The Corner


Talkin’ ’bout Generations, Etc.

A Hubble image shows NGC 1566, a galaxy located about 40 million light-years away in the constellation Dorado. (ESA/Hubble & NASA/Handout via Reuters)

Today, I have an Impromptus, here. I begin with the Kentucky governor’s race — the incoming governor and the outgoing (assuming he goes) (he is contesting). I also discuss Elizabeth Warren, Donald Trump, John Bolton, and so on. One of the issues is redheads: Do they flare? That’s what Tip O’Neill said, long ago. He was talking about his successor as Speaker of the House, Jim Wright: “He’s a redhead — he’s apt to flare.”

In my previous Impromptus — published Wednesday — I had an item on generations. Let me republish it, in order to share a comment about it. That item went,

On Twitter and elsewhere, I hear a lot about generations — about “boomers,” “millennials,” etc. People will say to me, “Shut the f*** up, boomer!” I happen not to be a baby boomer, but only prigs and elitists care about accuracy, right? I want to say this: Walking around in life, I have not found generations to be significant at all. I have found people to be people — in all their diversity, and splendor, and terribleness. I think this generational talk is pretty lazy, like a lot of class talk, race-and-ethnicity talk, and other talk talk tawk tawk . . .

I smile at something Barbara J. Fields said. She is a professor of history at Columbia, and a onetime teacher of mine, and a friend. “The habit of generational generalization,” she said, “shares a fallacious premise with astrology without the entertainment value.”


Couple of further items before I go, please. My latest Q&A podcast is with Robert Costa, that ace political reporter for the Washington Post (previously of National Review). We cover the waterfront, or a good stretch of it: this week’s elections in Kentucky and elsewhere; relations between President Trump and the press; the Democratic presidential field; etc. Bob is sound as a dollar, as we used to say. A pleasure and an education.

Let me highlight some things he said about John Bolton, simply because I was struck by them:

He, to me, was never going to fit into this administration and was a threat to President Trump from Day One, because John Bolton does not play by any kind of transactional political rule, ever. It’s all about service to the country and U.S. interests, and he takes that very seriously. I don’t know why he joined the administration — I haven’t had a long conversation with him about that — but once he was in there, this is not someone who was going to get swept into the riptide of President Trump’s inner circle and the culture that surrounds President Trump . . .

I will remember it for the rest of my life, Jay. I was in Poland on September 1 when Vice President Pence met with President Zelensky of Ukraine, and it was one of the last meetings John Bolton ever had in the administration — he was national security adviser — and I remember seeing Bolton sitting there in this windowless Marriot room in Warsaw, watching Zelensky, watching Pence, as military aid hung in the air, and Bolton was just stone-faced and did not seem happy about the situation.

I’m sure not.

Finally, a “soft” item, but very meaningful. A few days ago, I got a birth announcement from a friend of mine who lives in Switzerland. With his wife, he has had twins. (Well, she did the having, mainly.) A German, my friend knows more about America, and loves it more, than does most any American. He always wanted to come here and have his life here, but he wasn’t able to win the lottery, or whatever you have to do.

This remains a sore spot with me.

The announcement includes my friend’s “favorite presidential quote that doesn’t come from Abraham Lincoln,” as he put it to me. It comes from George Washington — his address to the Hebrew Congregation at Newport: “May the father of all mercies scatter light, and not darkness, upon our paths, and make us all in our several vocations useful here, and in His own due time and way everlastingly happy.”

So, again, my Impromptus is here (if you’re not item’d out already). If you’d like to receive Impromptus by e-mail — links to new columns — let me know at


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