“I loved Spock,” said President Obama, reacting to the death of actor Leonard Nimoy. Why? Because Spock reminds him of himself. The galaxy’s most famous Vulcan, the president wrote, was “Cool, logical, big-eared, and level headed, the center of Star Trek’s optimistic, inclusive vision of humanity’s future.” Just like you know whom.
The president is not the only writer who has drawn comparisons between himself and Spock. I am also a Star Trek fan, but I admit I was somewhat confused by my rather apathetic reaction to Nimoy’s death. And as I thought more about the president’s statement, I realized he identifies with the very aspects of the Spock character that most annoy me. I don’t love Spock at all.
The emerging nuclear deal with Iran is indefensible. The White House knows it. That is why President Obama does not want to subject an agreement to congressional approval, why critics of the deal are dismissed as warmongers, and why the president, his secretary of state, and his national security adviser have spent several weeks demonizing the prime minister of Israel for having the temerity to accept an invitation by the U.S. Congress to deliver a speech on a subject of existential import for his small country. These tactics distract public attention. They turn a subject of enormous significance to American foreign policy into a petty personal drama. They prevent us from discussing what America is about to give away.
The Wall Street Journal reported this past week that the Bill, Hillary, and Chelsea Clinton Foundation has quietly dropped its ban on foreign contributions and is accepting donations from the governments of “the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Australia, Germany, and a Canadian government agency promoting the Keystone XL pipeline.” The Journal’s conclusion: Since 2001 “the foundation has raised at least $48 million from overseas governments.”
The authorization for the use of military force against ISIS that the Obama administration sent Congress this week is not worthy of the name. Its language is far more about what the president won’t do against the terrorist army that controls much of Syria and Iraq—limits on ground troops and a sunset provision for the authorization after three years—than what he will do. Congress should reject it.
And I had thought that Hillary Clinton was having trouble developing her message. In a single tweet this week she may have revealed the slogan for her 2016 campaign. Jumping on gaffes by Chris Christie and Rand Paul, Clinton wrote: “The science is clear: The earth is round, the sky is blue, and #vaccineswork. Let’s protect all our kids. #GrandmothersKnowBest.”
Darkness. A beat, then the following appears on the screen:
“A Scorsese Documentary on Bill Clinton Is Stalled”
—New York Times, January 22, 2015
Fade in on movie director Martin Scorsese—72 years old, white hair, bushy eyebrows, horn rimmed glasses—talking on the phone. As he speaks, the camera pulls back, showing him pacing in a nondescript conference room. Posters for Mean Streets, Taxi Driver, Hugo, The Departed, Bringing Out the Dead, and Wolf of Wall Street hang on the walls.
Barbara Boxer has decided to spare the country further embarrassment and retire from the U.S. Senate in 2016. California Democrats need a replacement. As of this writing they have only one declared candidate: state attorney general Kamala Harris. Harris is liberal, modish, and a favorite of President Obama’s. But she’s not for me. My man is Tom Steyer.
Yes, Steyer took to the Huffington Post yesterday to say, “I believe my work right now should not be in our nation’s capital but here at home in California, and in states around the country where we can make a difference.” Really, though, Steyer owes it to us—more specifically, he owes it to me—to run. And if you and your friends demand his participation, I think we can get him to change his mind.
Argue about the limits of free speech, the definition of “true” Islam, whether terrorists are lunatics or rational, or the social and political repercussions of terrorism as much as you’d like. The truth is that such debates are irrelevant to the core security problem: There is a growing and energetic movement of radical Muslims dedicated to killing as many people as they can and imposing their will on the rest.
Twelve killed in Paris. Islamic terrorists executed them in a military-style attack. Why? Because they worked for Charlie Hebdo—sort of the French Mad—which had published cartoons “insulting” to Islam. The murders demonstrated the threat, the reach, and the malignity of Islamism. So it was heartening, at the end of this demoralizing day, to see a consensus on the importance of free speech.
Everyone has a favorite John Milius story. This is mine:
It is the mid-1980s. There is a party at the house of screenwriter Paul Schrader. Milius, who wrote Dirty Harry and Apocalypse Now and directed Conan the Barbarian and Red Dawn, is there when Pauline Kael arrives. Kael is the liberal New Yorker film critic. To her, a Milius film is only slightly better than a slime mold.
Milius has had some wine. He has an intermediary tell Kael that he would like a “conference” with her. A message comes back: Kael wants to know if Milius, who in meetings with executives was fond of displaying pistols, is armed.