• Play the sound file (duration 36m47s).
[Music clip: Haydn's Derbyshire Marches.]
01 — Intro. Well, well, what a week. And no doubt who the star of the week was. The cliché about party presidential nominations is that Democrats fall in love, while Republican fall into line. Looks like you can kiss that one goodbye. Republicans were falling head over heels in love with Sarah Palin this week. Not just Andro-Americans, either; the women were as tongue-tied and blushing as the guys. It is, as they say, a phenomenon. Governor Palin's Wednesday night speech drew 37 million TV viewers. That's more than the Olympics opening ceremony, more than the Oscars, more than the "American Idol" season finale. Let me just say that once again, for listeners who are having trouble with it: the acceptance speech for the vice-presidential nominee of the Republican Party drew 37 million viewers. These are strange times. More of that later. Meanwhile, let's see what the Republican presidential nominee had to say for himself. I'm a registered Republican, after all, and like it or not, this is the standard-bearer of the party I'm registered with. What did he have to tell us?
02 — McCain's speech. I thought it was a good speech. McCain came on as a heavyweight, which I think he had to do and intended to do, Barack Obama being the lightest of lightweights. He addressed some gentlemanly and sporting words to Obama, without condescension, knowing we can figure out the condescension for ourselves just by seeing the contrast between the two men. He made a point of acknowledging his debt to, quote, "my wife Cindy and my seven children," thus establishing the GOP even more firmly in voters' minds as the party of fertility — the most ancient and primitive of all appeals, but always worth making, if you can make it. The account of his POW experience was very well delivered, with simplicity and humility. And that string of appeals at the end, to stand up! … stand up! … was delivered with great confidence and timing — stirring stuff. Those were the positives. The negatives were, that where his declarations of policy and philosophy were concerned, I didn't believe a word of them. "I will keep taxes low," he told us. How will you do that, with the Baby Boomer retirement tsunami about to come ashore, and all those crusades you want to go on to "defeat evil." "I will cut government spending," he tells us. Even leaving aside the entitlements tsunami I just mentioned, how will you do that against a veto-proof Congress, which we may very well get? "I will get rid of failed programs." How will you do that, when even Ronald Reagan couldn't? "Education is the civil rights issue of this century." What does that mean? People are entitled to an education but aren't getting one? That's nonsense. Everyone gets all the education he wants. Trouble is, a lot of kids don't want any. "I will empower parents with school choice." Will you, Senator? Permit me to read you a short passage from Peter Brimelow's fine book on the teacher unions. The book is called The Worm in the Apple, and this is page 142, quote: "The voucher movement's fundamental and unspoken problem, however, is race. Government schools in wealthy suburbs are already de facto private schools — and they are de facto segregated, by class if not completely by race. … To many suburbanites in these areas, vouchers just look like a new word for busing." End quote. And over and above all these wonkish quibbles, there is the impression, from John and Cindy both, that they don't really distinguish in their own minds between American citizens and everyone else. We're all God's children, and so we must all be Americans. McCain actually said this, quote: "I say to the Latina daughter of migrant workers … we are all Americans." Well, actually, John, the high probability is that those migrant workers are not Americans. They are probably Mexicans, just like that senior campaign adviser of yours, who is not only a Mexican citizen, but an ex-official (well, he says he's ex-) of the Mexican government. Nothing wrong with Mexicans, but they have a very nice country of their own, and don't need to be coming and settling in ours by the tens of millions. With Cindy this peculiar blindness to the difference between Americans and the rest is even more pronounced. She told us at great length about the good works she's been helping with in Zaire, Bangladesh, Rwanda, and elsewhere. That's great, Cindy, so long as you're doing it in your own time and on your own dollar, but so far as our federal government ought to be concerned, charity begins at home, and stays there. I dunno, perhaps it's a generational thing. There's something grandiosely condescending about McCain's attitude to the rest of the world, as if this were still 1960, the U.S.A. so far out in front of the rest of the world we could go out bearing any burden, fighting any foe, and so on. We're not that far out ahead any more, and other nations are coming up fast. Let them bear some of the burdens, let them fight some of the foes. Or let them go hang, while the American government attends to the interests of American citizens.
03 — Sarah Palin 1. So much for the top of the ticket. Just below the top we have of course — can I get a drum roll? — [Drum roll] — thank you — Sarah Palin! [Cheering] Regular listeners know that I would never, never stoop to cynicism about the great matters of our nation's political life. Believe it or not, though, there are cynical views of U.S. politics. One of them says that it's all a kind of circus, with one act — the horse acrobats, perhaps — prancing round the sawdust ring just to the point the audience begins to get tired of them, then another one marching on, with the spectators all turning their heads to this new spectacle and going "Oooo!" and "Aaaa!" Well, as I said, that's disgracefully cynical, and you won't catch Radio Derb trading in cynicism — no, Sir! — but … you know … sometimes … Well, just as all of us, even I'm guessing the Obamaniacs, if they could be honest about it, which of course they can't, just as all of us were starting to get bored watching Barack Obama in his spangle suit walking round the ring on stilts juggling flaming torches, here comes a totally different act: Sarah Palin, the caribou-huntin', mooseburger-munchin', bear-wrestin' terror of the Klondike, and I'm not talking chocolate-covered ice cream bars either. Beauty queen, wife of a hunky outdoorsman who works hard for his living and runs a business too, mother of five including a Down Syndrome baby she would not abort, scourge of overspending and corrupt pols … the great news about this lady just kept coming. Great news for conservatives, that is — we were swooning all over the place; and yes, I did some swooning myself. The lefties of course were spitting furious, and getting their feet tangled in their own contradictions like Stan Laurel trying to reel up a garden hose. Feminists were screaming that she is unqualified and anyway ought to be home raising her kids, advocates of promiscuous buggery were insinuating that — heavens to Betsy! — beauty queen Sarah and her hunky husband might have done the marital deed before the ceremony, eco-weenies were trying to pin eco-ignorance on a lady who spends her leisure time in the wildest of the wilds. Then news came out that Mrs. Palin's 17-year-old daughter was pregnant. There was a brief gasp of dismay, the one you get when the trapeze artist fakes a near miss, grabbing the trapeze with just one hand. Mrs. Palin had already by this time established herself firmly in our minds as a fertility goddess, though, so after a moment's reflection it seemed natural that young Bristol would follow suit — almost commendable in fact. Anyway, the impregnator is an even hunkier hunk than Mr. Palin, and has declared his intention to do the right thing, so the crowd switched to Oprah mode, cooing and empathizing over the girl, the challenges she was facing, and all the rest of it. People magazine set up for a run of bumper editions, everybody had an opinion to share, and the republic wallowed in the sheer entertainment value of it all, leaving poor Senator Obama alone and folorn, like the ugly girl at a dance. Michelle hasn't done a single magazine interview all week, and Malia and Sasha are saying: "Mommy, where did all the people go?" Cheer up, Michelle, if cheering up is a thing you know how to do. The media will be back when the novelty's worn off. You're the one they really love. Meantime, try to just enjoy the show. Look — a major political party has put a woman on the presidential ticket. Doesn't it make you feel proud of your country? [Circus music]
04 — Sarah Palin 2. The question about Mrs. Palin is the one Peggy Noonan asked — in her column, I mean, before she left the mike on: Will this all end in tears? Will Annie Oakley morph into Calamity Jane? There are some things to worry about. National politics is very much an insider business. A guy who's been polishing a seat in the Senate for 22 years is a "maverick," a guy who's climbed the greasy poles of Chicago and Illinois politics, than which poles don't come much greasier, is a fresh face who will clean up Washington. Jay Leno famously said that politics is show business for ugly people. Well, here comes a beautiful person, who is a real outsider. She's spent most of her life in Idaho and Alaska. A liberal friend of mine scoffed, a bit uncharitably, that Barack Obama may be the first black person she's seen. Are provincial manners going to play on the national stage? There are two kinds of bad things that might happen. One is, she might just, through naivety and inexperience on the national stage, get her foot caught in her mouth on one of those microscopic points of political correctness that the lefty media are so expert at pumping up into a PC frenzy: Racism! Hate! Intolerance! Mean-spirited! and all the rest of that flapdoodle. Call that the "macaca" scenario. Or, having been sucked into the national political scene too quickly, she might go native, ticking off all the conservatives like me who think she offers some compensation for John McCain's many, many shortcomings. She might, for example, suddenly discover that comprehensive immigration reform is the most wonderful idea to emerge from the mind of man since stuff came off the shovel; or that, having left Iraq, our armed forces will be free to take the blessings of democracy to Iran, Syria, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Libya, Sudan, Pakistan, Burkina Faso, and all points south. Call this the "strange new respect" scenario. Either one could kill the ticket. Republicans better keep their fingers crossed that Mrs. Palin is (A) quick-witted, savyy, and self-possessed enough not to do a macaca, and (B) firm enough in her principles not to believe that First Prize for winning the VP nomination is brunch with Teddy Kennedy.
05 — Joe Lieberman. Joe Lieberman made a speech. It was mainly about how John McCain isn't really a Republican at all. The convention delegates cheered wildly at that. As I said, these are strange times. Anyway, Joe said that we shouldn't be Democrats and Republicans because we are all Americans, and anyway George Washington warned that this party business would cause nothing but trouble. So much for the party system. I'm sorry to introduce yet another note of cynicism; but if the GOP really does win the presidential vote, yet the Democrats, as everyone seems to expect, make big gains in Congress, what will bipartisanship then amount to? Won't it just amount to the Republican president buckling under to the wishes of the Democratic Congress? Which John McCain will be much more willing to do than the average Republican president? As a small-government conservative, who believes that practically everything our government does is wrong-headed, harmful, and destructive of our personal liberty and national independence, I would much rather see President and Congress at loggerheads, so that nothing gets done. Nothing getting done, is pretty much my dream. Obviously it isn't Joe Lieberman's. Nor John McCain's, either: McCain-Feingold, McCain-Kennedy, … there's nothing our nominee likes better than yoking himself to some Democrat so that together they can get things done — put restrictions on free speech, hand out citizenship to illegal immigrants, whatever. What kind of bill would have a McCain-Lieberman sticker on it? I don't know, but I'm pretty sure it would be something no conservative would like. I'm not going to let Joe Lieberman go, either, without a snarky comment on his speaking style. I loved the writer — I forget who it was — in the Daily Telegraph who described Sarah Palin's appeal as being that of a, quote, "naughty librarian." Joe Lieberman is more like a sanctimonious camp counselor. I'm sorry he was given time to speak at our convention, and I think it portends ill for a McCain administration.
06 — Ron Paul. Joe Lieberman's a Democrat, and he got to speak at
our convention. Ron Paul's
a lifelong Republican, and he didn't. We all know why he didn't; because he's one of those
Republicans — as he himself
puts it, quote, "a Republican who believes in all the stuff Republicans used to believe in." That
would be governments
leaving us alone, maximum security on our borders and maximum liberty inside them, stable currency, free enterprise,
freedom of conscience,
traditional family life, small-town virtues, and so on. All that musty, boring old stuff Republicans used to believe
in. The stuff that lost Barry
Goldwater his election in 1964. Ah well, perhaps if we just keep doggedly repeating it, it'll catch on. And in fact,
the Ron Paul campaign suggests
it might. It was far more successful than it had any right to be, in spite of getting encrusted with all the obnoxious
barnacles that attach
themselves to any third-party movement. Hostile commentators made far more out of the barnacles than they really
justified. They were certainly
there — I signed on to a Ron Paul email list, and there they were, barnacling away. I heard all about the
War of Northern Aggression,
9/11 Truth, whose names the slave ships were registered in, and all the rest of it. The core of the Ron Paul movement
was not any of that, though,
it was good old Republican common sense, the kind you can read in Ron's book, titled Revolution. Well, Ron
may have been shut out of the
convention, but he had a convention of his own across town on Tuesday. "Rally for the Republic," he called
it, and twelve thousand people
showed up to do just that. Wish I could have been there. The ralliers heard speeches by Grover Norquist, Tucker
Carlson, Jesse Ventura, Bruce Fein
(who worked in Reagan's Justice Department), and other conservatives, including of course the ineffable Dr. Paul
himself. Joe Lieberman didn't show
up, which is kind of a pity. A sanctimonious bleeding heart up against Jesse Ventura — that would have been
something to see.
A footnote here. Ron Paul later appeared on Stephen Colbert's show. Colbert asked him if he could have gotten a speaking slot at the convention by playing ball with the big guys. Replied Paul: "Only by giving up everything I believe in." Keep the faith, Ron.
07 — Mencken. Ah, presidents. I'm going to break off here for a moment to read you a quote. The quote is from the great opinion journalist H.L. Mencken. I'm reding Terry Teachout's book about Mencken, and this quote is from page 166. It's taken from Mencken's obituary on Calvin Coolidge in 1933 — from the newspaper version, which is a bit different from the one Mencken wrote up as an essay later. OK, here we go, quote: "We suffer most when the White House bursts with ideas. With a World Saver preceding him (I count out Harding as a mere hallucination) and a Wonder Boy following him, he begins to seem, in retrospect, an extremely comfortable and even praiseworthy citizen. His failings are forgotten; the country remembers only the grateful fact that he left it alone. Well, there are worse epitaphs for a statesman. If the day ever comes when Jefferson's warnings are heeded at last, and we reduce government to its simplest terms, it may very well happen that Cal's bones now resting inconspicuously in the Vermont granite will come to be revered as those of a man who really did the nation some service." End quote. Listener, I see not the slightest hope that either of the presidential candidates will leave us alone. I therefore regard the coming contest with calm despair, as I am sure Mencken would have.
08 — Obama & Ayers. That's enough convention coverage. What else is in the news? Let's see what my energetic staff of young researchers has dug up for me. Oh, here's something about young Barry Obama, that fine broth of a lad from the great Irish city of Chicago. A little mood music please, Mr. Sound Engineer. [Irish jig] Now we all know that Barry, who got his political education in the genteel knitting circles and mild-mannered discussion groups of Cook County, knows nothing about the leg-breaking methods practiced by the rougher kind of political operative. As Christ's vicar on earth, Barry brings nothing but sweetness, peace, generosity, and reconciliation. The lion will lie down with the lamb, if Barry has anything to say about it. So it must be some rogue operative in his campaign that has been trying — by, as someone once said, "any means necessary" — to shut down the airing of an advertisement that concentrates on Barry's long friendship with Bill Ayers. Ayers is our leading home-grown terrorist. He participated in several bombings: New York City police headquarters in 1970, the Capitol in 1971, the Pentagon in 1972. Not only has Ayers never apologized for any of that mayhem, he has boasted of it, and said he wishes he'd done more. Ayers' wife, Bernadine Dohrn, is even nuttier: she praised the Manson Family Murders as bold revolutionary acts. Well, young Barry Obama launched his political career with a party at Bill Ayers' house in 1995. He also served happily on a leftist nonprofit fund with Ayers for three years, 1999 to 2002. And he was chairman of another lefty organization, the Chicago Annenberg Challenge, reporting to the organization's president — yep, Bill Ayers. So this ad is perfectly factual, telling voters about some of Obama's long-time associates. Obama's people have sent threatening letters to radio stations airing the ad, called on the Justice Department to intervene to stop the ad, and incited mass phone-ins by Obama supporters. None of this can possibly be Barry's doing. Why, the man is a living saint. He would never, never have anything to do with this kind of Chicago gangster-style intimidation. Must be somebody out of control on his staff — probably a plant by those mean-spirited Republicans. That must be it. What other explanation could there possibly be? Anyway, let's concentrate on the real outrages here: Did you know that Sarah Palin was once seen wearing a Pat Buchanan lapel pin. [Scream]
09 — Swazi King. King Mswati the Third of Swaziland, the world's 15th richest monarch, enjoyed his nation's annual Reed Dance on Monday. This is the event where legions of bare-breasted young virgins dance in front of the king, each hoping to be picked by him as a wife, to add to the 13 wives he already has. If you're the kind of person who sees everything as a metaphor for something else, you might see the Reed Dance as the sort of sub-Saharan equivalent of the nominating process, but without all those boring debates. This year's bash was kind of special, as it was the King's 40th birthday, and also the 40th anniversary of Swazi's independence. (The place used to be a British colony.) Yes, this is quite a young king. In fact the real power in the land is said to be his Mom, Queen Mother Ntombi Thwala — which means "She Elephant." Well, the number 40 was picked up and brandished angrily by some protestors, who pointed out that the country has 40 percent unemployment and a 40 percent rate of HIV infection among adults. I think they need to take care there. Apart from the danger of getting trampled to death by She Elephant, they might be giving King Mswati ideas. "Hey, how about I round off this 40th anniversary by bumping up the number of my wives to … 40!" Well, it wouldn't be so outrageous in a Swazi context. King Mswati's father had 70 wives, and over 1,000 grandchildren. Now that's fertility. In the event he gets thrown out of his country, I'm sure we can find a spot for King Mswati on some future GOP ticket.
10 — Anbar celebration. There was a parade along the main street in Ramadi, capital of Iraq's Anbar Province, on Monday. The point of the parade was for U.S. forces to hand over policing duties in Anbar to the Iraqis. This follows the defeat of Al Qaeda in Anbar, mainly by the U.S. military, but much assisted by local tribal leaders, who turned against the Al Qaeda folk when they tried to impose a strict theocracy, with lots of punishment killings. Since the forces we're handing over to are largely those same tribal fighters, who before they got busy against Al Qaeda had occupied themselves by killing our troops; and since the Sunnis of Anbar have major grievances against the Shia government in Baghdad, and have been armed to the teeth so they can take over their new duties, you have to wonder how stable the place will be going forward; but hey, any excuse to get our guys out of that rathole is fine with me. More than 1,000 of our people died in Anbar, a quarter of our total deaths in this miserable war. If you were to ask me what they died for, I'm not sure I could tell you. Now the Iraqi government says they want us out. My own answer would be: "We'll go when we're good and ready — Oh, hey, we're good and ready!" Well, you can and should fault the Bush adminsitration for getting us stuck in that damn place; you can and should fault people like me, who supported the original invasion, not foreseeing that it would result in a five-year, trillion-dollar fiasco; but you sure can't fault the U.S. military who achieved the pacification of Anbar province. Well done, guys.
11 — Hurricane Gustav. The city of New Orleans emptied out again in advance of hurricane Gustav. Whether people were fleeing Gustav, or whether they were fleeing from the mayhem they knew would ensue when the non-fleers had the city to themselves, nobody is telling me. Gustav was weaker than expected in any case, the levee system held up, and there were only eight deaths, versus more than 1,600 from Katrina. The city is still mostly empty as I speak, but people are trickling back, and the whole thing was a bit of a non-event. Its main effect was to spook the hurricane-shy organizers of the Republican convention into canceling Monday's events. This had the additional benefit of giving New Orleans police officers an extra day to go bargain shopping in the deserted stores for new hi-def TVs to watch the convention on.
12 — Miscellany. Just some odds and ends here.
Item: Under carefully controlled experimental conditions, an elephant at Tokyo zoo has managed to score 87 per cent on a math test. A slightly less gifted elephant across the country in Kyoto scored a still respectable 69 per cent. Both elephants, I am reliably informed, were home schooled.
Item: Meanwhile in Sweden, geneticists have discovered a gene that controls sexual fidelity. They call it the monogamy gene, but of course the newspapers all headlined it as the cheater gene. Anyway, there you are, ladies: if you want to know whether or not your man is cheating, just take down his genes.
Item: And across in Pakistan, modern industrial methods are being introduced into the business of honor killing. In a remote village in the district of Jafferabad, five women who had declared the wish to choose their own husbands were buried alive — a pioneering example of mass honor-killing. The victims, who included three teenagers, were abducted at gunpoint, beaten and shot before being thrown into a ditch. They were still breathing as their bodies were covered with rocks and mud. One Pakistani member of parliament defended the killings, saying, quote: "These are centuries-old traditions and I will continue to defend them." End quote. Conservatives come in all sorts, I guess.
13 — Signoff. Well, that's it this convention week. Congratulations to Sarah Palin, with fingers crossed that she won't go native in DC. Congratulations to our guys in Anbar, with fingers crossed that we can get them, and all our other troops, out of that sorry excuse for a country before the throat-cutting starts up again. Congratulations to our own Stanley Kurtz for digging up the dirt on Barack Obama and Bill Ayers, with fingers crossed that he doesn't end up at the bottom of Lake Michigan wearing concrete boots. And congratulations to John McCain on winning the nomination of a party whose keenest activists don't like him, with fingers crossed that he'll soon have a conversion experience to some brand of Republicanism that does not involve Mongolian cluster-hugs with Teddy Kennedy and Joe Lieberman. And congratulations to myself and Mrs. Derb for having survived yet another school summer vacation and come through at last to a zone, however temporary, of liberty and peace, rather like Anbar Province. Until next week, this is your genial host John Derbyshire signing off for Radio Derb. Take it away, Franz Josef.
[Music clip: From Haydn's Derbyshire Marches]