youre like me and Lord help you if you are you
gotta love the way Bush comports himself in Europe. First, he puts
the protesters these malevolent goons
in their place, refusing to grant them any idealism, any humane
motive. Its a tragic loss of life, Bush said,
referring to the dead Italian, but the rabble-rousers who claim
to represent the voices of the poor arent doing so. Those
protesters who try to shut down our talks on trade and aid dont
represent the poor, as far as Im concerned. This is
rare straight talk (remember that phrase?) from a politician,
especially one participating in an international summit. Shortly
after, Jacques Chirac chimed in, with a comment as typical (for
him) as Bushs: Obviously, we have all been traumatized
by the events. No, we havent: We have been outraged,
as W. apparently was.
Then, there is the coolly, and defiantly, American George Bush:
so unapologetic, so uncringing about his country and the policies
that are best for it. He is polite and deferential, when appropriate
during the campaign, he laid great stress on humility
in foreign policy. But he is very far from a marshmallow.
In this, he reminds me of his father, and since conservatives are
usually sniping at dear ol Dad, let me say something positive
about him: He is responsible for one of the most satisfying moments
I have ever seen in politics. At least, it was deeply satisfying
to me, making a deep impression at a time when I was ripe
for deep impressions, politically.
The moment took place in the 1984 vice-presidential debate between
Bush the incumbent vice president and Geraldine Ferraro,
the Democratic nominee. At one point, toward the end of the debate
it may even have been in his closing statement Bush
said (approximately), I cant tell you what a joy it
is to serve with a president who will not apologize for the United
States of America. The camera showed Ferraro with a dramatic
quizzical expression on her face. It was glorious.
Most of us knew just what Bush meant, of course: that Reagan felt
knew the U.S. to be a force for good in the world,
contrary to what had been said so loudly for the past couple of
decades. The opinion of world elites meant nothing, or little, to
him. He forged ahead with what he thought knew to
be right, and the world, of course, was eventually grateful: although
the elites remained disdainful and put-out.
Something else has reminded me of the old days (of the
1980s): Tom Daschles attack on W. as the president was taking
off to Europe. The Democratic leader chided him for making Continental
types so uncomfortable. This was a typical Democratic performance,
and typically it galled me. I was not so much disturbed
by a Senate leaders undermining the president;
in fact, I wasnt disturbed by that at all. No, I was disturbed
by Daschles very wrongness, on the substance of the thing:
Bush is looking out for American interests, and looking out for
those interests doesnt always coincide with making European
(or other) elites happy; in fact, it is often at cross-purposes
In this, I was reminded of why I became a Republican in the first
place. One of the reasons for my conversion, or migration, was that
the Democrats were always terribly fretful about what the world
thought of the U.S. (which is to say, what the world Left thought);
Republicans, meanwhile, were justly confident about their country,
and justly unmoved by illogical criticisms. It wasnt the Republicans
patriotism that impressed me; nothing of the sort. No,
it was their simple correctness the justice of their position.
(We take a break from this column for a bit of self-promotion: I
once wrote an essay on this general theme, which was republished
on NRO and can be found here
for those who have more time to kill than they should.)
I also want to put in a good word for Clinton (yes, you read that
in this space now kindly pick yourself off the floor and
continue): The only time I was ever proud of him yes, I was
proud of Clinton, once was when he was in Canada, sometime
during his second term. He was giving a press conference, standing
next to the Canadian premier, I believe, and he was being absolutely
hammered by the North Country media for refusing to relent on landmines
for continuing to insist on the desirability and morality
of using them in a certain strategic way. Clinton unshakably stood
his ground, explaining that the use of those awful devices was absolutely
necessary for the safeguarding of American troops, for example in
Korea and he would not back down on that, no matter how much
the world screamed.
I found this thrilling and this was the first and last time
I was ever thrilled (positively) by Clinton. It was the only time
I can remember saying, Yes, sir, thats my president.
I suppose that nothing stirs my blood like an American presidents
steadfastness on foreign soil.
One last thing, before I leave this: W. said, alluding to Daschles
attack on him, One of the things America has prided itself
on is a bipartisan foreign policy, and I would hope that that tradition
continues. Its a very important tradition. This is about
half baloney, of course: Republicans and Democrats have hammered
at each other constantly over foreign policy for a very long time.
The idea of a bipartisan foreign policy of politics stopping
at the waters edge is bunk, although it might
be lovely bunk. During the 1980s, Republicans and Democrats had
almost violently opposing ideas, over Central America, for example.
They have practically killed each other over foreign policy since
at least mid-Vietnam.
Again, I dont mind so much that the Democrats tangle with
a Republican president over foreign policy, even as he is about
to skip across the pond: I mind that on missile defense and
Kyoto, for instance the Democrats are wrong.
week, a group of conservatives got together, and the question of
the hour was, What are the high points and the low points
of the W. presidency, six months in? The answers varied, and
I will relate mine, three from each category:
Low points (conservatives, of course, always begin with the dark
side, usually managing to end with it, too): The education bill,
a Ted Kennedyesque disgrace, violating the principles for which
Bush has long stood (and on which he campaigned, vigorously and
well). The line in the China-apology letter that read, Thank
you for looking after the well-being of our crew. Not only
was this craven and absurd what, we should thank them for
not torturing or killing our people? it was untrue: The Chinese,
we know, used some very rough, certainly uncivilized, interrogation
techniques. And third, a general failure to communicate effectively,
to articulate and defend administration positions which may
include going after opponents, in a gentle, Bushian, change
the tone way.
And the high points? Personnel, personnel, personnel. Oh, yes. Aside
from some sterling Cabinet picks, think merely of some key foreign-policy
slots: Elliott Abrams at the NSC, Otto Reich for assistant secretary
of state for the Western Hemisphere, John Negroponte for U.N. ambassador.
Not bad, not bad and those are just for starters. Then: The
fact that Bush is charging ahead on missile defense, something vital
for the country, and world, something to which there is tremendous,
ferocious, and unprincipled opposition, and something that may prove
(along with Social Security reform, I hope a new New Deal)
to be Bushs legacy. And last: The simple fact
that George W. Bush is an honest, trustworthy, straight chief executive.
This should go without saying. But we know, sadly, that it doesnt.
a second ago, Otto Reich whose nomination battle I have studied
and reported on. One of the shots against him was an
op-ed piece in the Los Angeles Times by Oscar Arias,
ginned up, in all probability, by Reichs Democratic opponents.
Arias, of course, is the ex-president of Costa Rica who won the
Nobel Peace Prize a prize obviously awarded to embarrass
and hinder Reagan and his allies in Central America. In the op-ed
piece, Arias claimed against all evidence, against all reason
that Reich is a militarist, unworthy of the post
for which he has been nominated.
Well, another ex-president of Costa Rica has now weighed in, this
one Rafael Calderon, this one emphatically, and reasonably, on the
side of Reich. (The
column appeared in the Washington Times.) Calderon says
a great deal about why Reich should be confirmed, about why he would
perform admirably as assistant secretary, and it is a fine contribution
to the debate. Was this column ginned up by Reichs Republican
allies? Probably but that wouldn't make it any less sound.
recall that I spoke, above, of an extremely satisfying moment in
politics? I thought of another one a few days ago, in pondering
what has become of Central America. All five countries in the region
are now democratic and that result was far from sure, back
in the 80s, when Americans had their great civil war over
Central American policy. My memory was of Jose Napoleon Duarte,
the (democratic) president of El Salvador, participating in a ceremony
in the Rose Garden and leaving the podium to kiss the flag
of the United States. It was one of the most striking things I had
ever seen. He was thanking the U.S. administration, and Reagans
supporters in Congress, and in the population at large, for backing
democracy in El Salvador, for demonstrating the will and providing
the means to fight off both the Communists and the right-wingers.
To make matters all the more poignant, Duarte was dying.
I couldnt, for the life of me, figure out how those who had
damned the U.S. as a force for ill in El Salvador, advocating an
American pullout no aid could have witnessed that
scene and not been ashamed.
The proof is in the pudding: Reagan and his men, by standing firm
in Central America, against the wild screams and accusations of
the Left, both soft and hard, contributed to the not-at-all-likely
democratic condition of the region today.
Gigot, a veteran columnist and editorialist for the Wall Street
Journal, was recently named editorial-page editor of that paper,
which is wonderful news: Few are as capable. (I should mention also,
with a touch of hometown pride, that Gigot is an alumnus of NR.)
Im somewhat sad about this development, however, because Gigots
elevation means that he will give up his column, Potomac Watch,
which is one of the best in the business.
One reaction I had I dont know why it came to me; it
was unbidden, really was, Hell, Gigot should have a
column on the op-ed page of the New York Times. It
would do a world of good there. Sure, he will do much good in his
new position, too, if only because he will continue the ample good
that his predecessor, Bob Bartley, has already done. But the Times
op-ed page could really use a gust of fresh air even a gentle
breeze of it and Gigot would do the job.
This brings up the general question of, What are we to do about
the most important (I would argue) op-ed page in the world? The
answer is, Nothing, of course, but this is merely parlor
game-ish. The page has but a single conservative on it, William
Safire, and he has been there for about 30 years. He does not exactly
hold up our end, from a conservative point of view.
He is a brilliant and invaluable man, but strange for a 30-year
columnist he likes to do a lot of reporting, when his column
could be used for advocacy, explaining, opining, philosophizing,
convincing. In any case, Safire should not be alone. The Washington
Post no bosom friend of the American Right is
leaps and bounds ahead of the Times, when it comes to a diversity
of opinion on the op-ed page. The Times has several lefty
regulars who really make one another redundant (I know, I know
National Review should talk; but were an opinion magazine,
I will end as I began: Its nice that Paul Gigot has been promoted.
But wouldnt it be nice nicer if he could take
his column to the august pages of the New York Times? If
you have a moment, you may wish to think who would be your own candidates
to be the papers Token No. 2 or 3, if you really
want to dream.
of the things wrong with the Times op-ed page, of course,
is that it no longer has A. M. Rosenthal, the old executive editor.
I was reminded of this absence, this loss, by Rosenthals recent
column on the Beijing Olympics, published in the New York Daily
News, which is his new home. Rosenthals column is possibly
the best yet written on the International Olympic Committees
tragic choice: Drink
it in. The man may no longer be kicking on the op-ed page of
his old paper, but he is still kicking, and hard. Very hard.
bursting with things to say about the Chinese Communists, but I
will confine myself to noting an excellent article by Frank
Ching in the South China Morning Post, which reports,
among other things, that the PRC has changed the name of its Propaganda
Department to Publicity Department, but for the benefit
of English-speakers only. (Remember when Saddam Hussein had his
people at some weapons factory wear coats that said on the back,
in English, Baby Milk Factory or something?) Beijing
is cracking down viciously on the Chinese press, as it has cracked
down on the heads of the Falun Gong, and everyone else who wants
to live a life worth living. Now the Chinese papers are forbidden
to report on even such things as natural disasters.
Optimists about the Beijing Olympics say that the Games will mean
The Whole World is Watching. Bullsh**: The world wont
watch, and if it does, and sees something, it will turn away, because
nothing can be allowed to spoil the harmony of the Olympic Games.
The regime will have greater leeway than usual to do its worst (which
is very bad, indeed). Be it on the heads of those who appeased them
with the plum of you could argue the worlds
most cherished and important international event.
I continue, a quick language point: Propaganda should
not be a bad, a negative, word; you can propagate the truth, you
can propagate the false; the manifestations of that propagating
are propaganda. But the word has come, of course, to
be taken in the negative: false propaganda.
at this stage, refuse to be heartsick over anything I read in the
news, but I was almost embarrassingly heartsick over the report
saying that a group complaining of blast faxes had been
awarded, in a class-action suit, 12 million dollars. A Hooters
franchise in Augusta, G-A, had sent a couple coupons via faxes to
various businesses and individuals, apparently. One man a
beaut named Sam G. Nicholson got it in mind to sue, class-action-style.
There is an obscure federal law prohibiting commercial faxes without
the consent of the recipient: so, the restaurant must pay 12 mil.
Now, I all the time receive unsolicited commercial phone
calls and e-mails (I havent much noticed faxes), and they
annoy me a great deal but they do not make me want to sue,
because such a desire would be ridiculous. As this award is, in
addition to being obscene. Tort reform cant come soon enough,
because it would be easier to accomplish than a reformation of the
American character although the first cause might help the
I tell you what I dislike about the new John Adams wave, and the
commentary surrounding it? I dont like the either-or-ness
of this chatter. You are either an Adams man or a Jefferson man,
you cant be both. When you tout the virtues of one, you have
to tout the demerits of the other. And that really need not be.
For years, you had to choose between Rubinstein and Horowitz
ridiculous: They were markedly different one from the other, and
each had much to offer; a sensible person could never have done
without either. The same with Pavarotti-Domingo: Certain strange
people demand that a choice be made; but you might as well forgo
either chocolate or vanilla. We are supposed to be either a dog
person or a cat person yet what appreciative
person could fail to discern the delights of both?
Praise John Adams if you like say that he has never gotten
his due, that its about time, or whatever but there
is no need to run down Jefferson while you do it.
One of the things, I remember, that irked me when the first Bush
came to power was that a great many in the media decided to praise
Barbara Bush: but only in comparison with that horrid shrew Nancy
Reagan. No one no one in the elite press could say
a kind word about Barbara without saying a concomitantly nasty one
about Nancy. My point was: If you like Barbara Bush, just say so.
But of course, the accompanying slam provided cover of a sort.
it wrong of me to be disturbed, ever so slightly, by the appointment
of Bill Richardson as president of Freedom House? Probably. Freedom
House, to remind you, is one of the most valuable organizations
in the country, or world, a group dedicated to looking after democracy
and human rights around the globe. During the Cold War, it was particularly
valuable, because larger, more prominent organizations meaning,
primarily, Amnesty International tended to look away from
the Communist countries, in the interest of détente
Richardson, of course, was Clintons ambassador to the U.N.,
then energy secretary; before that, he was a New Mexico congressman,
semi-famous for globetrotting and grandstanding. Under Clinton,
he was always eager to do the presidents bidding, even to
the point of offering a hopelessly unqualified Monica Lewinsky a
choice U.N. job (arent they all choice?); the ex-intern, feeling
sure that she could be ultra-persnickety, turned up her nose at
the offer. A hugely indeed, nakedly ambitious man,
Richardson was hoping very much to be Al Gores vice-presidential
nominee, until a mini-scandal erupted over security at nuclear labs
and then he was cooked. Some good came out of his ambition,
however: He had gone on a strenuous diet, slimming down for the
vice-presidential call that never came.
Now, I realize that Freedom House is a bipartisan, indeed, non-partisan,
group, and that Richardson is far, far from the worst of the Democrats,
when it comes to seeing the world clear. But I am still ever
so slightly chagrined. The best that can be said about this
appointment is that perhaps Bill Richardsons enormous appetite
for publicity will wind up aiding the organization long may
have possibly seen the movie Before Night Falls, the story
of a homosexual Cuban poet, Reynaldo Arenas, who endured persecution
at the hands of Castro and his Communist system. The movie has been
picketed by pro-Castro leftists in the U.S., who hate what the movie
exposes about the nature of their favorite regime. The movie has
clearly done some good. I relate the following anecdote: A longtime
anti-Communist, knowledgeable about Cuba, went to see Before
Night Falls at a theater in a gay neighborhood. When the movie
was finished, he overheard a gay couple, leaving the theater: Said
one to the other, Its just like Nazi Germany. I had
Well, Castro has been in power for over 40 years, and the nature
and practices of his regime have been no secret, for those who cared
to find out: but better late than never.
of movies, there is a new one about Sadat, playing in Egypt, and
it is controversial, because it portrays the late leader in a positive
light. Some Egyptians most? regard Sadat as a despicable
traitor for striving for peace with Israel. I remember moving
on to another point that there was a film made about Sadat
in the United States, starring Lou Gossett Jr. Some Egyptians reacted
with fury, because Gossett was (is) black. Sadat himself, of course,
was half-black his mother was Sudanese a point that
many (not excluding Anwar el-Sadat) sought to obscure.
Reading about the new movie put me in mind of Sadat, and his assassination,
and the gross aftermath. I have always remembered a line in a Bill
Buckley column about Sadat and Nasser: After Sadats assassination,
there was dancing, jubilation, in the Egyptian streets; and after
Nasser died, they went mad with grief.
Hang on, I am going to reprint the entire paragraph, with its killer,
unforgettable (to me) closing line:
Nasser was a cruel man, a despicable fomenter of hatred. He
cared about war and about the destruction of Israel. He thought
nothing of wooing Moscow, never mind communisms explicit hostility
to any kind of religion. His radio stations blared out the need
for a holy war against Israel
. He knew
how to behave
when kings and queens drop in for tea. But he stood for war, for
absolute despotism at home, and for the consecration of Mohammed
to the cause of anti-Semitism. And when he died, the Egyptian people
went mad with grief.
Fantastic, huh? This column written in October 1981, following
Sadats assassination was reprinted in the Buckley anthology
you need another reason to be irked at Sen. Joe Lieberman,
the half-Maimonides, half-Shrum of the Democratic party? Responding
to Democratic displeasure at his alleged leniency about military
ballots, he said, I feel badly. Well, I feel bad for
you, Joe not really.
report on the mailbag: Many, many readers said, in reaction to my
item about the reprehensible treatment of eager, bright-eyed immigrants
by INS personnel, Me too, me too they had witnessed
Also on an issue of burning importance there is indeed
a regulation (or statute) requiring that restaurants post signs
in their bathrooms saying, Employees Must Wash Hands Before
Returning to Work. And, yes, according to testimony, workers
find this humiliating. In addition, one reader wrote, Your
item reminds me of a cartoon I saw more than twenty years ago, which
for some reason I continue to think of as one of the funniest I
have ever read. A large, surly-looking man in lederhosen stands
next to a bathroom sink, with a towel over his arm. The sign on
the wall reads, Hans must wash employees before leaving.
close with a tale from ol West Virginny, home of my in-laws.
Now, one of my wifes grandfathers is a fierce, devoted, yellower-than-yellow-dog
Democrat, and he loves to rib me about my membership in the Republican
party something he regards with horror. He told me a story
the other day true, of course, like all of his stories: Two
young men, having just turned 18, go down to the county seat (Wellsburg)
to register to vote. One of them registers Democrat; the other tries
to register Republican but the clerk wont let him!
She says that the young man has to go home to get his parents
permission. And what are the chances of getting such permission
in that wild, wonderful state?
To paraphrase New York gossipeuse Cindy Adams, Only in West Virginia,
kids, only in West Virginia.