lways nice to begin with a little Janet Reno. Did you see that remarkable photo of her literally wrapped in an American flag? She had on an American-flag jacket, with a huge American flag hanging behind her while campaigning in Florida.
Now, Im not necessarily complaining. But how long have we heard, from the left, that politicians on the right wrap themselves in the flag a most unfair, and jingoistic, and semi-McCarthyite thing to do. If a conservative had done this remember the hell that Bush the Elder caught for his flag-factory visits in 88? the media would be all over that conservative like ugly on ape (as the first Bush speaking of him used to say). But when Reno is the offender . . . its no offense.
You also may have seen that Reno is going to hold an actual dance party, in imitation of the Dance Party skits featuring Reno on Saturday Night Live. The skits made brutal fun of her, as a pathetic older woman who, in a somewhat dirty way, picked up kids from school playgrounds for parties at her house.
Let us not doubt the power of these shows: Used to be that TV imitated the pols; now the pols are imitating TV. And, above all, the politician must show himself to be a good sport. Reno accomplished this, at the end of her disastrous eight years as attorney general, by showing up on SNL to appear as the real Reno, next to Will Farrells Reno, in a Dance Party skit.
We read that more people get their news from late-night monologues than from actual news broadcasts. These guys Jay (no, not me), Dave, and the rest have an awful lot of power. May they use it for good!
One more quick note on Reno: She endeared herself to me very early in the Clinton administration, when she said maybe the most touching and heartrending thing Ive ever heard a public official say. Someone had the effrontery to demand to know whether she was a lesbian. She answered, The fact is that Im just an awkward old maid with a very great affection for men.
My heart went out to her liberal Democrat or no, Clinton cabinet member or no. But then she began her work as AG and all the softness, I suppose, went out of me. By the time Elián came around . . .
Lets just say that, if I were a Floridian, Id pull the lever for Jeb, which is such a great understatement, Im a little embarrassed to have written it.
The New York Times had a fascinating piece by veteran political reporter Katharine Q. Seelye on the congressional race in my hometown, Ann Arbor. Well, Ann Arbor is a major chunk of that district and the race pits two current congressmen, the dean (the longest-serving member) of the House, ol John Dingell (who inherited the seat from his father), and Lynn Rivers, the quintessential Ann Arbor congresswoman. Redistricting has smashed their districts together (or something), forcing the two to lock horns. (Remember The Lockhorns, the cartoon? Sick of parenthetical interruptions?)
Rivers, as I said, is Ann Arbor squared, all sentiment, hectoring, gun-hating, Green, abortion-crazy etc. Dingell, though a liberal Democrat, is made of somewhat tougher stuff. But he has also been trying to appeal to the Ann Arbor crowd, saying, for example, what a great friend to women he is, telling stories of his personal travails.
And yet, his tougher side cant help coming out. Alluding to a Rivers ad, he said, I havent got the arrogance or the gall to run whining to people and say, I was a teenage mother and therefore I ought to get elected to Congress.
Wow: Thats the true Ding.
Not so cool is activity in another Michigan district, where longtime representative Sander Levin (brother of Sen. Carl) is being challenged for the Democratic nomination by a state rep., William Callahan. Redistricting, according to the AP, has made Levins 12th more conservative and mostly Roman Catholic.
So Callahan says, That man has never owned a Christmas tree. [A Christmas tree! The obvious heart of Christianity along with wassail, of course!] Hes not a Christian. And Im thinking, Jeez, how can he represent me then?
As a Republican, I must say Im glad and relieved that such words have come from Levins intra-party opponent. I do think, however, that if a Republican said it . . . maybe itdve gotten a tad more national attention.
I find myself intrigued by the story, out of Russia, about anti-Semitic signs that are booby-trapped. Someone, or some people, put up these Jew-hating signs, loaded with hidden explosives. And when a person goes to remove them: boom.
There must be deep meaning here, about the nature of anti-Semitism, about the nature of anti-anti-Semitism, about self-destructiveness, about knowing better, about deviousness about a lot of things. But I leave it to my deeper readers to divine such meaning. Me, Im just tellin funny stories here.
Then there is the drama of the Pakistani-Israeli tennis duo. As you know, Aisam ul-Haq, a Pakistani, and Amir Hadad, an Israeli, are doubles partners. They are for now. If the Pakistani government has its way, they wont be. When the Pakistani appeared with the Israeli at Wimbledon, the Pakistani Sports Board (arent you glad we dont have one of those things governmentally?) came down on him, hard. They said, basically, Drop him were warning you. Threats to ul-Haqs safety are real. But this young Pakistani, so far, is defying his country, and the threats, and the extremists. He must be a phenomenally brave and independent-minded man. He is certainly an admirable one.
What Im interested in for the millionth time is the inequality between Israel and its enemies. An inequality of spirit, heart, and purpose. In Israel, Arab members of the parliament heckle the prime minister when he gives a speech. In Muslim nations, Jewish members of the parliament . . . ah, thats right: There arent any. NRs Rachel Zabarkes pointed out an interesting bit of news: The Israeli security cabinet in the words of a report decided to grant 5,000 new work permits to Palestinian laborers, in addition to the 2,000 already legally employed in Israel. Plans are underway to gradually issue another 30,000 to 40,000 permits. This while the country is under siege from Palestinian terrorists.
My point? There is one side willing to coexist which yearns and prays to coexist and one side that is not. There is one side that reacts with relief and pleasure and delight when a Muslim and a Jew can play tennis together; there is one that reacts with fury and threats. That is the great gulf; and how to close it is the horrible, persistent question.
My favorite thing about the story of Pat Tillman, the NFL player whos giving up millions to join the Army Rangers? That he refuses to speak to the press about it. Hes not doing it for glory, for praise, for a national pat on the back. Hes doing it for . . . well, he seems to be a patriot, making the rest of us (me, for example) feel small.
I recently finished reading, and reviewing, Tevi Troys new book, Intellectuals and the American Presidency. It contains many interesting stories, some of which I flagged for you Impromptus-ites. Ill relate a couple here, and a couple later.
First, lemme give you my favorite. I think its just priceless. It involves Jacqueline Kennedy, who was interested in the library that Arthur Schlesinger was building for the White House. (Not constructing, with his hands, for heavens sake choosing and directing.) Concerned that this library not be a prole affair, Mrs. Kennedy wrote to Schlesinger,
We will have to have hideous numbers on the backs. Oh, glory, glory. Im so glad I know that.
Okay, one more quick one, for now. It proves that Schlesinger for all his Cold War liberalism is a socialist at heart, or at least has a broad streak of it in that heart. He sounds a lot like Nader and every other socialist when he says . . . Well, let Tevi tell it:
I dont care whether we call him a liberal. There is simply no better, no neater illustration of the socialist mindset than this. I couldnt have put it better if Id parodied it.
I was amused to see, in The New York Times Book Review, a letter from Kreskin, as in, the Amazing. It was signed, Kreskin, West Caldwell, N.J. just the one name, Kreskin. Never before saw that in a letters section.
That reminded me that, just recently, I met Christo quite accidentally. (You know Christo, the artist: He drapes bridges and islands and deserts and stuff. Works on a big scale.) He stuck out his hand and said, Im Christo just the one name, of course. I grinned and said, Im Jay.
Was quite jolly, as a British friend of mine says.
Just so you know, The New Criterion takes a hiatus during July and August, publishing ten times a year. But they have some fresh pieces on their website , to tide us over till September. You can read Roger Kimball, James Bowman, Alexander Coleman, James Panero (late of NR, now associate editor of The New Criterion) and a funny little piece of mine concerning a recent visit to Interlochen, Mich., home of the National Music Camp (as they used to but only used to call it).
In the previous Impromptus, I wrote of Al Gores pledge to let er rip next time, if he indeed chooses to run again for president. We had a little fun imagining what this letting rip would entail. Several readers wrote to say, That convention kiss with Tipper . . . But readers can fill in the rest for themselves, individually.
A little language? Really, really old-fashioned people say you cant say fix to mean repair fix means to make stationary; repair means something quite different (although repairing might involve making stationary). Ridiculous, right? Right at this late date.
And speaking of ridiculous: I have found it impossible to write nuff without using that apostrophe: The apostrophe takes the place of the e, in enough said: Nuff said. Im a big one on using an apostrophe to indicate whats missing: cause thats the way it ought to be done (and in that case, we want to distinguish cause from cause because those words have different pronunciations).
BUT: I was reading a book Diana Athills memoir Stet in which the author writes flu. So-and-so had the flu. You see, flu comes from influenza, and . . . Thats truly, over-the-toply old-fashioned! And it made me think: Hmm. Perhaps one doesnt really need to use those apostrophes. Im a conservative, maybe but not a cave man (on some matters).
Finally, journalists are never more obnoxious than when they write about the cute things their kids say. Even writing about a conversation with your taxi driver is better. Well, Im not going to write about my kids: Im going to write about my niece. I sort of cant help it.
Shes two years old, and were rocking on the porch. I say, Oh, darling, doesnt that breeze feel nice? She says, Yes. I (somewhat skeptical) say, Do you know what breeze means? She says, Yes. I, persisting, say, What does it mean? She says, Porch wind.
Thanks for indulging that.