a little dream. It came to me as I was reading Li Shaomins
account of being held in China over long months. (Li was one of
those U.S. scholars the PRC has been rounding on.) Li recounted
how the Communist security thugs taunted him and tried to break
him. Taking his passport, they said, This will do you no good.
You may have an American passport, but youre not a real American,
and never will be. You were born in China, and you will always be
my dream: President Bush goes before the cameras and says, Li
Shaomin and everyone like him are real Americans — as American
as anybody — and they always will be, so keep your hands off them,
you Communist SOBs.
A guy has to
dream, and I have.
When I saw and read about Al Gores beard, I thought of one
thing: Bob Bork. How so? Bork, of course, was disadvantaged by his
beard during those awful confirmation hearings of 1987. Why? You
sort of had to be there. Democrats and their supporters in the press
liked to say that Borks beard was scary, adding
to the general scariness of this nominee, who was a
judicial conservative (or a constitutionalist, if you like). This
got so bad that one of the senators was moved to ask, Judge,
how did you get that beard? People have been talking about it.
Bork, a little amused, a little perplexed, answered that hed
gone on vacation one summer — I believe it was a riverboat in France
— and let it grow, to avoid the hassle of shaving. And he sort of
liked it, or maybe his family did, so he kept it.
What a stupid
country this is: Borks beard.
Gore, too, went on a European vacation and decided to let his beard
grow — but no one is saying, as far as I know, that this indicates
hes some nut-job who should be kept from power. (He is
a nut-job who should be kept from power, but not for this reason.)
Furthermore, arent we suppose to oppose something sometimes
Yes, I realize
the Bork nomination was 14 years ago and that it is time
— past time, as political speechwriters like to say,
obnoxiously — to move on. But Im not. So sue me.
Okay, speaking of suits: I have recently been learning quite a bit
about our national characteristic, litigiousness, and its effect
on our health-care system. Nursing homes are pulling out of Florida
and Texas, leaving the aged and sick with no place to go, or with
many fewer places to go. For this and other reasons, I believe —
for the first time — that tort reform has a chance of succeeding.
Not because people, including politicians, will listen to our impeccably
reasoned arguments, but because people — real people
— are being hurt by the effects of tort claims, when they cant
do things like see a doctor or park their parents in a home. They,
those aggrieved citizens, will squawk, and their pols will listen.
This has already
started to happen in West Virginia, whose particular situation I
wrote about the other week. The incumbent governor, Democrat Bob
Wise, ran last November with the heavy backing of the trial bar.
But he is now rather open to tort reform. How come? Because its
not just doctors and insurers who are griping; they could gripe
all day, and no one would care; there are too few of them, and theyre
easy to demonize as rich and greedy. No, Wise is starting to wise
up because plain folks — the patients of doctors, and the constituents
of governors — are starting to yell. Which is good, needless to
Did you see the item — I caught it on Drudge — about how J.C. Penney
had to pull a shirt that read, Home Skooled? The shirt
also depicted a broken-down mobile home. The message these people
wanted to send — who are they, anyway? — was that home schooling
leaves children ignorant, and is probably practiced by the poor,
uncaring, and degenerate.
There are several
odd things about this item, one of which is: That shirt was so very
far from the truth (as long as were going to stereotype).
Home-schooled kids, in my experience, are smart as whips, or certainly
very well educated, outpacing those who are schooled in other ways.
Theyre always winning local spelling bees and other academic
contests. A more accurate, more defensible T-shirt — though one
equally mean — would have read, Public Skooled (and
would have pictured a tattered, embattled school building). Ya know?
When the Democrats made a little noise over those Mexican trucks,
some Republicans thought theyd make a little hay by suggesting,
or outright charging, that the Democrats were anti-Mexican.
This, of course, was foul play, as everyone said, but you couldnt
help feeling just a little frisson of satisfaction, in that
the Republicans had given the Democrats a taste of their own awful
medicine — for the first time, as far as I can recall. Ya know (again)?
tell me that youve noticed this: that Democratic pundits are
always laughing at Trent Lott for having been a college cheerleader.
They love to insert this fact, to fondle this part of the Republican
leaders past. I think its a bit out of character for
them: ridiculing a man for having been a cheerleader instead of,
say, a middle linebacker. It is almost — just almost
— homophobic, with its insinuation of prissiness. Ha, ha,
Trent was a cheerleader, the big girlie!
I once took
a vow never, ever to mention Maureen Dowd, either in print or private
conversation. (This is related, just bear with me.) But Id
like to comment on a recent column of hers. (I had sworn off reading
her column, but I have broken that rule, too.)
(By the way,
a friend of mine, ten years ago, declared a personal moratorium
on reading or watching anything having to do with race in
America. He did it for his blood pressure, and his mental well-being.
And he has never looked back — best move he ever made, he says.)
this recent column Dowd did her usual thing of taking off hysterically
on Republicans. Sample: As W. and Uncle Dick went about strip-mining
the nation, allowing arsenic in the water and turning Alaska into
a gas station, Democrats assumed Mr. Gore would lead the opposition.
Strip-mining the nation. Allowing arsenic in the water. Turning
Alaska into a gas station. Does James Carville talk this way?
Does Paul Begala? [Gore] was the champion of Kyoto and author
of a chicken-little polemic warning of an ecological Kristallnacht
and wasteland that looks mild compared to the toxic
dreams of the Houston Oilers. But he was too busy licking his wounds
and calculating his comeback to respond when the Earth really was
In the Balance. Does James Carville talk this way? Does Paul
Begala? Oh, I already asked that.
Sorry, I didnt
mean to mention any of this. What I wanted to say was that Dowd
wrote that Tom Daschle, the new majority leader, had de-pom-pommed
Mississippi cheerleader Trent Lott. Ha, ha, ha — for the 4
millionth time. Quick editorial point: No conservative could do
this to a liberal politician and get away with it. If a right-winger
— Rush, G. Gordon Liddy, Tom DeLay — tried to do it to a figure
on the left, especially one whose sneakers may not exactly be like
anvils, he would be denounced as a McCarthyite, a homophobe, a troglodyte,
a sexist, a racist . . . why a racist? Oh, just because.
day, I was checking out the op-ed page of the Washington Post
— an excellent page — and saw a column by Jackson Diehl headed,
What About Latin America? Ah, I thought.
Maybe hell point out that Senate Democrats are holding
up Otto Reichs nomination to be the relevant assistant secretary
of state, and the nomination of John Negroponte, a veteran Latin
America hand, to be U.N. ambassador. Well, he did point this
out: like this: Bushs insistence on sticking with Otto
Reich, favorite son of the Florida Cuban community, as his choice
for State Department assistant secretary despite stiff Senate resistance
probably ensures that that key position will remain vacant for months.
This was predictable
as the sunrise, I guess: the impasse as Bushs fault for insisting
on sticking with Otto Reich, not the Democrats fault
for sticking it to Otto Reich, who is superbly qualified,
not to mention the presidents choice for the job. Note, too,
how the columnist described Reich: favorite son of the Florida
Cuban community. First, whats wrong with that? The Florida
Cuban community is an immensely admirable one, having suffered
under Communism, risked their lives, and then gone on to thrive
in America, as a model immigrant group (which they are hated for,
is a lot more than this communitys favorite son:
He served in the Army (in Panama); he received a masters degree
in Latin American studies, with a concentration in economic development,
from Georgetown; he was head of the Latin America division of the
Agency for International Development; he was ambassador to Venezuela;
he was a U.S. representative to the U.N. Human Rights Commission
in Geneva — unpaid; he has been a private consultant for Latin America
business, and so on.
understanding of the issues of the world is very keen. His father
was a Jewish refugee from Austria, who found haven in Cuba. The
fathers parents were murdered in the Holocaust. Ottos
family, in Cuba, welcomed Castros victory with open arms —
but then, when it was clear that Castro was a totalitarian, Ottos
father figured he would have to flee again, this time to the United
States. Otto Reich is an immigrant American with political evil
in his background who simply hates tyranny. Hates it. Doesnt
care where it comes from: the left or the right. The boot on the
human throat is the same, whether red or black.
Back to Jackson
Diehl: He goes on to write, Reich is just one of five veterans
of the Nicaraguan contra wars whom Bush now has appointed to senior
positions at State, Defense, the National Security Council, the
Organization of American States and the United Nations. As these
cold warriors refight the ideological battles of the 1980s with
congressional Democrats and NGOs, the serious but quite different
Latin American problems of 2001 are dissed — or ignored. It
is astonishing — or rather, it isnt — that Diehl could think
it is the Republicans who insist on refighting the
ideological battles of the 1980s. Actually, it is their Democratic
opponents who insist on this refighting, probably because they are
bruised and haunted by how wrong they were in opposing Reagans
policies. The Republicans, on the contrary, are ready to move
on, to handle the business of today. They are interested neither
in refighting nor in gloating — although I, personally, wish theyd
do a little more gloating.
If the Bushies
dont get on the stick, theyre going to lose this nomination,
a nomination they should be enormously proud of, and protective
of, and zealous about. You know whos going to have to holler
a little? Secretary of State Colin Powell. Everybody loves him,
and he should spend a little bit of his political-love capital for
this nominee. Get in the pulpit, as ex-secretary of
state George Shultz said to me about what Powell should do. At this
point, I fear, this may be the only way.
sent me a marvelous quote that comes from the actor Harrison Ford:
The greatest threat to human rights is economic opportunity.
If only all American leftists talked this openly!
consider an item that struck me as both hilarious and sad. Back
in the 80s — or was it the 90s? — there were two Coreys
in Hollywood, known, of course, as The Two Coreys: Corey Feldman
and Corey Haim. They were co-stars in The Lost Boys, among
other movies. One day recently, the New York Post reported
that Corey Feldman had checked into rehab. But no, they had the
wrong Corey: It was Haim. Corey Feldmans manager called
in to say, Corey Feldman has been sober for the past nine
that hilarious? As well as sad? Am I wrong?
other quickie, though Im back with more Impromptus on Monday:
A newspaper in Charleston, W.V., the Daily Mail, reprinted
my article in the current National Review, on the West Virginia
doctors crisis. Initially, on their website, they
printed my name — my byline — as Jay Nordingler (not
Nordlinger). I dont know if this mistake made
it into the actual newspaper, but it was quickly corrected on the
not important. Its just that, you know the old cliché,
I dont care what you say about me as long as you spell
my name right? Well, its true. All of my life, it had
been a rather empty statement for me. But now I grasp the stark
truth of it. Never have I had more respect for a cliché —
especially because Nordlinger, however it is misspelled,
is always ridiculous. I mean, just straight, correct Nordlinger
is bad enough.
one more: about clichés. I think the dumbest, least true
of all time are 1) Drive for show, putt for dough. (Golfers
know what Im talking about. If you want me to explain, I will,
later.) And 2) You cant judge a book by its cover.
(You almost always can, but every now and then you cant, which
is why we mustnt do it at all, I guess. But still: You almost
always can, and Dont give me any bullsh**, you
know its true, as I once heard Rodney Dangerfield say.
Ah, Rodney: What a magnificent man.)