The Corner


Knowing Diddley

Bo Diddley in New York City, 2004 (Jeff Christensen / Reuters)

I have an Impromptus column today, which starts with something unusual: attacks on pianos — physical attacks, as with axes — and what they mean. I also get into Democratic leaders on the Hill, the nature of anti-Semitism, a “grammar table” in New York, and more.

Did you ever see this Saturday Night Live satire on Nancy Pelosi? They did it when she first became speaker, after the 2006 midterms. I don’t think I’ve ever seen satire more clever or wicked.

Here on the Corner, I’d like to publish a little mail. First, a reader speaks about the national debt, which I’ve written about from time to time. Specifically, I have written about politicians’ general indifference to it (and the public’s indifference, to be sure — those things are connected). Our reader writes,

The two parties have different approaches to the national debt. The Democrats believe that, if we are very good, the ghost of Franklin Roosevelt will come down the chimney and put 21 trillion dollars in our stocking. The Republicans, sadly, are not that realistic.

Just kidding. The parties’ approaches are identical: do nothing and hope that the inevitable crisis happens on someone else’s watch. It worked for Obama, it may work for Trump. It will continue to work until it doesn’t.

Bush in 2005 and Romney in 2012 had enough respect for the public to tell them the truth about the country’s fiscal situation. Having seen the result, no one who wants to be president will make that mistake again.

In a column earlier this month, I wrote about Franco-German friendship, and its relative rarity in history. (This was after Macron and Merkel embraced at World War I commemorations.) I got a long and rather moving letter from an American who immigrated from Russia, and I will excerpt a little of it:

We should not only appreciate this new Franco-German friendship, we should also be proud of it — because it’s the greatest American achievement ever. Just contemplate Europe’s violent history. They have been killing one another for millennia. They could not stop. And America made them stop (is it jingoistic of me to say so?). Has any country ever done more for mankind?

Moreover, America has made a long-term commitment: the Marshall Plan, the Berlin Airlift, NATO, “Ich bin ein Berliner,” “Tear down this wall” … In all of my European travels, it has never occurred to me to disguise myself with a maple leaf. (I remember your writing about this phenomenon many years ago.) Rather, I feel like announcing, “Civis americanus sum,” in my heavy Russian accent, which I have in all languages.

This reader is a strong defender of the EU, which puts him at odds with his fellow conservatives — but he is not necessarily wrong.

Finally, let’s have a little language. In my Impromptus yesterday, I wrote of the who/whom problem. I cited the television game show that appeared in 1957, altering the grammatical landscape (or reflecting it): Who Do You Trust? It was hosted by Johnny Carson. On Twitter, they advise you “Who to follow.”

A reader writes, “When it comes to who/whom, I have always relied on that master of language Bo Diddley.” He then quotes the song “Who Do You Love?”

Night was dark, but the sky was blue.
Down the alley, the ice-wagon flew.
Heard a bump, and somebody screamed.
You should have heard just what I seen.

Who do you love?
Who do you love?
Who do you love?
Who do you love?

Our reader then says, “The song came out in 1956, one year before Who Do You Trust? It’s too bad that blues greats offered little help in my high-school theme assignments.”

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