The Corner


Passing Scenes

The novelist John le Carré, interviewed on “CBS News Sunday Morning” (Screenshot, YouTube)

My Impromptus column today leads with politics, and economics. About a month ago, a Republican senator knocked Janet Yellen, the former chairman of the Federal Reserve who is set to become Treasury secretary: “I think she’s very anti-worker, she’s very pro-corporation.”

This took me down Memory Lane — for this is the way the Left talked, when I was coming of age and figuring out what to believe. They pitted worker against manager, labor against capital, “people” against corporations. It was the conservatives — including WFB and Team National Review — who steered me away from such thinking.

As I say in my column, one of the most remarkable things I ever saw in politics occurred in August 2011 at the Iowa State Fair. Candidate Mitt Romney was talking about how to rescue entitlement programs from bankruptcy: Social Security, Medicare, and so on. Left-wing protesters heckled him. He dealt with them in a remarkably frank (and patient) way.

You can see it here.

Anyway, these days, the Right can sound an awful lot like the Left.

I go on, in my column, to discuss the Republican Party. After I wrote this column, I noticed two tweets from Florida politicians. They and their tweets seem to me to represent the nature of today’s GOP.

Here is Marco Rubio:

Dr. Fauci lied about masks in March

Dr. Fauci has been distorting the level of vaccination needed for herd immunity

It isn’t just him

Many in elite bubbles believe the American public doesn’t know “what’s good for them” so they need to be tricked into “doing the right thing”

And here is Matt Gaetz:

I’m not going back to yesterday’s Republican Party.


To my mind, there is no need for the capital letters and the exclamation point. The congressman’s statement is undeniable.

Elsewhere in my column, I take up the question of pronouns. Is “What are your pronouns?” here to stay? Or is this a passing fancy? I also discuss youth slang, “cosmopolitanism,” and beautiful women. If I have committed hate speech — well, come and get me, copper.

Let’s have some reader mail. In an Impromptus last week, I touched on John le Carré, the novelist who died earlier this month. A reader says,

I’m a big fan.

Much is made of le Carré’s anti-Americanism, which I think was real. He didn’t like the Americans. But it must be said that, unlike some others, he at least hated the Soviets.

Did you read his recent memoir, The Pigeon Tunnel? Really great — seek it out.

A fine recommendation.

Also in that column, I had this (very unusual) item:

A long time ago — decades — a young Englishman was journeying in Iran. He passed a graceful figure in a niqab. He could see only her eyes — beautiful eyes. He glanced back at her; she glanced back at him — and winked. He said it was the sexiest thing he ever saw or experienced.

May I just say that, today, some women look quite beautiful in their masks? (Sue me, if you must.)

A reader writes,

Dear Jay,

. . . I have spent much of this year away with the Army (British) and now share similar thoughts to the young Englishman in Iran you referenced regarding the striking beauty of eyes when all other facial features are hidden.

They say our remaining sensory strengths are enhanced when one is diminished; the same, it appears, is true for our awareness of beauty when our perception of the subject is limited. Sometimes less is more.

Another subject: Very early in the pandemic — like a few weeks into it — I wrote a piece called “Staggering Cornucopias: On books to read and music to listen to — or not.” George F. Will referred to it as a “romp through the meadow of the unread.” I focused on books. But the overall question was, “How to occupy your time during the pandemic? If you have the luxury of not fighting for your life or livelihood?”

That’s a damn big “if.”

A regular reader and correspondent has sent me a note decrying our political situation. He adds, “I’m teaching myself Latin.”

Speaking of which, did you see this obituary of Reginald Foster, the Milwaukee-born Vatican Latinist, by Margalit Fox? Dazzling. Virtuosic. Anthologizable (as WFB would say).

Also, a friend of mine informed me yesterday that he is taking piano lessons — for the first time since boyhood. Not bad.

One reader headlines his e-mail “How Lucky Are We?” He had read a piece of mine about the progress of freedom around the world (here). (More like the regress of freedom, I’m afraid.) He speaks of standing at the base of the Lincoln Memorial with a friend of his. They felt overwhelming gratitude for American freedom, and freedom generally. Our reader also recalls a statement frequently quoted by President Reagan: “Freedom is always a generation away from extinction.” You’ve got to fight like hell to preserve it. Auto-pilot or cruise control is not an option.

Anyway, if you’d like more fightin’ words — today’s Impromptus, again, is here.


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