Impromptus

‘Stronger than mule piss,’ &c.

Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell (Aaron P. Bernstein / Reuters)
On Mitch McConnell, the Kavanaugh fallout, the Saudis, the world’s most famous choir, and more

Mitch McConnell did not waver on Brett Kavanaugh, the Supreme Court nominee, now justice. How strong was he on the nomination? “I’m stronger than mule piss,” he said.

That is one of the great Americanisms, which I had not heard until reading that McConnell had used it. McConnell is from Kentucky, of course, but he grew up in Alabama and Georgia, as well as Kentucky.

Often, President Trump and TrumpWorld have blasted McConnell as weak. For example, Sean Hannity, tweeting directly to McConnell, said, “YOU are a WEAK, SPINELESS leader who does not keep his word and you need to Retire!” In fact, the senator is mule piss.

• I learned another Americanism in recent days — when reading about Dwane Casey, the new coach of the Detroit Pistons (formerly of the Toronto Raptors — with whom he was Coach of the Year last season) (before being fired). He had dinner with DeMar DeRozan, his ex-charge. “DeMar can get alligator arms when the bill comes,” Casey said.

Love it.

• Right before the final vote, the Associated Press had a well-worded headline: “Senate near Kavanaugh approval after epic struggle.” In my view, these nominations have to stop being epic struggles. The Supreme Court should not mean so much — should not be a be-all, end-all. The political branches (or the more political branches, if you like) should reassert their powers and prerogatives. Enough Courtitis, y’all.

• Michael Avenatti, that Dem lawyer who got involved in the Kavanaugh battle? Let me quote a New York Times report: “One Republican congressional official called Mr. Avenatti’s involvement ‘manna from heaven.’ From the other side, a Democratic congressional official called it ‘massively unhelpful.’”

By the look of it, this Avenatti is more valuable to the GOP than all the Eagle-level donors combined . . .

• The further FBI investigation may have helped push Kavanaugh over the top. Virtually all Democratic senators were going to vote against him regardless, of course. That is irrespective of the sex-abuse charges against him. They voted against Gorsuch, remember. (All but three Dems voted against Gorsuch.) They just vote against conservative nominees.

Do you recall that Senator Obama voted against both Roberts and Alito (George W. Bush’s nominees)? He voted against them, not because they were unqualified in any traditional sense, but because they were conservatives.

The further FBI investigation may have helped senators on the fence — Flake, Collins, Manchin — vote for Kavanaugh. It may have allowed them to say to voters, “Look, we asked for an extra mile, and we got an extra mile.” I don’t know.

• You recall that there was a movement in Canada, to unite the fractured Right. It was called, straightforwardly enough, “Unite the Right.” Well, that’s what the Kavanaugh nomination did in America. This was not a Trump issue. Republican presidents nominate Federalist Society–style judges. Democrats, in turn, try to trip them up, by fair means and foul. This is totally normal (if awful). For many of us, the past few weeks have felt like the old days.

Brett Kavanaugh was a Bush guy — a George W. Bush guy. In fact, that’s why President Trump had reservations about him, initially, according to reports. Kavanaugh served as W.’s staff secretary. W. then nominated him to the D.C. Court of Appeals. When Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court was in trouble, Bush called senators, to vouch for Kavanaugh. He called senators who were not open to appeals from Trump. (See this report.)

Trump, you remember, wanted Bush impeached. He faulted Nancy Pelosi for not leading the House to do it. A bit of Memory Lane:

“Well, you know, when she first got in and was named speaker, I met her. And I’m very impressed by her. I think she’s a very impressive person. I like her a lot. But I was surprised that she didn’t do more in terms of Bush and going after Bush. It was almost — it just seemed like she was going to really look to impeach Bush and get him out of office, which, personally, I think would have been a wonderful thing.”

A bit more:

“He got us into the war with lies. And, I mean, look at the trouble Bill Clinton got into with something that was totally unimportant. And they tried to impeach him, which was nonsense.”

They did impeach him — he was simply not convicted in the Senate — but never mind. My point is: The Kavanaugh fight was almost reassuringly familiar, with the Right on one side and the Left doing what they do, year in, year out.

After Senator Collins gave her speech, announcing her vote for Kavanaugh and explaining it, Bush 41 tweeted, “.@SenatorCollins — political courage and class. I salute my wonderful friend and her principled leadership.” After the final Senate vote, Jeb Bush tweeted, “Congratulations to Justice Kavanaugh! His record as a jurist is outstanding and I know he will continue to serve our nation well.”

And so on.

• Over the weekend, I heard from a friend of mine, a conservative who has been dismayed at the Trumpification of the GOP. He said, “I didn’t think I could drag myself to the polls. But after the Left’s performance in the Kavanaugh affair, I would crawl across broken glass.” This sentiment is widespread, I have reason to believe.

I quoted my friend on Twitter. And I got a ferocious response, from many. I will quote some journalists on the left, and some others on the left.

Dan O’Sullivan (Rolling Stone, Salon, etc.) said, simply, “Liar.” Jay Willis (GQ) said, “*whispers* this person was never as disgusted by the Trumpified GOP as he claimed to be at dinner parties.”

Why would anybody say that? My friend is, indeed, disgusted by the Trumpification of the GOP — very. I don’t think he has ever claimed it at dinner parties. I doubt he attends dinner parties. He works very hard and has a family.

Luke Zaleski (legal-affairs editor, Condé Nast) said, “This is some MAJOR LEAGUE NOT EVEN REAL AT ALL BULLSHIT.”

Andy Richter, the comedian, writer, etc., said, “So the next time the GOP hides most of the records of a demonstrably serial liar, openly-Roe-threatening lifelong political hack credibly-accused-sex offender who’s being rushed to the scotus we should all just be polite about it? Get f***ing real.” (Asterisks not in the original.)

Hatred of women — I mean, conservatives’ alleged hatred of women — seems to be a given. Here is Eric Boehlert (Rolling Stone, Salon, etc.): “misogyny is a helluva drug.” Here is Molly Jong-Fast, a novelist and memoirist: “Yes, we should have lay down and taken it, like good girls. Only hurts for a minute, right?”

On and on it went — a snapshot of America, or a taking of the temperature. But I will say this about the Twitter attackers I have quoted: At least they use their own names. Most of the attacks I get, from left and right, are anonymous.

Speaking of names: “Molly Jong-Fast” is an interesting and lovely one, isn’t it? According to Wikipedia, she is the daughter of Erica Jong and the granddaughter of Howard Fast.

One more thing about names: Yesterday, when I quoted my friend on the effect of the Kavanaugh battle, I got a lot of “Jay Nerdlinger.” Just that: “Jay Nerdlinger.” I get this a lot — again, from both political directions — when people are displeased with me. It is practically Pavlovian. Sad, too. Can’t people do better? Stretch themselves a little?

• Evidently, the Saudis have killed a journalist — this will not shock you. He is, or was, Jamal Khashoggi, and they killed him at their consulate in Istanbul. So is the suspicion, anyway. For an AP report, go here.

Khashoggi was once an insider, close to the regime — but then something happened. I will quote the report I have linked to. I found this rather moving:

Khashoggi’s final break with the Saudi authorities followed the Arab Spring protests that swept through the region in 2011 . . .

“This was a critical period in Arab history. I had to take a position. The Arab world had waited for this moment of freedom for a thousand years,” Khashoggi told a Turkey-based Syrian opposition television station last month, just days before he disappeared.

Recently, Khashoggi lived in the U.S., having fled his homeland when the new boss, “MBS,” took over. “As of now,” Khashoggi said, “I would say Mohammed bin Salman is acting like Putin.”

I will say to my fellow Americans what I always say: Ally with Saudi Arabia if you have to — if you think it in the national interest, or regional interest, or world interest. It probably is. But suffer no illusion about the nature of this ally of ours. They are beasts.

• Reading this story on Saturday, I thought of Mitt Romney. During the 2008 presidential cycle, he gave a big speech on religion. As a Mormon in the arena, he felt he had to. Later, a television interviewer questioned him about the speech, and here I’ll have to go from memory — but I remember pretty clearly.

The interviewer said something like, “But you mentioned the word ‘Mormon’ only once in your speech.” Romney answered something like, “Actually, we don’t call ourselves ‘Mormons.’ That’s just for you, really. We call ourselves ‘Latter-day Saints.’”

Anyway, this was the story I read on Saturday:

The world-famous Mormon Tabernacle Choir will be singing the same tune but under a new name.

The choir was renamed Friday to strip out the word Mormon in a move aimed at ending shorthand names for the religion that have been used for generations by church members and others.

The singers will now be called the Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints said in a statement. . . .

The group had been known as the Mormon Tabernacle Choir since 1929, when it began broadcasting a weekly radio program to a wide audience.

Church President Russell M. Nelson announced guidelines in August requesting that people stop using “Mormon” or “LDS” as substitutes for the church’s full name. He said “Latter-day Saints” was acceptable shorthand.

Some of us have trouble not saying “Sears Tower” or “Mount McKinley” anymore. (I once wrote an essay about this, here.) We will have trouble not saying “Mormon Tabernacle Choir.”

• Friends of mine were sorting through some old books. They gave me an instructional book on golf — on chipping and putting, in particular — published in 1957. I love this blast from the past.

When I told her so, one of my friends said, “I’m so glad you’re enjoying it. My maternal grandfather was a keen and earnest golfer, much given, as many of his generation were, to self-improvement. From my parents’ house I unearthed the correspondence course with which he taught himself to write better and improve his vocabulary. I’ve kept that one for myself!”

I love that — “much given, as many of his generation were, to self-improvement.” What a great way to be.

• Do I have something to say about Montserrat Caballé, the great soprano who died on Saturday? Do I ever. I’ll say it later.

But I’ll give you some music for now — through this note from a reader:

. . . Have you ever written anything like a primer or intro into classical music? Do you have any suggestions on how/where to start? Something along the lines of, “Everyone should know these 25 pieces and be able to identify the composer after hearing the first few bars”?

It is embarrassing, but here is what you are dealing with:

— I know Aaron Copland from the beef commercials. Is he even considered a classical composer? [Oh, yes.]

— I can identify Beethoven’s Fifth from reading WWII books about Morse code . . .

— I can’t tell you how many songs I refer to as “That song from Ace Ventura” or “The song from that Simpsons episode” or “That one song with the cannons they always play on the Fourth of July.”

It’s just sad. If you can help, I’d appreciate it.

Heh, what a great letter. I answered this question in 2009, when dealing with FAQs: here. I could do it better, though — certainly differently — and should, someday. Maybe a book (a little one)?

• Last week, Comic Con was held in New York, and I walked by the conference center, on the way to work, every day. The costumes I saw — an early Halloween. Near the conference center was something called The Star Wars Experience. I stopped in — and took a couple of pictures.

Here’s one:

And here’s another — showing a tyke shooting a (real live) bad guy (presumably bad):

I have strong reason to believe that National Review’s David French is one of the world’s foremost experts on Star Wars. He should have lectured in this hall.

• Thanks for joining me, everyone. I’ll go out with a joke — sent to me last week by an old friend of mine, with whom I once worked at a golf course. Be strong — strong as mule piss. See you later.

My boss phoned me today.

He said, “Is everything okay at the office?”

I said, “It is all under control. It’s been a very busy day. I haven’t stopped to take a break all day.”

“Can you do me a favor?” he asked.

I said, “Of course, what is it?”

“Pick up the pace a little. I’m in the foursome behind you.”

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