Impromptus

‘Rogues’ we have known, &c.

Then-Republican vice-presidential nominee Sarah Palin at a rally in Waukesha, Wisc., October 9, 2008 (Carlos Barria/Reuters)
On ‘going rogue,’ Ronald Reagan, Tony Dungy, the ‘drug-dealing, white-supremacist stripper,’ and more

Ben Sasse, the Republican senator from Nebraska, did not much like President Trump’s recent series of executive orders. (We are talking about one executive order, really, and three “presidential memoranda.”) He criticized them. The president fired back in his usual manner, calling Sasse a “RINO” and saying that the senator had “gone rogue, again.”

Skip “RINO,” for now — although it’s interesting that Trump, who has been a Republican for about two seconds, calls others “Republicans in Name Only.” In no time at all, to be a Trumpist was to be a Republican, and not to be a Trumpist was not to be a Republican. Anyway, what about “going rogue”?

This is an expression that means bucking the establishment, declaring independence, doing one’s own thing. Maybe the most famous “goer-rogue” of all was Sarah Palin, the Republican vice-presidential nominee in 2008, who titled her autobiography “Going Rogue.”

Conservatives admired that kind of thing a lot. These days, if you go rogue, you are a heretic, a RINO, a traitor — or so it seems to me. Maybe there will come a day when the rogues will be thought cool again.

• Apparently, Republicans in Georgia will send a QAnon-er, and 9/11 truther, to Congress. In a tweet, President Trump called her a “future Republican Star.” I don’t doubt him. She is pretty starry now.

I thought of one of my favorite Reagan stories. When he was governor, a student mob surrounded his car, on one of the U-Cal campuses. They chanted, “We are the future! We are the future!” The Gipper reached into his briefcase and pulled out a legal pad. He scribbled something on it, then held it up to the window: “I’ll sell my bonds.”

• Last week, I walked down Memory Lane, though this time to 2005, only. George W. Bush had named Condoleezza Rice secretary of state. Donna Brazile, the famed Democratic politico, said something like the following:

Hey, wait a minute. I know we hate Bush. But can we just pause for a second and acknowledge that he has made a black woman secretary of state? That is a very big deal.

(Both of W.’s secretaries of state, in fact, were black.)

I was not much of a Brazilean, stemming from the Florida recount in 2000. Some of the statements she made really cheesed me off. But I will always have a soft spot for her, for what she said about W. and Condi.

Why was I thinking of 2005? Because when Joe Biden named Kamala Harris his running mate, a Republican or two said, “Say what you will, it’s historic.”

Other Republicans, of course, said that Harris is not really black — not authentically black. Indian mother, Jamaican father. Look, the one-drop rule has always reigned in America, whether we like it or not. Our country is screwy that way.

I heard a saying, long ago: “America is the only country in which a white woman can give birth to a black baby, but a black woman can’t give birth to a white baby.” It makes you a little dizzy, to think about.

Still other Republicans said, “Harris is not eligible to run for vice president” — the sort of thing we heard about Barack Obama, for several years. (The biggest “birther” of them all is now president.) My attitude is: Instead of saying they’re ineligible to run, why not just beat them?

• There will be no college football this year, by which I mean, no Michigan football. (I am biased.) One is bummed but understanding. There’s a plague on. People are dropping like flies.

Tony Dungy, the legendary NFL coach, tweeted the following on August 11:

I am praying for the college Presidents and Administrators who are trying to decide whether to go forward with the football season or postpone. Of course the players and coaches want to play and we fans want to see football. But do we really know the full reach of this virus?

Dungy has long been one of my favorite people. Don’t you love the humility of “we fans,” by the way? As if Dungy were merely another guy in the stands, or in front of his TV.

On August 15, Senator Marco Rubio tweeted this. I could describe it, but it’s probably better simply to view it. Rubio, a good politician, knows where the heart of the GOP is. He has his finger on the pulse of his peeps.

• Have you seen this story? Madison Cawthorn, a Republican congressional nominee in North Carolina, 25 years old, caused a stir. This relates to Instagram photos.

In 2017, Cawthorn went to Berchtesgaden — to the Eagle’s Nest, Hitler’s retreat, in Bavaria. He posted some photos. “The vacation house of the Führer,” he said. He also said that making this trip had been on his “bucket list” for some time, and “it did not disappoint.”

When the photos, and the accompanying words, were called to public attention, Cawthorn deleted them. His opponent in the congressional race said, “Hitler’s vacation retreat is not on my bucket list.” Cawthorn defended himself ably.

I’d like to tell you something personal, if I may. Since 2002, I have gone to Salzburg every year — sometimes more than once — for work. I’m at home this year, however, as Americans are unable to travel to Austria, owing to the coronavirus.

Salzburg is just a half-hour from Berchtesgaden — which is just over the border with Germany. I used to pass the general area en route to a golf course. Do you know I’ve never been to Berchtesgaden? And I almost certainly never will.

I just don’t want to.

The place is shriney for some — a pilgrimage. A magnet for Nazi sympathizers. But lots of people go to Berchtesgaden, for reasons perfectly benign. Many, many friends of mine have been. And they have interesting stories to tell, about their feelings, their reactions.

I don’t judge anyone who goes. Personally, I don’t want to. I could explore the reasons, but am moving on to . . .

• . . . a tweet from Benjamin Haddad, who runs the Future Europe Initiative at the Atlantic Council: “Overheard in DC: ‘Hitler was so horrible’.” I thought of my friend and colleague David Pryce-Jones — who does a funny imitation of Raymond Carr, the eminent historian who was David’s tutor at Oxford.

One morning, Carr came in hung over and, holding his head, said, “Robespierre — what a sh**. I mean, he was really a sh**.”

I wish you could hear, and see, David do this . . .

• Speaking of eminent historians and teachers: In the last year or so, I tried to interview Bernard Bailyn, the Harvard professor who illuminated America’s colonial period and revolution. I did not succeed. Bailyn has now died at 97.

For the New York Times obit, go here. For an excellent piece by Daniel N. Gullotta at The Bulwark, go here. By all accounts, Bernard Bailyn was one of the great historians and teachers of our time. I know several students of his. They all feel richer for the experience.

Not much is more valuable than a good teacher, right?

• You may have seen that Adolph Reed was “canceled,” in that he was scheduled to give a speech to the Democratic Socialists of America, New York City chapter, and could not go on: The speech was called off, under pressure.

What was the problem? Reed is a black Marxist professor — which is no problem, at all — but he wanted to argue that class should not be forgotten in the tsunami of talk about race.

My mind traveled down Memory Lane, to October 1995 — the second month of The Weekly Standard, where I was then working. We published a piece by Gertrude Himmelfarb, which said,

For years I have been complaining of the “race/class/gender” trinity that dominates academia . . .

In fact, the race/class/gender mantra is not quite accurate. “Class” should be in third place; in its present location it is a courtesy to dispossessed Marxists. Race and gender vie for primacy.

Heh.

• Not many are the people named “Adolph” after 1945 or so. Adolph Rupp, the basketball coach, was born in 1901, and Adolph Green, the lyricist, in 1914. But Professor Reed was born in 1947. There is an interesting story behind that naming, I bet.

I mentioned the issue of “Adolph” — and other names — in a piece earlier this summer: here, for those interested. The piece includes a moving story, supplied by a reader, about a man named “Adolf.”

• A statement from Secretary of State Mike Pompeo:

Today, the Department of State designated the Confucius Institute U.S. Center as a foreign mission of the PRC, recognizing CIUS for what it is: an entity advancing Beijing’s global propaganda and malign influence campaign on U.S. campuses and K-12 classrooms. Confucius Institutes are funded by the PRC and part of the Chinese Communist Party’s global influence and propaganda apparatus.

I’ve drawn this statement from a news story, here.

Tell you something funny, or interesting, possibly: Several years ago, I was keen to do a big piece on Confucius Institutes. I gathered a fair amount of material for it. Conducted some interviews. But then I discovered a piece by Marshall Sahlins, the famed anthropologist, in The Nation: “China U.”

He says everything that needs to be said. There was no need to do my piece. A left-wing academic, in a left-wing magazine, had handled it.

Mirabile dictu, as Bill Buckley would say.

I know some China scholars — excellent ones, ones I admire a lot — who say that the Confucius Institutes are no problem, really. An expression of China’s “soft power,” maybe, but relatively innocent. I know others who say: problem. I am glad for the State Department’s recent move.

• Quite possibly, you don’t see the press releases of the U.S. attorney’s office in the Eastern District of Texas. If that is the case, you missed a doozy: “Drug-Dealing, White Supremacist Stripper Sentenced for Obstruction of Justice.”

Tawmbout. (If you’re going to get me to read legal news, that’s the kind of thing you’re going to have to deliver.)

• Can’t get enough of Texas? Me neither. Check out this ad — more like a public-service announcement, I guess — for the Barbara Bush Branch Library in Harris County. God bless America.

Later.

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