Impromptus

Vote-counting, &c.

House minority leader Nancy Pelosi on Capitol Hill in 2016 (Jonathan Ernst / Reuters)
On Nancy Pelosi, the fate of Europe, the scourge of porn, and more

Nancy Pelosi is running for speaker of the House, again. Some of her Democratic colleagues want to upend her. But she’s confident she has the votes.

May I walk down Memory Lane? It’s the autumn of 1984. I’m an intern in the office of Senator Bob Dole. He’s running for majority leader, against several other contenders. An aide says, “Do you have the votes?” He says, “I have the pledges. I’m not sure I have the votes.”

(In the end, he won.)

• During centennial commemorations of World War I, the French president and the German chancellor embraced — reminding me that Franco-German friendship is very rare. The opposite is the rule. We have had a long respite from war on the Continent (with the exception of war in the Balkans, which was terrible, of course). This is not to be taken for granted.

And before you tear down the institutions erected to prevent further war, flawed as they are — think. Tremble.

• The White Rose was a student group during World War II. German. Anti-Nazi. Last week, a report in the New York Times read,

Traute Lafrenz, the last surviving member of the White Rose, … said she got goose bumps seeing images of Hitler salutes at far-right riots in the eastern German city of Chemnitz recently.

“Maybe it’s no coincidence,” Ms. Lafrenz, now 99, told Der Spiegel. “We are dying out and at the same time everything is coming back again.”

Probably this is too pessimistic. Let’s hope.

• I hear American conservatives say that Emmanuel Macron has low approval ratings. Often (not always), they say this with satisfaction. And it’s true: He does.

President Trump was saying this on Tuesday: “Emmanuel suffers from a very low Approval Rating in France.”

You know why his ratings are so low? A big reason is that he has done some hard, overdue, and unpopular things — like confront the rail unions, confront the four-day week, confront the inability of employers to hire and fire. Try to liberalize the economy.

These are things that we conservatives have been screaming at France to do for ages. And mocking and scorning them for not doing for ages.

And now?

• Trump and Macron have been going back and forth on nationalism — its meaning, its worth. Asked about nationalism by Laura Ingraham, Trump said, “It means I love the country. It means I’m fighting for the country.” He further said, “I’m proud of this country and I call that nationalism.”

Simple as that, then? Okay …

• In the run-up to the midterm elections, Trump & Co. were very hot on the Central American caravan and the coming invasion. After Election Day, they went kind of quiet on the subject. Has the invasion been called off?

Trump ordered troops to the southern border in “Operation Faithful Patriot.” In a New York Times report this week, retired admiral James G. Stavridis was quoted. He was head of the U.S. Southern Command, head of the U.S. European Command, etc. He said, “Now that the political utility of troops on the southern border to face a fictitious caravan-invasion threat is over, let’s hope the president will stand down the troops so they can be with their families — especially over the holidays.”

Beholding Trump in the run-up to the elections, I thought of Nixon. He said, “People react to fear, not love. They don’t teach that in Sunday school, but it’s true.”

(I learned this, and much else, from William Safire’s classic memoir of the first Nixon administration, Before the Fall.)

• Ben Shapiro, the conservative journalist, spoke at Ohio State University. There was the usual pack of protesters, chanting “Reagan’s dead!” and “John McCain’s dead!” According to this report, they “also started to chant ‘Bush Senior’s dead’ before realizing they were mistaken.”

Ladies and gentlemen, there is a sickness loose in our land. I am not a nostalgist. I know that today is better than yesterday, in many respects. But there is a sickness loose, and the liberal-democratic spirit — indeed, the spirit of decency — is flagging.

• President Trump has nominated Neomi Rao to succeed Brett Kavanaugh as a judge on the D.C. Court of Appeals. Good for Trump. I knew Neomi back when. We worked at The Weekly Standard together. Delightful woman. From a Parsee family in Michigan. She went to Detroit Country Day, at the same time as Chris Webber, the future NBA great.

What a great class!

• Amazon has made a decision about its second headquarters (in the phrase being used): Northern Virginia and New York City. That is, the second headquarters will be split between those two locales.

There is a lot of commentary about this decision, most of it negative. Many people say that Amazon has blundered badly. How stupid these Amazonians are!

You know what I think? I think that Amazon probably knows better about its interests than I do. I also think that, if Amazon has indeed blundered, the market will penalize them for it, and the company will adjust.

Is that too old-fashioned for you, or otherwise wrong?

• On Monday, President Trump tweeted, “The prospect of Presidential Harassment by the Dems is causing the Stock Market big headaches!” I smiled at this. I remembered October 1987, when the stock market crashed. On television, Bob Novak blamed it on the impending rejection of the Bob Bork nomination (among other things).

People ridiculed Bob for this. But I kind of bought it. I was so ticked. Plus, the market is very psychological, you know …

• “On Trade,” wrote Trump, “France makes excellent wine, but so does the U.S. The problem is that France makes it very hard for the U.S. to sell its wines into France, and charges big Tariffs, whereas the U.S. makes it easy for French wines, and charges very small Tariffs. Not fair, must change!”

May I give you my view of trade? Each country ought to do what it considers in its own interest. Trade is not a matter of tit-for-tat. It’s a matter of, What’s best for me, or my side? If Paris wants French people to have fewer choices and higher prices, fine. If Washington wants something else — that’s fine too.

You see what I mean? Trade is not a matter of schoolyard score-settling. It requires maturity.

• A reporter was asking a question of President Trump. The president broke in, “Where are you from, please?” The reporter said, “Japan.” Trump said, “Say hello to Shinzo. I’m sure he’s happy about tariffs on his cars.”

Shinzo Abe is the prime minister of Japan, of course. Japan is a key U.S. ally. But each president has his own brand of diplomacy …

• The video embedded in this tweet is very hard to watch. It shows James Palmer, an editor and writer at Foreign Policy. He’s discussing the Uyghurs in China, who are being rounded up en masse. (I wrote about this in May, here.) Palmer breaks down, saying, “All my Uyghur sources are gone.”

I tweeted, “The Chinese Communist Party is committing monstrous crimes (again). And the world kind of whistles on.”

Ladies and gentlemen, I’ve mentioned this before: If ever you write about the Uyghurs in China or the Rohingyas in Burma, you’ll get a flood of hate, via tweets, “comments,” e-mails, etc. These people will claim that the Uyghurs and Rohingyas deserved it. They’re Muslim, they’re terrorists, and they deserve it.

So it was on this most recent occasion. A sampling of tweets: “Not every country on earth wants to become the next Muslim caliphate!!!” “That’s what you get for falling into Wahhabism.” (What a lie. And where did he learn that word?) “It’s called getting your retaliation in first in England. Chinese looked at the West and decided it’s not happening in China, who are we to tell them what to do?”

Etc. Revolting. But people of good will must hang in there …

• One of the most interesting articles of the recent period is by one of the best journalists around: Tim Alberta, of Politico, formerly of National Review. The article is “How the GOP Gave Up on Porn.” The subheading is a long one, but duly explanatory: “Once, the fight against pornography was the beating heart of the American culture war. Now porn is a ballooning industry — and maybe a harmful one — with no real opponents. What happened?”

Yeah, what happened? More broadly, what happened to social conservatism? I’ve frequently said that social conservatives could convene at a Denny’s in Dubuque. (Save some pancakes for me, please.)

Pornography is one of the greatest scourges we know. It is doing immense harm, much of it subterranean. I’m so glad that Tim Alberta has explored the issue. Terrific piece.

• I thought of Bill Buckley the other day. (I could say that about virtually any day.) The Weekly Standard reported on Steve King, the Iowa Republican, and King said the Standard was lying. You can read about the matter here.

Gore Vidal once accused Bill of lying about him. Bill said, “Anyone who lies about Vidal is doing him a favor.”

• Went to an NBA game. Madison Square Garden (Knicks vs. Magic). Great. But NBA games, like other pro games, and even some college ones, I think, are like rock concerts. They don’t let you think. They don’t let you talk to your friends. They bombard you with noise and whiz-bang visual effects.

The music plays even while the game is in progress! Is that legal?

I know I sound like “Get off my lawn.” You know what? I don’t really care (that I sound like that) …

• Speaking of sounds: For a review of Denis Matsuev, the Russian pianist, in recital, go here. For a review of Mefistofele, the Boito opera, at the Met, go here. For my latest Jaywalking, go here. For my latest Q&A — with Robert Kagan, the foreign-policy scholar — go here.

• What else? Can’t end on a bunch of lousy links, can we? Let’s do a little language. A reader writes,

Jay,

You said that a chicken sandwich was “damn good.” Is there a difference between “damn good” and “damned good”?

Nope. You know armchairs? They used to be “armed chairs.” And “ice cream,” of course, was “iced cream.” (Montgomery Burns still says this on The Simpsons.) Some people say that “candy apple” is low-class. Should be “candied apple.” But these things evolve …

See you, my friends. Later.

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