Impromptus

Wanted for genocide, &c.

Omar Bashir, who was dictator of Sudan from 1989 to 2019 (Mohamed Nureldin Abdallah / Reuters)
On Omar Bashir, MBS, an Olympic survivor, Mitch Daniels, a math boner, and more

There are many monstrous leaders in the world — too many to keep track of — but Omar Bashir stands out. He was the dictator of Sudan for 30 years: 1989 to 2019. Since his toppling, he has been under arrest. Now it appears that the current Sudanese government will send Bashir to The Hague, to be tried for genocide by the International Criminal Court.

Most American conservatives oppose the ICC, and for good reason. We can recite the arguments in our sleep. National sovereignty is the dominant theme. Which reminds me.

More than 15 years ago, Professor Jeremy A. Rabkin wrote a book called “The Case for Sovereignty: Why the World Should Welcome American Independence.” Made perfect sense to me.

But you can’t help noticing that the International Criminal Court means a lot to people around the world. Little people, if you will. People in nasty, lawless, hopeless countries — countries that seem unable to hold their monsters to account.

I once saw news footage of a public celebration, somewhere in the Third World. I forget where. A murderous dictator had just been deposed, and a young man, sort of dancing around, held up a sign that said “To The Hague!”

This seemed the people’s only chance at justice.

Justice? Really? Is there any? No forum can bring the murdered back to life. All of them are dissatisfactory, to one degree or another. Very much including Nuremberg. For one thing, think of those Soviet judges! But genocide is not a parking violation, and people feel the urge to address it.

In 2013, I wrote a piece called “A Court in Cambodia.” Talk about dissatisfaction. And yet the Khmer Rouge should not be allowed to skate altogether. And some interesting information has come out of that process (interesting and stomach-turning).

Same with Nuremberg, incidentally. As David Pryce-Jones says, that process established a record. It taught us things about the Nazis and their conduct — things that stand.

I’m afraid I can’t give you some definitive pronouncement. The only thing I can say, for sure, is that Omar Bashir should not be allowed to finish his days playing shuffleboard in Miami Beach, if you know what I mean.

• MBS is another beauty. Mohammed bin Salman is the dictator of Saudi Arabia, as you know, although his official title is “Crown Prince.” Ben Hubbard, the Beirut bureau chief of the New York Times, has written a book about the man, which was reviewed on Monday by Christopher Dickey, a veteran foreign correspondent. (Go here.) Ruthless, crafty, murderous piece of work, MBS.

For better or worse, we Americans need to maintain our alliance with Saudi Arabia. I’ve written about this matter before and won’t belabor it now. But we don’t have to be under any illusion. And we don’t have to treat MBS like a kitten.

“It could very well be that the Crown Prince had knowledge of this tragic event — maybe he did, maybe he didn’t!” That’s what President Trump had to say about the sadistic, shocking murder of Jamal Khashoggi, the Saudi journalist who had fled to the United States. No need to be coy, Roy.

Speaking of coyness: Asked who should be held accountable for the murder of Khashoggi, Trump said, “Maybe the world should be held accountable, because the world is a vicious place.”

Uh-huh. I say, deal with thugs if you need to, but don’t pretend they are anything but.

• “Eva Szekely Dies at 92; Survived Holocaust to Win Olympic Gold.” That’s how the title of the obit, written by Daniel E. Slotnik, read. I’d like to quote:

Already a promising swimmer as a girl, Szekely (pronounced SAY-kay) was forced off her swim team in Budapest in 1941 because she was Jewish. . . .

An official in the Arrow Cross Party, a Hungarian fascist organization that controlled the country with Nazi support, at one point ordered Szekely to march to the Danube River, where the fascists killed about 20,000 Hungarian Jews that winter. Her father told her to lie down and act too ill to move, then he tried a different tactic.

“For some heavenly influence my father said, ‘Don’t take her, she is the swimming champion of Hungary and one day you will be happy you saved her life!’” Szekely told the University of Southern California’s Shoah Foundation Institute in videotaped testimony.

Szekely recalled staring into the official’s eyes — one gray, one brown — before he let her live.

There is a little coda. In 1950, Eva won an international swim meet.

She was told that in addition to her gold medal she would receive a special prize from an important officer of the Communist political police. As she stood atop the dais, the officer handed her the trophy and made eye contact with her. “And it was that Arrow Cross man,” she said, “with his different color eyes! I thought I would fall off the platform!”

Nazis, Communists — they’re all the same, sometimes literally.

In any event, I’m glad to know about Eva Szekely, an amazing woman.

• George F. Will knows how to open a column. And continue a column, and end a column, but let’s concentrate on the opening — this one, in particular: “‘Enlightened statesmen,’ wrote James Madison, ‘will not always be at the helm.’ His genius extended to understatement . . .” (Full column here.)

Bill Buckley could do it too, of course. I remember this in particular: “Senator Lowell Weicker, I kid you not . . .” For some reason, that tickled my funny bone.

• Here is an opener from Sally Jenkins (sports columnist at the Washington Post): “The Summer Olympics are such a crowded, sweat-dampened, close-packed and germ-ridden affair that attending them can be like hanging out inside someone’s mouth. And that’s in the best of circumstances . . .” (Column here.)

• Did you happen to see this item?

President Trump and his campaign promoted an edited video of former Vice President Joe Biden that incorrectly made it seem like he endorsed a Trump reelection. The edited version of the video had received 4.2 million views and 19,400 retweets after Trump shared it as of Sunday afternoon.

(Article here.)

My view is, Biden will occasion plenty of opportunities for criticism, mockery, and attack. You don’t have to go monkeying with video.

• Back to Sally Jenkins, who began another column as follows: “America’s gymnasts should refuse to settle their sexual abuse case until they’ve so bankrupted the U.S. Olympic movement that there’s no option but to start over, with a completely new governing structure.” (Full column here.)

Sometimes, you have to write a column out of righteous indignation. A necessary fury. The column I have quoted is a model of the type.

• Mick Mulvaney has been sacked as chief of staff — or acting chief of staff — and I had a memory of the Reagan years. Margaret Heckler was the secretary of HHS. Reagan let her go, sending her to Ireland as our ambassador. (He tried to spin it as a promotion.) Trump has made Mulvaney envoy to Northern Ireland. A peg or two below, don’t you think?

• For The Atlantic, Andrew Ferguson has written a piece about Mitch Daniels, the former governor of Indiana who is now president of Purdue University. It’s about Daniels’s fiscal discipline, in particular. I’d like to single out one portion of the piece and comment on it.

. . . Daniels hasn’t escaped the controversies that attend diversity issues in higher education. Last November, Purdue’s student newspaper released audio of Daniels discussing faculty hiring with a group of mostly minority students. “At the end of this week,” he told them, “I’ll be recruiting one of the rarest creatures in America — a leading, I mean a really leading, African-American scholar.”

Social media erupted. The hashtag #IAmNOTACreature took off on Twitter. D’Yan Berry, the president of Purdue’s Black Student Union, wrote that she was “disappointed but not at all surprised by his reference . . . to Black students as creatures.”

Etc., etc. Eventually, Daniels apologized, saying, “The word in question was ill chosen and imprecise and, in retrospect, too capable of being misunderstood.”

I understand the offense taken to the word. But I also think of the Bible — King James, in particular. “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.” That is Jesus, just before the ascension.

Later, Paul: “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.”

Anyway . . .

• The Alabama Senate race has come down to two Republicans: Jeff Sessions and Tommy Tuberville. (Democrats don’t really count this year, is my understanding.) I will quote from the Associated Press: “Tuberville said Tuesday night that he would finish the job that Trump began when he looked at Jeff Sessions across the table and said, ‘You’re fired.’” (Article here.)

From everything we know, Trump does not fire people face to face, man to man. In the case of Jeff Sessions, Trump had John Kelly, who was then the chief of staff, deliver the news.

• Lloyd Blankfein sat down for an interview with the Financial Times. As you remember, he was head of Goldman Sachs. I very much like something he said. I will quote from the piece, which is by Edward Luce.

Who would you pick if it boiled down to Trump or Sanders, I ask. For the first time in our exchange, he pauses. “I think I might find it harder to vote for Bernie than for Trump,” he says. “There’s a long time between now and then. The Democrats would be working very hard to find someone who is as divisive as Trump. But with Bernie they would have succeeded.” But you would say that, I reply, because you are a billionaire. Sanders is proposing a wealth tax on people like you. “I don’t like that at all,” says Blankfein. “I don’t like assassination by categorisation. I think it’s un-American.”

Yes. Assassination by categorization. I’ll try to remember that phrase. It is very Marxist, such assassination. I didn’t like it when I encountered it as a college student, and I don’t like it now — from Left or Right.

• This news was heartbreaking — no, not heartbreaking. Screw the heart. It was infuriating, maddening.

“Jean Vanier, once seen as a Nobel or sainthood candidate, now accused of abusive sexual relationships.” That’s the headline. (Article here.) Vanier was about as noble a character as we had, it seemed. I immediately thought: Shades of Bruce Ritter (the founder of Covenant House).

Damn, damn, damn.

• You want something lighter? Okay, you deserve it. A friend of mine sent me this — saying it made her smile, and it would me too. And it did.

A designer named Amber Share looked at one-star reviews of our 62 national parks. These are negative reviews, real stinkers, from visitors dissatisfied with the parks. Then she designed posters, stemming from the reviews.

Inspired. Offbeat. Collectible!

• Chances are, you have heard of the major math boner pulled by Brian Williams and Mara Gay on television. It had to do with Michael Bloomberg, his campaign spending, and the U.S. population. (For a write-up, go here.)

Everyone and his brother is “dunking on” Williams and Gay, as dunking is our national pastime. Probably it is deserved. But I shrink from dunking because I have a “but for the grace of God” feeling about this. Once I’m done with my fingers and toes, I’m pretty much done counting . . .

• Did you hear LeBron James, on the possibility of playing NBA games without audiences — without fans — because of the coronavirus?

“Nah. Impossible. I ain’t playing if you don’t have the fans in the crowd. That’s who I play for. I play for my teammates, I play for the fans. That’s what it’s all about. So, if I show up to the arena and there ain’t no fans in there? I ain’t playing. So, they can do what they want to do.”

(For an article, go here.)

I liked what LeBron said — I felt it — for reasons not easy to articulate.

• In New York City, where I live, I know a young Venezuelan woman who told me something remarkable the other night. For several years, she has been sending things back to her family in Venezuela — basic goods. Venezuela is cruelly deprived.

“Here’s a first,” she said to me, with a wondering smile. “They are sending something to me” — namely, hand sanitizer.

• Close with a little Milton Friedman? Why not. Someone put a quotation on Twitter last week. You know how things that are pithy are often things that are wrong? If it’s pat, it’s probably a little off? Well, Friedman said, “A society that puts equality before freedom will get neither. A society that puts freedom before equality will get a high degree of both.”

In my view, this is demonstrably, indisputably true.

Have a good one, everybody, and thank you much.

If you’d like to receive Impromptus by e-mail — links to new columns — write to jnordlinger@nationalreview.com

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