ave you noticed that its okay to tell Bush-dumb jokes again? There was a hiatus after Sept. 11, but now theyre back, on the late-night talk shows and so on.
Bush-as-dumb is one of the dumbest notions I know. Bush-as-inarticulate, okay. But Bush-as-dumb? Really stupid. Even a casual familiarity with the man and his career tells you that George W. is exceptionally sharp.
One might use some common sense, too. Hard to be dumb and graduate from Andover even in the old days. Hard to be dumb and graduate from Yale College (probably easier now). Hard to be dumb and graduate from Harvards business school. Hard to be dumb and make millions in business (after first failing a little which is, after all, the American, and the free-market, way). Hard to be dumb and be nominated for governor and defeat a popular incumbent. Hard to be dumb and have a hugely successful first term, and be reelected resoundingly. Hard to be dumb and capture a major-party presidential nomination. Hard to be dumb and rise to the presidency.
Of course, the most impressive thing about George W. Bush is not his smarts, but his spiritual resiliency: his ability to pick himself up off the floor, rebound from the doldrums, and live a meaningful and consequential life.
You might argue that, as the son of a president and the grandson of a U.S. senator and all that George W. could have had anything he wanted. All he had to do was ask, and there it would come, on a silver platter.
Lets think, for a moment, about presidents sons. George H. W. Bush has four sons, two of whom are stars of public service, two of whom have less glorious lives. Ronald Reagan has two sons, both very fine people, no doubt, but neither of whom seems a world-beater. Jimmy Carter has three sons, and you havent heard of any of them. Gerald Ford has three sons, too, and you havent heard of any of them either (although I believe that one of them had a brief career in soap operas). Nixon had only daughters. Johnson had only daughters. JFK had JFK Jr.
You see what Im saying. My point is most certainly not to disparage the presidential sons whose lives have been more normal only to say that being the son of a president doesnt guarantee bright lights, adoring throngs, and Hail to the Chief.
The fact that official Egypt opposes violently any suggestion that the Egyptian co-pilot downed that Egypt Air plane, murdering all of those people and it seems pretty clear he did bodes ill for our present efforts, and sums up the difficulty of conducting relations with Middle Eastern countries.
We in the press like to pose as great champions of the First Amendment but remember, if you will, that virtually all of the press supported these new campaign-finance restrictions, which severely hamper political speech (the kind of speech the Bill of Rights was written to protect). Of course, McCain-Feingold greatly enhances the prestige and power of the press, given that regular citizens have to shut their mouths for a month or two before an election. In the McCainized world, only the press gets to talk (and, in view of the senators treatment by the press, why should he object to that, other than on principle?).
If journalists want to support new and unconstitutional limits on speech, thats their business, of course. I just hope that the rest of you will be less patient than ever with lectures from them on the First Amendment. They like freedom of the press, they like Mapplethorpe, they like Annie Sprinkle but To Hell with Reno (or Jeb) is something else.
I was particularly tickled by something Sen. Feingold said: He averred that he didnt think many Republicans would want to join a suit against the new law because what theyd be doing is saying that their own president has signed into law something that is unconstitutional, which is kind of an odd thing to do to your own president.
Sort of touching and very revealing that Feingold would find it alien to oppose a president of ones own party: to call a spade a spade. Certainly the Democrats never said a cross word about Clinton, even as the rest of the Congress was impeaching him. The Democrats were virtually Bolshevik in their unanimity. James Carville called it stickin; I called it cowardice and amorality.
And do you remember, as I do, how Democrats used to chastise us Republicans when we referred to Clinton as their president? They practically accused us of treason.
Well . . . maybe Feingold doesnt remember.
One of the reasons I like the Republican party is that its members seem to be willing to tell even one of their own presidents that hes wrong, when hes wrong.
My vote for Gracious and Witty Losing Candidate of the Month goes to Jim Oberweis, the Illinois Republican who lost his partys senatorial nomination to Jim Durkin. (This sets up a race of Durkin vs. Durbin, as the incumbent Democrat is Richard Durbin. This is rather annoying, ear-wise.) According to the Aurora Beacon News, Oberweis asked supporters to rally around Durkin and make sure we do everything we can to beat Dick Durbin and send him out to test the free-enterprise system, which hes never had a chance to do.
Lovely and Republicans should be using this line against Democrats repeatedly.
John Erickson, the British historian and writer, died recently. I immediately thought of something that Condoleezza Rice told me, in an interview. I asked her how she happened to become interested in Russia (she is a Russianist, of course). The first thing she said, I believe, is that she had read Erickson: The Road to Stalingrad, The Road to Berlin. This intrigued her not only with the Soviet Union but with power (that is, with the role of power in the ordering of the world).
I have no special point to make just a tidbit.
Sticking with Russia for a minute: There was an illuminating article by Michael Wines in the New York Times recently, on the state of Russias liberals (which is to say to use the shortest hand the good guys). The article comports with a terrific piece in the current NR by Garry Kasparov and Therese Raphael (When Red Is Not Dead). (Kasparov, incidentally, is the number-one-ranked chess player in the world, as well as a writer about Russia. Raphael is an editor with The Wall Street Journal Europe.)
One passage in Michael Winess article made a particular impression on me:
They were afraid they would be hung from the lampposts. And yet the Communists, unlike the Nazis, had no comeuppance, faced no accounting, whatsoever. Too many people had been into it too deep, apparently. (This is what Vaclav Havel said, as quoted in the Kasparov/Raphael article.)
I also learned from the Wines piece that Yuli Rybakov spent six years in an Arctic logging camp as K.G.B. punishment for handing out Aleksandr Solzhenitsyns works.
How nice to know about a great man Rybakov whose name I had never heard.
It was either comical or tragic tragicomical? to read about Andrew Cuomos visit to South Carolina last week. He stopped by Furman University, in Greenville, to give a speech. But the NAACP has declared a boycott against South Carolina, on account of the Confederate flag. There was a great dispute in New York politics over exactly what Cuomo did, and when, and where. A vicious rumor had it that he spent the night in a South Carolina hotel. No! the Cuomo campaign reported: He had only used a room in South Carolina to make a phone call or two. He did not pay for a room, and no one was charged for anything because he didnt stay there. Cuomo had dutifully skipped over the line to the Holiday Inn Express in Flat Rock, N.C.
I dont know whether to laugh or cry. Andrew Cuomo would probably swap spit with the poisonous Al Sharpton, but he is too pure to patronize a South Carolina innkeeper (black, for all we know). South Carolina is a leper state. Has anyone proposed a campaign to encourage tourism in South Carolina, to offset this weird Cuomo-style punishment? Im sure someone has.
Well, at least Jesse Helmss North Carolina gets Andy C.s Seal of Approval.
When I listen to these Oregon suicide people go on about states rights, I swear Im listening to George Wallace, Lester Maddox, Orval Faubus, and the rest of the Dixiecrats. I guess if you live long enough, you hear everything or the same thing from sharply different people.
A friend of mine from Ann Arbor reports one of her favorite bumper stickers: Live Simply, that Others May Simply Live.
Isnt that cute? It, of course, reflects the Marxist and erroneous pie view of the economy and life: that everything good in this world is finite in a pie and to the extent you have more, someone else has less.
I also have roughly a million requests to comment on language: I had pleaded No mas, but the pet peeves and queries and conundrums wont stop coming.
Lets deal for a moment with the pronunciation of err: Its er, of course like the last syllable in better not air. Alice Roosevelt Longworth once famously quipped, To err is Truman. I once put the following title over a review of a Truman biography that detailed the presidents gross slander of Tom Dewey in the 48 campaign: To Slur Is Truman.
If you dont have the right pronunciation, of course, that little joke makes no sense.
And how about this business of growing the economy and so on? Bad, bad, bad. Grow out of it, please.
Also, we have talked several times about the absurd replacement of the perfectly good and meaningful word foreign with international (which is not the same thing, of course). A reader in Oman, of all places writes, Sooo, if international is the politically correct term, why do we say foreign aid? Im offended it should be changed immediately!
In a recent Impromptus, I chastised the columnist Thomas L. Friedman for, among other things, scoffing at missile defense as pie-in-the-sky. Why would you do that, I wondered, if only out of concern for reputation? So many technological endeavors have been scorned over the years, only to prove successful. Why risk being a numbskull of your own generation?
A reader was kind enough to send me a New York Times editorial from January 1920, complimenting Professor Goddard on his rocketry so far but laughing out of school the notion that a rocket could go to the moon (unmanned, no less). For a little fun and satisfaction, go here.
Brink Lindsey, trade wiz of the Cato Institute, informs me that he has joined the weblogging craze. I plan to visit www.brinklindsey.com often. May there never be a tariff on it.
Every now and then in this column, we note the first Bushs goofiness, or endearing malapropisms, or general, awkward touchingness.
Have you noticed that he loves to refer to his son as The President of the United States? As in, I was a little ticked about it, but that was nothing compared with what the President of the United States felt about it. He never says the President or George W. or President Bush or anything. Its The President of the United States.
And when hes really feelin it, he stretches it out to The President of the United States of America.
Hes reveling, the father. He just has to have his eye on Jeb in 08. Would that pose a dynastic dilemma? Doesnt seem very American, does it?
Oh, hell, everyones got a free vote.