December 16, 2003,
I learned something memorable from John Derbyshire some time ago. After a key victory in the (brief, to be sure) Falklands War, Prime Minister Thatcher was asked whether she had anything to say to the British people. She offered but one word: "Rejoice."
That word applies now.
In my hometown of Ann Arbor, no one no one respectable would have referred to the Falkland Islands as the Falkland Islands. They were the Malvinas, remember? (The Argentinean name for those beleaguered isles.)
Speaking of British prime ministers: I marvel that the example of Tony Blair has occasioned no pause on the American left. Here is the Labour PM of Britain, analyzing the situation, weighing the facts, considering all options, and arriving at pretty much the same conclusions as George W. Bush as the syntax-mangling cowboy from Crawford. If you were on the left, and Blair took the positions he has, wouldn't that make you think? You see, it's not only crazy Texans and friends of Halliburton in the White House; it's the leader of the Labour party.
But the Blair stance, as far as I can tell, has not made a dent in our own Left. None of the Democratic candidates cites him, contends with him, deals with him at all. Maybe he's something of an embarrassment to them. Or simply forgotten.
I will say again what I have said before: Tony Blair may socialize till the cows come home, but I will always be down on my knees in gratitude to him for seeing the world clear, when it critically mattered.
On the subject of Halliburton: When the story of overcharging for gas arose, Wesley Clark said the following: that the president is "more concerned about the success of Halliburton than having a success strategy in Iraq."
Now, I'm not na´ve about politics I know that rhetoric is excessive in campaigns. But even so, shouldn't something like this Clark statement be disqualifying? I mean, how is it possible to take seriously a man who says that Bush is "more concerned about the success of Halliburton than having a success strategy in Iraq"? That amounts to a charge of treason. It is also demented. Even if you think that Bush is dead-wrong on the war on the War on Terror in general, and on the Iraq effort in particular surely you can see that he believes in it, that he believes that the war is necessary for American security, and for the peace and stability of the world.
I am continually amazed that people who make statements such as Clark has made can continue on in public life, as though they had done nothing at all.
In an article on Vice President Cheney's recent pheasant hunting, I spotted an utterance that deserves a little attention. Said David Wade, spokesman for John Kerry, "The Bush administration says the economy is improving, but their millionaire vice president has to hunt for food."
Er, do you think the spokesman for John Kerry should be making cracks about millionaires?
I quote from Saddam Hussein, quoted in a news story in the New York Post (authored by Vince Morris and Niles Lathem): Asked whether he had weapons of mass destruction, Saddam said, "No, of course not. The U.S. dreamed them up itself to have a reason to go to war with us."
Call me a McCarthyite or any other bad, bad name, but, for the life of me, I don't see how Saddam's statement differs from the stock line of most Democrats, much of the press, many of the Euros . . .
When the U.S. liberated Iraq, way back when, I quoted from about a million Iraqis, making the most moving statements about how they could live again or, more accurately, how they could begin to live, for the first time, really. The capture of Saddam has provoked another flood of such statements, each of them more powerful than the last ("Now my son [six years old] has a future"; "This is the biggest day of my life, bigger than when my children were born"). But I will not quote a million statements now, because they seem to make little difference. When the die-hards attack, people are apt to say, "See? They don't like us. They don't want us there. 'Hearts and minds' ha!"
You remember, a few weeks ago, how, when those Spaniards were murdered, Iraqi youths danced over their bodies. But now you see many, many more Iraqis in the streets, rejoicing over the capture of their former dictator. This should be a reminder to us not to get too excited about the Iraqi character, and our prospects over there, when we behold such as the rotten boys who danced over the Spaniards.
From a reader, writing Sunday afternoon: "Dear Jay: I just caught Tom Brokaw's coverage of the capture of Saddam Hussein. That poor man looked disoriented, defeated, and dejected. Saddam didn't look all that great, either."
I didn't watch the nets, but if Brokaw looked gloomy Jennings must have looked . . . well, I fear for his health.
In its Sunday magazine, the New York Times took me, and some of my readers, to task for promoting the idea of "civil disobedience against affirmative action." This notion was included in the magazine's "Year in Ideas" issue.
Let me remind you of what occurred: At about the time the University of Michigan affirmative-action decisions were handed down, I was writing a lot about this subject, and many readers were writing to me about it. We played a "what if" game what if Americans simply refused to cooperate, refused to play ball with admissions offices and the like on the matter of race identification? The result of all this pondering and suggesting was an article for the print magazine titled "Take Your Boxes and . . .: A nation of race rebels?"
The item in the Times did not do justice to the ideas contained in that article, but, to be fair, the Times item only had so much space.
But the writer of the item Mark Edmundson had to issue a rebuke of me at the end, a little, scolding sermon, to wit, "But does lying about your race on a college application really qualify as an act of civil disobedience? The followers of Martin Luther King Jr. and Mahatma Gandhi put their lives on the line to protest injustice; because of them, we associate the words 'civil disobedience' with extreme courage against ruthless state power. Lying about your race on a college application, on the other hand, looks a little more like self-interested scheming."
A few points: 1) Actions a lot less principled or important than throwing a wrench in the machinery of race preferences have been graced with the name "civil disobedience." 2) King and Gandhi certainly the former did not give their lives to identification by race. King's entire mission was colorblindness and equality. Liberals hate to be reminded of "color of their skin . . . content of their character," but let them choke on it. 3) In an increasingly multiracial society, what does "race" mean? Are we to apply the one-drop rule? Do Cubans get to be "Hispanic," even though they tend to vote Republican (this was a live issue in Ann Arbor honestly)? Etc. And 4) I can just hear a snide, possibly frustrated voice in the '60s saying, "That 'sit-in' at the lunch counter has nothing to do with equality or democracy it's just self-interested scheming."
One man's thrust for principle is another man's self-interested scheming, I suppose.
Last, a bit about Christmas, or, as we're expected to call it now, "the holiday." I thank all Impromptus-ites for the data they shared with me on this subject. I've done a piece for the on-paper mag titled "December's C-Word"; it will be available digitally on Friday, and will arrive in mailboxes shortly thereafter.
I was awfully glad that the White House has continued to call its tree the National Christmas Tree (whereas Congress calls its tree the Capitol Holiday Tree), and I congratulated George W. Bush for saying "Christmas" with something like reckless abandon poor cultural ignoramus, he doesn't know it's just not done anymore.
But what to my wondering eyes should appear but a page from the White House website, handed to me by my friend and colleague John Virtes here at NR: It says that Laura Bush will be hosting a series of "nightly holiday bedtime stories" ach, holiday stories! Give me a break. The first of those was a book called Angelina's Christmas, so at least the C-word was sneaked in.
But, et tu, Laura?
***Hang on, I said "Last," but let's have a little mail. A reader writes, "I would like to defend Dick Gregory. Even though he's a bit loopy, he is essentially a decent human being. Unlike some contemptible individuals who are regularly referred to as 'artists' I'm thinking of such cultural luminaries as LeRoi Jones Dick Gregory has actually used his celebrity to benefit others."
Yes, I agree with that. I was a Gregory fan early on, listening to his comedy records in the Ann Arbor Public Library oh, what a thrill! (I probably liked it best for the dirty words and sass, but be that as it may.) I also read his book Up from [N-word]. I admired it at the time, but I was probably 13, and I might well retch at it now. I loudly applaud Gregory's efforts to help the obese. I'm almost sure his heart's in the right place. But the loopiness is dismaying, and he throws in with a bad crowd, often.
"Dear Jay: Saw these in a book the other day: 'It is useless for the sheep to pass resolutions in favour of vegetarianism.'" I'll say! And, "Pale Ebeneezer thought it wrong to fight / But roaring Bill, who killed him, thought it right." A statement for our time, and for all time.
Last, "Dear Jay: Let me give you a couple of recollections from my days at the University of Michigan. One is of the traffic sign at Washtenaw & Hill that had been altered to read 'LEFT LANE MUST HAVE SEX.' It remained unchanged the entire time I was there, from 1978 to 1982. The other is of the slogan painted in large block letters on the side of a building on East U. It demanded, 'U.S. OUT OF YOUR MOMMA.'"
Ah, yes, my hometown.
Holiday it up, y'all.