That’s the name of a well-loved spiritual, by the way: “Honor, Honor.” Anyway, in my London jottings today, I grouse a little about honors: who gets to be “Sir,” who gets to be “Lord,” who gets left out altogether. A lot of British conservatives say that the Right, in power, fails to look after its own. You can pay for a peerage. But what about merit? What about — here’s the word — honor?
The late John Gross, whose memorial service I write about today, should have been “Sir John,” or something. (He sat on at least one committee that recommended honors; he did not receive one himself.) Robert Conquest, born in 1917, should be “Sir Robert” (or “Sir Bob”). Never mind that he has lived in America for a while — still British. Paul Johnson should have been “Sir Paul” a long time ago. Our David P-J should be “Sir David”! And so on.
Gripe gripe gripe.
Eric Hobsbawm has an honor — he is E. J. Hobsbawm, CH. If a Stalin defender can get an honor, shouldn’t someone who actually likes Britain, the West, freedom, and democracy have at least as easy a time of it?
America has honors — governmental honors. Maybe we shouldn’t (I have made that argument before), but we do. (I have a feeling we should have military honors, but not civilian honors. Let Europe be Europe.) In the fullness of time, each side takes care of its own, pretty much: Dems give to liberals; Repubs give to conservatives. Partisanship in honors is a grubby business. But . . .
George W. Bush was a champion hander-out of Medals of Freedom. I mean, he did just fabulously. He gave the medal to people he admired and loved: Natan Sharansky, Oscar Biscet (who was released from a Cuban prison short days ago), Bob Conquest, Paul Johnson, Norman Podhoretz, Irving Kristol, James Q. Wilson. Hank Aaron and Frank Robinson! Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus!
I dare say, Bush’s medals looked a lot like mine would have . . .
Moreover, GWB handed VDH a National Humanities Medal. Can you picture Obama doing the same? Maybe — but I’m glad Victor got it when he did. He is highly, highly meritorious.
I was just looking at a piece I wrote about Medals of Freedom — “A Tasty Presidential Perk” — here. It contains this paragraph: “We all have our candidates for the Presidential Medal of Freedom. If he had been confirmed, Robert Bork would be in his 20th year on the Supreme Court. [This piece appeared in 2007.] It’s not just that he deserves the medal — he is almost owed one.”
P.S. Obama has given the Medal of Freedom to Mary Robinson, the Irish politician who presided over the Durban conference, that festival of anti-Israel and anti-Jewish hate. Some people had the temerity to complain. Robinson said, “There’s a lot of bullying by certain elements of the Jewish community.” Not enough, apparently.