The Corner


China, Belarus, Snowden, and More

General Joseph Stilwell (U.S. Army via Wikimedia)

In Impromptus today, I lead with a note on “rogues.” President Trump accused Senator Ben Sasse of having “gone rogue, again.” I thought of Sarah Palin — who titled her autobiography “Going Rogue.” Some of us have a soft spot for rogues.

I also tell a Reagan story. Talk college football, with the help of Tony Dungy. Discuss a controversy involving a young GOP-er’s visit to Berchtesgaden. And highlight a press release from the U.S. attorney’s office in the Eastern District of Texas: “Drug-Dealing, White Supremacist Stripper Sentenced for Obstruction of Justice.”

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

Why is there a picture of General Joseph “Vinegar Joe” Stilwell over this Corner post? He was one of our leading generals in the East during World War II. In recent days, the State Department has made a move against the Confucius Institutes that dot our land, and other lands. This is welcome news. And I comment on it in my Impromptus.

I don’t comment on Stilwell, however. What’s the connection between him and Confucius Institutes? None — except that, in reading about the State Department, I noticed that our assistant secretary for East Asian and Pacific affairs is General David R. Stilwell. Apparently, there is no relation. Nonetheless, I regard the coincidence as poetic.

In my column, I don’t say anything about Belarus. I thought I’d offer two details in this blogpost.

Regular readers may know that I’m a great admirer of the American “radios,” those news organizations that are independent of the government, but funded by the government, and that people all over the world rely on. I hope they can retain their independence and live up to their missions. Two years ago, I wrote about RFE/RL — Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty — here.

On Saturday, democratic protesters stood in front of Belarus state-television offices and chanted, “Radio Svaboda! Radio Svaboda!” (the name for “Radio Liberty” in their language).

I also wanted to mention this: In a speech to his (ever diminishing) supporters, the dictator Lukashenko said, “Europe wants to turn Belarus into a toilet! They want to send NATO soldiers here, black and yellow, to whip us! You want this?”

A friendly, timely reminder that there are people who resent multiracial societies, a lot.

Neither, in my column, do I mention Edward Snowden — whom President Trump has signaled he may pardon. Congresswoman Liz Cheney weighed in with this:

Edward Snowden is a traitor.

He is responsible for the largest and most damaging release of classified info in US history.

He handed over US secrets to Russian and Chinese intelligence putting our troops and our nation at risk.

Pardoning him would be unconscionable.

So, Liz Cheney, too, has “gone rogue.” Good for her. If a President Obama, Hillary, or Biden pardoned Snowden, I think the Right at large would demand impeachment. If Trump does so, I believe there will be a little fuss, but a basic swallowing, as usual.

I was going to close with several letters on music, but, as I’ve gone on, will offer just one. A reader writes,

Art imitates life.

Tom Selleck made a series of movies in which he plays a small-town police chief with a troubled past. The usual things: divorce, alcohol, fired from previous job. He winds up in a small town north of Boston, and, of course, everyone in town knows his story.

One day, a woman approaches him and hands him a record — or tape or CD — and says, “Brahms.” Then she gives some psycho-babble about music and a troubled soul.

Well, butter my butt and call me a biscuit if that isn’t exactly what I was doing back in the early ’80s when my life was — problematic. A quiet evening by myself, Brahms’s First Symphony, the piano trios . . .

Yes, there is a kindness about Brahms. He is a consoling friend, as Marilyn Horne, the great-mezzo soprano, remarked in an interview with me, some years ago. He will be there when you need him — and even when you don’t!