NRPLUS MEMBER ARTICLE N ot very often does the whole world face the same problem at the same time — outside of the staples, such as aging, want, and heartbreak. But now there is a genuine pandemic, a common enemy. (As though aliens had attacked from above.) Has this served to unite the world, in significant ways? Not that I can see.
How about the United States alone? We face a common enemy: this plague. Has the experience served to unite Americans? I’m afraid the split is worse than ever.
Never has there been a better time for wise leadership, and wise citizenship.
• I thought the surgeon general, Jerome Adams, made an extraordinary statement on Fox & Friends: “I’m pleading with your viewers — I’m begging you — please understand that we are not trying to take away your freedoms when we say, ‘Wear a face covering.’”
I imagine this statement did some good.
• As you can read here, Congresswoman Liz Cheney has been rounded on by some of her fellow Republicans, including Congressman Matt Gaetz. Her sin? Departing from President Trump on some issues: including the Afghan War, troop levels in Germany, and the worth of Dr. Anthony Fauci.
Donald Trump Jr. tweeted, “We already have one Mitt Romney, we don’t need another.”
Yes. Two Republicans of conscience — two with any independence of mind — would be an intolerable overload.
• Many publications have decided to capitalize “black,” when referring to black Americans (and others, I suppose). Some have decided to capitalize both “black” and “white.” I can’t help feeling that this is a blow to American ideals — to E pluribus unum and all that. I was going to write an essay on the subject.
But here comes Daniel Hannan: with this column. There is no need for me to write that essay.
Foreigners, taking jobs away from Americans!
• While I am recommending columns, I must mention this, by Bret Stephens. It’s on crime and crime control. Perfectly clear-eyed. A little sample: “Criminals, fearing less, will continue to prey on others. Police, fearing more, will hold back from doing their jobs. Those with means to leave their neighborhoods, will. Those without the means will suffer.”
• A head-spinning column is this, by Jonathan V. Last. It is about a Trump campaign ad, which shows footage from Ukraine in 2014. Remarkable.
Last is known to his friends and fans as “JVL.” It so happens that I just finished re-reading William F. Buckley Jr.’s Unmaking of a Mayor, which was discussed by the National Review Institute Book Club. Unmaking is about the 1965 mayoral race in New York, in which WFB participated. His chief opponent was John Lindsay — John Vliet Lindsay — the eventual winner.
At various points, WFB refers to Lindsay as “JVL” — which made me smile.
• A wag on Twitter had a suggestion for the upcoming general election: “Instead of a debate, a spelling bee.” I thought of Bill Bradley, the former senator from New Jersey (and NBA player). I did not think very much of him as a politician. But he said one thing that I found endearing.
Running for the Democratic presidential nomination, Bradley said something like this: “These primaries and caucuses are expensive and time-consuming. I know how we can settle this: jump shot, top of the key.”
• Asked about Ghislaine Maxwell, Trump said, “I just wish her well, frankly.” (For a news account, go here.) Maxwell, as you know, was the longtime sidekick of Jeffrey Epstein, and apparently his enabler and procurer. She has been charged with, among other things, the sexual trafficking of underage girls.
Wish her well? Okay. But I would remember the victims, too.
• Tim Miller was talking with GOP consultants, and one of them was telling him about Texas — rural Texas, in particular. Trump, he said, gets “Saddam Hussein–level numbers here.” I had to smile.
In 2002, you may remember, Saddam staged a referendum on his continued rule: He got 100 percent of the vote — with a 100 percent turnout.
(I wrote a little about this in my book Children of Monsters.) (To the polls on the day in question, Uday, one of Saddam’s sons, drove a pink Rolls-Royce.)
• One of the best things about the late congressman John Lewis? A certain universality. There are people who support freedom, democracy, and human rights — for some. But not for all. Then there is the better kind.
Jianli Yang, the Chinese dissident and democracy activist, writes, “We will not only remember Rep. Lewis for his remarkable contributions to American civil rights, but also for his unwavering support of human rights in China. On a personal level, Rep. Lewis was a strong voice for my freedom during my five years of political imprisonment.”
James Kirchick has written an article headed “The Man Who Opposed Hate.” Its subheading is, “Among John Lewis’ many virtues: He refused to normalize Louis Farrakhan and the Nation of Islam, even as other prominent African-American celebrities and politicians did.”
Finally, a word from Ruben Avxhiu, who edits Illyria, an Albanian-American newspaper: “He [Lewis] was a lifelong member of the Albanian Issues Caucus. Albanian Americans will forever be grateful for his support for Kosovo and for the cause of freedom and democracy in the Balkans.”
• Did you see this? I will quote the first paragraph of the Washington Free Beacon article I have linked to:
Texas Democratic Senate nominee M.J. Hegar repeatedly equated U.S. immigration policies to Uyghur concentration camps in China, saying Americans “cannot lecture China” on human rights issues.
Yeah, I despise that stuff. Trump can play this game too. In the ’16 campaign, he was asked about Turkey, and the dictator’s crackdown on civil liberties:
“I think right now, when it comes to civil liberties, our country has a lot of problems, and I think it’s very hard for us to get involved in other countries when we don’t know what we are doing and we can’t see straight in our own country.”
Further: “When the world looks at how bad the United States is, and then we go and talk about civil liberties, I don’t think we’re a very good messenger.”
• As a rule, I think it’s a bad idea for American officials to appear on RT, the Kremlin propaganda outlet. But that’s what Jenna Ellis — senior legal adviser to the Trump campaign — did. (For a story, go here.) She denounced “propagandist activist media” . . . in the United States.
• At the Voice of America, some 100 foreign nationals work. They are a crucial part of the operation: translating stories into their native tongues; gathering news in those tongues. (The VOA broadcasts in almost 50 languages.) Word now is that new management will let their visas expire. Management will not renew those visas.
Could it possibly be? The VOA would almost certainly harm itself — would almost certainly be less capable of fulfilling its mission. Worse, the reporters sent back to their countries of origin could face persecution there. Some of those governments are none too pleased with the reporters’ work for us.
• Before Stephen Miller was a Trump aide, he was a Sessions aide. You could say, in fact, that Jeff Sessions made Miller’s name. Earlier this month, Sessions was defeated by Tommy Tuberville in a Republican primary. Asked for his reaction, Miller said, “Great victory for the country, great victory for the president.”
• Princeton University took the name of Woodrow Wilson off its school of public and international affairs. The university also took his name off one of its residential colleges. This is a thorough purging.
Wilson was not only president of the United States — he was president of Princeton (and governor of New Jersey). His name has been scrubbed because of his racism. Understandable. But there is more to Wilson than that.
Like him or not, he was an epochal figure, leading the United States in the First World War, articulating the Fourteen Points, establishing the League of Nations, winning the Nobel Peace Prize, etc. Things are named for Wilson all across Europe. (By “things” I mean plazas, avenues, buildings, and so on.) There are good reasons for this.
Nationalists, in particular, should take an interest: The name “Wilson” is virtually synonymous with national self-determination. (It is a revered name in Albania, among other places.)
Millions of people the world over held Wilson in awe. These included one of his Republican successors as president, Herbert Hoover. (See Hoover’s book The Ordeal of Woodrow Wilson.)
To me, it would seem natural to name a school of public and international affairs after Wilson — especially at Princeton. A “no-brainer,” in contemporary parlance. But we are in a peculiar time, and I hope people will navigate it wisely.
• On Twitter, someone asked, “What’s considered trashy if you’re poor but classy if you’re rich?” McKay Coppins of The Atlantic answered, “Speaking two languages.” I thought that was brilliant.
• A little music? On the Internet, when you are filling out forms — using passwords and such — you often see “Remember me.” You can check the box or not.
I tend to hear Dido’s Lament, in my head. This is the soprano (or mezzo-soprano) aria from Purcell’s opera Dido and Aeneas. “Remember me! Remember me! But, ah, forget my fate.”
• Less tragic are Lucas and Arthur Jussen, playing Mendelssohn. Wha’? I’m talking about two brothers from Holland — the Jussens — who are a duo-piano team. They have recorded Mendelssohn’s Andante and Allegro brillant, among many other pieces. I wrote about all this here. An interesting subject, piano duets (and duets in general).
Had enough? (That was the Republican slogan in 1946, after many years of Democratic dominance.) Thanks for joining me and I’ll catch you soon.
If you’d like to receive Impromptus by e-mail — links to new columns — write to firstname.lastname@example.org.
A Haven for the Sane
If you think there should be a corner of our journalistic and intellectual life that defends right reason and is an alternative to the unhinged mainstream media, and if you have been alarmed at the sound of the American mind slamming shut at so many institutions recently, please lend National Review your support.
SUPPORT NR TODAY