Facing China, &c.

A Uyghur participates in an anti-China protest during the G-20 summit in Osaka, Japan, on June 28, 2019. (Jorge Silva / Reuters)
A gulag, Venezuela, Iran, manliness, Mattis, social distancing, and more

NRPLUS MEMBER ARTICLE W hen it comes to the Chinese government, there are many issues to face: starting with its role in the pandemic we are suffering from. Not to be forgotten, however, is the gulag in Xinjiang Province, or East Turkestan. More than a million Uyghurs languish in this gulag.

How have they fared during the pandemic? In all probability, we will find out in the future. We will know what the toll was.

Last week, the U.S. Congress passed the Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act. It is on the president’s desk. The act requires the executive branch to inform Congress about what the Chinese government is doing to the Uyghurs. It also calls on the president to impose Magnitsky sanctions on Chen Quanguo, the Gauleiter of East Turkestan. He is one of the most malicious and notorious figures in all, vast China.

Do you know that our government has Magnitsky’d only one Chinese official? That was Gao Yan, in 2017. This fellow is a low-level police officer. There are bigger fry to sanction.

In the House, the Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act passed by a vote of 413 to 1. I am always interested in the one, or the two, or whatever the number is. When I was coming of age, the two (let’s say) would often be Ron Dellums, the California leftist, and Ron Paul, the Texas libertarian.

Last week, the “one” was another libertarian, Thomas Massie of Kentucky. (Ron Paul’s son serves as a senator from the same state.) Massie said, “When our government meddles in the internal affairs of foreign countries, it invites those governments to meddle in our affairs.”

I of course thought of Solzhenitsyn: “On our crowded planet there are no longer any ‘internal affairs.’ The Communist leaders say, ‘Don’t interfere in our internal affairs. Let us strangle our citizens in peace and quiet.’ But I tell you: Interfere more and more. Interfere as much as you can. We beg you to come and interfere.”

Yup.

Here is a piece by David Nakamura in the Washington Post, a piece that touches on Venezuela. The reporter quotes Fernando Cutz, a former National Security Council staffer.

Cutz, writes Nakamura,

recalled the Trump administration’s efforts to force Venezuela’s authoritarian leader, Nicolás Maduro, from power as hundreds of thousands of protesters took to the streets last year amid an economic meltdown. But as Maduro held on and began using government force to combat them, Cutz said, Trump appeared to waver.

A quotation from Cutz: “It got to the point where I remember the president saying, ‘You know, Maduro is not as easy to bring down as I thought. Maybe we should reconsider this.’”

And one more slice from Nakamura’s report:

Although Trump did not call for a change in U.S. policy, Cutz said the president began privately seeming to “show respect for Maduro. All of a sudden he was impressed.”

“Fake news!” you might cry. “The enemy of the people” has struck again! I have no problem believing the report, and I’ll tell you why: Trump has changed his mind about many things over the years — immigration, most prominently — but he has never wavered on at least two things: international trade (against) and dictators’ use of force (impressed by).

As far back as 1990, Trump said this to Playboy magazine: “Russia is out of control, and the leadership knows it. That’s my problem with Gorbachev. Not a firm enough hand.”

(The rest of us were thankful that Gorbachev was not cracking down, as his predecessors had, making blood run in the streets.)

Trump’s interviewer asked, “You mean ‘firm hand’ as in China?”

The future president answered, “When the students poured into Tiananmen Square, the Chinese government almost blew it. Then they were vicious, they were horrible, but they put it down with strength. That shows you the power of strength. Our country is right now perceived as weak . . . as being spit on by the rest of the world.”

Trump has never, to my knowledge, deviated from this line. Never.

• Iran has sent oil tankers to Venezuela, causing jubilation in the country, or at least in the government. As Luc Cohen of Reuters reported, state television played the Iranian national anthem.

• This was a headline to make your blood boil: “After Crushing Anti-Government Rallies At Home, Iran Expresses Support For U.S. Protesters.” The article is from Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty, and it quotes an Iranian foreign-ministry spokesman, Abbas Musavi, as saying, “To the American people: The world has heard your outcry over oppression. The world is standing with you. The American regime is pursuing violence and bullying at home and abroad.”

Yeah, blow it out your ear, Abbas.

• What is manliness? This is a question that recurs, especially on the right. In some periods, right-wing politics seems like an endless round of “Quién es más macho?” (Old-timers will remember that this was a Saturday Night Live sketch: “Who is more macho?”)

Well, I was reading the letter that Timothy Klausutis sent to Jack Dorsey, the CEO of Twitter. Klausutis is the widower of Lori Klausutis, the Florida woman who died in 2001. She had worked for Joe Scarborough, who was then a congressman. Over and over, President Trump has insinuated that Scarborough murdered Lori Klausutis.

In any event, Timothy Klausutis’s letter is worth reading in full, but let me single out this: “I have mourned my wife every day since her passing. I have tried to honor her memory and our marriage. As her husband, I feel that one of my marital obligations is to protect her memory as I would have protected her in life.”

I must say, that struck me as manly. (Others’ mileage will vary, of course.)

• On Wednesday, the New York Times published this article. Headline: “The Virus Closed His Bronx Jewelry Store. Then Looters Broke In.” Subheading: “‘I’m 100 percent with people who are protesting for justice, but is this justice?’ one business owner said. ‘You’re killing me.’”

Horrible. Painful. Disgusting.

• I am not one to label a piece of writing “must read.” Days are so crowded, and who can read everything? But I strongly recommend this piece by Yuval Levin — on police brutality, protests, riots, and leadership. It was published here at National Review Online. The piece indicts those who should be indicted; and calls on “better angels” that should be called on. It is really a public service, and an eloquent one.

If not “must read,” damn close.

• President Trump wrote,

Probably the only thing Barack Obama & I have in common is that we both had the honor of firing Jim Mattis, the world’s most overrated General. I asked for his letter of resignation, & felt great about it. His nickname was “Chaos”, which I didn’t like, & changed to “Mad Dog” . . .

Trump did not fire Mattis. Mattis resigned. Trump did not fire John Bolton. Bolton resigned. After the fact, in each instance, Trump claimed to have fired the man. Both men resigned on principle.

You know who both Obama and Trump did fire? Michael Flynn.

Trump did not nickname James Mattis “Mad Dog.” That name was stuck on Mattis long ago. Trump did mock him as “Moderate Dog,” because Mattis was not as “mad” as the president would have liked.

I always said, Mattis was about the least mad dog in the whole administration.

Three years ago, Trump did something very odd: He claimed to have coined the phrase “prime the pump,” as used in economic policy. He said to The Economist, “I came up with it a couple of days ago, and I thought it was good.”

This is madness.

• Many political figures — and not a few media figures — hate Jim Mattis for speaking out against Trump. Why is this? I imagine the following is true for some of them: They agree with Mattis, somewhere in their bones, but cannot, or will not, speak up themselves. And Mattis makes them look bad, by speaking up.

This is an old, old human situation.

When men hold their manhoods cheap — ah, Shakespeare! — they often lash out at the person or people who make them feel that way.

It took the Lafayette Square episode to make Mattis speak out: the clearing of the protesters, the presidential walk with the posse, the photo-op with the Bible. In my view, the whole episode was gross, from multiple angles.

“Patriotism” is an old-fashioned word, and it has been supplanted by “nationalism” in recent years. “You know what I am?” Trump said to one of his rallies. “I’m a nationalist, okay? I’m a nationalist. Nationalist! Use that word! Use that word!” Regardless, Mattis is a patriot, and — pardon the cliché — I appreciate his service.

Trump fans and Mattis fans can agree on one thing: The two men are nothing alike — worlds apart, in their life experience, their outlooks, their demeanors, their values.

• Not just here in America but abroad as well, people have been rallying over the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. Rallying en masse. David Frum tweeted out a photo from Amsterdam — and commented, “So we’re conducting a vast global experiment on whether social distancing is still necessary. Stay tuned for the result.”

I thought that was very well framed.

• A little language? A reader writes,

I’m sure you are looking forward to the return of the PGA Tour as much as I am, but I have one lament: the way our commentators talk. For instance, you hear the word “pace,” as in, “That putt needed more pace.” That’s like saying, “This room needs more temperature.” No, it needs to be warmer or cooler.

Football announcers have been doing this too, with “tempo”: “They are playing with more tempo.”

Yup! The tempo can be largo or presto.

• Speaking of largo, presto, etc. — care for a little music? The other night, I tweeted, “What were you doing at age 17? Georges Bizet was writing his Symphony in C. (‘Carmen’ was not yet a glint in his eye.).” I then offered a recording of the finale: “high-spirited, superbly crafted,” I said.

A lady responded, “I was doing really important things like committing the entire Wham! music lyric catalog to memory. I was also experimenting in various methods of bleaching my permed hair. Wouldn’t change a thing.”

Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go”! Love it. #Rosebud

• In a column on May 20, I wrote,

Phyllis George has died. She was Miss America, a TV broadcaster, and other things. As for millions of other boys about my age, she was one of my first loves. Such warmth, such beauty. Phyllis George, forever.

A fellow from out West writes,

I remember watching an NFL game on which she was featured. When she appeared on camera, both my dad (31 years my senior) and I audibly sighed. My mother glared at both of us.

See you later, dear-hearts.

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

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