NRPLUS MEMBER ARTICLE A s I sit down at my laptop, Joe Biden has not yet spoken directly about the sexual-assault allegation against him. He will have to, sooner or later. This is serious business. What will he say?
Last year, Jean Carroll accused Donald Trump of rape. The president answered, saying, “Number one, she’s not my type. Number two, it never happened. It never happened, okay?”
I doubt such lines would work for Biden. He will have to give more.
The 42nd president and the 45th — Bill Clinton and Trump — are masters at brazening out. They are two of the greatest brazeners-out of all time. They brazened out accusations of sexual misconduct, and they brazened out impeachment.
Biden, I believe, does not have that in him.
The current allegation is a big threat to the Democrats in 2020. Their greatest leverage, it seems to me, is moral. Our guy is not a disgrace. Whatever else you may think of him — doddering, goofy, out to lunch — he is not a disgrace. He is a decent human being.
If they lose that, they lose a lot.
I grew up with the slogan “Believe the woman.” At a certain level, this slogan is defensible. Women’s allegations — if women have been able to make them at all — have been given short shrift for eons.
During the Clarence Thomas–Anita Hill hearings of 1991, I saw this slogan front and center. But then came the Clinton years, and with them Juanita Broaddrick, Paula Jones, Kathleen Willey, and others. The slogan went up in smoke. “Believe the woman” was more like “Lying sluts.”
(“Bimbo eruptions” was a hot phrase of the period.)
I hope you will forgive my cynicism, but maybe you will consider it more like realism: People tend to believe what is convenient for them to believe.
Muse with me for a second: If Biden has to go, how will Democrats determine their nominee? Particularly in a pandemic? If the Dems are thrown into disarray — scrambling for a nominee — Donald Trump’s amazing luck will hold.
In 2016, he got to run against Hillary Clinton, one of the most damaged figures in America. She had been on the national stage for 25 years. She had gone through many a scandal. She was tremendously polarizing. People, including admirers of both Clintons, spoke of “Clinton fatigue.” During the 2016 election, Hillary was under FBI investigation. This is rare.
Anyway . . .
I can’t help thinking back to 1988, and the Gary Hart scandal. There was a boat to Bimini — a boat named, as Dan Jenkins or Dave Barry might have it in a novel, “Monkey Business.” Hart was forced to withdraw.
America was a lot different then, wasn’t it? Better? Worse? Hart’s withdrawal seems so . . . quaint.
UPDATE: This morning, May 1, Joe Biden has issued a statement and gone on television, denying unequivocally that he committed the crime he is accused of. To read an account in the Washington Post, go here.
• Yesterday, a half-hour after midnight, President Trump issued a classic tweet:
I must admit that Lyin’ Brian Williams is, while dumber than hell, quite a bit smarter than Fake News @CNN “anchorman” Don Lemon, the “dumbest man on television”. Then you have Psycho Joe “What Ever Happened To Your Girlfriend?” Scarborough, another of the low I.Q. individuals!
Say what you will about Trump, he seldom tries to be other than Trump. He does not submerge his authentic self into an adopted persona. He does not try to be “presidential.”
I put that word in quotation marks for a reason. Newt Gingrich and others have said, “The behavior of presidents is by definition presidential. If Trump is president, then his behavior is presidential.”
According to this understanding, “presidential” is a long way from, say, Lincolnesque. A funny topic, right? But not in a ha-ha way.
• In 2017, I noticed something. Whenever I pointed out that Trump was awfully tender toward dictators or strongmen — Putin, Duterte, and worse — his fans would tell me, “You never said anything about Obama and Castro!” They told me this on Twitter and elsewhere.
The thing is, I was kind of famous for saying things about Obama and Castro.
It’s good for the ego to know that people don’t read you and that they know nothing about you. But why did they talk that way? Why did they say, “You never said anything about Obama and Castro!”? That’s like saying to me, “You never had a scoop of ice cream!”
(True. I never had just one.)
On Wednesday, I had an Impromptus headed “Our murderous friends, &c.” Over the column was a picture of President Trump and Mohammed bin Salman. Same thing.
A guy said, “I bet you have (or want) a Che t-shirt.”
I am semi-famous for my writings on, and against, Che Guevara. For example, here is a piece called “Che Chic: It’s très disgusting.” Here is a piece I wrote about Felix Rodriguez, the Cuban-American CIA agent who chased Guevara in the Andes.
One day, I felt the need to answer Frequently Asked Questions. I wrote,
By far the most frequently asked question I receive is, What can I read about Che Guevara? What can I read to know the truth about him, as distinct from the myth? What can I tell a person — especially a family member or friend — who has one of the T-shirts?
Also in response to Wednesday’s column — “Our murderous friends, &c.” — a guy said, “And your friends are CCP. Lets count who killed more..”
Again, I am semi-famous for my writings on, and against, the Chinese Communist Party. I doubt anyone has written more on the subject whose daily beat is not China. I have won an award from a Chinese-American pro-democracy group, for my writings against the CCP.
Why do people talk like this? Why do they say those things? “You’ve got to be carefully taught,” Oscar Hammerstein wrote. They must learn to think and talk that way from — from whom? Cable TV, talk radio, the social media? No one comes out of the womb thinking and talking that way, you know? It is learned.
Then there is this: People are very, very selective about the dictators and human-rights abusers they oppose. They probably assume you are the same way.
Trump forces are in a very anti-China mood right now. Good. But . . . do they have to lecture the rest of us?
Here is Trump on Xi Jinping, the boss of the CCP: “You know, when I’m with him, because he’s great, when I’m with him, he’s a great guy.” More: “I think I like him a lot. I think he likes me a lot.”
That was in May 2018. In July of that year, Trump was saying this about Xi:
“Well, he’s a friend of mine. I have great respect for him. We’ve gotten to know each other very well. A great leader. He’s a very talented man. I think he’s a very good man. He loves China, I can tell you. He loves China. He wants to do what’s right for China.”
A bit more, if your stomach can take it: “President Xi is a terrific guy. I like being with him a lot, and he’s a very special person.”
As fate would have it, Trump made those remarks on the very day that Liu Xiaobo, the leading dissident and political prisoner in China, the recipient of the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize (in absentia), finally succumbed to his torments. He died as he had lived: surrounded by Red Guards.
Look, if people are in an anti-China, or an anti-CCP, or an anti-Communist, mood right now, great. But they may be a little late to the party (or Party).
• In coming weeks, I will have something to say — maybe a lot to say — about The Last Dance, the ESPN/Netflix documentary about the 1990s Chicago Bulls. The documentary is in ten parts; four have been aired so far. Maybe I could say a quick thing now? Bear with me, please.
Years ago — almost 40 — Enrique Krauze, the Mexican historian, sat down with Isaiah Berlin, the Oxford philosopher. Berlin knew a lot about the Bolshevik Revolution (among other things). A lot. Also, he was a refugee from that revolution. Anyway, Krauze asked him, “Why did the Bolshevik Revolution succeed?” Berlin said, “Lenin.” Krauze said, “Sure, sure, but what about the underlying structures and the . . .” Berlin said, again, “Lenin. No Lenin, no revolution — certainly not a successful one.”
(I am paraphrasing the conversation, but you certainly have the gist there.)
Steve Kerr, a Chicago Bull — now the coach of the Golden State Warriors — was asked, “What makes the Bulls dynasty unique?” He thought for a second, as though trying to come up with a long answer, then smiled and said, “We’ve got Michael Jordan!”
Yes. Now, I hate to compare MJ to Lenin, one of the most destructive men in all history. But Kerr did remind me of Berlin. And one man can make a great difference, for good or ill.
• If you can bear it — I really couldn’t — read this obit, published in the New York Times. The heading: “Dario Gabbai, a Final Witness to Auschwitz, Is Dead at 97.” The subheading: “He was among the last Sonderkommandos, prisoners forced by the Nazis to herd fellow inmates into the gas chambers.”
In 2015, when Dario Gabbai was 93, he said, “I have inside some stuff I can never tell.” In view of what he did manage to tell, the stuff inside must have been . . .
By the way, what would you and I have done, if forced to be Sonderkommandos? Better not to think about that too long, right?
• Here is an obit of Abigail Thernstrom, also published in the Times. I first met her in about 1985, I think — when I was a student of her husband, Steve. I loved her. She was one of a kind, unique in all the world.
I could talk about her for an hour or two, but I’m remembering almost the last conversation I ever had with her. I asked her who her favorite professors were — her favorite teachers. She named three — a big three. Sidney Hook, the philosopher. Louis Hartz, the political scientist. And another political scientist, Robert McCloskey.
All me to share with you a little obit we have published in National Review:
Abigail Thernstrom was one of the most remarkable thinkers, writers, and activists of our time. She was brought up left-wing — on a collective farm outside New York City. In the city itself, she went to Elisabeth Irwin High School, also known as the Little Red School House. Alumni include Angela Davis, Mary Travers, and the sons of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg. At least three alumni became prominent conservatives, of the classical-liberal persuasion: Ronald Radosh, Elliott Abrams, and Abby Thernstrom. She was married to Stephan Thernstrom, the Harvard historian, who survives her. She, too, was a Harvardian, earning her Ph.D. in government in 1975. Her specialty was civil rights. She had an old-fashioned view of race relations: equality under the law, equality of opportunity, E pluribus unum. She wrote steadily and took part in any number of forums — including with President Clinton. She also served as vice-chairman of the U.S. Civil Rights Commission. Through everything, she was feisty, righteous, sparkling, brave, and unforgettable. She has passed away at 83, having enriched the world around her. R.I.P.
• Here is a funny little post I wrote about music: “Order, Order!” Here is another one: “Order, Order! Part II.” They have to do with — well, the order of things. The order of names, of people and instruments.
• Can I tell a quick Abby story? A prominent legal scholar, of Clintonite persuasion, once said, “I hate debating you, Abby. Because, having come from the left, you know exactly what I’m going to say.”
• I think New York City is perking up a bit. Here’s one sign: Earlier this week, I had to wait for traffic — just for a minute. That hadn’t happened in weeks. I’ve just fallen into the streets, as though I lived in Mayberry.
• Care for a shot of Central Park in spring?
Thank you for joining me, my friends. Have a good weekend. Does the weekend really mean anything these days? Have a good one regardless.
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