July 30, 2004,
Boston, Mass. Everyone is congratulating John Edwards for his "hawkish" speech, and saying how wonderful it was that he declared to al Qaeda, "We will destroy you."
Fine. I suppose I should be grateful. But isn't this setting the bar awfully low? I mean, al Qaeda has vowed a war of destruction against America. They've already killed 3,000 of us.
And John Edwards Democrat though he is vows, "We will destroy you."
Whoop-de-doo. I mean, isn't this the least that can be expected of those who ask for power in America (al Qaeda's target)? But Democrats have become so untrustworthy when it comes to protecting the country, we all wet ourselves when one of them says, "Yes, I agree we should be protected."
I would be embarrassed if I were a Democrat. But then as you may have picked up I'm not a Democrat.
In this brilliant speech of Edwards's, he said, repeatedly, "Hope is on the way" a variation on Dick Cheney's 2000 cry, "Help is on the way." But as far as I know, no one has paused to acknowledge the stupidity of "Hope is on the way." Hope is a present condition, pointing to brightness in the future. If you want Kerry and Edwards to win and think they will win hope is not on the way, but here: the hope of their victory in November.
Anyway . . .
At every turn, Kerry's patriotism, and Edwards's patriotism, are vouched for. And every speaker boasts of his own patriotism. This is a little bit embarrassing, speaking of embarrassment. Shouldn't that be assumed? And shouldn't people act and speak patriotically if they want to be patriotic rather than merely assert patriotism?
This is to say nothing of Kerry's exploitation of his four months in Vietnam. They must be the most famous four months in history, at the moment. And a little exploitation in a political campaign is expected, perfectly kosher Dole did it. But shouldn't a sense of dignity keep you from excess? Also some modesty?
Besides which, if combat experience is indispensable a sine qua non as this convention constantly asserts, or certainly implies, how could this party have supported Clinton? Twice? Enthusiastically?
And there is wrongly little attention paid to Kerry's conduct after the war: He merely accused his fellow soldiers of heinous crimes, threw his medals away (or something), and did all he could to make the Vietnam effort seem reprehensible. Years later, when Reagan argued that Vietnam had been a noble cause, Kerry choked on what he called "revisionism."
Furthermore, we're hearing more about Kerry's Vietnam record than his record in the Senate. I mean, he has served in that body for 20 years. Yet his time there goes almost unmentioned.
Some of us have been trying to do our bits. Yesterday, the Wall Street Journal noted that Kerry supported the nuclear freeze. That he opposed the Strategic Defense Initiative. That he opposed basically everything that hastened the Soviet Union's collapse and the end of the Cold War. (And now the Democrats say constantly, "We won the Cold War . . ." As Ronald Reagan quipped at the '92 convention, "Whaddya mean, 'we'?")
Also, Kerry opposed the first Gulf War, that drove Saddam Hussein out of Kuwait.
I myself wrote a piece ("Back in Sandinista Days" subscription required) about Kerry's Latin America record. And I never cease to quote what he said about Grenada: "The invasion represented a bully's show of force against a weak Third World nation."
Anyway . . .
On to something lighter: Saw Biff Henderson, the Letterman figure, smokin' and apparently enjoying himself. Affable-seeming guy.
There was a bizarre protest by about seven people dressed up in black hoods trying to represent prisoners abused by U.S. personnel in Iraq. Curious, the Left's identification with those victims; they seem to have no identification with Saddam's victims whatsoever. It seems to make them feel good: that a few American dodos behaved atrociously. They draw comfort and strength from that.
My protesters held Niemöllerian signs that said (approximately), "First they came for the African-Americans." "Then they came for the queers." The last sign said, "Who's next?"
A Democratic delegate, taking pictures of them, said, enthusiastically, "I agree with you. I agree with you. 'Who's next?'"
I couldn't agree or disagree with them, because I didn't know what they were saying. But this Democratic delegate and others certainly seemed to.
Ben Affleck is all over this convention, sort of its mascot. He might be said to be the Sammy Davis Jr. of this time and place.
Liked a Boston Herald headline: Over an article about what Senator Kennedy will do in the fall campaign (he will mainly rev up the liberal base), it said, "Ted To Play Left Field."
Wendy Malick (the actress) is all over this convention too. I'm sort of sorry she's a Democrat. I feel the same way about dear Alyssa Milano!
In the last few days, many of us have been talking about the Democrats' remarkable silence on certain, important issues. One of them as The Hill noted is guns. You don't hear a peep not a peep about gun control in Boston. The Democrats have learned.
I further discovered in The Hill that Arizona state representative Jack Jackson Jr. is get ready "the first openly gay American Indian ever elected to a state assembly."
Move over, Jackie Robinson!
How disciplined has the Democratic party become? Gavin Newsom the gay-marrying mayor of San Francisco said, "If they [had] told me not to show up, I wouldn't be here [at the convention]." About the Democrats' near ban on talk about gay marriage, His Honor said, "I'm understanding of that."
Pretty disciplined, huh? They wanna win.
Because of a seeming taboo on calling John Kerry a Massachusetts liberal which he is the public at large, I think, hasn't the vaguest idea how left Kerry lists. This is not to say that he is right or wrong (although we know where we stand). It's just to orient him, politically.
Consider his campaign manager, Mary Beth Cahill: She was a Barney Frank operative. She worked for EMILY's List. She was Ted K.'s chief of staff.
I mean, you're not really talking 'bout New Democracy here.
This is not to pass judgment on it (though I do virtually every time I type); this is merely to note it and to note that it is rarely noted.
As you have heard me say, a major theme of this convention has been, "The French disapprove of us, therefore we are guilty." It's an astonishingly French-minded jamboree. This was especially marked in Senator Biden's speech. He cited the famous headline in Le Monde "We're all Americans now" and excoriated Bush for losing that sympathy. But the president had to lose it: because he had to fight back, and Le Monde prefers an America that is down and bleeding, a humbled, victimized America.
Biden went on to recall a Dean Acheson meeting with General DeGaulle. The senator's message: If you can't gain the approval of the French president, you're disqualified.
And, of course, Biden sounded the lie that Bush acted unilaterally in Iraq. Italy, Spain, Poland, the others they simply don't count in the Democratic mindset. (Believe me, the most brilliantly diplomatic president imaginable couldn't have won over Saddam's close friends and partners in Paris and Moscow, particularly.)
Biden also said that, if he had been president, he would have used Sept. 11 as an occasion to announce a new program to rid the U.S. of foreign-oil dependency! What you mean he'd have drilled in ANWR?
Don't bet on it, baby.
I'm always urging Bush to talk to people and to talk back to Democrats. Why doesn't Bush address this charge of unilateralism? Why won't he make the Democrats eat it? Why?
You perhaps heard Biden say "John Kennedy" when he meant "John Kerry." I'm sure he wasn't the first this week to make that mistake but that was the first instance I caught.
And then we heard from Biden, "Our friends on the other side love to quote the Bible" he said that like that was something bad! Moments later, he said, "American values brought down the Berlin Wall." Oh? No thanks to you, bub.
If you hang around this convention, you get the feeling that Kerry is the candidate of the veterans. Hmm: Would the Democrats like an election in which only veterans can vote? Deal.
Bless Joe Lieberman, for two reasons (principally): He referred, not to "terrorists," but to "Islamist terrorists." Amazing. And, of American soldiers, he said, "They have liberated Afghanistan and Iraq from murderous tyrannies."
Damn straight, Joltin' Joe. (I'll be back to criticizing him later.)
I've been mentioning in this column the capacity to be embarrassed. Said Rep. Nancy Pelosi "the next Speaker of the House of Representatives" "We will win because we embody the values and hopes of our country."
Friends, if I were the most partisan Republican alive and I'm not saying I'm not I just couldn't say that. Couldn't. Could you? I mean, wouldn't some sense of propriety or balance restrain you?
Carole King just sang "You've Got a Friend." Funny that's exactly what she sang to Fidel Castro, down in Havana.
I don't much like Carole King's friends. Especially the monstrous dictators.
In the film that introduced Kerry, the narrator said, "Teresa came to the marriage with . . ." and I swear, I thought he'd say, "Half a billion dollars" (or something). Instead, the sentence continued with ". . . three sons."
From a theatrical and political point of view, Cleland's introduction of Kerry was superb absolutely superb. It might have nauseated us conservatives, but it was magnificent.
Way up in a box, Robert Rubin, Teresa Heinz Kerry, and John Edwards sat together. I swear, I said and this was totally involuntary, like the "came to the marriage" thought "Holy moly, that's a lot of money!"
Ladies and gentlemen, I will forgo extensive Kerry-speech commentary, to offer a few scattered reactions.
I thought the "reporting for duty" and salute at the beginning of the speech was a mistake a blunder. I thought it looked silly. It also occurred to me that it was a "Bush AWOL" allusion.
I also thought that the "born in the west wing" (of the hospital) bit was a mistake. Just kind of stupid, almost groan-making. I mean, it's not that unlikely.
However and, no, I'm not one of those tight-hineys who think you can't begin a sentence with "However"; for one thing, plenty of top-drawer writers do I thought Kerry made an excellent speech. I believe it will help him a lot. I don't think he could have done better, in content or delivery. Differently, yes, but better, no.
Did you notice he talked against Communism? I thought, "Sure, now that it's safe, 15 years after the end. Would that you had talked about the Russkies that way before!"
He said (in essence maybe literally), "I love my children." This should be as unnecessary as declaring your patriotism. I mean, can't it be assumed that one loves one's children? Isn't it unseemly to go on about it in public? This is the Oprah-ization of politics.
Kerry said, "The United States of America never goes to war because we want to, we only go to war because we have to." (A quick language point: The "only" should have gone right before the second "because.")
Damn it, no one goes to war because he wants to. George W. Bush didn't go to war because he wanted to; he hates war; we all do. He went to war because he thought our security demanded it and I believe he's right.
Bush would do well to speak to this.
One of Kerry's best lines was that we should not be red states and blue states, but red-white-and-blue America excellent.
Finally, I agree with the instant wisdom that Kerry gave people a reason to be for him, as opposed to merely despising Bush.
And who was right behind him, after he finished the speech right behind, soaking up all that camera time? Who else but Al Sharpton, stealing a page from Jesse (who could get into any camera shot remember the Carter concession?).
The bride at every wedding, the corpse at every funeral.
All right, baby-loves, we're going to have some ice-cream letters, then out out forever, on ice cream.
"Jay, the best ice cream is at the Chinatown Ice Cream Factory in NYC. Lychee nut, ginger, red bean, and especially banana. I used to eat Ben and Jerry's, but swore off it when I began boycotting French products last year."
"Jay, I can't let you get away with mentioning Penn State but not Princeton. Don't forget Thomas Sweet, the only place that makes chocolate-chip-cookie ice cream (as opposed to chocolate-chip-cookie dough, which just puts chunks of cookie dough in vanilla ice cream)."
"Jay, Brigham's has had the best ice cream in Boston since 1914 and is now the favorite place of traditionalists who are saddened to see the franchises of this 'ice cream institution' going out of business just to be replaced by glitzy gourmet shops where the already zany flavors can be adorned with every and any topping under the sun and where colorful pastel chalk is used to make people believe how fun and cheery it is to drop $4 for a scoop of ice cream!"
Wow, what a sentence!
"Jay, I had the privilege of visiting the Soviet Union in 1977 (I was 17) as part of a swim team. There were little stores on the street that sold ice cream. I bought one the best I ever tasted. Only two flavors (chocolate and vanilla), though.
"I also went to the circus what a propaganda display (against the neutron bomb)."
"Jay, we in Madison [Wis.] have forsaken regular ice cream for frozen custard. Michael's Frozen Custard is about 6 blocks away, giving my wife and me the pleasant excuse that, if we walk, the calories somehow are negated. Last night I drove."
"Jay, my favorite ice cream is cotton-candy ice cream, made by Walrus Ice Cream in Fort Collins, Colo. It tastes freakishly like cotton candy."
"Jay, since you are already in Boston you should make the trip out to Littleton, Mass., just off Route 119, and go to Kimball's (I think I'm right on the spelling) and have a Kimball's Special. It will be the most amazing ice cream experience of your life."
"Jay, should you be in our neck of the woods for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra or the Lyric Opera, be sure to check out the Oberweis Dairy Store on Fullerton Avenue, just east of Ashland. It's out of the way, but well worth the trip. Try the pralines 'n' cream it's to die for."
"Mr. Nordlinger, I must mention to you the only place in the United States where you can get gelato that tastes precisely like that sold in the streets of Rome and Venice: Paolo's, in Atlanta. The gelato is perfect."
"Mr. Nordlinger, it may not be the best ice cream in Boston, but Lala Rokh, a Persian/Azeri (!) restaurant on Mt. Vernon Street in Beacon Hill, has (or had it's been a while) an exquisite saffron ice cream."
"Young's Jersey Dairy on US-68 just north of Yellow Springs, Ohio. Unpasteurized Jersey milk in bottles! The best butter outside of Denmark."
"Jay, everyone sure is spouting off on their favorite fancy-shmancy ice cream parlors. My favorite ice cream? The Peanut Butter & Fudge generic sold at Wal-Mart.
"I'm sure many of your readers will be duly horrified."
Not me, baby!
Thanks for reading this week, and always.