veryones abuzz about the Dan Rather interview, and I dont blame them. (Yes, I know that him goes with everyone, but Im being cazh here, so lay off me.) Ill tell you what I think the most suspect part of the whole affair was: not the interview proper, but the private briefing that Rather gave Saddam afterward. The Iraqi dictator wanted to gauge him on American public opinion, etc. wanted Rather to help him out.
Of course, the CBS anchor was not in a great position to refuse. But could some of the most uncharitable among us say that he gave aid and comfort to the enemy (and to a ghastly, murderous dictator to boot)?
Im not condemning here (yet). Im just askin.
In the last few columns, Ive been discussing the continuing denigration of Americas Eastern European allies by liberals. (Mark Shields smirking at Albania, etc.) On Wednesday, Maureen Dowd devoted an entire column to the genre. Here, she didnt smirk at Albania, but at Bulgaria, one of Americas only remaining friends, she said.
(I believe there are some 47 countries represented at our main war facility in Qatar.)
The next day, in her Washington Post column, Mary McGrory smirked at a White House that is now wooing nations such as Angola.
Its funny. If these liberals werent so eager to trash Bush, they wouldnt discard their principles and poses so quickly. Time was, liberals used to honor Third World countries, especially black-African ones like Angola. Any conservative who smirked at Angola, they would have called a racist, for sure.
You know it, I know it, and the American people know it, as Bob Dole would say.
Liberals would have said it was arrogant and colonialist to disregard the smaller countries and to care only about the opinions of Big White Governments, like Frances and Germanys.
Ah, but Im about to explode, so Ill simmer down, sport (as a friends father used to say).
Also in that column, McGrory referred to Tony Blairs suicidally loyal pro-Bush statements. This is an example of another kind of denigration. Notice that liberals (as represented by McGrory) cant credit Blair with acting on Britains interest, or on the civilized worlds interest he is merely being loyal to Bush, personally. It has been in the nature of liberal commentary since Sept. 11 to personalize everything (Dowds referring to Saddam Hussein as Bushs foe, etc.).
Then, said McGrory, the Popes list of visitors has been provocative: U.N. secretary general Kofi Annan, Germanys militantly antiwar foreign minister, Joschka Fischer, and, most annoying to the Oval Office, Iraqs deputy prime minister, Tariq Aziz.
So that wasnt annoying to Mary McGrory? Of course not. Aziz is the representative and mouthpiece of Saddam Hussein, whose regime is one of the most oppressive, most tyrannical, and most murderous in the world. But only uptight white males like the Bushies could be annoyed by his tête-à-tête with the Pope.
Finally, McGrory described the Pope as the only card the peaceniks have since Colin Powell went south. Huh? Were you aware that Colin Powell had gone south? And didnt McGrory write a column, right after the secretary of states big presentation to the U.N., saying that the man had convinced her?
Why would the Washington Post publish a columnist so . . . uh, inconsistent, at least? But shes a smooth writer, we must give her that.
One last word on Washington Post columnists. Richard Cohen, in his own effort from yesterday, published one of the most despicable sentences I have ever read in a respectable newspaper:
Ashcroft, with an almost biblical bloodlust, has unfortunately become an ugly face of America abroad.
Ill go on (or rather, let him): In all of Europe and much of the rest of the world capital punishment has been abolished. Even some countries that retain it almost never use it anymore. It has become the sine qua non of a civilized nation: You dont torture, you dont execute.
Notice the easy linkage between torture and execution. We execute murderers particularly serial murderers after an exhaustive legal process, in which the accused have nearly endless appeals. To equate this practice with torture . . . well, thats why Cohen gets paid the big bucks, I guess.
For an article of mine on Ashcroft-hating Ashcroft with Horns please go here.
Regular readers know that I have written recently about Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart and Jian-li Yang. Diaz-Balart is a Republican from Miami; Yang is a Chinese democracy activist, and one of the smartest, bravest, and most impressive people I know. He has disappeared into PRC dungeons; no one knows where he is, or how he is faring.
Lincoln Diaz-Balart has sent a letter to Secretary of State Powell, saying, We must make certain to let the Chinese regime know, in no uncertain terms, that the physical integrity of Jian-li Yang is a matter of the utmost importance to the United States.
I hope Powell reads it, putting Jian-li on his radar screen. It could actually mean life or death for this man.
Lincoln Diaz-Balart was not alone in signing the letter. He had with him Dan Burton (R.-Ind.), Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R.-Fla.), Chris Smith (R.-N.J.), Dana Rohrbacher (R.-Calif.), and Mario Diaz-Balart, another Miami Republican, and brother of Lincoln. In other words, the usual suspects: those who care about human rights even in countries controlled by Communists. Imagine that.
Conservatives were amused to pick up the New York Times yesterday and see a picture of President Bush with Chris DeMuth at the AEI Dinner. Amused because the Times identified DeMuth as Irving Kristol.
Thats yet another example of why the Times needs a conservative or two over at 43rd Street! I mean, every politically attuned conservative knows what Chris DeMuth and Irving K. look like its like recognizing Shaquille ONeal and Jennifer Lopez.
Its bad enough that the Times lacks a proper conservative op-ed columnist. But couldnt they have one or two in humble jobs like caption-checking?
As Impromptus-ites know, Bill Richardson is one of my least favorite Democrats (which is saying something). As far as Im concerned, Richardson is . . . but youve heard my rants before.
He has come out with some interesting advice, however, for his party: Democrats have to fashion a message of economic growth. It cant be a negative message. It has to be an optimistic message of hope and opportunity. He continued, Democrats have to stop this reflex opposition to tax cuts. Weve got to be more pragmatic.
When he was a Clinton cabinet member, he was free to be a liberal gadfly. Now that he has to conduct real business in New Mexico . . . a little more realistic.
But I wish Democrats like that would stop thinking of economic policy as merely strategic, instead of a matter of thought and proof.
In the department of How Should I Respond to This?: A teacher writes me, I torment my students by reading excerpts from your columns.
Torment? Er, . . .
In Wednesdays column, I quoted that quip, Going to war without France is like going deer hunting without an accordion. But then I heard an even better quip: Going to war without France is like, well, World War II.
Also, I quoted a right-leaning joke by Jay Leno, whom Ive always taken for a left-liberal (based primarily on his performances in venues other than The Tonight Show). A reader wrote to say, I cannot understand how someone who obviously loves cars especially classic cars and hot rods the way Leno does can escape being a conservative.
You know, I think this is an excellent point. I cant say why, frankly I just do. I guess its just based on having lived a while (as Lucianne Goldberg might say).
One of the best answers I have ever heard I cant remember the question was uttered by Lucianne on television, during the Lewinsky scandal. Someone (I think Larry King) said, How do you know that? And she said, essentially, From being alive. From being 62 years old. From not living under a rock.
That was so perfect.
I got a million e-mails on I could care less. One man said, For at least a few of us, the phrase I could care less is followed (generally silently) by but not by much. Someone else quoted a line from a movie or television show or something: I could not possibly describe to you how little I care.
This reminded me of something the crusty old pro at a golf course where I worked used to say: You have me confused . . . with someone who gives a fig.
Word to the wise: He didnt say fig.
Something I wrote the other day prompted this: Im not down with your political views [okay] but I love your linguistic observations (I am a translator). How many words in English can you think of that have two meanings opposite to each other? The one that always amazed me was cleave: to adhere firmly and closely or loyally and unwaveringly, and, to divide by or as if by a cutting blow (synonym: split).
Cleave together, cleave apart.
Another writer says, Take dust. It can mean to remove dust, as in, dust the countertops, or it can mean to add dust, as in, dust the cake with powdered sugar.
Sure nuff. And that makes me hungry!
Another reader says, Slow up, slow down they mean the same thing.
A little more on our continuing theme of Americans abroad?
Jay, if you think the American kids who study abroad in Europe are bad, you should see some of the people I spent last year with while studying in Cuba (I know, I know, shame on me). Believe it or not, most of the Cubans I spoke with were more pro-U.S., pro-Bush, and pro-war than were my American classmates. [Youre tellin me?] The Cubans would say things like, We understand your need to defend yourselves, while the American students would more or less walk around wearing sandwich boards that proclaimed, I DID NOT VOTE FOR BUSH. Embarrassing.
What is remarkable is that despite all the brainwashing, state TV, Granma, etc., so many Cubans were able to sort through the garbage and see what was really going on with respect to the situation in the U.S. Its too bad we cant say the same for American university students.
A man spoke of his experience as a student abroad in Russia:
On my infrequent
trips to Moscow from the provincial capital where I was living, I would
find myself going to or by the U.S. embassy. Involuntarily, The Star-Spangled
Banner would start an unending circuit in my head. My eyes would water,
and I would even murmur the lyrics under my breath, hoping not to look
too deranged to passers-by. Each time, the wave of emotion astounded me.
Dont you love that?
Another reader wrote of traveling through Europe as a student. Some Germans assailed him viciously for being an American. But then he met an old German who sat down and told us that he had been in the German army at the end of the war. He knew the war was over and he was desperately trying to make it back to get his family and get them to the American lines as fast as he could. He succeeded and found a new life in the West. He said, These young people know nothing but criticism; theyve had too easy a life guaranteed by your army here in Germany. Without your country we would have been invaded years ago by the Russians. I am thankful for the United States of America.
Jay, at that time I was probably more liberal than conservative, but that ended any liberal notions. For the rest of the trip, I was a new person and saw the world through new eyes. When I got back to the U.S., at Customs, my papers were checked and the woman said, Welcome home. For the first time in my life I realized what that meant.
The writer continued, I traveled to Poland a few years back with a Christian ministry delivering wheelchairs to disabled people. In one church I had been elected to speak. I spoke of praying for Poland and the other countries under Soviet domination. Afterwards these dear brothers and sisters came up to me and through an interpreter said, We were always praying for you; we knew the United States would never forget us. I am humbled by that kind of love and faithfulness.
Okay, how bout this, for some levity (sort of)?
I was in Taiwan for a month on business, and was stuck with CNN for English-language news. One entertainment story was about an indoor drive-in movie theater in Thailand, with shells of autos for the seating, and car-hop service. The narrator attributed part of the decline of outdoor drive-ins to, yes, global warming since people dont like to be in a stuffy car to watch a movie.
That is beautiful so CNN.
Another reader wrote to say that he was listening to some old tapes of Kennedy (President Kennedy, that is not the fellow in the Senate). Referring to Cuba, [the president] said, that imprisoned island. After reading your Impromptus for quite a while, I thought, There is one thing that JFK and Jay could agree on! Imprisoned. If only our pols today would say the same.
Bush would Id like to think.
I will leave you with something both amusing and sad. (The theme of this column, really.) On Wednesday, I retold a joke that Vladimir Ashkenazy had told a joke that used to be shared, behind closed doors, in the Soviet Union. It had to do with the utter bankruptcy of Marxism-Leninism.
A reader wrote, I teach in a small midwestern university. My office is in the Fine Arts building and I hear music all the time. I am tempted to post Ashkenazys joke on my door but I would like to get tenure.
Can you imagine? That sympathy with a joke related by a major musician who was once a refugee from Soviet Russia would endanger a persons tenure? In Free even post-Cold War America?
But its true.