Slacker Friday


We've got a new Think Again column called "The Surge Goes On Forever (and the Spinning Never Ends)" here.

David Brooks has a nice column about Buckley today, here. I was re-reading Sam Tanenhaus's terrific TNR piece of a while back, here, and came across what I took to be this remarkable passage, which I reprint without comment:

In 1997, when he was scouring the ranks of talented younger conservatives to find a new editor for National Review, Buckley eliminated one prospect, his one time protege David Brooks, a rising star at The Weekly Standard. In a memo to board members, Buckley reported that he had discussed Brooks with NR alum George Will: "I said that I thought it would be wrong for the next editor to be other than a believing Christian. He agreed and added that the next editor should not be a Canadian" -- a possible reference to conservative writer David Frum.

Just like FDR ... Quote of the Day: "He knows that any wartime president is going to be unpopular." -- Tony Snow on Bush to Colbert the other night.

Another one: "What's the difference between the Ku Klux Klan and Arianna Huffington? What's the difference? ... I don't see any difference between Huffington and the Nazis. ... They both want people to die." -- Fox News host Bill O'Reilly, claiming that Huffington should be "held accountable" for reader comments on HuffPo.

From Boehlert: With Obama emerging as the Democratic front-runner, clear signs suggest that his press treatment will soon change and that the media will fall back into their lazy routine of critiquing leading Democrats through the eyes of Republican spin. Read more here.

And for those of you in the boonies who live vicariously through this New Yorker's musical experiences, yes, Clapton and Winwood were sublime last night, their third and last show, with an absolutely killer "Dear Mr. Fantasy" as the encore (though no "Layla" at all). Sorry they are not playing in your city. The ticket prices, however, were obscene. Also, if you are a New Yorker, or can imitate one, I do recommend Stew's Passing Strange, which just opened on Broadway, but which I saw a long time ago at the Public. (Also, I still have three nosebleeds singles for Bruce at Nassau on March 10 with which I need to part, if anyone wants any of them. Email below if you do.)

Slacker Friday:

Name: Charles Pierce
Hometown: Newton, MA

Hey Doc:

"I got the revolution blues/I see bloody fountains and ten million dune buggies/comin' down the mountain."

Weekly WWOZ Pick To Click: "Everyday I Have The Blues" (Professor Longhair) -- Once again, I neglected to keep up the payments on the eighty-mile stretch of road in Nebraska I'm constructing that will spell out in its turns and curves how much I love New Orleans.

Short Takes:

Part The First: Belated congrats to Josh Marshall and the TPM legions. Here's a little something apropos of that new mainstream andiron that you won. Don't ever win a Pulitzer. I'll never find a song.

Part The Second: The best part of the Oscars was hearing the Czech woman from "Once" speak English with a Dublin brogue. (That was a good win, since those songs from "Enchanted" blew bronto-goats.) The second best part was the joke that Stewart made about writers being invited to the Vanity Fair party, which went over not well at all.

Part The Third: Chuck Todd of MSNBC just told me that he thought that Mike Bloomberg would bring a lot to a prospective Obama ticket. I believe this indicates an untoward enthusiasm for certain mushrooms.

Part The Last: I know that I shouldn't be the one here who brings the Yiddish, but, honest to god, what a putz.

This week, deep in his Wise Old Man role, John McCain sneeringly presumed to tell Barack Obama that the "enemy" was Al Qaeda and that the enemy was in Iraq and the reason he knew was (duh!) they "call themselves Al Qaeda In Iraq." Obama slapped back immediately that Al Qaeda wouldn't have been in Iraq had "George Bush and John McCain" not invaded the country in the first place. Too many Obama fans seem to believe the guy is made of candy-glass. He's tough enough. However, there is one speech I want to hear him give. In his usual stumper, he occasionally comes around to a passage in which he says, in the context of the various depredations of the current government, that he understands the Constitution, taught the Constitution, and will respect the Constitution. This always gets a roar, but he needs to do more. He needs to give a speech in which he explains this all to a willfully amnesiac country that has grown illiterate of its Constitution, ignorant of its founding principles, and taught by three decades of conservative government and idiot popular culture that its fundamental rights are at best inconveniences and, at worst, loopholes through which criminals escape justice and terrorists infiltrate the country. They are not "their" rights. They are our rights, damn it. He has spoken gloriously about the promise of the country. He's got to bring that arsenal to bear on why the country was worth that rhetoric in the first place, to tell the country that there are some things that America cannot do and remain the same country. He has to tell the country what those things are, why we can't do them, and the inevitable consequences of doing them, not in the rest of the world, which presumes the paramount importance of projecting American power around the world, but here at home, in the existential threat of those measures to the idea of the country itself. We oppose these things because of who we are. If we do not, we are complicit. He needs to tell the country that.

Name: Destiny Land
Hometown: Berkeley, CA

Future entertainers would have to wrestle live octopuses to compete with the twitching of Elvis, one critic argued. "The Beatles didn't in fact do this," William F. Buckley once wrote, "but how one wishes they did!"

We need to remember a time when conservatives would actually approach their opponents with some wit and style. And there's some hilarious forgotten moments in the life of William F. Buckley. He spent a year in the CIA, and thirty years later found himself sitting next to the former president of Mexico at a ski-area restaurant. What, the Mexican President asked amiably, had he done when living in Mexico?

Buckley's honest answer? "I tried to undermine your regime, Mr. President."

You really have to give Buckley credit for having an open mind. Finally at the age of 78, Buckley wrote an editorial for the National Review fiercely denouncing the war on drugs.

And he was one of the first conservatives to reject George Bush on the war in Iraq.

Name: Michael Green
Hometown: Las Vegas, Nevada

When people talk about a cult of personality involving candidates, they really should look at both the late William F. Buckley, Jr., who at least had the saving grace of intellectual curiosity, and Tim Russert, who doesn't. Buckley cultivated an image as a dashing, upper-crust thinker. Well, after Pat Buchanan couldn't figure out his Dr. Samuel Johnson, it seems appropriate to invoke Dr. Johnson's comment about tombstones: In lapidary inscriptions, man is not upon oath. Thus, I was not surprised, Dr. A., not to see your quotation from the late, great Lars-Erik Nelson, from your wonderful The Sound and the Fury, 1992 edition, P. 77, Note: "Not all liberals found Buckley's charms irresistible. New York Daily News columnist Lars-Erik Nelson says, 'Buckley exists to wrap up people's base, greedy, bigoted, low-life, mean, and nasty views into high-faluting language so that they don't have to go around thinking that they are just mean, stupid, and nasty, but instead have a philosophy like Buckley's.'" The difference is that Buckley had the ability to think and think differently, so he has merely passed the baton of representing meanness, stupidity and nastiness to another William from another well-known and well-off family, i.e, Kristol.

As to Russert, I wonder what Big Russ would have to say about his son caring more about trying to get a "gotcha" answer to a nonsensical and meaningless question than he does about asking serious questions about serious issues. I'm sure this will be the subject of Russert's next smarmy book or interview.

Name: Chuck
Hometown: Kansas City

Regarding Pierce's post about Russert yesterday, the post debate coverage on MSNBC provided a rare glimpse into the beltway journalist/TV personality culture. Chris Matthews interviewed Russert, basically congratulating him for his line of questioning with Hillary about her vote authorizing the Iraq war in 2002. A true gotcha! moment when she admitted the vote was a mistake and she would not do it again. Tim landed the big one! Way to go, Timmy!


Name: Timothy Adams
Hometown: Friend, Nebraska

Pierce can bash Russert all he wants -- he's fair game. But leave my Bills alone.

George Zornick replies: Seconded.

Name: Wm. Lewis
Hometown: Cincinnati


I see Siva comes to the defense of Buffalo, New York and states: "For the record: We Buffalonians denounce Tim Russert!"

The important question is, though: do they also "reject" Tim Russert?

Name: Merrill R. Frank
Hometown: Jackson Hgts, NYC

Dr. Little Timmy who always reminds us he was once from Buffalo as well as the rest of the media conveniently leave out former Buffalo Bills QB and Vice Presidential candidate Jack Kemp's praise of Farrakhan and the Nation of Islam back during the 1996 campaign.

Maybe at the next debate he can ask Senator Obama if he condemns or repudiates former Buffalo Bill Running Back O.J Simpson.

Name: Karl W.
Hometown: Bloomfield, CT

RUSSERT: "It's 24 hours after Al Qaeda has attacked because your order to not torture suspects has stopped our agencies from getting the needed intelligence. Are you going to resign in disgrace or commit suicide?"

Name: Asher Fried
Hometown: Croton on Hudson NY

Russert's first question to Hillary in her Lazio debate in the Senate race clocked her about her Bill problems. She paused and gave a dignified answer. Did he ask Lazio if he was aware of any marital problems that would diminish his capacity to act as senator? Or if he knew who was porking his wife? Russert, like his boy Imus, is merely a shock jock, not a reporter; Meet the Press is merely entertainment not a news show; and the American electorate can't tell the difference.

Name: Walter Brown
Hometown: San Antonio

Hey Doc,

For the McCain suck-up watch: Reuters reported last night that McCain welcomes the support of a delusional megalomaniac TV preacher:

Republican presidential candidate John McCain won the endorsement of Texas evangelical leader John Hagee on Wednesday, which could boost his standing among religious conservatives who have been reluctant to embrace the likely nominee.

Hagee, who heads a 19,000-member church in San Antonio, is best known for his outspoken support of Israel and writings on the Middle East, where he envisions a blood-soaked clash between East and West leading to the return of Jesus Christ.

"I'm very honored by Pastor John Hagee's endorsement today," McCain said at a news conference. "He has been the staunchest leader of our Christian evangelical movement in many areas, but especially, most especially, his close ties and advocacy for the freedom and independence of the state of Israel."

The Reuters report goes on to explain just what Hagee means when he says he supports Israel:

Hagee has written that events in the Middle East point to an imminent apocalypse Christians should welcome.

In his book "Jerusalem Countdown: A Warning to the World," Hagee predicts Russian and Arab armies will invade Israel and be destroyed by God. Israel will then be the site of a battle between China and the West, which will be led by the anti-Christ in his role as head of the European Union. Jesus Christ will return to Earth in the final battle, he writes.

The book also claims Adolph Hitler and the Roman Catholic Church joined in a conspiracy to destroy the Jews.

Do you suppose the mighty Russert or anyone else in the MSM will give this as much play as the twice-removed so-called link between Obama and Farrakhan?

Name: Jack P.
Hometown: Washington, DC

Hey Doc,

After seeing Russert's performance at the debates, and also reading things Jonah has written and interviews he's given about his book, it reminds me of a Film Appreciation class I took at THE George Washington University back in the '90s. My professor was discussing Oliver Stone, but it certainly applies to these two clowns (cleaned up for publication):

"To really understand him, it helps to know this: When reading an interview with him or watching something from him, you're watching a man try to orally please himself."

Keep up the good work, Doc. Lord knows the world needs good liberals.

Name: Kris Alexander
Hometown: Austin, TX

Re: "The Surge Goes on Forever" - Nice Robert Earl Keen riff. So if Hillary loses here in the Great State, can we call it the end of her "Gringo Honeymoon"?

Name: Pat O'Neill
Hometown: Milmont Park, PA

"And have you seen Duel in the Sun lately? I watched it on TCM the other day. It has a 15-minute "prelude" followed by a short "overture" where nothing happens. No credits, nothing. Just a still photograph and some music for 15 minutes. What were they thinking? It was 1946. Did anyone in the world have that kind of time? "

That's just the way it's played for TV and DVD release. In the theaters, in 1946, the prelude and overture were the music that came with the film to be played as the audience was entering the theater. Back in the days of movie palaces, all the really big releases had this kind of thing. Gone With the Wind has an overture, so does Ben-Hur. Ben-Hur even has an entr'acte, music played during the intermission.

Name: Bob Ramos
Hometown: Philadelphia

Nice column today! Great bit on the climate conference.

About the orchestral overtures and preludes in old "prestige" films, these were shown between showings of the film. It was part of the reserved-seating "prestige" picture package, which shunned such declasse items like the "March of Time" or Bugs Bunny. Sometimes slide advertisements were projected. I guess this set the mood for the masterpiece to follow and encouraged the audience to make that snack an extra-large ultra-deluxe tub o' popcorn. Anyway, lots of films had them, some better than others. The suite used for "Lawrence of Arabia" is particularly nice-but, then again, it's Maurice Jarre ...

Name: Kyle Childress
Hometown: San Francisco

Perhaps it's because you did not watch the telecast, but you have made a tragic omission with respect to the Oscar gowns. When Helen Mirren walked onto the stage pushing that red gown with the chrystal sleeves, she was simply breathtaking, and she walked like she knew it. She's 62, and she was the sexiest woman there (at least to this gay man).

My sincere best to Pierce, the national treasure.

Eric replies: To be honest, I did notice that and should have mentioned it. Also, Renee Zellweger looked good, but I thought the sequins were over the top.

Name: Steve Elworth
Hometown: Brooklyn, NY

One more point about the new 50 year old Horace Silver. The great and underrated Junior Cook was with him for over 5 years. This record features Horace's only recording with Louis Smith, a wonderful undersung trumpet player from Memphis who after the summer of 1958 went back to teaching music and rarely recorded. He, along with Horace and the wonderful drummer, Louis Hayes, is still with us. But, unfortunately he no longer plays.

Name: Tom Scott
Hometown: Los Angeles, CA

Hi Eric:

Thanks for including my CD among your reviews -- I'm a bit of a political "junkie" myself, and really enjoy your writing and televised appearances. Keep fighting the good fight.

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