R. Emmett Tyrrell Jr.
Latest from R. Emmett Tyrrell Jr.
Well, apparently I am not crazy after all. The polls have caught up with me, and they—apres le debat—are coming around to my point of view. Governor Mitt Romney is ahead in the race for the White House, and he will probably be residing at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in 2013.
I have been saying it for weeks, recognizing that the polls are weighted too heavily toward the Democratic candidate, employ too small a sampling—as little as nine percent of the electorate—and do not take into account the most important issue, the economy. Still, before the debate the polls were heavily against me, and my colleagues were beginning to question my judgment. No, make that my sanity. Now they are again reassured. I am allowed to work alone in my ninth-floor office with the window open. The polls show Romney pulling ahead even in battleground states after he demonstrated in debate last week that we need something more than a ceremonial president in the White House. It is a dangerous world that we live in.
Autumn in New York — that sound like the title of a song! In fact, it sounds like the first line of a song, and so it is. Autumn is a lovely time of year in many places, but for me my favorite place at this time of year is New York City. As the song goes, it seems "so inviting." And one of the great events marking autumn in New York is the Columbus Day Parade. It reminds us of what a great melting pot it has been, and, one hopes, it always will be.
Christopher Columbus opened the New World to European migration in 1492. He prefigured the spirit of America with his daring, his sense of duty and his piety. Samuel Eliot Morison, in the second volume of his two-volume history, "The European Discovery of America," portrayed Columbus as a truly heroic figure, an exemplary captain of the ocean waves, to introduce us all to the admirable adventure that America has proved to be. 68 years ago, the Italian-Americans in New York City's Columbus Citizens Foundation gave Columbus a fitting memorial in the Columbus Day Parade, and this year on October 8, once again all Americans can come out to honor him and share in the glory that is the American melting pot.
Originally syndicated September 6 | At this Democratic National Convention, I am going to be particularly interested in the crowds on the floor. Who cares about what Bill Clinton says? He does not mean it anyway. In the 1990s, he governed like a Republican after saying that "the age of Big Government is over." Incidentally, he governed pretty well. He would have made a good moderate Republican, so long as he had good conservative majorities in the House and the Senate to keep him — you will excuse the word — honest. Now, of course, he has committed another of his episodic tergiversations, writing a book in praise of behemoth government, as though the 1990s never happened.
The same can be said for Senator Jean-Francois Kerry. In 2004 he accepted his party's presidential nomination and continued his fiction that he was a war hero, ludicrously saluting the throng at the convention with "I'm John Kerry, and I am reporting for duty." As though the rest of the nation had forgotten that he came home from the Vietnam War, protesting it, and appeared before a taped congressional inquiry to incriminate his fellow servicemen with lies. Then he flew off to France to be used as a pawn by the Communist Vietnamese — war hero indeed. Possibly Senator Harry Reid could be interesting if he would only tell us what he knows about that cow he has been rumored to canoodle with, and, to be sure, Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi is always good for a few laughs.
How little we know about holy Islam! When those poor wretches who were imprisoned at Abu Ghraib were pictured for all the world to see naked with underpants on their heads, we were told that the naked male Islamic body must never be seen in public. Yet we have been seeing naked male Islamic bodies for years — often with their hands tied behind their backs and their heads chopped off. Their assailants were devotees of Islam, often very zealous. Few Westerners committed these atrocities, and if they were caught, they were punished. Then too we were told that mosques were revered places of worship by Islam, and they must not be subject to attack or used in acts of violence. Alas, for years, mosques have been blown up. Their inhabitants have been gunned down, even impaled on sharp blades. These were not the acts of unbelievers or of warriors from the Godless West. Rather, they were the acts of the faithful, often members of the same sect or tribe.
Just this weekend in Libya — now freshly liberated from Moammar Gadhafi, his body perforce treated roughly — ancient and venerated shrines of the majority Sufi persuasion were destroyed. In Tripoli at the crack of dawn on Saturday, the centuries-old Sidi Al-Sha'ab shrine was flattened by bulldozers. Two separate government security forces idly stood by. The day before in the city of Zlitan, Libya's most revered Sufi mosque was vandalized, and an adjoining library had its priceless collection of theological treatises torched. The attackers were fellow Libyans. No Westerner was in sight.
It has been a very rough patch for Our President, and I do believe it is going to get rougher still. Do not be surprised, as the month goes on and August runs into September, that his campaign budget becomes tighter. President Barack Obama is spending more money than he is raising. It will get worse. A president who mismanages the federal budget the way Obama does cannot be expected to manage his campaign budget much better. Lavish spending, it turns out, is a way of life for the community organizer who became our 44th president. Lavish spending on Campaign 2012 will be looked back on and seen as one of the campaign's greatest weaknesses. He can spend the money, but my guess is he will not be able to raise it.
Yet this week he had other headaches too. This week, "Politico" finally reported the dissension and backbiting that have been rumored for weeks within the campaign. You will be hearing a lot about this in the weeks ahead. The magical team that David Axelrod and David Plouffe put together in 2008 is falling apart.
A week passes, and thus far, the Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has yet to tell us whether he is or is not having sexual relations with a cow. As was reported in this column last week, based on sources in the field, Reid has been involved with the cow for at least three months, possibly more. My sources cannot be identified for obvious reasons. Even The New York Times would not reveal their identities. The story is that hot.
It is, of course, possible that the relationship is purely platonic. On the other hand, possibly Reid is more involved with the cow than might have been anticipated. It is time for him to come clean. He owes it to the American people and conceivably to the Department of Agriculture. Preferably he should make his statement on the floor of the Senate, which he reserves for such solemn occasions. For instance, his recent charge that the probable Republican presidential candidate, Mitt Romney, has paid no taxes for the better part of 10 years, was made there. His statement about the cow is no less important. Reid, we are waiting.
WHITEFISH POINT, Mich. — I have just cleared the "Soo" locks of Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, passing from the lower Great Lakes to Lake Superior. In fact, I am now anchored just off a beautiful lighthouse on Lake Superior. Yes, you have guessed correctly. I am in a boat, a cruise ship, in fact, known as the "Yorktown," possibly in honor of the famed battle that ended our War for Independence, though possibly for some other achievement. I shall not hazard the question to our extremely busy captain. He has enough on his mind, and I am told these waters are treacherous. My life jacket is never far away.
This is the first American Spectator cruise undertaken with National Review. The editors and writers at the National Review are old hands at conducting cruises, and so I am watching them closely for instruction and wise counsel. How is a landlubber like me to conduct myself on a cruise? When do I put on my life jacket? Do I wear it at meals? When do we abandon ship? When do I speak? John Miller, the national correspondent for NR, and Jay Nordlinger, a senior editor for NR, are sage mentors and very knowledgeable speakers. Along with them are AmSpec writers Grover Norquist, John Wohlstetter, and John Fund, whom AmSpec shares with NR. Giving even more heft to our discussions of politics is George Gilder, an expert on practically everything.
I have a headache. I imagine you do too, if you have been trying to interpret the legalese employed by those legal sages who have pronounced on Thursday's Supreme Court decision on Obamacare. I would rather read the lyrics of a thousand rap composers than the anfractuous language of one legal sage.
Thanks, however, to Professor E. Donald Elliott of the Yale Law School, I had a translator at my side, and I shall now hand down my judgment of the Court's decision on Obamacare, which all sensible Americans have abstained from reading in its entirety, including B. H. Obama and the vast majority of denizens of Capitol Hill, including N. Pelosi. Some of these worthies even admitted as much. It fell to nine heroic souls garbed in black to actually read the law and to Chief Justice Roberts to write the decision for the exhausted majority.
Warren Kozak, the author of "LeMay: The Life and Wars of General Curtis LeMay," wrote a memorable piece in "The Wall Street Journal" on June 6, 2012 that cries out for comment. On the 68th anniversary of the Allies' invasion of Europe over the bloody beaches of Normandy, he reminds us of an unthinkable act by President Franklin Roosevelt on that day. At least it is an unthinkable act today. The president did not call a press conference to notify Americans huddled before their radios of what our military was doing. They already knew from news reports, though they might have learned even more from their president. Nor did President Roosevelt boast of how he had marshaled our troops and given the order to action, as the present occupier of his office is prone to do.
Instead, Roosevelt offered a prayer, a prayer of unthinkable dimensions nowadays. I suspect if I were of voting age in 1944, I would have been a Republican. Yet, as President Roosevelt spoke, he would have spoken for me. Transported back to the battle of Normandy, I would have taken heart in his words. Would a Barack Obama, similarly transported back across the decades, have taken heart? Or would he and millions of other miraculously transported Americans from the present have squirmed? Would they have filed lawsuits through the American Civil Liberties Union? Is this not another of those church and state conundrums that we conjure up today?
One of my favorite controversialists is back, Bob Woodward, with his sidekick Carl Bernstein. Sunday in "The Washington Post," they wrote that Richard Nixon was more hideous than we have heretofore known. The 37th president conducted five wars while in office, according to the boys, and those do not even include his minor fracases, the Cold War against the Soviet Union and the Vietnam War.
I say Woodward is a controversialist. You might recall his controversial "interview" with CIA Director Bill Casey conducted on Bill's deathbed when no one was watching. It made it into Woodward's book "Veil," saving its author from the embarrassment of admitting that Bill had kept Woodward utterly in the dark about Iran-Contra and so much else during their more conventional interviews earlier. This time, Woodward somehow circumvented Bill's CIA guards, his doctors and nurses, his wife and daughter — one of whom was in the hospital room at all times — to get his incomparable interview. Moreover, Bill had completely lost the power of speech, his face being a mask of terrible deformity, as his friend Bert Jolis reported within days of the so-called interview. Woodward overcame every hurdle to extract from the dying man a confession of involvement in Iran-Contra about which Woodward knew nothing while writing the book. Possibly, he had disguised himself in Bill's hospital room as a cockroach.
Did I waste my time last Sunday? In the morning, I was reading "The New York Times," acquainting myself with precisely how the rich and famous live. The editors of the Times chose this story for its front page, so I figured they thought it important. It involved the Romney family and someone called Jan Ebeling. It turns out I could have spent my time otherwise.
On Sunday morning, the syndicated columnist George Will appeared on ABC News' "This Week" and, though I failed to watch it, he ruminated over Mitt Romney's fundraising and those donors whom he cultivates. George noted one donor in particular, Donald Trump. He called Trump a "bloviating ignoramus." That was not the end of it. Trump detected George's rude utterance somehow and leapt to Twitter, where he twitted — I presume that is the verb — that "George Will may be the dumbest (and most overrated) political commentator of all time." What an exciting exchange of ideas!
It has now been a year since Osama bin Laden became a ghost courtesy of the United States SEALs. I had long since come to the conclusion that Osama became crˆpes suzettes for the worms back in Tora Bora in December 2001, and I was somewhat stubborn in my belief. Yet he fooled me and the student of Araby Mark Steyn and a few other pundits. I shall be a big enough man to admit it. I was wrong.
Apparently, Osama took up residence in the wilds of Pakistan, where he believed he was safe. Doubtless like-minded pietists in the Pakistani army or intelligence community told him he would be safe there. They were doubtless proud of their world-famous tenant. Well, they were asleep on the night of May 2, 2011, or they had the good sense not to get involved. When the US helicopters swooped in, Osama was pitifully exposed. He had no guards that we know of, save a few women. Several doors collapsed before our tough troops, and pop, he was on his way to the 72 virgins in Heaven or the 42 cows or whatever the Muslim theologians estimate the Hereafter to be composed of. At any rate I am glad he is gone, and doubtless you are too.
When you have a young woman screaming in a hallway about some sort of grievance she has with you, you have a problem. Even a Secret Service agent, surrounded by his buddies, has a problem. I know about this sort of thing from my work in the archives pursuant to my researches as a presidential historian.
One thinks back to the late 1940s of Elizabeth Bentley, an American spying for the Soviet Union. She raised an intolerable ruckus outside a hotel room with one, possibly two, Soviet intelligence operatives — both male. Her involvement with one had been romantic, but the cad let her down. Possibly, he did not pay for her turkey sandwich. Possibly, he left other bills cooling on the table. At any rate, there was hell to pay. She had a set of lungs on her like a bull moose and a face to boot. When she let out a yell, it was deafening. Of course, the Russians were terrified. Shortly thereafter, she renounced Communism, and they were glad to get back to Stalin's Russia.
All is bleak. All is woe! I speak of the tea party movement, the movement of 2009 and 2010 that was the hot news story of those years and led to the Republican rout of the Democrats in 2010. Now the tea party movement is, according to reports in the media, in decline.
Was it extremist? Was it racist? Distinguished Americans such as Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton said it was. Yet their evidence when it came under objective scrutiny kept falling apart, as so many of their hoaxes over the years have fallen apart — Ms. Tawana Brawley, the 1979-80 Atlanta killings supposedly by local cops who spent their leisure hours in the Ku Klux Klan. I cannot think of another couple of hucksters who have adduced so much evidence of heinous behavior by the American majority only to have the evidence go poof! The tea party movement was neither extremist nor racist. In fact, it was what Americans look like when they suddenly become alive to politics: somewhat amateurish, terrifically enthusiastic and eventually quite serious about practicing the political arts at the local level, in Madison, Wis., in Waco, Texas, in Tucson, Ariz. — all locales far, far away from Washington, D.C. Though I have reason to suspect that the tea partyers may return to Washington after the November elections. Read on.
There are some campaign advisers who would counsel former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney to jog on the campaign trail tirelessly, probably in short pants and with a catchy T-shirt emblazoned with some memorable phrase, say, "Fred Fna Ate Here," a la Al Gore and Bill Clinton. Jimmy Carter started the presidential candidates' jogging craze, and since him there have been a horde of presidential joggers, all wearing little boys' outfits, the notable exception being Ronald Reagan — possibly because, as he campaigned from 1976 on, he was considered too old to be president. On the other hand, the old cowboy had a sense of dignity that all other would-be presidents in recent years have lacked. Perhaps Romney should be photographed windsurfing as John Kerry was in 2004 and downing shots of firewater as Hillary Clinton did in 2008. Or he could filch a page from President-elect Vladimir Putin and campaign shirtless. Adopt the he-man look, Mitt!
Alas, Romney is a normal middle-aged American. He is the kind of man we all would like to have live next door. Facts are facts; all the aforesaid candidates save Reagan and now Romney are weird! Americans do not mind having them wearing funny hats and eating ethnic food on the campaign trail, but almost no American would want them as neighbors. Not so Romney. He would be welcome in our neighborhoods and maybe even trusted with a key to the house. Romney is NORMAL.
I like to think of Miss Sandra Fluke's contretemps with the madly admired Mr. Rush Limbaugh as, well, a fluke. She objected to his joke about her being "a slut" and "a prostitute," and hesto presto the part-time Georgetown University law student struck pay dirt. You object to my characterization of her as "part-time"? How could she be a full-time law student and still be appearing before Congress explicating the plight of coeds with $3,000 contraceptive bills or others suffering the heartbreak of being rejected publicly at the pharmacy for insurance coverage of a birth control bill? Then there was all the other media attention that came from Rush's little joke. Yes, I see it as a fluke, defined by the Dictionary of American Slang as "a fortuitous accident." Was not Miss Fluke felicitously named years ago before anyone ever thought of talk radio?
There is a grisly pallor that has beset former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich. Then, too, there is a lumpiness — to his face, to his features, to his ... well, to his lump.
When he walks into a room, I feel rather sorry for him, but then I feel rather sorry for Bill Clinton, too, and for Hillary. No longer do I call her "Bill's lovely wife Bruno." She looks grandmotherly rather than tough. I guess maybe her coeval from the 1960s generation of student government goody-goodies, Newt, looks grandfatherly rather than brainy. What does Al Gore look like these days, and Jean-Francois Kerry? They all quite abruptly assumed old age.
As the tents were coming down at McPherson Square, the dead rats and mice being retrieved, the urine and feces and filthy bedding disposed of by District of Columbia employees dressed in hazardous-materials suits like their contemporaries at Fukushima, I thought of the left-wing press.
You see, I read the left-wing press. Not the urban throwaway rags, but I read The Nation, The Progressive, The American Prospect, and more — I read them all. They have been raving for months about the exciting prospect of a great wave of reform coming out of the Occupy movement. It was here to stay, and for a while, silly old me took them seriously.
Whose job would you want to have? Would it be President Barack Obama's or Governor Chris Christie's in the great state of New Jersey? Would it be President Obama's, whose budget woes are getting graver, or would it be Governor Christie's, whose budget is at least looking to be survivable?
Now Obama is facing the choice in his budgetary decisions. Does he raise taxes only on families making $1 million a year? Or does he, as he has heretofore promised, raise taxes on families making $250,000?
I have officially called off my boycott of the National Football League. I do not care how many felons or frotteurs play the game. Now there is Tim Tebow to redeem it. He can pass and run. He inspires his teammates. He inspires many returning fans like me. I shall follow him through the playoffs and maybe even next year as the season resumes anew. He is an American original — and he is controversial. I am for him.
No, I shall not fall for the NFL's gimmicks. You will not see me wearing a jersey of the Denver Broncos, for whom Tebow plays. I shall not even buy a coffee mug. In fact, I think I shall add up how much money I could spend on Tebow paraphernalia and donate it to charity. Tebow inspires his teammates, and now he has inspired me.