orry Ive been AWOL for the last week or so, guys: Ive been knee-deep in Carter. Hows that? Well, our 39th president has been in the news lately, sounding off about the Middle East obnoxiously, and fallaciously and preparing for a historic trip (his word) to Castros Cuba. (That trip will take place from May 12 to May 17.) To say that well-wishers of democracy and human rights are nervous is an understatement. Were sweating bullets: Carter tends to go all melty in the presence of dictators, despite his reputation as a human-rights campaigner.
Anyway, I have a piece on the subject of Jimmy Carter in the forthcoming NR (There He Goes Again), and I believe that Ill devote all of tomorrows Fridays Impromptus to some Carter dribs and drabs that didnt quite make it into that piece. Itll be a Carterpalooza. Be there if you dare (and all of this is contingent, mind you, on whether I have the stomach and heart and the time, of course to write the thing).
I have a Quote of the Month. Actually, its the quote of last month, and it comes from Prof. Bernard Lewis, dean of Middle East scholars. He said, Asking Arafat to give up terrorism would be like asking Tiger Woods to give up golf.
He uttered this line to Charlie Rose on the latters PBS show, April 18. The entire interview is priceless, a lesson, or series of lessons, from one of our great teachers. But I about fainted at the Tiger Woods mot: Here is an octogenarian British scholar of immense distinction a man the very thought of whom causes you to sit up straighter and he reaches for none other than Tiger to make his point. And it is a perfect point.
You may remember my mentioning that, on April 4, the New York Times ran an editorial entitled Latin Americas Muzzled Press. That is a very good subject. The Times discussed Venezuela, Colombia, Peru, and even Haiti (which is not normally considered a Latin American country). But it did not mention Cuba. This is an example of the indifference to the plight of the Cuban people that is an ongoing wonder.
Anyway, very inconveniently for the Times, one would think, Freedom House came out with its annual report on press freedom around the world. The group rates countries as Free, Partially Free, and Not Free. Wouldnt you know? The only country in the whole of Latin America that is flat Not Free is Cuba. Yet that Communist-ruled island didnt make it into a New York Times editorial addressed to Latin Americas Muzzled Press.
One could despair on, but theres a ray of hope: yesterdays Washington Post editorial on Cuba and its Varela Project, which is a petition drive to force a referendum on whether the government in power now for 43 years, without a real election should continue. This is the means by which Chileans got rid of Pinochet in 1988 (remember how the whole civilized world was for that?). The Cubans have more than the required number of signatures, but the Castro regime, naturally, is harassing those who signed and intimidating those who might sign.
Anyway, the perception and compassion of this other Bigfoot newspaper provides some hope.
An article on Karen Hughes and her departure from the White House mentioned that she is known as a control freak. But Hughes herself replied, As my husband says, If youre such a control freak, why dont you do a better job with the golden retriever and the cat?
A nice line. It reminded me and probably others of a famous bon mot of Bess Truman. The president, of course, called her the Boss, which irritated her no end. She would say, If Im the Boss, how come I cant get him to stop calling me the Boss?
With that, one cannot argue.
Care for a personal note (like you have a choice, I realize)? Tuesday night at Carnegie Hall, I sat behind . . . Leonard Nimoy. Now, I have a couple things to say about this. First, the man is utterly fit, looking just like himself. He has every follicle of hair he ever had, which is astonishing. It is close-cropped, as usual. Also, he has . . . rather pointy ears. Im sorry to say so, but its true, and a handsome star like that shouldnt mind someones pointing it out (he said hopefully). Nimoy had his coat rather draped over me, inadvertently, and when I asked whether he would move it, he said, cordially in that famous voice Oh, sure.
Letterman used to have a segment called Brush with Greatness I suppose that is what I am now offering you.
A little more? Once, in a green room, I had the opportunity to talk to William Shatner (thats Bill to me) at some length about something he knows well: the phenomenon of Star Trek fandom. He was, of course, very intelligent, and articulate, and even touching on the subject.
A pity, then, that someone who has never really seen Star Trek (although I did see the fascinating documentary Trekkies) should have had a chance to encounter both William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy within a couple of years. And to think that Ive never had a chance to meet Mickey Lolich! Nor did I ever see Redd Foxx!
As Im just slightly nostalgic, I should tell you that I was talking to someone the other day about Reagan: and about how he irritated me deeply when he ran for president in 1980. I was appalled by the idea that a vacuous B-movie actor, as I was taught to regard him, would even have the audacity to try to be president.
After the debate with Carter, as Reagan was leaving the hall, Sam Donaldson, I believe, asked the Californian, How did it feel to be on the same stage as the president of the United States? And Reagan answered, Oh, for heavens sake: Ive been on the same stage as John Wayne.
I remember the outrage I felt: that this clown should equate a simple-minded, jingoistic actor in westerns with our brainy and compassionate Democratic president. No, not equate, elevate him over!
And now, of course, I think that Reagans comment was one of the coolest Ive ever heard.
Know who Mickey Hart is? I didnt either. He was a drummer for the Grateful Dead, and just recently he got back from Cuba. Hart was part of the Parade of Celebrities (and semi-celebrities) down there to sup with, and extol, the dictator.
So, howd it feel to be with the Great Man? Unbelievably awesome, dude: exhilarating and emotional. Castro was funny, serious, engaging, and charismatic. He was, said Hart, a great hang (meaning someone immensely pleasurable to spend time with).
Hart said, The arts are whats going to break this embargo and allow people to understand each other. This man is an artist, you see a percussionist, after all! At a typical Castro dinner/lovefest that lasted until 4 a.m., Hart didnt play, but we talked music. In my presentation to him, I talked about Pythagoras and Confucius, and he stopped me on Confucius [Im not making this up] and wanted to know more about music.
Confucius say: People who love dictator cruel or nuts.
Hart who had accompanied California senator Barbara Boxer to see Castro extracted a promise from the dictator to have a set of Castro-style fatigues made for him. But Hart didnt want the generalissimo star: My wife might not like that.
Laugh or cry, folks. Or option 3 try to find some way to make these oppression-lovin cretins accountable for their actions.
Did you hear what Philadelphia mayor John Street had to say to a recent meeting of the NAACP? Here tis, as reported by the Philadelphia Inquirer (and as noted in the next National Review): The brothers and sisters are running this city. Running it! Dont you let nobody fool you: We are in charge of the City of Brotherly Love. We are in charge!
I hope to live to see the day when most Americans including black Americans find this sickening, as I do. But Im not holding my breath.
Lemme back up a second. I shouldve ended my Fidel Castro/Mickey Hart item with, Ill be Grateful when theyre Dead.
Do you remember the ol Louis Armstrong hit, Ill Be Glad When You Dead, You Rascal, You? The words so harsh, the song so jolly.
As regular Impromptus-ites know, I love it when politicians are accidentally blunt. Last week, outgoing Massachusetts governor Jane Swift she whod been pregnant, as gov, and had to give up her position to Mitt Romney (in unrelated events) announced that she would campaign for GOP candidates across the country. Why? Well, obviously, she said, my political and professional future are enhanced to the degree that I continue to have a role in Republican politics and a voice on issues like education. I envision contributing to the party.
Heres how it works: A guy in a backroom says, Youve got to do this, Jane, if you want to maintain any status in the party. And youre supposed to go out and say, I believe in these issues, I believe in these candidates, I believe in the future of my country, or some such BS. But youre not supposed to say, Obviously, my political and professional future are enhanced . . .
We are really in Message: I care territory now!
You may recall that when Robert Caro published the second volume of his LBJ biography, Democrats and liberals were furious, because Caro portrayed Johnson as ruthless, dishonest, unprincipled, crude, power-hungry, and several other things that he actually was. Critics howled and howled at this clear-eyed view of their man (or one of them). They were unnerved.
Now that Caro has published his third volume Master of the Senate liberals like him a little better: Caro, that is. I loved a particular passage from Jill Abramsons review in the New York Times . Abramson is a very partisan liberal Democrat, which is, of course, why she gets to be Washington bureau chief of the New York Times. Notions such as the separation of reporting and editorializing are hopelessly square.
Anyway, Abramson wrote, Johnson could be crass and cruel. He urinated in the Congressional parking lot. He cheated on Lady Bird. He would find someones weak spot like a heat-seeking missile, once snapping at a recently divorced secretary: No wonder you couldnt keep your husband. You cant even make coffee. But in Master of the Senate, Mr. Caro tempers these repulsive qualities with humorous disbelief rather than condemnation.
Oh, lovely: humorous disbelief rather than condemnation. Would Jill Abramson be this generous with, say, Richard Nixon or some other right-winger (even Reagan)? Would she fault 18 million Nixon biographers and judges with being condemnatory rather than humorously disbelieving?
I react, of course, strictly with humorous disbelief.
(P.S. The Abramson review is beautifully written let us not leave off points for style.)
In the previous Impromptus, I wrote about the charges that Arabs and Europeans habitually fling against Israel. They say, for example, that Israel commits terrorism and is even responsible for holocaust. They steal other Jewish-associated terms such as diaspora and right of return.
I asked, What do the shrinks call this? Transference? Projection?
Two separate readers wrote in to say, No, silly: hijacking.
Perfect. Too perfect.
We have also been discussing the lexicon of racial cruelty. Non-radical or integrationist blacks are called Uncle Tom, etc. From the feminists, we had Aunt Tom. From radical Indians, we had Uncle Tomahawk, or apple (red on the outside, white on the inside). From La Raza-type Hispanics, we have coconut or vendido (sell-out).
Readers have contributed yet more. Asian Americans deemed insufficiently ethnic are called bananas or Twinkies (yellow on the outside . . .). A white guy dating an Asian-American woman is called by Asian Americans who disapprove of such a practice a rice daddy. Blacks who are thought to be in denial about their blackness are said to be going incognegro (clever, Ill grant).
Could anything be worse than America the Racial? Here we are, a country where one is supposed to drop ethnic, racial, and ancestral baggage, and simply live as a free man, a child of God, equal and honored. It seems, however, that were getting more biological and nasty by the day (and, please, readers, no history lessons: I have had them, amply, and could give them and have, actually).
You remember that the Minneapolis Star Tribune wont call the Cleveland Indians the Cleveland Indians the paper, by policy, must refer to the Indians as the Cleveland baseball team (or club, I guess). Also and it stands to reason the paper wont call suicide bombers terrorists (even though these bombers target civilians, almost exclusively). (At least the Star Tribune doesnt refer to the terrorists as martyrs, al-Jazeera-style as far as I know.)
Well, I have a letter from a Scandinavian American objecting to the papers use of Vikings to refer to the Minnesota football team, and . . . well, nough said.
As an Ann Arbor native, you are surely familiar with the annual April Hash Bash that takes place on the University of Michigan diag. [This is a marijuana-fest in that campuss central square, sort of.] There is another April tradition, about 15 years old: the Naked Mile, held on the last day of classes. The city has been trying to discourage these events in recent years by banning vendors of any kind at the Hash Bash and arresting runners for indecent exposure at the Naked Mile. These efforts have been successful the turnout at this years Hash Bash was insignificant and the few runners at the Naked Mile wore underwear.
Here comes the beauty part: The Ann Arbor News, on April 18, quoted a student as saying, You saw what they did to the Hash Bash. Now, they are trying to kill the Naked Mile. They are trying to take away our heritage.
Yes, our heritage. fraid so.
This is trivia, but I had to write and thank you for your mention of the Queen Mothers favorite song, Ill Be Seeing You. Since it is also my favorite, I bought the CD you recommended [Classical Cabaret, with Rosa Lamoreaux, soprano].
In 1943, I was a young soldier, much in love and away from home. She worked in her fathers ice-cream café, across the street from the park. To us, Ill Be Seeing You was much more than just another love song. The rendition by Jo Stafford was the most popular then.
She died 25 years ago, after 34 years of marriage. The song still brings tears to my eyes.
That is not trivia.