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Politics & Policy

1994 and All That

House speaker Newt Gingrich makes remarks as President Bill Clinton looks on at a senior-citizen center in Claremont, N.H., June 11, 1995. (Jim Bourg / Reuters)

I have an Impromptus column today, with the usual mélange. The column begins with “Get over it.” This is what Marion Barry said when, after a prison term, he had another term — a fourth term as mayor of Washington, D.C. Some Washingtonians grumbled about this. And Barry said, “Get over it.” The phrase has returned to our political life, courtesy of Mick Mulvaney, the president’s chief of staff, or acting chief of staff. “I have news for everybody,” he said: “Get over it. There’s going to be political influence in foreign policy.” The Trump-Pence campaign has put Get Over It on a T-shirt ($30), placing the president’s distinctive hair over the “o” in “over.”

Here on the Corner, I wanted to add something to this — something related to “Get over it.” Barry uttered that phrase in 1994. (It is one of his two immortal phrases. The other is, “The young lady set me up.” He did not say “the young lady,” but you can look up the original.) Something else happened in 1994: For the first time in eons — 40 years — voters nationwide elected the Republican party to a majority in the House of Representatives. That meant that a certain Georgia Republican would be speaker.

It is hard to imagine, at this remove, how far-fetched that seemed. It was once far-fetched that Nancy Pelosi could be speaker, too. In fact, Republicans tried to scare people in 2006 by asking, “Speaker Pelosi?”

In late 1994 — between Election Day and Christmas — a bumper sticker appeared on Capitol Hill: Speaker Newt: Deal with it.

Also in Impromptus today, I have a note on nationalism. It was occasioned by an e-mail from a reader, who said, “American nationalists seem to have more affinity for nationalists in other countries than they do for their fellow Americans who aren’t nationalists.” Yes, there is an international movement of nationalists, as Nigel Farage and others have said. (Steve Bannon’s organization, based in Brussels, is called “The Movement.”) Something similar is true of advocates of liberal democracy: They are allied, wherever they live. Ideas form bonds between people — think of religion — in addition to food, soil, folk music, etc.

Whom do I have more in common with? A democracy protester on the streets of Hong Kong or Michael Moore, who grew up an hour away from me and rooted for the same baseball team (the Detroit Tigers)? We could explore that question at length.

In Impromptus, I quote Abraham Lincoln, in his eulogy for Henry Clay: “Mr. Clay’s predominant sentiment, from first to last, was a deep devotion to the cause of human liberty — a strong sympathy with the oppressed everywhere, and an ardent wish for their elevation. . . . He loved his country partly because it was his own country, but mostly because it was a free country.”

I would like to add something from Edmund Burke, the patron saint of conservatives. (In the late 1980s, John Judis wrote a biography of WFB whose subtitle was “Patron Saint of Conservatives,” but I think Burke beat Bill to it.) WFB liked to quote Burke to the effect that “a country, to be loved, ought to be lovely.” (In the 18th century, “lovely” meant “lovable.”) I have looked up the precise passage, which goes like this:

There ought to be a system of manners in every nation, which a well-formed mind would be disposed to relish. To make us love our country, our country ought to be lovely. But power, of some kind or other, will survive the shock in which manners and opinions perish; and it will find other and worse means for its support.

Impromptus has a slew of other items today, touching on China, “human scum” (the president’s designation of Republicans who oppose or criticize him), Elizabeth Warren, Julián Castro, Harold Bloom, and more. I end with a brief appreciation of my colleague David French, late of NR. Again, here.


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