Missile Defense, smirks about Jenna, (Dan) Rather galling, &c.
July 25, 2001 10:00 a.m.
ay back when we were trying to decide whom to support among presidential hopefuls, if someone had said, By July 2001, Time magazine will be calling him Mr. Missile Defense, a lot of us would have replied: Thats our guy!
Well, that guy is none other than the current president. Time has, indeed, dubbed Bush Mr. Missile Defense (they surely didnt mean that as a compliment, but we are free to react as we wish). We should pause to consider the momentousness of this. For years, we said, Oh, for a president who could be called Mr. Missile Defense! And here he is. For all our gripes, enjoy.
Did you catch what W. said the other day? I have told President Putin that time matters; that I want to reach an accord sooner rather than later; that Im interested in getting something done with him. But make no mistake about it [this is the stunning part]: I would rather others came with us, but I feel so strongly and passionately on the subject that well move beyond, if need be. In other words (the language is not quite right at the end there), we will move ahead by ourselves, if need be.
These words are so extraordinary coming from an American president, we should not pass them over. I say again: Enjoy.
On the subject of Time magazine: They have a picture of the First Lady standing in front of the Leaning Tower of Pisa, with an accompanying quiz: Why is Laura smiling? Could it be (for example) that she thought, To my daughter Jenna, this tower isnt leaning at all!? (Thats a drunk joke, in case you werent sure.)
Now, my point is going to be, not that Time shouldnt be picking on the First Couples 19-year-old daughter (surprised?), but that this isnt funny at all. It is sophomoric in the extreme. Whos the irresponsible teenager here?
And this is Time magazine, folks. I realize that Whittaker Chambers doesnt work there anymore that the old red-bordered mare haint what she used to be but still
Stick with media gripes: Dan Rather, in the midst of this Condit mess, is going around lecturing everyone on the composition and importance of hard news. The other night, he signed off, For the hard news, CBS Evening News.
So, we should take lectures on proper news from Dan Rather? This blatant, lifelong partisan who attends Democratic fundraisers? I say, in honor of a fine 80s TV show, gimme a break.
More media gripes? Okay, since you insist. A headline in Mondays Times read, Sharon Booed by Fellow Rightists Who Say Hes Too Soft. Believe it or not, I dont have a great problem with Sharon and the Likudniks being labeled rightists (although if these democrats are rightists, what does that make rightists?). No, what I object to is that Peres and the Laborites are seldom never? called leftists.
This is an old, old point, and the world, no doubt, is tired of hearing it: but its still true.
Im a tiny bit confused on something: Many in the media are saying that Bush must rule against stem-cell research in order to appeal to Catholic voters. These same pundits go on to say that these voters supported Gore-Lieberman in the last election.
So, they voted for two candidates who are absolutely, 100 percent in favor of abortion-on-demand no ifs, ands, or buts. And theyre going to be pleased with a president who prohibits federal funding of stem-cell research? They would punish a president who did not?
Somethings screwy here: and it aint the voters; its the pundits.
We see, more and more, the gross abuse of the term isolationism. Tom Daschle, for example, knocks the administration as isolationist for its opposition to Kyoto and its view that the ABM Treaty is outdated (as well as harmful to American interests, which include the building of a defense). This administration is very, very far from isolationist; and Democrats like Daschle should talk, given their stance in the latter years of the Cold War (which is a separate point, I realize).
Isolationist, I fear, is becoming an epithet in the hands of anti-Republican know-nothings. If the term is not rescued soon, it will cease to have meaning. Might Daschle have been thinking of unilateralist? No matter: He knows that isolationism is a swear word in the American political vocabulary (and should be, in my opinion). If Daschle and people like him misuse isolationism knowingly, thats all the worse.
And they wouldnt be, exactly, know-nothings, would they?
I have been picking on Time magazine, so I should jump to say that the editors had the grace and judgment to publish a magnificent essay by Shelby Steele, on racial profiling. I know: You cant bear to read any more on the subject. I thought I couldnt either. But Steeles is an essay of great power, deeply thought and beautifully expressed. The writer has occasionally contributed to National Review, and he is altogether one of the most valuable political-social minds and pens in the country.
Get a load of this: The Democratic congressional committee features Jane Fonda at a fundraiser. A spokesman at the opposite Republican committee chides the Democrats, saying that their use of Fonda highlights their fundamental problem: an inability to appeal to middle-of-the-road voters. Then the Democratic spokesman retorts, One day they announce a new program to reach out to new women voters, the next day they are attacking women.
No, seriously, he really said that: the Republicans criticism of Fonda (or, more accurately, the Democrats featuring of Fonda) as an attack on women.
I swear, I know Im partisan, but the Republicans arent this absurd, are they? I mean, do our people talk this way? Do they?
The Washington Posts Richard Cohen is a very clever columnist, and he must have thought he was particularly clever when he wrote a memo to John Ashcroft, urging him to remove J. Edgar Hoovers name from the FBI headquarters. Cohen said all the usual things about Hoover: anti-King, anti-Kennedy, black fluffy dresses, blah, blah, blah. What never gets said about Hoover and I wonder whether he has replaced Joe McCarthy as the great hate object of the American Left is that he helped to take a lot of bad guys out of commission, for something like 50 years: murderers, rapists, kidnappers, bombers, robbers. People like Cohen are often interested in judging the whole life, the whole man but this is something they would never extend to (the seriously flawed) Hoover.
Is it the central fact about Hoover, and his long, long career, that he persecuted black people and liberal Democratic heroes? I doubt it. But I also doubt that Americans will ever be able to look back on Hoover calmly and judiciously; it is simply too late for that now.
On a Sunday-morning show, Doris Kearns Goodwin, the laureled historian and ex-LBJ aide, said the following, about the Democrats and their nemesis in the White House: I dont think they should criticize him personally, but I think they should make darn sure that their beliefs on the issues are where the country is, and force George Bush to have to be in the opposite camp. Nice, huh? Theres principle for you! Make darn sure that their beliefs on the issues are where the country is. Amazing particularly from a scholar.
A delicate, delicate subject: Katharine Graham has been eulogized more widely and more warmly than anyone else in my memory. It is lucky, in a way, to be a personable and admired media power, in that the people who make public discussion are media people. A lot of magnificent men and women die, more or less unremarked, unlauded, unlamented; but media people take care of their own. Nothing wrong with this, of course. Its just one of the imbalances of life, which we all accept.
It might be mentioned, too, that the Washington Post, for all its good qualities, is a doggedly liberal Democratic paper. I have praised it (and very recently) for the diversity of opinion on its op-ed page. And it does some valuable reporting. But in the famed Style section in particular and this is possibly the most influential part of the paper there is a steady current of Left snideness, and Left attitude and ideology generally. We conservatives are so used to this that we find it normal and somewhat gauche to comment on. And it is normal, of course. Also, we tend to succumb to our own kind of Stockholm syndrome: They whipped us, yes, but it wasnt that bad this time. It felt almost like a bath!
Say what you will about the Washington Times, but at least theres an alternative in a city as important as the capital, as there should be. The Posts influence on the course of the national government is not invariably salutary.
You have read, perhaps, that the Communists in Beijing have sentenced two U.S. residents to ten years in prison. What will happen to them there is something that fills attentive people with fright. The two are scholars I should name them: Gao Zhan and Qin Guangguang and they are accused of spying for Taiwan, ridiculously, of course. The Communists did this even as the American secretary of state arrived for a visit.
It is said, by optimists (as well as naïfs), that the Beijing Olympics will turn a spotlight on the country. Sadly, they will do nothing of the sort. And even if they did, who would look, or respond? A government rewarded with the Olympic Games, despite its steady brutalizing of its people, and other peoples, such as the one in Tibet, knows that it can do anything, with impunity.
Andrew Young is a consistently interesting man. His tenures as mayor of Atlanta and ambassador to the U.N. seem ages away to me. I appreciate, with every passing year, his thoughtfulness, and his absence of ideology. He is staunch on school choice, for example, recognizing that it would do a world of good, particularly for black Americans. Here is a line from him in a recent Wall Street Journal column, which addressed Bushs faith-based initiative: The crisis of the poor is as much moral as it is material. This makes me sigh for the time when civil-rights leaders generally talked this way. So, so far from well, you know who they are.
May I suggest a book? It is an unusual one, written by an unusual friend of mine, Humberto Fontova. It is called The Helldivers Rodeo, and it is about well, Ill let the book jacket have a crack at it: The Helldivers Rodeo is a fascinating, funny, and free-spirited tale of some rowdy Cajuns, refugee Cubans, and scared-stiff Californians who are obsessed with two things: old disco music and deep-sea fishing. Fontova is a Cuban-American, an NR conservative, and an all-around adventurer/hellion. It says something that his book is blurbed by Ted Nugent, the much-loved rocker-rightist. I am 75 percent certain youll get a kick out of Helldivers; I am 100 percent certain youve never seen anything like it.
The Reuters news service reports that a German couple who want to call their baby daughter Jona will have to wait for a court to decide whether it is suitable for a girl. The Kepurra family from the eastern German town of Oranienburg have been battling officials for a year over their choice of name. Jona, a common girls name in Israel, is cited in reference books as a version of the Biblical name Jonah, the male character who spent three days and three nights in the belly of a whale . Officials said Monday the baby would remain nameless until the court decision. The legal wrangling in Germany contrasts sharply with the relaxed approach to names in many other countries.
Ill say. The other day, I was scanning Page Six (the New York Post gossip sheet), and I thought Id read, Yoko Ono took her son, Serendipity 3 I couldnt remember such a son, so I read the passage again, and found that it correctly read, Yoko Ono took her son to Serendipity 3 on East 60th Street for a frozen hot chocolate My first reading, however, was perfectly plausible. For instance, there is a New York Times reporter named Jennifer 8. Lee. Ive always wanted to meet her.
I was going to write about Jimmy Carter, and his nuty blast against Bush, but I dont have the energy or spirit. I am simply exhausted from hearing about his ex-presidency, how exemplary, how shining, it is supposed to be. I like the building houses, but I like rather less the pomposity, the sanctimony, the preening, the blessings on dubious elections, the anger and resentment at the Nicaraguan democrats and a critique of George W. Bush that is almost alarmingly off-the-wall.
Clintons ex-presidency is more palatable, in a way, because it is more pathetic, less irksome. And more is expected of Carter, of course even by those of us who long ago gave up thinking of him as the Sage, to say nothing of Saint, of Plains.
Jeffrey Archer has now been given four years in the slammer. (By the way, why isnt his name spelled Geoffrey? Has there ever been an English Jeffrey? An irrelevant question, of course.) Lord Archers offense was to have committed perjury and suborned it just like . Well, Ill say again: Im exhausted. Forgive me.
No, one shot: Archer will be behind bars; Clinton is watching André Agassi play tennis at Wimbledon, 20 feet away from the poor guy, sitting smugly, preeningly (in this, he is certainly like the allegedly humble Carter, one of the most egotistical men in public life and I dont say this negatively).
All right, thats it.
In the current U.S. News & World Report, there is a squib about a new Scrabble stud, a guy named Stefan Fatsis who has written a memoir, Word Freak. I was delighted to read this, because it gives me a chance to brag about my friend Keenan Wolfe, the number-one Scrabble stud in the world (as far as Im concerned, and what other opinion matters in this column?). My boy, Ill have you know, is responsible for the most compactly playable game of Scrabble, as confirmed and publicized by Scrabble News. Keenan put (as it was explained to me) 100 tiles in the smallest possible rectangular space on the board 14 columns by 8 rows, with only 12 unused squares.
The boy resident in Ann Arbor, Mich. is a genius, Im telling you.
The other day, I mentioned that the word propaganda is always taken to mean false, lying propaganda. Yes, e-mailed a reader, and the word pious, once used to mean devout, is now used to mean falsely pious or hypocritical. And righteous is always used to mean self-righteous.
I spoke, too, of the highs and lows of the Bush administration, and a reader responded: I nominate [for a high] something that has drawn criticism Bushs low profile. You couldnt escape Clinton; Bush seems to disappear. That alone is worth voting for. I imagine many Americans feel this relief about Bush; it is one of the reasons I supported him, and looked forward to his presidency (perhaps against journalistic instincts and interests).
My remarks on being a student abroad prompted this reflection: I spent a summer in Europe in the early 90s, and thought it humorous that Canadian students all had a maple leaf on their backpacks. I asked one Canadian girl why, and she explained that it was so people wont think we are Americans. Brits of college age had similar attitudes towards Americans, to which my answer was: Lend-lease. That usually shut them up. The French didnt acknowledge my existence enough to gauge their attitudes, but the Germans were fine towards Americans (especially when drinking beer my friends and I paid for).
I goofed the other day when I wrote that all five Central American countries were now democratic there are seven countries in that region (and theyre all democratic). A reader suggested a nice way to remember these countries: Beehives Give Extra-Special Honey Near Clover-Ridden Parks. That stands for Belize, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and Panama. Kinda of cool. Every Good Boy Does Fine for geographical klutzes. (In Britain, by the way, that expression is Every Good Boy Deserves Favour, the title of a piece written long ago by André Previn.)
Who should adorn the op-ed page of the New York Times, now occupied by a lone (semi-) conservative, William Safire? That was the question the other day, and reader response was robust (lots of rs, I know). Wrote one correspondent, The Times thinks Maureen Dowd is feisty? Lets show em feisty: Bring on Ann Coulter. Another correspondent noted, We need liberals, too. I vote for the two most hard-nosed, principled ones: Nat Hentoff and Mickey Kaus. Well done.
Finally, an old joke, contributed by a reader, concerning the pervasive well-nigh exclusive Democracy of the state of West Virginia, home of my in-laws: A congressman, up for reelection, goes stumping through his rural district, meeting the folks and shaking hands. One of his constituents, a farmer, greets him enthusiastically. The congressman asks the farmer whether he has any children. Yes, sir, replies the farmer. I have eight grown boys. Have you raised them all right, as good Democrats? asks the congressman. Well, sir, says the farmer, slightly embarrassed, seven of them are Democrats. What about the eighth? asks the congressman. Well, you see, sir, stammers the farmer, worriedly rubbing the back of his neck, my boy Zeke, he got to reading, and