed at these words from his will (1895): “It is my express wish that in awarding the prizes no consideration be given to the nationality of the candidates, but that the most worthy shall receive the prize, whether he be Scandinavian or not.”

That language may seem silly today. Quaint. But I can tell you that Nobel was a man of wonderful universality (Swedish patriot that he was).

‐I thought the below story was very, very sad, and very, very American — modern-day American. A tragedy of our times. See what you think:

YORK, Pa. (AP) — Authorities say the son of a Pennsylvania mayor punched her in the face, knocking her to the ground, and kicked her several times in her back, head and face before a bystander intervened.

The York Dispatch reports that 30-year-old Brandon Anderson attacked York Mayor Kim Bracey last Saturday at her campaign headquarters. Authorities say he was arrested at the scene and charged with simple assault, a misdemeanor.

Bracey released a statement Friday night saying her son is battling an opioid addiction. She said no family is immune from the drug epidemic and “we must do everything in our power to solve it.”

‐Let’s lighten up a little, with a review of Mozart’s Magic Flute, presented at the Metropolitan Opera: here. Wonderful show, wonderfully sung.

‐I saw that Simon Schama has produced a new book, a new history: Belonging: The Story of the Jews, 1492–1900. Schama’s title reminded me of a subtitle: “Memoirs of a Non-Belonger.” That is Richard Pipes’s subtitle. He wrote his memoirs in 2003 (and I reviewed them here).

Why that subtitle? Pipes and his wife purchased a home in the British Virgin Islands, where they were classified as neither “residents” nor “visitors” but “non-belongers.” Pipes — a refugee from Nazi-occupied Poland, who became one of the leading Russia scholars in the world — has always felt like a non-belonger.

Well, wherever Pipes belongs, that’s where I’d like to belong too. And he has been a great adornment and asset to America.

Thanks, y’all, and see you.



Re-branding Guevara: Che the Butcher

Che Guevara’s Execution: 50 Years Later

A Look at How Cuba’s Working Class Lives

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


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