Impromptus

A painful drama, &c.

Kellyanne and George Conway in Washington, D.C., January 19, 2017. (Joshua Roberts / Reuters)
On marriages, the Electoral College, exemplary South Dakota, and more

A painful drama has been unfolding between George and Kellyanne Conway, on view to all. President Trump is in the middle of it, of course. What’s he not in the middle of? The Trump presidency has divided many people, obviously. These include old allies and old friends. There is pressure on marriages too, and not just famous ones.

I say, protect your marriages, y’all. Let no man put them asunder. Beware those little foxes, that spoil the vine …

• Democrats are hot against the Electoral College, or many of them are. This is strictly “situational,” I think. There is no principle involved. The Democrats were stung by the Electoral College in 2000 and 2016.

What if the shoe were on the other foot? Say that Trump had won the popular vote in 2016 and lost in the Electoral College. What would his supporters have said the next day? Something like this? “Look, that’s the way the cookie sometimes crumbles in our republic. The Framers were geniuses. They knew what they were doing. We lost a tough one this year, but we wish the president-elect well, and we’ll work to defeat her in ’20.”

Hmmm.

In 2012, Trump himself tweeted, “The electoral college is a disaster for a democracy.” Four years later, he became president thanks to that very institution, that very mechanism.

The older you get, the more you realize how irrelevant principle is. Everything is situational. Everything is, “How does it affect me?”

For a long time, we on the right were hot on congressional term limits. Not everybody, but a lot of people. You know what we said, over and over? “There is more turnover in the Supreme Soviet than there is in the House of Representatives!” And it was true, too!

And then came that wondrous, revolutionary year of 1994. And talk of term limits … subsided.

By the way, one of the country’s foremost experts on the Electoral College is Tara Ross, a friend of mine (as is her husband, Adam). For a podcast I did with her last year, go here.

• Surrounding Joe Biden, there is a question: Will he or won’t he? Will he run for president in this cycle or not? I first heard that question in 1984 — about Biden, I mean. Pat Caddell was urging him to run. So were others. The senator, however, dithered — and ultimately decided not to run.

And now it’s … 2019? Whoa. Guy’s been doing this for a while.

• Some good news. I will quote the National Association of Scholars:

… the South Dakota Legislature has passed HB 1087, a bill to promote free speech and intellectual diversity in the state’s public university system. The bill has been sent to Governor Kristi Noem, who is expected to sign it. When she does, South Dakota will become the first state in the nation to have passed legislation to protect intellectual diversity on campus.

Man alive. Have a little more:

South Dakota’s Board of Regents distinguished themselves in December by endorsing freedom of speech and intellectual diversity. Now South Dakota’s legislature and governor have emerged as champions of liberty. South Dakota has written a splendid chapter in our nation’s history.

Well, bully for South Dakota (and “bully” is an apt word, given Teddy Roosevelt’s link to the Dakotas).

(For the full statement by the National Association of Scholars, go here.)

• I’ve always been interested in lopsided votes in the U.S. House: 426 to 3, 419 to 2. That sort of thing. It’s even more interesting when there’s just one vote against. Years ago, I’d see in the paper that there was some lopsided vote — with like three dissenters. Often the issue was foreign policy. And the dissenters would be black leftists, such as Ron Dellums, plus Ron Paul, the libertarian.

They had cast their votes for different reasons (mainly).

Well, earlier this week, I was reading a column by Vladimir Kara-Murza, the Russian democracy leader. He cited a House resolution calling for justice and accountability in the matter of the assassination of Boris Nemtsov. The vote was 416 to 1. Who was the one?

Thomas Massie, Republican of Kentucky. A libertarian. There you go. Continuing the Ron Paul tradition …

• Cripe, even Tulsi voted for the resolution! Nope, she didn’t: I just checked. She didn’t vote. I can’t really see her voting against Putin, or Assad. Last Saturday, Congresswoman Gabbard jotted a tweet. I will quote it:

Short-sighted politicians & media pundits who’ve spent last 2 years accusing Trump as a Putin puppet have brought us the expensive new Cold War & arms race. How? Because Trump now does everything he can to prove he’s not Putin’s puppet — even if it brings us closer to nuclear war.

A man named William Craddick, who according to his Twitter account is the founder of Disobedient Media, retweeted Gabbard, with the following comment:

Russiagate was designed in part to help the UK counter Russian influence by baiting the United States into taking a hard line against them. Leaves us all with a more dangerous world as a consequence. Just another episode of the Great Game.

Wow. What a conspiracy theory. And you know who retweeted this? President Trump. Evidently in approval.

This is amazing. Shocking. Or rather, it would be shocking, in a less shocking age. As far as I can see, no one on the right — or on the left, really — has addressed the matter. There is too much else, I suppose …

• Nancy Pelosi, the Speaker of the House, has been engaging in some mischief. She has been quoting Reagan, to wit, “If we ever close the door to new Americans, our leadership role in the world will soon be lost.” Would that she would quote him on, oh, economics, defense, abortion …

But let me ask you: People who are hardest against immigration — wouldn’t they be happy to see the U.S. lose, or shed, its leadership role in the world? Wouldn’t that be a feature, not a bug?

Think about it. True, right?

• I am sort of chilled by what an Israeli friend of mine told me. An Egyptian was speaking at a conference. He was sort of cackling about the future of America, believing that we are doomed. He said, “We Egyptians are connected by blood; they are connected by a piece of paper.” Did he mean the Declaration or the Constitution? Either way, he’s not wrong. Our country is an experiment, always has been. How it will turn out, who knows? But we have been a light in the world, for a good long while …

• Okay, enough o’ that — let’s have some sports. I am a great admirer of Dwane Casey, the coach of the Detroit Pistons. (I loved his predecessor, Stan Van Gundy, too.) Listen to Casey on reffing, from this article: “A lot of times, you see something on the court and swear it’s a foul, but then you look at the film. NBA players are great actors; they’re some of the best actors. You think it’s a foul and you’re dead wrong. Most of the time, the officials made a good call.”

• A little language? President Trump called Ann Coulter, his one-time champion, a “wacky nut job.” Say what you will about Ann, she is perfectly literate. And “wacky nut job” is a gross redundancy.

In the late ’90s, Senator Feinstein said, “My trust in his credibility has been badly shattered.” She was talking about President Clinton. I didn’t like the “badly shattered.” My colleague Mike Potemra agreed, recalling Mr. T’s character in a Rocky movie, who said, “I’m gonna crucify him. Real bad.”

• Some more language? The New York Times, among other publications, said that Trump had called George Conway a “whack job.” I disagree. That ought to be “wack job.” A whack job is, like, a mafia rub-out.

• Some music? I was interested in what Marcia Dale Weary had to say. She was a famous ballet teacher, who died earlier this month. At the end of her obit in the Times, she was quoted as follows: “Every child should take ballet — not to become a ballet dancer, but to be exposed to classical music. Being exposed to classical music gives them beautiful thoughts, and much more vivid imaginations.”

I don’t know whether this is true, but it’s a lovely idea, and remarkable coming from a ballet teacher, and one of this importance. (You could understand it from a music teacher, you know?)

For my “New York Chronicle,” in the March New Criterion, go here. It presents a slew of performers, composers, and issues. For a review of the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, under Michael Tilson Thomas, with Igor Levit, piano, go here. The Philharmonia Orchestra under Esa-Pekka Salonen, with Truls Mork, cello, here. The New York Philharmonic under Manfred Honeck, with Richard Goode, piano, here.

That’s enough for now …

(By the way, one of Honeck’s musical siblings, Rainer, is a concertmaster of the Vienna Phil.)

• I’m going to end on a bitter note — a scalding one. At Lincoln Center (New York), there were small groups of old Chinese people, holding banners. The banners denounced Falun Gong as an “evil cult.” Someone passed them slowly, looking into their faces (they looked away, every one of them), giving them the finger. That someone may have been me. I’m not proud of it. But I think of how these people — Falun Gong practitioners — have been treated: imprisoned, tortured, murdered. Harvested for their organs.

Those demonstrators on Lincoln Center Plaza were exercising freedom of speech here in America. How about Falun Gong practitioners and others back home in China? Can they unfurl banners? Sure, for about two seconds, before they are bundled off to torture chambers. There is an “evil cult” in China, and that is the CCP: the Chinese Communist Party.

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