Impromptus

Arnold, Bess, &c.

Republican gubernatorial candidate Arnold Schwarzenegger and his wife Maria Shriver after casting their votes in the California recall election on October 7, 2003 (Blake Sell / Reuters)
On Arnold Schwarzenegger, Bess Myerson, the California recall, Texas talk, the price of chicken wings, and more

The California recall election seems a long time ago — Tuesday. We are fast-movin’ in this country. But let me make a few points about that election regardless.

Actually, let me begin with a point made by a friend of mine — a seasoned political analyst in California. The recall election tracked the public’s views on the pandemic, he said. Governor Newsom was retained by about 64 percent of the voters; the other 36 percent wanted him out.

As it happens, about 64 percent of the voters approve of the way Newsom has handled the pandemic — or think he should be more strict. About 36 percent say he has been too strict.

Anyway, an interesting convergence.

The leading Republican was Larry Elder, the talk-radio host. Another Republican — who really didn’t factor in the recall — was Kevin Faulconer, the former mayor of San Diego. I wrote about him in April, here. He compiled a solid record as mayor. He dealt with some very difficult problems, including homelessness. One has a sense of what kind of governor he would make.

But the talk-radio host got all the juice (on the right, I mean). Which tells you something about where we are.

Who was the winner of the previous recall election, by the way? One of the biggest movie stars in the world: Arnold.

There will be a regular — a regularly scheduled — gubernatorial election next year. Does someone like Faulconer have a ghost of a chance?

I have written pretty much all I have to say about the question of experience in politics — presidential politics, in particular. I said it in an essay published a year ago. Maybe I could paste a little bit before getting to Bess Myerson — yes, Bess Myerson, that important Miss America.

My pasting (so to speak):

In 2012, my friend Ted Cruz was elected to the Senate from Texas. It was assumed, and rightly, that Ted would run for president at the first opportunity, which was in the 2016 cycle. Some (Republican) critics said, “We don’t need another Obama.” In other words, Barack Obama had run for president, and won, after just four years in the Senate, and how was that working out?

Frankly, I was worried that my friend would be thought too green to run for president. Too unseasoned. A presidential bid at this stage would seem presumptuous, almost an affront.

In the environment of the 2016 Republican primaries and caucuses, Ted’s experience was, if anything, a negative. I’m talking about the fact that he had any experience at all. He was tainted, you see, by a few years in the Senate. He was not innocent of governmental knowledge. He was a “swamp creature” . . .

Okay, Bess Myerson, who was Miss America in 1945, and the first Jewish Miss America. This did not sit well with everybody. Have a taste of the Wikipedia entry on her:

Prior to the competition, she was pressured to use a pseudonym that “sounded less Jewish.” . . . Myerson refused and was subjected to substantial antisemitism. After she won the title on September 8, 1945, three of the pageant’s five sponsors withdrew from having her represent their companies as Miss America.

Swell.

Anyway, I was looking into Bess Myerson the other day — for reasons I could explain — and read her obit in the New York Times. She ran for the Democratic Senate nomination in New York in 1980. Her campaign was managed by David Garth. Let me quote a passage from the obit:

Although Ms. Myerson wore dark business suits and little makeup to play down her Miss America image, “voters saw her as being too glamorous,” said Mr. Garth, who ran her campaign. In one debate she was asked whether, as a former Miss America, she expected voters to take her candidacy seriously. “I have 35 years of public service,” she replied.

Would anyone think Bess too glamorous today? Would anyone care that she hadn’t run for office before? And this was merely the U.S. Senate, mind you — not the presidency.

Autres temps, autres mœurs, as they say at CPAC.

• Usually, I have a language item or two at the end, but do you feel like breaking for one now? Harold Cook is a veteran Democratic politico in Texas. He’s annoyed that his party does not have a credible candidate for governor next year. Last time around, he tweeted, “we ended up nominating a county sheriff who couldn’t have raised money with a gun, mask, and list of 7-11s.”

Ah, Texas. Outstanding.

• In North Korea, the ruling ideology is juche, which is sometimes translated “self-reliance” but is not a good kind of self-reliance, as in Emerson: It means isolation from the outside world. I wonder if you saw this story: “Kim Jong Un turns down vaccines, insists on fighting pandemic in ‘our style.’” Yes, their style. It will mean a lot of deaths, as is routinely the case in North Korea, the most hellish country on earth, or perhaps tied with Syria.

• A dollop of economics? David Frum typed a tweet, beginning with a question:

Remember the chicken wing shortage? It’s ending. Price of wings has dropped from almost $4 / lb in May and June to $2.79 in latest US Department of Agriculture report. There’s still a way to go before prices return to normal. But as usual, markets work.

Yes. I learned this lesson when I was in my teens — from Milton Friedman, Bill Buckley, Thomas Sowell, and others. But you know what? Even we old free-marketeers have to be reminded from time to time.

And there is nothing new under the sun, as the author of Ecclesiastes said, though he was surely not the first to say it.

• Yesterday, I wrote a blogpost with the heading “‘Afghanistan Is Not Done.’” A few lines:

The United States has withdrawn, yes. But individual Americans are doing everything they can to rescue their allies from the Taliban. Terrorists are consolidating in Afghanistan, as they did once before. So, yes: In multiple ways, Afghanistan is not done.

In the course of reading about Afghanistan, I happened upon a report dated August 15. It says, “The Taliban captured Bagram Air Base on Sunday and released thousands of prisoners, including many senior al-Qaeda operatives.” Do you think this will make a difference to us later? A bad one? I do.

• About the Baltic states, there are many things to be admired, including their pluck. Their nerve. They know what it is to be menaced — and occupied — by a big, nasty power. And they hold the values of liberal democracy dear.

Recently, Lithuania has come under great pressure from the Chinese state, because Lithuania has decided to exchange diplomatic offices with Taiwan. Robbie Gramer wrote up the matter for Foreign Policy, here. An interesting development, an interesting episode.

Taiwan and the Baltic states have a great deal in common, as has long been noted.

• Sometimes, people like me are accused of “Reagan nostalgia” or, worse, “zombie Reaganism.” Well, reading the news the other day, I could not help thinking of the 1980s.

Here is the recent news: “Australian nuclear subs will be banned from New Zealand waters: Ardern.” (I have quoted the headline over this article.) “Ardern” is Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, and she reminded me of David Lange, who was prime minister of that country, New Zealand, from 1984 to 1989. His government banned nuclear-capable ships from New Zealand waters. The Reagan administration said that this violated the ANZUS Treaty. Was New Zealand an ally or not? Would they benefit from our nuclear deterrent while putting on a show of anti-nuke activism?

Passions were hot (and rightly so). I remember it like it was yesterday . . .

• Most of us have writers who speak for us — or speak for us regularly — and this makes us lucky. Kevin D. Williamson spoke for me, as he so often does, in his essay “The Trump Coup Is Still Raging.” I will confine myself to quoting just two parts:

As the Republican Party tries to make up its mind between wishing away the events of Jan. 6 or celebrating them, one thing should be clear to conservatives estranged from the party: We can’t go home again.

Yes. That is a sad reality. In May 2016, after Donald Trump clinched the Republican presidential nomination, I wrote a piece titled “#ExGOP.” (That was a hashtag that was making the rounds.) And the subtitle: “The shock of disaffiliation.”

It was shocking, too. I was the most hard-bitten Republican you ever heard of, as I explained in that piece.

One more bit, from KDW:

In the normal course of democratic politics, people who disagree about one issue can work together when they agree about another. We can fight over taxes or trade policy.

But there isn’t really any middle ground on overthrowing the government. And that is what Mr. Trump and his allies were up to in 2020, through both violent and nonviolent means — and continue to be up to today.

Kevin got to the heart of it.

• There is controversy in the poetry world, and an excellent controversy it is, too. Mind-concentrating. Danielle Rose tweeted, “I wish poets understood that the general population has no interest in what we do, so when we speak we are speaking only to each other.” She was the poetry editor at Barren Magazine. She is no longer — Barren made sure of that.

Anyway, I have written a brief post, here. So much to say, and think about.

• We had a language note, earlier on. You can stand another one, right? I often hear the word “fanboy.” Now, a fanboy is a fan of someone you don’t like. And a fan of someone you like? A “fan.”

This is a rule, and you will see it play out, most every day.

• I was thinking about tennis champions and identity. Female tennis players and identity. Bear with me.

In a 2018 column, I jotted the following, about Naomi Osaka:

Naomi is 20 years old. Being half Japanese and half Haitian, she is constantly asked about her identity: What is she? “I don’t know,” she said recently. “I just think of myself as me.”

What a great thing to be.

Naomi Osaka won the 2018 U.S. Open. Winning this year’s Open was Emma Raducanu — whose mother is Chinese, whose father is Romanian, who was born in Canada, and who grew up in England. And is British.

But who is also gloriously, marvelously herself.

• At a golf range this week, I met a lady whose accent was hard to place. “British Isles?” I said. “Australia,” she answered. And she is of Scottish background. Her father and his mates were Scottish pioneers in Australia, way back. Rugged guys. This lady I believe has been in America for some years.

She said some funny things about the Scots. She also said this: “They are prone to melancholy.” This is true of someone close to her. But it is not true of her.

“I wake up every morning singing like the birds,” she said, “ready to embrace the day. I don’t know why. I just do.”

Which is pretty neat. See you later, my friends.

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

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