An un-American way, &c.

On a canceled book tour, Bernie Sanders, Donald Trump, mixed marriages, and more

‘The publisher of Jeanine Cummins’ controversial novel ‘American Dirt’ has canceled the remainder of her promotional tour, citing concerns for her safety.” I have quoted the opening of an Associated Press report.

I had something to say about this on Twitter (as one does). I wrote, “This is so un-American — this bullying and intimidation. Un-American, illiberal, and wrong. The only thing to do with a bully is stand up to him — preferably with the full force of the law.”

Some people commented that Americans have long bullied and intimidated. True, because Americans are people, and people bully and intimidate. But: It is contrary to American ideals. The American way, if you will — even the American Way! Put that “w” way up!

There are Prussians who are pacifistic, no doubt. (And I prefer that kind to the other, frankly.) There are Frenchmen who are no good at romance. There are Irishmen who can neither sing nor dance, and who care nothing for poetry.

You know what I mean.

Hell, there are probably surly Canadians!

In the AP report about Jeanine Cummins and her novel, Ann Patchett, the famous novelist, is quoted as saying, “For the record, I loved ‘American Dirt.’ I’ve never in my life seen this kind of public flogging.”

I hope that these words are some consolation to Cummins as she deals with the brutes.

• Can Bernie Sanders win? Both the Democratic presidential nomination and the general election? A lot of smart observers think yes (to both questions).

Not very long ago, I would not have said that an elderly socialist — or any socialist — could be elected in this country. A man who has praised the Soviets, Fidel Castro, the Sandinistas, and other such actors.

But how well do I know my country? One learns painful lessons . . .

President of Bennington, Antioch, or Reed College? Yes, of course. President of the United States? That, I could hardly have imagined.

Presidential elections always tell us something about America — about its people and the health of the nation. If the two major parties nominate Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders, that will say a lot.

• On Sunday, Trump tweeted in his usual fashion: “Mini Mike is now negotiating both to get on the Democrat Primary debate stage, and to have the right to stand on boxes, or a lift, during the debates.” Etc. (By “Mini Mike,” the president means Michael Bloomberg. Trump likes to denigrate people who are short of stature. In my view, only small men do this.)

Many on the right say that we can’t afford decency in these challenging times. You hear it from the left, too. Decency is a luxury, people say. Yet there is another view: Decency is a necessity, in all times.

I think of what Roger Scruton said about Kenneth Minogue (in part because I recently quoted it in an appreciation of Roger). Ken was a political scientist, born in Australia. He died in 2013. Eulogizing him, Roger wrote,

In many ways he was a model of the conservative activist. He was not in the business of destroying things or angering people. He was in the business of defending old-fashioned civility against ideological rage, and he believed this was the real meaning of the freedom that the English-speaking peoples have created and enjoyed.

Roger further wrote, “For Ken Minogue, decency was not just a way of doing things, but also the point of doing them.”

In a podcast, I asked Roger to elaborate on this. Here is a snippet of what he said: “The idea of decency is an extremely important one, and is fundamental to the sort of worldview that you and I share. We don’t construct our worldview out of ideological nostrums.”

Yes. Decency was always baked into the conservative cake. Scruton believed so. Bill Buckley believed so. Others did . . .

• The New York Times published an article called “Mitt Romney, a Man Alone.” Is he? In a sense, yes — but he also has a great many appreciators, quiet though some of them may be. And even if he were alone, would that be the end of the world?

Now and then, you yourself may be feeling alone, for whatever reason. Think of a fine old saying: “One with God is a majority.”

• In the 1990s, I said one thing, over and over. (Well, I said many things over and over, but I’m thinking of one in particular.) President Clinton, I said, was benefited by the sheer number and variety of his scandalous wrongdoings. You could not concentrate on one thing for long. He came at you like a firehose. And when you objected to something — to one piece of wrongdoing in particular — his supporters said, “Oh, you’re always pickin’ on him, no matter what.”

The very same thing has worked to Trump’s advantage.

George F. Will said it very well, in a very good column, the final paragraph of which is this:

Since he entered politics in 2015, Trump has enjoyed immunity through profusion: His non-stop torrent of lies, distortions, slanders, and historical claptrap has prevented prolonged scrutiny of anything. This has helped him weather the impeachment squall. Millions of Americans respond to yet another batch of presidential mendacities about yet another sordid presidential action by thinking: This is not news. They are, in some sense, correct.

Immunity through profusion. What a great, useful phrase.

• I was brought up short by something in a piece by Yoni Appelbaum — and I was reminded of something that Jonah Goldberg wrote. First, Jonah:

Political scientists have been documenting for a while now that, in this age of polarization, ideological and partisan affiliation is mapping across society in ways once reserved solely for race, ethnicity, gender, and religion. Conservatism is becoming an identity.

And here is Appelbaum:

As partisans have drifted apart geographically and ideologically, they’ve become more hostile toward each other. In 1960, less than 5 percent of Democrats and Republicans said they’d be unhappy if their children married someone from the other party; today, 35 percent of Republicans and 45 percent of Democrats would be, according to a recent Public Religion Research Institute / Atlantic poll — far higher than the percentages that object to marriages crossing the boundaries of race and religion.

Holy sh**. That’s bad news, IMO.

• In the Times, Bret Stephens published a column called “Every Time Palestinians Say ‘No,’ They Lose.” The subheading is, “Things rarely go well for those who try to live history backward.” It is a superb column, of course. Bret is never better than when writing about the Arab–Israeli conflict.

So, that is dog-bites-man. But you know what’s man-bites-dog? His column was tweeted around by . . . an Arab foreign minister (that of the United Arab Emirates). Holy-moly. Very interesting.

• Last week, it was announced that Marie Yovanovitch was retiring from the State Department. As you know, President Trump told the new Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelensky, in the “perfect phone call,” that Yovanovitch was “going to go through some things.” Maybe he meant her retirement. Or maybe he meant the ceaseless defamation of her, which he himself would lead.

I hope that a future administration, Republican or Democratic, will call her back in some capacity. She seems to me just the kind of person we want in the Foreign Service. Her parents were refugees, fleeing both the Communists and the Nazis. She grew up speaking Russian, as well as English. She is devoted to America and to democratic ideals, abhorring tyranny of all sorts. She served as ambassador in three former “republics” of the Soviet Union: Kyrgyzstan, Armenia, and Ukraine.

There may come a time when Republicans and conservatives feel a little bit bad, or a little bit sheepish, about the administration’s treatment of her.

Who knows?

• I spotted this headline: “Hester Diamond, Passionate Art Collector, Is Dead at 91.” (Article here.) I loved her. Will tell you why.

Years ago, we were seated next to each other at a gala dinner in Austria. She was a famous patroness and advocate of modernism. Someone tried to start something between us. “Jay is a big conservative,” he said. “He likes traditional opera productions.” Hester said, “The truth is, there are good traditional productions and bad ones; good modern productions and bad ones.” I could have kissed her. And what she said is so true. I have quoted her many times.

We got to talking, of course, at this dinner. I learned about her upbringing in the Bronx, etc. We traded personal stories.

That evening, two men were being honored — and it was noted that they both came from Linz. I leaned over to Hester and whispered, “You know who else was from Linz, don’t you?” “Who?” she said. “Hitler!” I said. She threw back her head and laughed. I can just see her.

We didn’t mean anything by it, mind you. We both knew there were great people from Linz, as from everywhere. Anyway, it was a wonderful private moment.

I saw her once or twice in later years. I’m so glad — so glad — I met her.

• Over the weekend, I heard of something unusual: A couple got married at 2 a.m. on February 2, 2020 — 2/2/20, at 2. I’ll be danged.

We used to say about WFB (William F. Buckley Jr.): 7:30 at 73 Seventy-third Street. That’s when he had his dinners, and where.

Hope you are having a good week, everyone, and I’ll see you later. Thanks for joining me.

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