A dangerous populism, &c.

Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan addresses supporters during a rally in Istanbul, March 12, 2019. (Murad Sezer / Reuters)

Most people have refrained from broadcasting the video that the New Zealand killer made of his crimes. Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Turkish dictator, is not one of them. He has shown the video again and again — to inflame the folks.

To read a report on this, go here.

“Speaking at a campaign rally,” this report says, “Erdogan also criticized New Zealand and Australia for sending troops to Turkey in the World War I Gallipoli campaign, claiming their motive was anti-Islam-oriented.”

Directing his rhetoric to the Aussies and the New Zealanders, he said, “What business did you have here? We had no issues with you. Why did you come all the way over here?” He answered his own question, of course, saying, “The only reason: We’re Muslim, and they’re Christian.”

He also said that people who arrive in Turkey with animus against Islam in their hearts will be sent back in coffins, “like their grandfathers.”

Erdogan is, among other things, a master populist: a stoker of grievances, a waver of the bloody shirt. I, and only I, will protect you against those who wrong you, he says. In country after country, and era after era, this kind of thing works. It is also extremely dangerous.

• I wonder if you saw this news: “President Trump undercut his own Treasury Department on Friday with a sudden announcement that he had rolled back newly imposed North Korea sanctions, appearing to overrule national security experts as a favor to Kim Jong-un, the North Korean leader.” Asked for an explanation, the president’s spokeswoman, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, said, “President Trump likes Chairman Kim, and he doesn’t think these sanctions will be necessary.”

Think about those first five words: “President Trump likes Chairman Kim.” Think of who Kim is. And what North Korea is. Think of what the conservative movement and the Republican party once stood for.


• Meantime, Trump has been bashing John McCain, dead since August. The contrast between his tender words for Kim Jong-un and his harsh words for McCain is remarkable.

“McCain didn’t get the job done for our great vets,” Trump told a crowd. Really? He made other claims about McCain as well — fact-checked by the Associated Press, here.

In light of this fact-checking, some will say, “Fake news. Enemy of the people.” Others will say, “Hmmm . . . ”

• Antonia Rey, a Cuban-born actress, has died at 92 in New York, her home for almost 60 years. For the obit in the New York Times, go here.

I appreciated the forthrightness of that obit. In Cuba, Antonia Rey was a leading actress, an outright star.

But when Fidel Castro came to power in 1959 and established a Communist dictatorship, Ms. Rey and her husband, Andrés Castro (no relation), a prominent theater director, were forced to consider their options: Stay in Cuba, secure in their theater world but living under a repressive regime, or flee to the United States.

They fled, in 1961.

Have a little more:

In Cuba, Ms. Rey and her husband had been a high-profile couple, and Castro had tried to entice them to stay. He promised them they could run the National Theater, where Ms. Rey could have her pick of roles and her husband could be its director.

But the harsh reality of living under Communism became clear as the government began expropriating land and property. Ms. Rey and her husband knew they had to leave.

• Have you ever heard of the “crumbling infrastructure”? It is a phrase frequently used by politicians and others. My colleagues here at National Review think it’s a hoot. And it may be. But  . . .

I know something about Michigan, my home state. The roads are awful. Bone-jarringly, car-ruiningly awful.

When I bring this up at work, my colleagues hoot at me: “Oh, the crumbling infrastructure! How did your bus ever get to school, Jay?” (I walked. Through deep snow. Always. Even in the summer.)

Some years ago, Rick Snyder, who was the governor of Michigan, stopped by our offices. I asked him about the roads. Only a Michigander would.

Okay, flash-forward. The new governor, Snyder’s successor, is Gretchen Whitmer, elected last November. You know what her slogan was? “Fix the Damn Roads.” That is something every Michigander, of whatever party, could relate to.

Have some of Whitmer’s website:

To get ahead, Michiganders need one good job and we need to be able to get to that job. But our roads are so bad they cost the average driver more than $540 a year, and none of that fixes a single pothole. We know that we’re not helpless because Michigan gets the same weather as our neighbors do.

Etc. (For the relevant page of the website, go here.)

I would also like to share a tweet with you, jotted by my friend Laura, a junior-high classmate, and a star athlete in Ann Arbor: here.

No lie.

• Here is a story that ought to disquiet us, whether we’re an immigration restrictionist or loosey-goosey on the subject. It is headed “Flight attendant detained by immigration on return to U.S.” It stinks. It stinks in its every detail. I am a restrictionist and I think that illegal immigration should be reduced to as close to zero as possible. But this kind of thing stinks to high heaven, and Americans in general ought to say, No.

• Did you see David Frum’s big piece on immigration? It is a big piece indeed — not just long. Important. Something for everyone, on all sides of the debate, to reckon with.

He wrote a follow-up, an answer to his critics, here. I’d like to highlight one thing — something that does not really have to do with immigration. It has to do with nomenclature, and it is a song I have been singing for a long while now. The song is about the word “conservative.”

David writes, “It’s not helpful or accurate to apply the same label to Marine Le Pen, Nigel Farage, and Donald Trump as was once applied to Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher, and Helmut Kohl.”

He further writes, “The old conservatism and the new nationalism may share some ideological DNA, but to describe them as the same thing is salesmanship, not political analysis.”

“Yellow” is a good word. But when you use it to mean yellow, orange, green, and red, it ceases to be useful or meaningful.

Something’s gotta give. As with paint, you can’t spread a word too thin.

• I filled out my brackets, in common with millions of other Americans. I’m talking about college basketball. As I was doing it, I thought of those proverbial monkeys, jumping up and down on typewriters for thousands of years. Eventually, they will compose Hamlet?

What a crapshoot, those brackets — even when experts are doing them. (I’m not one. But I know several.)

• In Alabama, people gave President Trump Bibles to sign. He signed their covers. Some people regard this as a little gross, others regard it as nice. In any event, I reflected on something: I have a friend who is the son of a famous and much-loved writer, and he is sometimes asked to sign his books — i.e., his father’s. He declines, because they are not his.

• Did you see this news? Paul Ryan, the ex-Speaker of the House, is going to serve on the board of the Fox Corporation, which is the parent company to Fox News. Poetic. A statement of this age.

• Did you see this news? It is another statement of the age. I have linked to a report in the Kansas City Star. The first paragraph reads,

U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt has been disinvited from a local GOP gathering in Christian County, Missouri, next month amid a backlash over his vote to block President Donald Trump’s use of emergency powers to build a border wall.

Specifically, Blunt was disinvited from a Lincoln/Trump Day Dinner. The paper explains,

State and local Republican groups traditionally hold annual Lincoln Day events, but the event in Ozark includes Trump in the name and places a drawing of the president’s face alongside Lincoln’s on the invitation.

Look, at this point I’m just glad they still include Lincoln.

• Let’s have a little music. For a review of the New York Philharmonic, with Jaap van Zweden, conductor, and Matthias Goerne, baritone, go here. The first half of the program was Ives and Adams — John Adams, the composer born in 1947. I will quote a paragraph from the review:

By the way, if you had programmed something by Sebastian Currier, another contemporary American composer, instead of something by Adams, you would have had Currier & Ives. (Fair warning: I’m using this lame joke again, in an upcoming piece for the print magazine.)

An eminent musicologist, Robert Marshall, wrote me to say that he has always hoped to see a program of Arne and Orff (Thomas Arne, the 18th-century British composer, and Carl Orff, the 20th-century German). In a certain New York accent — Bob is a native — those names sound like “on” and “off.”

• Rafi Eitan, the legendary Israeli spymaster, has died at 92. For an American, there are some things not to like: He ran the Pollard operation; he lifted uranium from a plant near Pittsburgh. But he was also the guy who led the squad that got Eichmann, a leading architect of the Holocaust.

That happened in Argentina. I will quote the New York Times’s obit of Eitan:

On May 11, 1960, Mr. Eitan and his team, pretending to be a group of men fixing a stalled car, snatched Eichmann after he got off the bus.

“I grabbed him by the neck with such force that I could see his eyes bulge,” Mr. Eitan recalled. “A little tighter and I would have choked him to death.”

Israel hanged him. Beforehand, Eichmann looked at Eitan and said, “Your time will come to follow me, Jew.” Eitan replied, “But not today, Adolf, not today.”

Good goin’, Rafi. God bless you. See you later.

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