“Fighting for Mideast oil.” Say it ain’t so, Charles! The cause of Jian-li — and more

I did not know Robert Bartley, the late Wall Street Journal editor, but I met him several times, and I was struck by his common sense, a puckish look on his face, and his famous Iowa taciturnity. Mainly, I learned from him — loads and loads — by reading the editorials and columns he wrote, and the pages he edited, for years and years and years. He was a teacher of many of us, and, given the positions he took, the perfect recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom. He not only stood for freedom — he could explain why, brilliantly and incontestably.

A loss, yes. But he did so much.

Now to grubby politics. John Kerry put an ad on the air that sort of knocked my socks off. It reads, in part, "Kerry will make energy independence a national priority so no American will have to fight for Mideast oil." That is a breathtaking statement, with its implication that American boys are being made to shed their blood for oil — a stock charge of the lunatic Left. I sometimes feel guilty for thinking that the Democratic party has gone nuts. But it's hard to ignore the evidence.

Time out for a little levity (sort of). A reader writes, "Hey, Jay, with all the anti-Semitism in France, will they now reject Jerry Lewis?" Clever. Also, a reader writes, "Regarding Arab demonstrations such as those on Jerusalem Day: Where do they get the Israeli flags to burn?" A marvelous question. And what a fantastic investigative piece that would make, for an interested Mideast journalist! (Fat chance.)

But back to Democratic outrageousness. Howard Dean thinks it's entirely possible that President Bush, before September 11, was warned — by the Saudis. He calls that "the most interesting theory that I've heard so far." That a man could even entertain such a notion should be disqualifying, I would think. Instead, it's a positive credential in the Democratic primaries. Of course, cautioned Dean, "We don't know what happened [oh?]. . . . I can't imagine the president of the United States doing that. [That's good.] But we don't know [uh-oh], and it'd be a nice thing to know."

It would be nice to know that the likely Democratic nominee for president weren't mad. (There I go again.)

A little more of Dr. Dean: Interviewed by Judy Woodruff on CNN, he talked religion, and his departure from an Episcopal church over a dispute concerning a bike path: "You know what it really says? [The "it" refers to public curiosity over this bike-path affair.] It says the Republicans are talking like they're out of the Pharisees. Because if you're a Christian, you're a Christian. I don't believe it ought to matter what kind of a denomination you are. As a matter of fact, if you're a religious person, you're a religious person. I don't think it ought to matter what religion you are."

I will keep quoting: Woodruff: "Was it just over a bike path that you left the Episcopal Church?" (Even Judy Woodruff seems incredulous, doesn't she?) Dean: "Yes, as a matter of fact it was. I was fighting to have public access to the waterfront, and we were fighting very hard in the citizens group to allow the public to use it. [Notice how these people are always "fighting"?] And this particular diocese decided to join a property-rights suit [please gasp here] to close it down. I didn't think that was very public-spirited. One thing I feel about religion, you have to be very careful not to be a hypocrite if you're a religious person. It is really tough to preach one thing and do something else. And I don't think you can do that."

His English is incoherent, his reasoning shallow, his understanding weak. The amazing thing is that Democrats, and probably not a few others, consider this guy the mental superior of George W. Bush. Dean doesn't reach to Bush's knees.

Finally, contemplate Dean's repeated explanation of his Vietnam-era status: "I don't think this election is about what the Selective Service decided to do with my bad back. They made the choice. I had the physical, and they turned me down. And I had no say one way or the other in that." The first Bush lied about his age to get into the war versus the Japs (as they were called) — but that was a different time, and a different type of person. George W., in his fighter jets, looks positively MacArthuresque compared with this skier and physical-quoter.

Republican hearts were broken when Charles Barkley endorsed John Edwards for president. Wasn't Sir Charles supposed to be a Republican, and wasn't he supposed to run for governor, on the GOP ticket, in his native Alabama? I feel like whimpering, "Say it ain't so." George W. Bush and Charles Barkley should be practically soul brothers. I guarantee you one thing: If Barkley knew W., he'd love him.

Sometimes we Republicans are accused of caricaturing the Democratic mindset when it comes to U.S. security and sovereignty, and the value of international institutions. (Actually, we're accused of caricaturing their mindset in many areas, but stick with the one for the moment.) Well, Wesley Clark, who's been a Democrat for two seconds, certainly has learned his lines. About Osama bin Laden, he said, "I would like to see him tried in The Hague, and I'll tell you why. I think it's very important for U.S. legitimacy and for building other support in the War on Terror [to try him] in The Hague, under international law, with an international group of justices, bringing witnesses from other nations. Remember, 80 other nations lost citizens in that strike on the World Trade Center. It was a crime against humanity, and he needs to be tried in international court."

Yeah, yeah. Especially tiring is the trope about all the other nations whose citizens were killed in the Towers. It reminds me a little of resentment — a certain kind of resentment — of the fact that the Jews were the primary victims of the Holocaust. Some people feel the need to make long lists of victims of the Holocaust, as if it didn't have a principal victim group. Look: September 11 was an attack against America, stemming from hatred of America and the desire to bring it down. The death of any others was largely accidental.

And no one should pretend otherwise.

A crime against humanity, sure — but against American humanity, more particularly. If we get bin Laden, we should keep him very far from The Hague.

Hang on, do they have sharia in Holland yet? Oh, yeah: That's scheduled for 2022.

The Democratic candidates are always vowing to reverse everything George W. Bush ever did, once they get into office. Someone should make a list of all the things they wish to reverse: the tax cuts; the war; the Patriot Act; the stem-cell decision; Mexico City policy (concerning abortion) . . . Anything else? Earlier this week, I joked to Rich Lowry, "Maybe they'll re-enter the ABM treaty." I was just kidding. Thought I'd come up with a real knee-slapper. Then Rich said, totally straight-facedly, "That's a Dean position." I said, "No." He said, "Yes, Dean has said that he will re-sign the ABM treaty, if president."

You can't even tell a joke about this crowd.

Don't you think Democratic talk about "regime change," here in the United States, trivializes in a particularly disgusting way the serious business in which this nation is currently engaged?

I thought so. Just checking.

I'd like to provide a quick update on Jian-li Yang — or Yang Jian-li, to use his last name first — the brave Chinese democracy activist and scholar who is now kept in some dungeon, even while President Bush and his people get cozy with his persecutors. The website devoted to Jian-li's cause is here . Some days ago, his wife, Christina Fu, sent all of us a note saying, "Dear friends, my husband asked me — through his lawyer — to give his deep gratitude and respect to all of you who have been so supportive and so generously lending your help to him and our family. He wished he could express his heartfelt thanks to you directly and individually, especially at this time of Thanksgiving. And he gives his thanks to God for keeping him safe and strong."

And a worker in this cause sent the following yesterday: "These last few days have been very successful in raising Dr. Yang Jianli's case to Premier Wen Jiabao. . . . To recap, we had a letter from eight U.S. senators to President Bush asking him to raise the case to Premier Wen, a letter from 32 members of Congress to Premier Wen himself asking for the release of Yang Jianli, and letters from over 100 Harvard faculty asking the premier to release Yang. [Jian-li is associated with Harvard.]

"Behind the scenes, we are aware of several instances where senior U.S. officials and others raised Dr. Yang's case directly to Premier Wen in the context of their concerns about China's failure to live up to their human-rights commitments."

"Finally, Christina Fu was on C-SPAN's Washington Journal," etc., etc. Christina is an exemplary person — possessing rare intelligence, courage, and grace — and her interview may be seen here (with the right equipment, I suppose).

Things seem to be cookin', a bit.

Thank you, dear readers, for the mail you sent re "Christmas" and "holiday." I fear I won't be able to thank you individually, but is it too gauche of me to do so collectively? (Yes, you may dwell on the connection between gauche and collectively.) I will do a piece on this subject for the on-paper mag, and may well let some of these — or zillions of them — fly in Impromptus. I will keep you posted, and, again, thank you. The sound of America singing is beautiful, even when the singing is irked and exasperated!

I spotted this headline over an obit in the New York Times: "Margaret Singer [speaking of those], a Leading Brainwashing Expert . . ." How do we know she didn't just convince people she'd died?

Another headline — sub-headline, actually — I noticed, this one from the New York Post, when the weather was frightful: "Wave Slams Us: Serial serving of frosty flakes." Groan if you must, but I was tickled by it.

Couple of short letters, then out? Okay.

On Monday, I wrote about the current cause célèbre at New York University, in which soi-disant First Amendment champions are scandalized that a student wasn't allowed to shoot a sex film — full-blown copulation, mind you — in class.

"Dear Mr. Nordlinger: I am a student at NYU. During a recent Greek class [that's interesting in itself], the 'sex film' came up. Wishing to show my approbation for the administration's decision [not to allow the filming], but not desiring to rouse the ire of some of my classmates (i.e. that small minority of NYU students who do not regularly read National Review), I remarked that the decision was correct, because 'no student at Tisch (the relevant NYU school) should be permitted to make a film that could ever possibly make money.' The amusement engendered by my comment saved me from chastisement for my radical views."

I think that is positively brilliant.

Dear Jay, when evaluating Jermaine Jackson's statement that his brother, Michael, is not eccentric, bear in mind that Jermaine has a son named 'Jermajesty.' In the land of Jermajesties, the one-gloved freak is not eccentric."


Finally, just a lil' language. (Someone wrote me recently to ask, "Shouldn't that be li'l? And the answer is, "It really should be li'l', if you want to play it that way, or, to be ultra-ultra-pedantic, li''l', using an apostrophe for each missing letter. A most interesting and stylish discussion of matters punctuational may be found in this book review, published in The Spectator.) (P.S.: The cartoon was/is spelled Li'l Abner.)

Hang on, what was I doing? Oh, yeah, this letter re language: "Jay, the use of 'reticent' to mean 'reluctant' has driven me bonkers for years. Glad I'm not alone!

"Spellchecking software cannot help when the wrong but properly spelled word is used. Here's a beautiful example from the Hartford Courant this weekend, in a story about my town's high-school football team upsetting a stronger team from a neighboring town: Our coach was quoted as saying, 'This just shows the parody in our league.' Laughed out loud, I did."

And I smiled inwardly. Thanks much.

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