Politics & Policy

A blast from the (GOP) past, &c.

Rep. Mike Gallagher
Mike Gallagher (R., Wis.), John Kelly, Ryan Zinke, William Shakespeare, and more

Mike Gallagher is a young congressman from Wisconsin. He is an Iraq veteran and a Republican. On Monday, as news in the Russia scandal broke, he tweeted this:

“As I’ve said repeatedly, Russia is no friend to the United States and we must continue to pursue the truth in these investigations wherever it may lead. More broadly, we need to vigorously defend our interests at home and abroad against Russian influence and aggression.”

I almost fell out of my chair. That’s the way conservative Republicans used to talk. Perhaps Gallagher out to be in a museum — the Smithsonian? — rather than in Congress.

‐John Kelly, the White House chief of staff, gave an interview to Fox News. What he said about the Civil War got a lot of attention. Getting less attention was what he said about the Chinese Communist Party — the Chinese dictatorship.

He said that he would not “pass judgment” on it. “They have a system of government that has apparently worked for the Chinese people.”

The PRC, of course, is a one-party dictatorship with a gulag (called laogai). In China, people who merely want to live freely, the way we in America do, are routinely tortured to death.

Consider the case of Liu Xiaobo. He was the foremost democracy leader and political prisoner in China. In 2010, he received the Nobel Peace Prize (in absentia, of course). In July of this year, he finally succumbed to his torments, dying while surrounded by state agents.

That very day, President Trump was asked about Xi Jinping, the boss of the CCP. “Well, he’s a friend of mine,” said Trump. “I have great respect for him. We’ve gotten to know each other very well. A great leader. He’s a very talented man. I think he’s a very good man. He loves China, I can tell you. He loves China. He wants to do what’s right for China.”

No. Liu Xiaobo was a very good man. He loved China — and wanted to do what was right for China. Xi Jinping is devoted to the eternal rule of the Communist party — the denial of rights that are given to man by God.

For eight years, I slammed the Obama administration for indifference to human rights. Maybe I should have considered it some kind of golden age?

‐If you’re looking for the cheapest, smelliest, most demagogic example of populism, I think I have the winner for you. It comes from Ryan Zinke, the secretary of the interior.

A $300 million contract was awarded to a company in Zinke’s hometown, Whitefish, Mont. The company was tiny: two employees. The contract had to do with the restoration of Puerto Rico, after the devastating hurricane there.

After an outcry, the contract was rescinded. But, before that happened, Secretary Zinke had this to say: “Only in elitist Washington, D.C., would being from a small town be considered a crime.”

That is the way populists blow smoke in your eyes. That’s the way they try to fool you, trick you: making you believe that fancy people in fancy clothes who went to fancy schools and attend fancy cocktail parties are trying to do you down.

See what a deflection that is? A neat trick. Tragically, it often works.

It was the conservatives who taught me to beware class warfare. And I do.

‐I guess I think that, if you’re elected to Congress, you should finish your term. Obviously, exigencies arise in life — and it may be necessary to leave. But, as a rule, I think you should finish your term.

Senate terms are six years. House terms are merely two. Another congressman, Pat Tiberi (R., Ohio), has announced that he is leaving before his term is through. Earlier this year, shortly after he was sworn in again, Jason Chaffetz (R., Utah) announced that he was resigning — to join Fox News.

Come on, guys. It’s an honor to serve in Congress. It’s also a kind of pledge. You shouldn’t leave the job the way you would 7-Eleven for a better gig at Denny’s or something.

You know?

‐Department of Unsurprising News: “A 29-year-old black former Eastern Michigan University student has been arraigned on charges stemming from anti-black graffiti found on the Ypsilanti campus last year.” (Full story, here.)

‐Again, Department of Unsurprising News: “Neo-Nazi and National Front organiser quits movement, opens up about Jewish heritage, comes out as gay.” (Story here.)

‐A little music? I was in a cab, or an Uber, and the man had the radio on. There was a pop song that incorporated music from Lieutenant Kijé. This was a Soviet movie, 1934. Prokofiev wrote the score, and later fashioned it into a suite.

Some Googling told me that the song was a Sting number, “Russians,” released in 1985. Don’t care for the song, especially the words (vacuous). But Prokofiev? A-OK.

‐A little more music? I’ve been blogging at The New Criterion. For a post about Daniil Trifonov, the young Russian pianist, go here. For a post about a New York Philharmonic concert centered on music of Bernstein, go here.

‐A little language? Recently, I alluded to Shakespeare. I said that I had long criticized Jeff Flake, the Republican senator from Arizona. (I had particularly criticized him on the subject of U.S. policy on Cuba.) But I admired his stance on the Republican party and felt obligated to say so. Otherwise, I would hold my manhood cheap, I said.

From my critics — Team MAGA — this unleashed a thousand d*** jokes.

I don’t wish to romanticize the past. But my impression is there was a time when every boy and girl across the fruited plain knew the Saint Crispin’s Day speech. I’m sure that my grandparents knew it, from the humble schools they attended. Didn’t everybody?

But as I said, I must not romanticize the past, or slight the present, which, in so many ways, is abundant.

‐The Civil War is in the news again, thanks to General Kelly’s interview with Fox, and other developments. On the issue of monuments — up or down? — I wrote all I have to say, in an essay here. I left nothing on the field. It represents what I believe on the subject.

I’d like to publish some mail, responding to that essay. Here is one reader:

I admire the people of the South, their pride, their will to self-determination. But let it not be said that the Civil War was ultimately about anything other than slavery.

Your recent columns have made me rethink whether some of those monuments really should exist. Studying John C. Calhoun in high school and observing the respectful way he was treated, I did sometimes wonder, “But wasn’t he defending slavery? Defending it as a good, for both enslaver and enslaved?” Sometimes our “naïve” viewpoint, before we are confused by all the arguments, is the correct one.

But I do have an objection to the present rush to tear the monuments down. I would like to see it done in a moment when the passions are not so high, when people are not so clearly gripped by emotion, when there is less likely to be collateral damage (like Columbus), when we are thinking with level heads.

We may be waiting long for such a time, though!

Another one:

There is room for sympathy for southerners who don’t wish to dishonor or abuse their ancestors, but I think that for conservatives to be married to neo-Confederate fantasies has been a worrisome trend for some time.

I grew up in western Pennsylvania in the everlasting and rolling forested hills and amid the little farms. It is truly God’s country. Peopled with old Anglo-Irish and Scotch-Irish and German families, it was a beautiful place to grow up in the 1970s and ’80s. But beginning in the ’90s, I began to see rebel-flag stickers appear on the trucks and ball caps of my fellow-redneck neighbors. It bugged me back then in high school.

How can you wear this symbol? Some of it was tied up with love of country-western music, and some was a pushback against the PC culture we all despise. I knew these young men, I knew their families, and they had grandfathers who would be appalled: They fought to crush Hitler and Tojo. Their great-great-grandfathers struggled to defeat the very flag they were now sporting.

It frankly pissed me off then and does so more now.

One more:

I sometimes think about this as a Jew. A century or five ago, most people were anti-Semites. Do we do a historical witch-hunt now and throw them all into the memory hole? No, not even Luther. We separate those whose public lives revolved largely around hating Jews from those who failed to overcome the prejudice or even made it worse. Is Pound’s poetry to be banned? No. But no statues of Breckinridge Long, whose hatred of Jews affected his work at State and animated his barring of Jewish refugees from Hitler.

That’s quite a note to sign off on — but I think I will. Thanks, y’all, and have a great day. See you soon.

 

READ MORE:

Paul Manafort and the Russians

Put Out More Flags, &c.

The Curious Case of the Commie Cadet, &c.

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

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