The Corner


The Cyberwar, Pardons, and More

Senator John McCain in Mexico City, 2016 (Henry Romero / Reuters)

I begin my Impromptus today with a memory. In April 2015, I did a Q&A podcast with John McCain. He said he had recently received a briefing on cyber threats to America. And it was “the most disturbing briefing” he had ever received, he said.

That really made me sit up and take notice. McCain had been in Congress since 1983. At the time of that podcast, he was chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee. He had received a lot of security briefings.

“The most disturbing briefing that I have ever received,” he said. “We better start paying attention.” And “we better start doing a helluva lot better job.”

Naturally, I thought of this when news came of the massive cyberattack against key departments and agencies of the U.S. government — including State, Treasury, and Homeland Security.

President Trump’s statement on the matter?

The Cyber Hack is far greater in the Fake News Media than in actuality. I have been fully briefed and everything is well under control. Russia, Russia, Russia is the priority chant when anything happens because Lamestream is, for mostly financial reasons, petrified of….

….discussing the possibility that it may be China (it may!). There could also have been a hit on our ridiculous voting machines during the election, which is now obvious that I won big, making it an even more corrupted embarrassment for the USA.

This does not inspire me with confidence, though Trump always inspires a great many — tens of millions — with confidence.

I wrote my column before the president’s latest round of pardons. He is the “law and order” president, he says. Some of us beg to differ. Trump likes to use the terms “lowlife” and “human scum” — those are two of his go-to epithets. I think “lowlife,” at least, applies to some of his pardonees.

He has four weeks left to go. He can do a lot in that time. How about the next round of pardons? Will it include Snowden and Assange? With each outrage, the public gets a little wearier. Eventually, people are numb. “New normals” are driven ever downward.

Since 2015, there has been one big question, really: Is Donald Trump fit to be president, in mind and character? The divide on that question remains. In fact, I have the impression that very few people have changed their minds — either way — over the years.

My column today has several notes on recent passings — of John le Carré, Walter Williams, Paul Sarbanes, Ralph K. Winter, and William Winter (no relation).

William Winter was governor of Mississippi from 1980 to 1984. I learned many things from the relevant obit in the New York Times. Have a healthy paragraph:

He and his wife held a series of dinners at the governor’s mansion featuring prominent Mississippians, and not just white people like Walker Percy and Eudora Welty. Myrlie Evers-Williams, the widow of the slain civil rights leader Medgar Evers, dined with them, as did Leontyne Price, the world-famous soprano whom previous governors had shunned. The Winters invited her to stay overnight in the Bilbo Room, named for Theodore G. Bilbo, an infamously racist governor and senator; the next day Mr. Winter renamed it the Leontyne Price Room.

It’s hard for me to imagine shunning Leontyne Price: pretty much the greatest singer there ever was. And a wonderfully entertaining personality, to boot. Racism is, among other things, weird.

I cherish a remark by Zora Neale Hurston — which went something like this: “I’m not so much offended by racism as astonished by it. Why would anyone want to deny himself the pleasure of my company?”

About a decade into her retirement, I said to Leontyne Price, “I attended 13 Price recitals.” “So few?” she answered. “I got a late start,” I pleaded (owing to the year of my birth). She seemed satisfied — though not entirely so.

Again, for today’s Impromptus, go here. Something for everyone to like or loathe. Ah, opinion-writing!


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