Politics & Policy

Red vs. blue, &c.

Kathleen Willey speaks with 60 Minutes correspondent Ed Bradley during an interview in March 1998. (Reuters photo)
Political tribalism, entertainers’ ‘rights,’ mob rule, China, hashtags, ‘Christmas,’ and more

We are in a season of sexual-harassment allegations (and worse). And the power of tribalism has come, once more, to the fore. When the allegations hurt “our side,” we tend not to believe them — or to say we don’t. And when the allegations hurt “their side” — we accept them with alacrity, and pleasure.

Weinstein is of the Left. O’Reilly is of the Right. President Clinton was a Dem. President Trump is a Republican. To many Democrats, Paula Jones and Kathleen Willey were lying sluts. Many Republicans say the same thing, reflexively, about Trump’s accusers.

When one of yours lies to the FBI — well, it’s just lying to the FBI, right? A “process crime.” Practically a parking ticket. When one of theirs does it: Apocalypse Now. When major legislation you hate is rushed through, that’s a travesty, and an affront to the democratic process. When major legislation you like is rushed through — well, hunky-dory.

The older you get, the more you realize how little principle is involved: It’s just us vs. them, blue vs. red, tribe vs. tribe. Kind of a lousy way to live.

‐One of Al Franken’s accusers said that the senator — and ex-comedian — tried to force himself on her. She slipped away, and as she was doing so, Franken had a statement for her, in self-justification: “It’s my right as an entertainer.”

This is the woman’s testimony, anyway.

Franken’s line — or alleged line — reminded me of Donald Trump: “When you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything.”

Well, sometimes you can’t — even when you’re a star.

‐Yesterday, the president tweeted,

Lightweight Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, a total flunky for Chuck Schumer and someone who would come to my office “begging” for campaign contributions not so long ago (and would do anything for them), is now in the ring fighting against Trump. Very disloyal to Bill & Crooked-USED!

Did he imply something vulgar about Gillibrand? She “would do anything” for contributions? A lot of people think so. (See this article.) And why wouldn’t they? Why wouldn’t you? This is who Trump is. This is his style. This is how he rolls. The American people elevated a Howard Stern guest to the presidency. His style is that of the Howard Stern guest he was.

And many people thrill to it, have no doubt.

In Trump’s tweet, the word “begging” is in quotation marks. Why is that? (I don’t know.) Also, Trump calls Gillibrand “a total flunky” for Chuck Schumer. Trump prizes loyalists, even more than most people do. Are those loyalists “flunkies”? Do flunkies exist only on the Democratic side?

And what about this? “Very disloyal to Bill & Crooked-USED!”

Again, people thrill to this style. But not all of us …

‐You perhaps remember what Harry Reid said about Senator Gillibrand, when he was majority leader: “the hottest member.” Should’ve caused more of a ruckus than it did. (I was ruckusing about it, but nobody was listening, comme d’habitude …)

‐In Alabama, the crowd for Roy Moore was chanting, “Lock ’er up!” On the stage, Steve Bannon remarked, “Are you listening, Senator Sessions?” (Attorney general Jeff Sessions, an ex-senator, has been excoriated by President Trump and others for not trying to put Hillary Clinton behind bars.)

I am reminded: We don’t have mob rule in this country. Everyone should fear mob rule, even the mob — because sooner or later, some other mob will turn on it.

‐In the opening sentence of this report from the Associated Press, some of the modern American story is written:

The case arrives with all the routine of a traffic citation: A baby boy, just 4 days old and exposed to heroin in his mother’s womb, is shuddering through withdrawal in intensive care, his fate now here in a shabby courthouse that hosts a parade of human misery.

‐To China, please. I’ve been reading Jerome Cohen, the legal scholar, and an expert on China. He has been reading Eva Dou, of the Wall Street Journal. Their point: Room for freedom of expression in China is tiny. The great, vast, talented country is squelched.

I was taught an “iron law,” and you probably were, too: Political liberalization follows economic liberalization, as night follows day, as Wednesday follows Tuesday. This law, in the PRC, seems made of clay. It has been defied, or at least suspended.

An amazing fact of modern life.

‐I’ll tell you an article I did not read: this one. It’s headed “Rohingya methodically raped by Myanmar’s armed forces.” You’ll excuse me for not reading it. I’ve read this story so many times, for so many years, from so many parts of the world. It never changes.

A long time ago, I wrote about Darfur, in Sudan. The genocide was bad enough — the murder, I mean. The rape was possibly worse.

More recently, I interviewed Denis Mukwege, the Congolese doctor, who has dedicated his life to treating rape victims (with whom his country is overrunning). It is hellish work. But he is doing it.

Armed forces have been raping women and girls, en masse, for millennia. It will go on till the end of time. And it is one of the cruelest, beastliest aspects of man.

‐I commend to you this article by Nataliya Vasilyeva of the Associated Press. It’s about Russian soldiers in Syria: unofficial ones, contract soldiers. Putin has just taken a victory lap in Syria. “You are coming back home with victory,” he told his troops — the official ones, not the unofficial ones.

An eye-opening article.

‐According to reports, President Trump asked Ronna Romney McDaniel, the chairwoman of the Republican National Committee, not to use her middle name, Romney. On Twitter, she indeed scrapped it.

I thought of Hillary Clinton, or Hillary Rodham Clinton — we conservatives used to twit her about the “Rodham”: Was it in or was it out? It depended — depended on the political need of the season.

A phrase comes to mind: “identity politics.”

‐On Twitter, I was blasted by a Trump man, as happens. In his bio, he had a string of hashtags that I thought were emblematic of the moment — and emblematic of the Trump phenomenon: “#TrumpTrain #FireMueller #MAGA #USA #Christmas #RNC #God #UAW @POTUS @FLOTUS #Jerusalem.”

Well, there are a couple of @’s in there too. And you know what is especially interesting, from the string? The UAW part.

‐Routinely, Trump describes the New York Times as “failing.” It is his tag, like “Crooked,” for Hillary. Last week, the Times reported that it “now has more than 3.5 million paid subscriptions and more than 130 million monthly readers, more than double our audience just two years ago.”

Who’s telling the truth? Trump or the Times? I have a feeling that DJT has helped the NYT, hugely.

‐Adam White tweeted, “If you tell people ‘Merry Christmas’ to score political points, then you’re doing it wrong.” I agree entirely — and I say this as someone who’s battled for the C-word, as I’ve called it (“Christmas”), for years. At the end of 2003, I had a piece called “December’s C-Word.” For your reading pleasure, maybe …

‐Got a weird one for you: If you’re ticked at someone, and he has an accent, the temptation to imitate, and mock, his accent is very, very strong. Only when you’re ticked at him. Have you ever noticed this?

‐Let’s close with a little music — for a review of Janine Jansen (Dutch violinist), Martin Fröst (Swedish clarinetist), et al. in a chamber concert, go here. (That was a great one. The concert, I mean.) For a review of the Philadelphia Orchestra, with Yannick Nézet-Séguin conducting and Hillary Hahn as violin soloist, go here. (That was a great one, too — or one with greatness in it.)

Have a good one, y’all. Thanks and see you soon.



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A word to the wise: National Review has started a new podcast, Jaywalking, in which Jay Nordlinger presents what is essentially an audio version of Impromptus. Go here. Also, to get Digging In: Further Collected Writings of Jay Nordlinger, go here.

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