Impromptus

Liz Cheney and the GOP, &c.

Congresswoman Liz Cheney, with House minority leader Kevin McCarthy behind her and to her left, at a news conference on Capitol Hill, May 8, 2019 (Aaron P. Bernstein/Reuters)
On the Republican Party today; a nephew of Kim Jong-un; Ronald Reagan’s brown suit; and more

Political courage is a rare thing, like all courage. That’s why we celebrate courage (some of the time), I think. If courage were more common, we might shrug at it, or even fail to notice it. Liz Cheney, the Republican congresswoman from Wyoming, has demonstrated political courage.

In last November’s presidential election, Donald Trump won Wyoming with 70 percent of the vote — his highest percentage anywhere. Wyoming has a small population and just one congressional district. Liz Cheney is that House rep. Despite Trump’s immense popularity in her state, she voted to impeach him, and she will not stop telling the truth about November 3 (Election Day), January 6 (the day of the assault on the Capitol), and so on.

As a result, she will probably lose her leadership position in the House GOP. And why shouldn’t she? She is out of step with her party — which is greatly to her credit, I think.

Listen to her colleague Anthony Gonzalez, a Republican congressman from Ohio: “If a prerequisite for leading our conference is continuing to lie to our voters, then Liz is not the best fit. Liz isn’t going to lie to people. Liz is going to say what she believes. She’s going to stand on principle. If that’s going to be distracting for folks, she’s not the best fit. I wish that weren’t the case.”

Yes — but it is.

On the way to the rostrum to give his recent speech to Congress, President Biden greeted Cheney with a fist bump — which led Donald Trump Jr. to tweet,

“Republican” warmonger Liz Cheney gives Sleepy Joe a fist bump after he delivered a radical socialist vision for the future of America. So glad she’s in the GOP leadership, I guess they wanted to be more inclusive and put Democrats in there too?!?

Bill Buckley used to say, “It’s amazing how serious political issues can be boiled down to bumper stickers: ‘Better Dead Than Red’; ‘Better Red Than Dead.’” Similarly, it’s amazing how one tweet can go so far in summarizing the current state of our politics.

Liz Cheney responded,

I disagree strongly w/@JoeBiden policies, but when the President reaches out to greet me in the chamber of the US House of Representatives, I will always respond in a civil, respectful & dignified way. We’re different political parties. We’re not sworn enemies. We’re Americans.

That kind of language — that kind of thinking — is from another age. The tweet might as well have been written in Sanskrit.

At a Utah GOP convention last Saturday, delegates booed Mitt Romney, and heckled him as a “traitor” and “communist.” Romney asked the poignant question: “Aren’t you embarrassed?” (Answer: no.) Millions of Americans are definitionally at sea. They have no idea what a communist is, or a conservative, etc. They are badly misled by the talkers they listen to.

In the 2012 Republican primaries, Rick Perry damned Mitt Romney as a “vulture capitalist.” Today, some Republicans are damning Romney as a “communist.” If Mitt thinks the world has gone stark raving mad, I don’t blame him.

Some days, I’m inclined to believe that Matt Gaetz, the talk establishment, and the rest of Trump Nation are right: There is no place for the likes of Liz Cheney and Mitt Romney in the GOP. Not today’s. The Republicans have become a Trump party, through and through.

Is there room for a third party, of any significance? Probably not. America seems to do two at a time. But a third party is awfully attractive to a lot of conservatives. By “a lot,” I don’t mean the kind of numbers that Trump & Co. can attract. But enough to fill a few booths at Denny’s? Yes. Maybe even rent out the whole restaurant.

• In a recent column — primarily about Northern Ireland — Daniel Hannan said something that really rang my chimes:

. . . Britishness is uniquely suited to the modern age. It is creedal rather than ethnic, resting on values rather than blood. Which values? Precisely those that the IRA tried to bomb out of existence: the rule of law, parliamentary democracy, personal liberty, religious pluralism, private property, tolerance of difference, free speech.

Sing it, baby.

• Did you see this? “Chinese university plan causes security concerns in Hungary.” As I have noted in this column before, China is establishing its first foreign campus ever — in Viktor Orbán’s Hungary. This campus bids to be a spy hub, among other things. Ties between Orbán and Beijing are increasingly warm.

Many of my friends and colleagues are gung-ho on Orbán. At the same time, they are hostile to the Chinese government. I wonder how they reconcile these things.

• Another article — an eye-popper: “This ex-Marine tried to help North Korean diplomats defect. Now he faces decades in prison.” The article is by Max Boot and Sue Mi Terry. They relate the story of Christopher Ahn. I want to paste a little excerpt, then do some more pasting, from something else:

. . . Ahn interrupted a vacation in the Philippines to fly to Taiwan to help Kim Han Sol, the nephew of North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un. . . . Kim Han Sol no longer felt safe living in Macao after his father, Kim Jong Nam, Kim Jong Un’s half brother, was assassinated with a chemical weapon by alleged North Korean agents in Malaysia. Ahn helped Kim Han Sol and his mother and sister find a flight to safety abroad.

I had an encounter once with Kim Han-sol. I did not meet him, in the flesh — wish I had. But I saw some video, and wrote about him in my book Children of Monsters (a book that also includes plenty of grandchildren). Han-sol, I said,

was born in 1995, and has had most of his life outside of North Korea. Via the social media, he has expressed concern over the widespread famine in his home country. “I know my people are hungry.”

That is treasonous talk.

In 2012, when he was a student at the United World College in Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina, he was interviewed by Elisabeth Rehn, a Finnish politician who was a founder of the college. This interview was filmed for television. Han-sol proved a winsome young man, speaking American English, complete with slang. He wore two earrings in his left ear.

Rebellious. Subversive.

He told his interviewer that he had spent his first years in North Korea, kept largely isolated from society. He never met his grandfather, Kim Jong-il. He is not sure his grandfather ever knew of his existence. His mother was not a North Korean “royal,” just an ordinary citizen. Visiting her family, he could glimpse the lives of ordinary North Koreans. He said, in the interview, that he dreamed of a united Korean Peninsula.

One more little slice:

Han-sol was a student in France when Kim Jong-un executed Jang Song-taek, and then “liquidated” the man’s extended family. Han-sol was put under police protection. He is a Kim, not a Jang, but he has been a loose cannon, a virtual Westerner, an offender against juche.

Yes. (Juche, as you recall, is the official ideology of North Korea. It means, roughly, “self-reliance.” But this is not an Emersonian self-reliance. It means: “North Korea will be shut off from the rest of the world — a hermit kingdom — ruled by the Communist Party.”)

• Shall we lighten up? Let me do some Reagan, by way of George Washington. On April 30, Michael Beschloss, the presidential historian, tweeted,

When he was sworn in as first President of the United States today 1789, George Washington wore a suit of plain brown broadcloth (possibly this one from his wardrobe), showing that he did not intend to be a king or tyrant.

“This one”? Well, Beschloss had tweeted a photo, too: Go here.

I could not help thinking of the 40th president — Reagan — and his brown suit. There was a lot of comment on this suit. A lot. Brown suits were considered a rarity, and not very — you know: with-it. But the president made them almost fashionable.

Try an article from UPI, in August 1985: “Reagan Makes Brown Suit a Success Mark.”

I do not own a brown suit. Do they sell ’em? I might should wear one, in honor of GW and RR.

• Let’s have a little language. The other week, I was watching a TV series, set in the 1980s (speaking of Reagan!). The characters said, “I’m good,” meaning they did not need or want another drink, etc.

I believe this was wrong. I don’t think we were saying “I’m good” in the 1980s. If we were, what we meant was, “I’m virtuous.” “I’m good” in the sense of “I’m happy with the status quo” came much later, I believe.

Perhaps some student of language can tell us . . .

• A little music? For my monthly “chronicle,” in The New Criterion, go here. You get a slew of performers, composers, and issues. For a post on Mishka Rushdie Momen, a London-born pianist, go here. You get a slew of performers, composers, and issues in that one, too, come to think of it.

• Quiz: Where was this picture taken?

South Bend, Indiana, correct.

Wanna take in a minor-league game, while in South Bend? And doesn’t that sky look big, and wonderful?

A statue of Father Ted Hesburgh and Martin Luther King, singing “We Shall Overcome”:

Civil War memorial — thank God for the men who saved the Union:

Civic theater! Do they still matter in American life, when we can watch shows on our phone and whatnot? I hope so. For one thing, there’s nothing like participating, rather than being a mere spectator.

Now we’re talkin’:

This place was virtually made for me. In fact, they must have known I was comin’:

A taste of New York — New York Harbor — in South Bend:

Thank you for joining me today, my friends, and see you later.

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

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