Impromptus

The wrong crowd, &c.

The mayhem at the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021 (Shannon Stapleton / Reuters)
On the Capitol riot, Hillary Clinton, Andrew Yang, Elizabeth Taylor, Phil Mickelson, and more

Did you see this story? It explains that many January 6 defendants are saying, “I didn’t mean any harm. I just got caught up in the crowd.” I immediately thought of Anthony Daniels, who also writes as Theodore Dalrymple. For many years, he worked as a prison psychiatrist. He said that he often met people who, according to them, fell in with the wrong crowd. Oddly, he never met the wrong crowd itself.

• Grassy-knollers, we will always have with us. Conspiracy theories are endlessly appealing to many people. But the Warren Commission Report was hugely important in reassuring Americans of the facts concerning the Kennedy assassination. Members of the commission included Allen Dulles, Gerald R. Ford, and John J. McCloy.

I wish for something similar concerning January 6, the assault on the Capitol. But that is impossible, given the political conditions in our country. One side of the country wants to bury January 6, if not falsify the relevant events altogether. To my mind, this is tragic.

• According to polls, a majority of Republicans believes the 2020 election was stolen from Donald Trump. A majority also believes that left-wing groups — not Trump supporters — were responsible for January 6.

On Face the Nation, Robert Gates was asked about all this. He was the CIA analyst who became CIA director and later secretary of defense. The question was: If you were still an analyst, and looked coldly at the United States, with its polarization, what would you think about the stability of the country? Gates answered, “I would have serious concerns about the future.”

Yes.

• Senator Mitch McConnell was asked about Trump, etc. He said he was focused on the Biden administration, and “looking forward, not backwards.”

That is a longstanding political trick, and perhaps human trick. Will you indulge me in a memory?

As she was preparing to run for Senate, I had a chance to ask Hillary Clinton one question — just one. This was at a press conference. I asked, “Do you stand by your assertion that the charges against your husband stemmed from a ‘vast, right-wing conspiracy’?” Searching for and pointing to the next questioner, she said, “I’m not going back, I’m going forward.” And that was it.

So far as I am aware, she had never been asked that question before, and was never asked it after.

• By now, you are probably aware of John Cena — I had never heard of him. According to Wikipedia, he is “an American professional wrestler, actor, and television presenter.” Cena apologized to China — to the Chinese government, I suppose — for having referred to Taiwan as a “country.”

I thought of a famous line — there are so many — from The Simpsons. In a 1994 episode, the anchorman Kent Brockman says, “I, for one, welcome our new insect overlords.”

(At pop culture, I’m pretty good up until the turn of the century or so.)

• Headline: “Ethiopia Expels New York Times Reporter.” Subheading: “The government gave no explanation for the expulsion of the reporter, Simon Marks, who had extensively reported about the war and human rights abuses in the Tigray region.” Well, there you go.

The article is from the New York Times itself, and is written by Declan Walsh, the paper’s chief Africa correspondent. I podcasted with Walsh last November, here. He is a superb correspondent. And Simon Marks had been doing highly valuable work.

His expulsion tells us something about the Ethiopian government and its guilt. (I wrote about Ethiopia two months ago, here. Its government is headed by a Nobel peace laureate.) In March 2020, the Chinese dictatorship expelled reporters from the Times, the Washington Post, and the Wall Street Journal. These governments just don’t want the outside world to know.

• Garry Kasparov makes an interesting point about dictators. They don’t ask, “Why?” They ask, “Why not?” Take Putin’s annexation of Crimea. “Why not? Who’s gonna stop me?” No one.

So, the Belarusian Putin, Lukashenko, hijacks an airplane, flying from Athens to Vilnius. He arrests a young reporter, Roman Protasevich, whom he may torture to death. (As the plane was being forced down to Minsk, Protasevich put his head between his legs and said, “They’re going to execute me.”)

Not “Why?” but “Why not?” They can get away with it, over and over — so they do.

• Headline: “Dozens of Mexican Candidates Have Been Killed in a Bloody Election Season.” Subheading: “Mexico’s crime gangs, looking to control local territory, are gunning down politicians who resist.”

That article is by Juan Montes and José de Córdoba of the Wall Street Journal. I was reminded of something I heard when I was in Mexico, three years ago, to report on the killing of journalists. Mexico leads the world in the murder of journalists.

Let me quote from my piece:

Journalists are killed, yes, says Jan-Albert Hootsen, whose job it is to monitor such things: He is the Mexico representative of the Committee to Protect Journalists. But everyone else is killed too, he notes: mayors, priests, musicians — you name it. The rule of law is in shambles.

• Andrew Yang is claiming he is the victim of racist attacks. Let me quote from Politico:

Mayoral hopeful Andrew Yang on Tuesday denounced attacks on him by rival candidates for playing into anti-Asian racism — tying broadsides against him to a spike in hate crimes in the city.

Yang stood with his wife, Evelyn, Tuesday outside a Queens subway station where an Asian man was shoved onto the train tracks, denouncing a New York Daily News cartoon portraying him as a tourist as well as broader attacks questioning whether he is a true New Yorker.

Huh. I think Yang is being criticized — enduring routine political attacks — and doesn’t like it. There is enough racism in the world without having to invent any.

• “A Marine holds the door as Gianna Floyd, the daughter of George Floyd, walks into the White House.” See this picture here. I believe it is very American. No matter what your politics — it’s American to the core. (Others disagree with me, naturally, as they have made clear on social media.)

• John Warner, the longtime Virginia senator, has died at 94. I have a memory. It concerns an all-night session, held in the Senate. The guys (and maybe a few gals, at that point) were sleeping on cots. Senator George Mitchell was grumping about this, and maybe feeling a little sorry for himself.

I was a distinguished federal judge. I had a nice life. You’re telling me that this is the glamorous life of the Senate? Who needs it?

At some point, he stepped over a sleeping John Warner. Then he thought:

You know, ordinarily he’s sleeping with Elizabeth Taylor. So maybe I’m not making that big a sacrifice.

(Warner, you recall, was married to Taylor for a while. He was Hubby No. 6.)

• Throw some music at you? Here is a post on a concert livestreamed by the Metropolitan Opera. Here is a post on Francis Poulenc and the organ. Here is the latest episode of my Music for a While — an episode that celebrates spring, that glorious and rightly loved season.

• Throw some sports at you? A pitcher for the Detroit Tigers, Spencer Turnbull, threw a no-hitter. John Bacon — the writer John U. Bacon — had an interesting response. He and I are high-school classmates, and committed Detroit Tiger fans. (“Committed” may be the word, as in mental institutions.)

On hearing that one of our pitchers had pitched a no-hitter, John asked, “But did the Tigers win?”

Classic. (In the past — on rare occasions — teams have lost, despite a no-hitter by their pitcher.) (Think bases on balls, errors, sacrifice flies, etc.)

• I have been watching Phil Mickelson, the golfer, since he was in college. Millions of us have. He won a PGA Tour event while he was still in college, still an amateur. Now he has won 45, all told.

The latest was last week at the PGA Championship. The PGA is one of the four “majors,” as you know. Phil is 50 years old. When he won, he was 51 minus three weeks. He is the oldest player ever to win a major. He beat the record of Julius Boros, who was 48 when he won the PGA in 1968.

Here’s the thing: Several weeks ago, Phil was talking about hanging it up — hanging it up on the PGA Tour, that is. He was missing cuts. He said that if he couldn’t compete on the “regular tour,” he’d have to go on the senior tour, full time, simple as that.

He has now not only competed; he has won — and a major.

Phil could have retired before he turned 30. He had millions of dollars and lots of glory. But he has pushed himself and pushed himself. He has worked on his body — he got quite fat and slimmed way down. He has worked on his technique — never resting, always adjusting, always improving. He has worked on his mind — the PGA victory was a mental feat, as much as a physical.

By golly, he is an inspiration to many, in and out of sports.

• The other day, I got a letter from Mike Brown, the journalist (whom I wrote about here). I loved his sign-off: “To paraphrase St. Paul, keep fighting the good fight. Or was that Duluth?”

Keep fighting the good fight, y’all. See you.

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

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