Politics & Policy

Put out more flags, &c.

Interior secretary Ryan Zinke (Joshua Roberts/Reuters)
On the interior secretary, the Weinstein case, the Trump GOP, a country club for Obama, eateries we have known, and more

The secretary of the interior, Ryan Zinke, has a taste for the showy, or a flair for the dramatic. On his first day in office, he rode to work on a horse. (That was kind of cool, I thought.) And did you get a load of this?

“At the Interior Department’s headquarters in downtown Washington, Secretary Ryan Zinke has revived an arcane military ritual that no one can remember ever happening in the federal government.

“A security staffer takes the elevator to the seventh floor, climbs the stairs to the roof and hoists a special secretarial flag whenever Zinke enters the building. When the secretary goes home for the day or travels, the flag — a blue banner emblazoned with the agency’s bison seal flanked by seven white stars representing the Interior bureaus — comes down.

“In Zinke’s absence, the ritual is repeated to raise an equally obscure flag for Deputy Secretary David Bernhardt.”

(Full article here.)

This seems a little bit grand — a little bit fancy — for the federal guvmint, doesn’t it? More suitable to Buckingham Palace?

‐Kevin Williamson, Jonah Goldberg, and David French visit National Review headquarters in New York only rarely. I’m going to see if we can get some kind of flag to hoist when they’re in town …

‐In recent months, writers on the right have been debating nationalism. What is it? Is it good for children and other living things (to quote an old poster)? Is it compatible with liberal democracy?

Last week, President Trump was threatening media outlets that had criticized him. We couldn’t stand for it, he said. Their licenses ought to be revoked. (Yes, “licenses.”) Is that nationalist?

Steve Bannon was saying that it was unacceptable to criticize a president when American troops are in the field. (This would have been true during the eight years of Obama, by the way.) Is that nationalist?

‐Here is a tweet from our president, fired off on Saturday: “Health Insurance stocks, which have gone through the roof during the ObamaCare years, plunged yesterday after I ended their Dems windfall!”

I’m not sure a president ought to be bragging about the plunging of stocks. And bragging that he caused it. A reader of mine wrote, “This affects my 401(k). Am I not an American?”

These are really strange times. What would we conservatives say if a Democratic president bragged about causing stocks to plunge?

‐When Ailes, O’Reilly, and others at Fox tumbled, the Left cackled. Now that Weinstein has tumbled, the Right is cackling. I’m not sure these are political matters, frankly: I think they are human matters. Sin knows no party, heaven knows. I discovered that years ago.

‐A lot of us are saying, “Who knew what when?” about the Weinstein case. Why did all those people — those Hollywooders, those enablers, those cowards — keep mum? Where was Variety magazine, for example?

Okay. But what about the employees of Fox News? Did they know, in general? Did they pipe up, pre-Gretchen? How about the New York Post? How about the Wall Street Journal? Did they know? Know for sure?

Sometimes you hear stuff — and believe stuff, and assume stuff — and don’t know for sure.

Anyway, a big, big subject …

‐An Associated Press reporter, Nick Riccardi, said something on Twitter that pricked me. He said, “Can’t stress enough that this is not just another western fire. This number of dead is unheard of.”

I confess, I have been reading stories about western fires my entire life. We all have. Over time, you barely notice them.

Which, I know, is wrong. Very wrong.

‐I noticed something in Alabama, during their recent primary — you know, Roy Moore versus Luther Strange for the GOP nomination (Senate): They were competing to be the more Trump-loving candidate. “I love him more.” “No, I love him more.” And so on.

Trump endorsed one of those candidates — Strange (“Big Luther”). But Moore campaigned as the Trumpier guy (and is)!

Let me give you a report from a reader-correspondent in neighboring Georgia:

Term limits and political career moves have created a large number of open and contested primaries for Georgia in 2018. I don’t know what the situation is in other states, but in Georgia it’s all about Trump. Challengers have the message that they’ll support the president more than the incumbents. Opponents clash over who supported Trump first. One candidate’s entire campaign seems to be based on being co-chairman of Georgians for Trump. The Libertarians are running with a Trumpier-than-thou message. The Democratic TV ads for the special congressional election this summer never attacked Trump.

And the last funds-solicitation letter I got from the Republican National Committee was signed by … Melania!

You might say that Alabama and Georgia don’t represent the whole United States — and that no two states can. And you would be right. Yet it is clear, I think, that the GOP is Donald Trump’s party.

‐The most representative American state? I’m sure there are stats on this — science — but I’m going seat-of-the-pants: It must be Ohio. Ohio has virtually everything: urban blacks, rural whites (urban whites, rural blacks). It is both northern and southern. Maybe even eastern and western. It is microcosmic, I think.

I always thought that their license-plate slogan — “The Heart of It All” — was justifiable.

Of course, you could make a case for Illinois. And for [name your state] …

‐Back to Alabama. I understand that Roy Moore is going up to D.C. to “drain the swamp.” But did you get a load of this?

Former Alabama judge Roy Moore … once said publicly that he did not take a “regular salary” from the small charity he founded to promote Christian values because he did not want to be a financial burden.

But privately, Moore had arranged to receive a salary of $180,000 a year for part-time work at the Foundation for Moral Law, internal charity documents show. He collected more than $1 million as president from 2007 to 2012, compensation that far surpassed what the group disclosed in its public tax filings most of those years.

(Full story here.)

Huh. I wonder what donors to the Foundation for Moral Law knew about this. All those good people, with their modest bank accounts, giving to promote the moral law. In any case, there’s a lot of swamp to go around, I think.

‐Do you remember Barack Obama? A news item caught my eye: The ex-president has joined Columbia Country Club, outside Washington. This place is very dear to my heart. For many years, its head pro was Bill Strausbaugh Jr., one of the most famous teachers of golf in America. And a prince of a man. He would remind you that Columbia was the site of the 1921 U.S. Open, won by “Long Jim” Barnes. President Harding was in attendance.

Yes, I took lessons from Bill — “Coach,” we called him. No, I never played the course. Maybe Obama will invite me? (Heh.)

‐I wish to recommend a piece — by Larry Diamond, the expert on, and advocate of, democracy. “Is There a Crisis of Liberal Democracy?” he asks. Very much so. Let me give you the subheading of the piece: “We have entered a new era in which two great-power adversaries are threatening our democratic way of life with great subtlety and sophistication.”

Yes, recommended, highly.

‐For many years, I have been writing against George Soros, a great funder of the Left — not just in America but all over the place. I am beginning to think that the Right has bogeyized him crazily.

The latest evidence is Paul Gosar, a Republican congressman from Arizona. He is one of those “Charlottesville truthers,” like Congressman Dana Rohrabacher. They believe that the Charlottesville disturbances — including a murder — were staged by the Left in order to make the Right look bad (and to “put our president on the spot,” as Rohrabacher said).

Gosar suggested that Soros funded all this, adding, “Who is he? I think he’s from Hungary. I think he was Jewish. And I think he turned in his own people to the Nazis.”

Soros was born in 1930; he was 14 when the war ended. You know, there are plenty of things to criticize without going nuts. Soros was but one — one year old — when the Lindbergh baby was kidnapped. Also, he was living in Europe. So I think he’s got an alibi …

‐Habitually, beggars park themselves outside churches (and synagogues). They always have, from time immemorial. I’ve noticed something about Bible websites: Charities place heartrending ads there — featuring children with disfigured faces and so on.

Shrewd, right?

‐So, I was reading my latest issue of National Review. You too, right? And I was reading Ross Douthat’s movie review — and was curious about the name of the director. Doug Liman. “Liman” is not that common a name, in my experience. Could he be the son of Arthur Liman, the famous lawyer, known for the Iran-Contra investigation?

Wikipedia gave the answer: Yep. Small world, small world.

(I remember the investigation vividly. Almost killed me. And I was a mere spectator, through the media. I lived and died with Reagan …)

‐Let’s have a little language. I have noticed, over the years, that you can learn something about the syntax of a language by the way a native speaker of that language speaks your own language.

I’m sorry for a possibly confusing sentence. When speaking a foreign language, people tend to translate directly from their own language. That teaches you something about the structure of their language.

Last week, I was in a sandwich shop and asked a young worker to cut my sandwich in half. She was a little slow to understand. Her boss had overheard. I don’t know where he was from. But he instructed her as follows: “Half, cut it in.”

I marveled at that sentence.

‐Speaking of eateries — and weren’t we speaking of Ohio before? A dear cousin of mine wrote me a letter while sitting at an eatery in Cincinnati. Its name: O Pie O.

I can almost taste it now …



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


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