February 17, 2004,
We don't know whether The Story is true you know: The Story, about John Kerry but we do know this: We're not supposed to care. Because only prudes, morons, and sickos would care.
You know full well that the Democratic party, en masse, doesn't care: Their only concern is electability, and what will the rubes and squares think?
I say, every voter gets to act on the criteria he cares about. Every voter every person gets to choose what he values: what he admires, what he disdains. And he doesn't have to tell anyone, doesn't have to explain: He can just enter that booth, close that curtain behind him, and do his thang, all nice 'n' American.
If The Story is true, and it grows, all eyes will be on Teresa Heinz (Kerry, I guess) for in her hands will Senator Kerry's candidacy be. Bill Clinton's presidency was in the hands of Hillary Rodham (Clinton, now, I guess). But as I used to assert, ad nauseam she decided to exhibit Battered Wife Syndrome, saying, "My husband, officer? He would never touch me. I got this black eye from falling down the stairs again. And those nosy neighbors who call you: They're just envious of us, because we're so bright and beautiful and successful."
Anyway, I should return to my original point: If you care, my friend, you don't have to feel guilty about it. So too, you don't have to discuss it with anyone. Just sift, and consider, as you will.
Just when I think I like Donald Rumsfeld a little too much that I've gone a little bit overboard something occurs that makes me think, "No, actually I may have undervalued him."
One of the beautiful things about him is that he refers to the West Bank and the Gaza Strip as "the so-called occupied territories." (For all I know, he uses "Judea" and "Samaria" when doors are closed!) But I'm thinking now about something else. At the recent conference in Munich, Rumsfeld was asked why the United States doesn't make a fuss about Israeli nuclear weapons. We're supposed to be against nukes, right? Why don't we go after Israel?
Replied the secretary of defense: "You know the answer by yourself, and the whole world knows the answer. Israel is a small country with a small population. It is a democracy, but exists among neighbors who want to see her in the sea. Israel has made it clear that she does not want to be in the sea, and as a result, over several decades, has organized in such a manner as not to be thrown into the sea."
Savor it now, ladies and gents, for we will probably never ever see the likes of this fellow, in an office this key, again.
If you supported the war in Iraq, but have forgotten why, may I suggest to you Bob Kagan and Bill Kristol's piece in The Weekly Standard? It is "The Right War for the Right Reasons" lucid, magisterial, irrefutable. Give it to yourself, or to someone (else) you love.
I have reason to believe that NRO readers will be interested in John Derb at the opera the Metropolitan Opera, that is. The show in question was L'Italiana in Algeri, or The Italian Girl in Algiers, one of Rossini's greatest romps. Derb is a bel canto man, as you probably know. Before leaving the office, I said to Rich and others, "Derb's going to the Met tonight, so he can greet his constituents." Met patrons are especially fond of his views on social policy.
Anyway, we were sitting in a restaurant beforehand, next to a perfect Manhattan table, at which a gentleman was holding forth on Dick Cheney and John Ashcroft, in particular. The gentleman said that Cheney was only "lining his pockets" that was his reason for being in government. One of the gentleman's table mates, bless him, hazarded that Cheney was so rich already, perhaps he didn't need to line his pockets. "No," said our guy, "the very rich, like that, want only to get richer." The conversation then moved to Ashcroft, who was interested in nothing except stripping us of all of our rights (if the words "stripping" and "Ashcroft" can be employed in the same sentence).
In the meantime, Derb and I were talking about how best to kill our Qaeda-ite enemies.
On a previous occasion, I quoted Derb in the review that followed the opera we'd seen. That too was Rossini his Barber of Seville and about tenor Antonino Siragusa's rendering of a difficult aria, Derb had said, "He kicked a**." It was a pleasure to quote that. Derb did not give me such material for my Italiana review, but no such contribution is required.
Sir Rudolf Bing, for years general manager at the Met, titled his memoirs A Knight at the Opera (a play on the title of the Marx Brothers movie). Well, Sir Derb is, himself, a knight at the opera.
The New York Times did something surprising: It reported on the results of a study that surely assaulted some of its cherished assumptions. Researchers writing in The Journal of Empirical Legal Studies found that "blacks are actually underrepresented on the nation's death row." (These are the Times's words.) "Blacks commit 51.5 percent of all murders nationally but constitute about 42 percent of death row inmates . . ."
There are other such rude nuggets. What's next? "Hiss Guilty"?
I give you, now, George Stephanopoulos, not to be confused with Mel Allen. He said on Nightline February 10 "If you want to put this in sports terms, the Kerry team right now is pitching a no-hitter. They've gone through eight and two-thirds innings and they've got a 12 to 2 lead. It's almost impossible at this point that John Kerry will not get this nomination."
A no-hitter and a 12-2 lead? Well, that's a lot of passed balls, wild pitches, and errors!
Every golf fan and student of the human spirit knows how thrilling it is that John Daly has won another golf tournament. Last week, he won the San Diego tournament, proving, among other things, that talent will out, despite tremendous personal travails, demons, and deficiencies. Daly is too great a talent and too great a spirit, I would argue to be kept out of it altogether.
And I will share with you something wonderfully sportsmanlike and friendly. During the Saturday round, Daly was playing with Stewart Cink, and he Daly on the 18th hole (a par 5), pumped a 2-iron to eagle range (he would make the putt, by the way). Said Cink after, to the press, "To see him hit the fairway and hit an iron to the green it was kind of spine-tingling, even for me."
Good for Cink. And so, so good for John D, our own Ruth. (Babe, that is not the daughter-in-law of Naomi.) And no matter how woebegone he gets, he will always have won the British Open at St. Andrews. And the PGA. And other nice events as well.
Um, may I spank my readers a little bit? I shouldn't do this, but I can't quite help it. In a previous Impromptus, I cited a headline over a Wall Street Journal editorial, "Bush Spanks Fannie" (about administration policy concerning Fannie Mae). I wrote, "Naughty, Paul, naughty. [Paul is Editor Gigot]. But I like it. And very British!"
Okay, I got about a thousand e-mails saying, "'Fanny' isn't a British word for rear-end. In fact, it means something much different!"
I know, you #@$!*&%s: I was referring to the spanking.
Next time your fingers itch, will you think a moment before scratching that itch?
End of scolding. Thank you!
A letter from a Pittsburgh journalist: "Jay, as a member of the stinking liberal media, I'm not inclined to agree with everything you say in NR . . . but I read your mag faithfully because, to paraphrase someone, 'One must keep one's opponents close to one's chest.'
"But I love your occasional digressions into Pittsburgh-area speech. One story frequently told by a colleague involves a conversation between two elderly ladies sometime in the late '70s. The scene, a Pittsburgh restroom. They were discussing national politics, to wit: 'You votin' to re-elect Carter?' 'Nah. He got dem policies an' 'at.'"
Okay, yunz, that's enough politics, sports, language, an' 'at. See you soon.
P.S. Rossini was born on February 29, so we get to celebrate a relatively infrequent birthday of his this year.
P.P.S. In that Pittsburgh-ladies'-room story, one might just as well have written, "He got Dem policies an' 'at!" Although Ted Kennedy and his supporters would have begged to differ.