Culture

When Nixon went Euro, &c.

President Trump applauds during the Bastille Day parade in Paris, France, July 14, 2017. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)
Bells and whistles, trolls and bots, casinos and ballparks, and more

Last summer, President Trump went to Paris and saw the extravaganza on Bastille Day — all the bells and whistles. Few countries put on a military parade like the French.

Trump, of course, decided he wanted a parade of his own. There has been much commentary, for and against. Here is my own, FWIW.

FWIW,” as you almost certainly know, stands for “for what it’s worth.” I am finding myself adopting social-media abbreviations by the day. I’m not worried, yet.

Anyway, Trump’s experience in Europe put me in mind of President Nixon — who traveled in Europe during the first year of his presidency, 1969. He was impressed with the honor guards he saw. And he wanted the White House police to be similarly snazzy. So he ordered up new uniforms . . .

. . . which were laughed out of town. The uniforms had epaulets, braids, the whole nine yards. Let me quote from the New York Times report, published on January 28, 1970:

The Presidential police force sheepishly saluted Prime Minister Wilson of Britain today in dazzling new operetta‐like uniforms ordered by President Nixon …

The total look includes double‐breasted white tunics trimmed with gold braid and gold buttons, and stiff plastic shakos decorated with the White House crest. The headgear vividly resembles that worn by American drum majors and West German traffic policemen.

I should point out, in fairness to Nixon, that these uniforms were to be worn on ceremonial occasions, only, not every day.

The Times report includes a fascinating fact: The tailor who made the uniforms, Jimmie Muscatello, was from the coalfields of Gary, West Virginia. That’s a long way from Versailles (except not so long from Versailles, Kentucky).

In 2013, Megan McArdle wrote about these uniforms, and she quoted Richard Reeves — who had quoted Walter Trohan. Trohan was a longtime Chicago Tribune man, and a friend of Nixon’s. Friendship or not, he did not like the uniforms. He saw a “frank borrowing from decadent European monarchies, which is abhorrent to this country’s democratic tradition.”

After they were laughed out of town, what happened to the uniforms? I’m not sure — except that they wound up on a marching band. According to this page, they wound up on a high-school band in Iowa. According to McArdle’s article, a college band in Utah. Maybe both?

Anyway, Americans should think twice before going Euro.

•  The best piece about the Trump-parade issue I have seen is by Eliot A. Cohen, here. It is informed, wise — everything you would wish, I think. The title of the article is “The Truth about Military Parades.” The subheading makes an excellent point (already): “Military parades say more about those who order and watch them than those who participate in them.”

•  I must say, I’m not crazy about titles that begin “The Truth about.” The truth is a many-splendored thing, so to speak. Here at National Review recently, we had a piece titled “The Truth about Immigrants from Sub-Saharan Africa.” The article made points about education levels and earnings. Well, those are two measures of man — but there are others.

When you say “the truth about,” you have made a big statement. Do you know what I mean?

•  Speaking of big statements: This is an article about Russian trolls and bots and whatnot. It quotes Dan Coats, the director of national intelligence, testifying before the Senate Intelligence Committee. Here’s a bit of it:

“We expect Russia to continue using propaganda, social media, false-flag personas, sympathetic spokesmen, and other means of influence to try to build on its wide range of operations and exacerbate social and political fissures in the United States.”

Okay, here’s the big statement: “Frankly, the United States is under attack.” Yes, a very big statement, from that source (the DNI).

*Having struck a peace agreement with the president of the country, Juan Manuel Santos, the FARC is now running for office. The FARC, you recall, is Colombia’s longtime narco-terrorist group. They have gone legit, or are trying to. But they have now suspended their campaigns for office “amid mounting security concerns.”

I have quoted from this Associated Press report.

Forgive me if I cry a river. Let me put that another way: Forgive me if I play the world’s smallest violin. For decades, these people maimed, murdered, and terrorized Colombians. And, yes, some people are a little cross about it.

Anyway, a highly interesting report, the one I linked to from the AP.

•  On to the Rob Porter affair — he’s the one who has been fired at the White House for alleged spousal abuse. The story out of the White House is murky, as Team Trump can’t get its line straight.

In any event, many people have fastened on a passage from a Washington Post report: “He [Porter] has privately told others that they were arguing over a vase, and she was somehow hit with the vase.”

She was somehow hit with the vase. I thought of Tony Daniels, Anthony Daniels, who also writes under the pen name “Theodore Dalrymple.” For years, he worked as a prison psychiatrist. And some inmates, talking about the murders they had committed, would say, “The knife went in.”

Tony would respond, “The knife went in, did it? All by itself? Did you put it in?”

I wish you could hear him recount these things, in his own voice, and imitating the others. Tony took this phrase — “the knife went in” — and used it for the title of a book, here.

•  I spotted a headline: “New Parents Kylie Jenner & Travis Scott Are ‘Not Officially Living Together.’” Not married. Not even living together. Officially.

I will give you an old, old saying — from the Paleolithic era: “There are no illegitimate children, only illegitimate parents.”

•  I’ll tell you how much of a dinosaur I am: Steve Wynn has been removed as finance chairman of the Republicans because of sex-abuse charges against him. That aside (and it’s a lot to put aside): He is a casino operator. So is President Trump, for that matter, or a former one (and we can leave aside Wynn’s coziness with the Chinese Communist Party).

The fuddy-duddy traditionalist party, the GOP, is stocked with casino operators. And these places are as destructive as they are popular: destroyers of families, lives, and souls.

How many social conservatives are there left in the country? Can we meet at a Denny’s in Dubuque?

•  Okay, something cheerful, or cheering: This is one of the better stories you’ll see: “A single dad walked 11 miles to work every day — until his co-workers found out.”

•  This is the best story I have ever seen — about a man who has dedicated himself to finding ways of rescuing Yazidi girls and women held captive. Go here. The story is from National Public Radio.

Don’t say I never said anything nice about it. This story is a stunner. Untoppable, IMO (“in my opinion”).

•  A little language? A basketball announcer said the other night that a shot was “in there like swimwear.” Love it.

•  My mom writes,

I wanted to tell you that I heard a real piece of Michigan vocabulary at Meijer’s today. Brought back memories. A woman in line in front of me — 50-ish — was telling me how she puts her oatmeal in the fridge overnight to soak in milk. Then she says: “And I dasn’t leave the store without the cat food.”

Yes. I dare not leave the store …

(If you have a piece of vocabulary to share — from any state — or anywhere — please drop me a line at jnordlinger@nationalreview.com.)

•  A little music? For “Bernstein at 100: A personal look,” go here. For a review of Wagner’s Parsifal, staged at the Metropolitan Opera, go here. For a review of Matthias Goerne and Daniil Trifonov in recital together, go here. And for a review of Dorothea Röschmann and Malcolm Martineau in recital, go here.

That oughtta hold you.

•  Let’s end with a little sports — and Oscar Gamble, specifically. On the last day of January, I read his obit in the New York Times: “Oscar Gamble, Power Hitter With Prodigious Hair, Dies at 68.” He never played for my team, the Detroit Tigers — but he is significant to me. He was the first ballplayer I ever saw, in the flesh.

My dad took me to my first Tigers game. I want to say I was about ten. We were playing the Cleveland Indians. My dad and I walked into Tiger Stadium and there was Oscar Gamble at the plate. He was taking batting practice. I recognized him from news photos, and maybe from television: His terrific Afro was bulging from under his helmet. I knew instantly that it was Gamble.

Anyway, thanks for indulging this Memory Lane — and I’ll see you soon.

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