Article 43

 

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Neocons On A Cruise

cheneyl.gifcheneyr.gif

A guy at work says the UAW WORKERS make TOO MUCH money.  Another mentions it’s great we have a president that’s on a MISSION FROM GOD.  A third asks why I left a big tip for the POOR waiter. 

I think these people got MORE than a little SOMETHING in common.

SIGH

---

What Conservatives Say When They Think We Aren’t Listening

By Johann Hari, Independent UK
Alter Net
July 17, 2007

I am standing waist-deep in the Pacific Ocean, both chilling and burning, indulging in the polite chit-chat beloved by vacationing Americans. A sweet elderly lady from Los Angeles is sitting on the rocks nearby, telling me dreamily about her son. “Is he your only child?” I ask. “Yes,” she says. “Do you have a child back in England?” she asks. No, I say. Her face darkens. “You’d better start,” she says. “The Muslims are breeding. Soon, they’ll have the whole of Europe.”

I am getting used to these moments - when gentle holiday geniality bleeds into what? I lie on the beach with Hillary-Ann, a chatty, scatty 35-year-old Californian designer. As she explains the perils of Republican dating, my mind drifts, watching the gentle tide. When I hear her say, “ Of course, we need to execute some of these people,” I wake up. Who do we need to execute? She runs her fingers through the sand lazily. “A few of these prominent liberals who are trying to demoralise the country,” she says. “Just take a couple of these anti-war people off to the gas chamber for treason to show, if you try to bring down America at a time of war, that’s what you’ll get.” She squints at the sun and smiles. “ Then things’ll change.”

I am travelling on a bright white cruise ship with two restaurants, five bars, a casino - and 500 readers of the National Review. Here, the Iraq war has been “an amazing success”. Global warming is not happening. The solitary black person claims, “If the Ku Klux Klan supports equal rights, then God bless them.” And I have nowhere to run.

From time to time, National Review - the bible of American conservatism - organises a cruise for its readers. I paid $1,200 to join them. The rules I imposed on myself were simple: If any of the conservative cruisers asked who I was, I answered honestly, telling them I was a journalist. Mostly, I just tried to blend in - and find out what American conservatives say when they think the rest of us aren’t listening.

From sweet to suicide bomber

I arrive at the dockside in San Diego on Saturday afternoon and stare up at the Oosterdam, our home for the next seven days. Filipino boat hands are loading trunks into the hull and wealthy white folk are gliding onto its polished boards with pale sun parasols dangling off their arms.

The Reviewers have been told to gather for a cocktail reception on the Lido, near the very top of the ship. I arrive to find a tableau from Gone With the Wind, washed in a thousand shades of grey. Southern belles - aged and pinched - are flirting with old conservative warriors. The etiquette here is different from anything I have ever seen. It takes me 15 minutes to realise what is wrong with this scene. There are no big hugs, no warm kisses. This is a place of starchy handshakes. Men approach each other with stiffened spines, puffed-out chests and crunching handshakes. Women are greeted with a single kiss on the cheek. Anything more would be French.

I adjust and stiffly greet the first man I see. He is a judge, with the craggy self-important charm that slowly consumes any judge. He is from Canada, he declares (a little more apologetically), and is the founding president of “Canadians Against Suicide Bombing”. Would there be many members of “Canadians for Suicide Bombing?” I ask. Dismayed, he suggests that yes, there would.

A bell rings somewhere, and we are all beckoned to dinner. We have been assigned random seats, which will change each night. We will, the publicity pack promises, each dine with at least one National Review speaker during our trip.

To my left, I find a middle-aged Floridian with a neat beard. To my right are two elderly New Yorkers who look and sound like late-era Dorothy Parkers, minus the alcohol poisoning. They live on Park Avenue, they explain in precise Northern tones. “You must live near the UN building,” the Floridian says to one of the New York ladies after the entree is served. Yes, she responds, shaking her head wearily. “They should suicide-bomb that place,” he says. They all chuckle gently. How did that happen? How do you go from sweet to suicide-bomb in six seconds?

The conversation ebbs back to friendly chit-chat. So, you’re a European, one of the Park Avenue ladies says, before offering witty commentaries on the cities she’s visited. Her companion adds, “I went to Paris, and it was so lovely.” Her face darkens: “But then you think - it’s surrounded by Muslims.” The first lady nods: “They’re out there, and they’re coming.” Emboldened, the bearded Floridian wags a finger and says, “Down the line, we’re not going to bail out the French again.” He mimes picking up a phone and shouts into it, “I can’t hear you, Jacques! What’s that? The Muslims are doing what to you? I can’t hear you!”

Now that this barrier has been broken - everyone agrees the Muslims are devouring the French, and everyone agrees it’s funny - the usual suspects are quickly rounded up. Jimmy Carter is “almost a traitor”. John McCain is “crazy” because of “all that torture”. One of the Park Avenue ladies declares that she gets on her knees every day to “ thank God for Fox News”. As the wine reaches the Floridian, he announces, “This cruise is the best money I ever spent.”

They rush through the Rush-list of liberals who hate America, who want her to fail, and I ask them - why are liberals like this? What’s their motivation? They stutter to a halt and there is a long, puzzled silence. “ It’s a good question,” one of them, Martha, says finally. I have asked them to peer into the minds of cartoons and they are suddenly, reluctantly confronted with the hollowness of their creation. “There have always been intellectuals who want to tell people how to live,” Martha adds, to an almost visible sense of relief. That’s it - the intellectuals! They are not like us. Dave changes the subject, to wash away this moment of cognitive dissonance. “The liberals don’t believe in the constitution. They don’t believe in what the founders wanted - a strong executive,” he announces, to nods. A Filipino waiter offers him a top-up of his wine, and he mock-whispers to me, “They all look the same! Can you tell them apart?” I stare out to sea. How long would it take me to drown?

“We’re doing an excellent job killing them.”

The Vista Lounge is a Vegas-style showroom, with glistening gold edges and the desperate optimism of an ageing Cha-Cha girl. Today, the scenery has been cleared away - “I always sit at the front in these shows to see if the girls are really pretty and on this ship they are ug-lee,” I hear a Reviewer mutter - and our performers are the assorted purveyors of conservative show tunes, from Podhoretz to Steyn. The first of the trip’s seminars is a discussion intended to exhume the conservative corpse and discover its cause of death on the black, black night of 7 November, 2006, when the treacherous Democrats took control of the US Congress.

There is something strange about this discussion, and it takes me a few moments to realise exactly what it is. All the tropes that conservatives usually deny in public - that Iraq is another Vietnam, that Bush is fighting a class war on behalf of the rich - are embraced on this shining ship in the middle of the ocean. Yes, they concede, we are fighting another Vietnam; and this time we won’t let the weak-kneed liberals lose it. “It’s customary to say we lost the Vietnam war, but who’s ‘we’?” the writer Dinesh D’Souza asks angrily. “The left won by demanding America’s humiliation.” On this ship, there are no Viet Cong, no three million dead. There is only liberal treachery. Yes, D’Souza says, in a swift shift to domestic politics, “of course” Republican politics is “about class. Republicans are the party of winners, Democrats are the party of losers.”

The panel nods, but it doesn’t want to stray from Iraq. Robert Bork, Ronald Reagan’s one-time nominee to the Supreme Court, mumbles from beneath low-hanging jowls: “The coverage of this war is unbelievable. Even Fox News is unbelievable. You’d think we’re the only ones dying. Enemy casualties aren’t covered. We’re doing an excellent job killing them.”

Then, with a judder, the panel runs momentarily aground. Rich Lowry, the preppy, handsome 38-year-old editor of National Review, says, “The American public isn’t concluding we’re losing in Iraq for any irrational reason. They’re looking at the cold, hard facts.” The Vista Lounge is, as one, perplexed. Lowry continues, “I wish it was true that, because we’re a superpower, we can’t lose. But it’s not.”

No one argues with him. They just look away, in the same manner that people avoid glancing at a crazy person yelling at a bus stop. Then they return to hyperbole and accusations of treachery against people like their editor. The ageing historian Bernard Lewis - who was deputed to stiffen Dick Cheney’s spine in the run-up to the war - declares, “The election in the US is being seen by [the bin Ladenists] as a victory on a par with the collapse of the Soviet Union. We should be prepared for whatever comes next.” This is why the guests paid up to $6,000. This is what they came for. They give him a wheezing, stooping ovation and break for coffee.

A fracture-line in the lumbering certainty of American conservatism is opening right before my eyes. Following the break, Norman Podhoretz and William Buckley - two of the grand old men of the Grand Old Party - begin to feud. Podhoretz will not stop speaking - “I have lots of ex-friends on the left; it looks like I’m going to have some ex-friends on the right, too,” he rants -and Buckley says to the chair, “ Just take the mike, there’s no other way.” He says it with a smile, but with heavy eyes.

Podhoretz and Buckley now inhabit opposite poles of post-September 11 American conservatism, and they stare at wholly different Iraqs. Podhoretz is the Brooklyn-born, street-fighting kid who travelled through a long phase of left-liberalism to a pugilistic belief in America’s power to redeem the world, one bomb at a time. Today, he is a bristling grey ball of aggression, here to declare that the Iraq war has been “an amazing success.” He waves his fist and declaims: “There were WMD, and they were shipped to Syria Ņ This picture of a country in total chaos with no security is false. It has been a triumph. It couldn’t have gone better.” He wants more wars, and fast. He is “certain” Bush will bomb Iran, and “ thank God” for that.

Buckley is an urbane old reactionary, drunk on doubts. He founded the National Review in 1955 - when conservatism was viewed in polite society as a mental affliction - and he has always been sceptical of appeals to “ the people,” preferring the eternal top-down certainties of Catholicism. He united with Podhoretz in mutual hatred of Godless Communism, but, slouching into his eighties, he possesses a world view that is ill-suited for the fight to bring democracy to the Muslim world. He was a ghostly presence on the cruise at first, appearing only briefly to shake a few hands. But now he has emerged, and he is fighting.

“Aren’t you embarrassed by the absence of these weapons?” Buckley snaps at Podhoretz. He has just explained that he supported the war reluctantly, because Dick Cheney convinced him Saddam Hussein had WMD primed to be fired. “No,” Podhoretz replies. “As I say, they were shipped to Syria. During Gulf War I, the entire Iraqi air force was hidden in the deserts in Iran.” He says he is “heartbroken” by this “ rise of defeatism on the right.” He adds, apropos of nothing, “There was nobody better than Don Rumsfeld. This defeatist talk only contributes to the impression we are losing, when I think we’re winning.” The audience cheers Podhoretz. The nuanced doubts of Bill Buckley leave them confused. Doesn’t he sound like the liberal media? Later, over dinner, a tablemate from Denver calls Buckley “a coward”. His wife nods and says, “ Buckley’s an old man,” tapping her head with her finger to suggest dementia.

I decide to track down Buckley and Podhoretz separately and ask them for interviews. Buckley is sitting forlornly in his cabin, scribbling in a notebook. In 2005, at an event celebrating National Review’s 50th birthday, President Bush described today’s American conservatives as “Bill’s children”. I ask him if he feels like a parent whose kids grew up to be serial killers. He smiles slightly, and his blue eyes appear to twinkle. Then he sighs, “The answer is no. Because what animated the conservative core for 40 years was the Soviet menace, plus the rise of dogmatic socialism. That’s pretty well gone.”

This does not feel like an optimistic defence of his brood, but it’s a theme he returns to repeatedly: the great battles of his life are already won. Still, he ruminates over what his old friend Ronald Reagan would have made of Iraq. “I think the prudent Reagan would have figured here, and the prudent Reagan would have shunned a commitment of the kind that we are now engaged in I think he would have attempted to find some sort of assurance that any exposure by the United States would be exposure to a challenge the dimensions of which we could predict.” Lest liberals be too eager to adopt the Gipper as one of their own, Buckley agrees approvingly that Reagan’s approach would have been to “find a local strongman” to rule Iraq.

A few floors away, Podhoretz tells me he is losing his voice, “which will make some people very happy”. Then he croaks out the standard-issue Wolfowitz line about how, after September 11, the United States had to introduce democracy to the Middle East in order to change the political culture that produced the mass murderers. For somebody who declares democracy to be his goal, he is remarkably blasũ about the fact that 80 per cent of Iraqis want US troops to leave their country, according to the latest polls. “I don’t much care,” he says, batting the question away. He goes on to insist that “nobody was tortured in Abu Ghraib or Guantanamo” and that Bush is “a hero”. He is, like most people on this cruise, certain the administration will attack Iran.

Podhoretz excitedly talks himself into a beautiful web of words, vindicating his every position. He fumes at Buckley, George Will and the other apostate conservatives who refuse to see sense. He announces victory. And for a moment, here in the Mexican breeze, it is as though a thousand miles away Baghdad is not bleeding. He starts hacking and coughing painfully. I offer to go to the ship infirmary and get him some throat sweets, and - locked in eternal fighter-mode - he looks thrown, as though this is an especially cunning punch. Is this random act of kindness designed to imbalance him? “ I’m fine,” he says, glancing contemptuously at the Bill Buckley book I am carrying. “I’ll keep on shouting through the soreness.”

The Ghosts of Conservatism Past

The ghosts of Conservatism past are wandering this ship. From the pool, I see John O’Sullivan, a former adviser to Margaret Thatcher. And one morning on the deck I discover Kenneth Starr, looking like he has stepped out of a long-forgotten 1990s news bulletin waving Monica’s stained blue dress. His face is round and unlined, like an immense, contented baby. As I stare at him, all my repressed bewilderment rises, and I ask - Mr Starr, do you feel ashamed that, as Osama bin Laden plotted to murder American citizens, you brought the American government to a stand-still over a few consensual blow jobs? Do you ever lie awake at night wondering if a few more memos on national security would have reached the President’s desk if he wasn’t spending half his time dealing with your sexual McCarthyism?

He smiles through his teeth and - in his soft somnambulant voice - says in perfect legalese, “I am entirely at rest with the process. The House of Representatives worked its will, the Senate worked its will, the Chief Justice of the United States presided. The constitutional process worked admirably.”

It’s an oddly meek defence, and the more I challenge him, the more legalistic he becomes. Every answer is a variant on “it’s not my fault” . First, he says Clinton should have settled early on in Jones vs Clinton. Then he blames Jimmy Carter. “This critique really should be addressed to the now-departed, moribund independent counsel provisions. The Ethics and Government [provisions] ushered in during President Carter’s administration has an extraordinarily low threshold for launching a special prosecutor”

Enough - I see another, more intriguing ghost. Ward Connerly is the only black person in the National Review posse, a 67-year-old Louisiana-born businessman, best known for leading conservative campaigns against affirmative action for black people. Earlier, I heard him saying the Republican Party has been “too preoccupied with - not ticking off the blacks”, and a cooing white couple wandered away smiling, “If he can say it, we can say it.” What must it be like to be a black man shilling for a magazine that declared at the height of the civil rights movement that black people “tend to revert to savagery”, and should be given the vote only “when they stop eating each other”?

I drag him into the bar, where he declines alcohol. He tells me plainly about his childhood - his mother died when he was four, and he was raised by his grandparents - but he never really becomes animated until I ask him if it is true he once said, “If the KKK supports equal rights, then God bless them.” He leans forward, his palms open. There are, he says, “ those who condemn the Klan based on their past without seeing the human side of it, because they don’t want to be in the wrong, politically correct camp, you know Members of the Ku Klux Klan are human beings, American citizens - they go to a place to eat, nobody asks them ‘Are you a Klansmember?’, before we serve you here. They go to buy groceries, nobody asks, ‘Are you a Klansmember?’ They go to vote for Governor, nobody asks ‘Do you know that that person is a Klansmember?’ Only in the context of race do they ask that. And I’m supposed to instantly say, ‘Oh my God, they are Klansmen? Geez, I don’t want their support.’”

This empathy for Klansmen first bubbled into the public domain this year when Connerly was leading an anti-affirmative action campaign in Michigan. The KKK came out in support of him - and he didn’t decline it. I ask if he really thinks it is possible the KKK made this move because they have become converted to the cause of racial equality. “I think that the reasoning that a Klan member goes through is - blacks are getting benefits that I’m not getting. It’s reverse discrimination. To me it’s all discrimination. But the Klansmen is going through the reasoning that this is benefiting blacks, they are getting things that I don’t getŅ A white man doesn’t have a chance in this country.”

He becomes incredibly impassioned imagining how they feel, ventriloquising them with a shaking fist - “The Mexicans are getting these benefits, the coloureds or niggers, whatever they are saying, are getting these benefits, and I as a white man am losing my country.”

But when I ask him to empathise with the black victims of Hurricane Katrina, he offers none of this vim. No, all Katrina showed was “the dysfunctionality that is evident in many black neighbourhoods,” he says flatly, and that has to be “tackled by black people, not the government. “ Ward, do you ever worry you are siding with people who would have denied you a vote - or would hang you by a rope from a tree?

“I don’t gather strength from what others think - no at all,” he says. “Whether they are in favour or opposed. I can walk down these halls and, say, a hundred people say, ‘Oh we just adore you’, and I’ll be polite and I’ll say ‘thank you’, but it doesn’t register or have any effect on me.” There is a gaggle of Reviewers waiting to tell him how refreshing it is to “finally” hear a black person “speaking like this”. I leave him to their white, white garlands.

“You’re going to get fascists rising up, aren’t you? Why hasn’t that happened already?”

The nautical counter-revolution has docked in the perfectly-yellow sands of Puerto Vallarta in Mexico, and the Reviewers are clambering overboard into the Latino world they want to wall off behind a thousand-mile fence. They carry notebooks from the scribblings they made during the seminar teaching them “How To Shop in Mexico”. Over breakfast, I forgot myself and said I was considering setting out to find a local street kid who would show me round the barrios - the real Mexico. They gaped. “Do you want to die?” one asked.

The Reviewers confine their Mexican jaunt to covered markets and walled-off private fortresses like the private Nikki Beach. Here, as ever, they want Mexico to be a dispenser of cheap consumer goods and lush sands - not a place populated by (uck) Mexicans. Dinesh D’Souza announced as we entered Mexican seas what he calls “D’Souza’s law of immigration”: “ The quality of an immigrant is inversely proportional to the distance travelled to get to the United States.”

In other words: Latinos suck.

I return for dinner with my special National Review guest: Kate O’Beirne. She’s an impossibly tall blonde with the voice of a 1930s screwball star and the arguments of a 1890s Victorian patriarch. She inveighs against feminism and “women who make the world worse” in quick quips.

As I enter the onboard restaurant she is sitting among adoring Reviewers with her husband Jim, who announces that he is Donald Rumsfeld’s personnel director. “People keep asking what I’m doing here, with him being fired and all,” he says. “But the cruise has been arranged for a long time.”

The familiar routine of the dinners - first the getting-to-know-you chit-chat, then some light conversational fascism - is accelerating. Tonight there is explicit praise for a fascist dictator before the entree has arrived. I drop into the conversation the news that there are moves in Germany to have Donald Rumsfeld extradited to face torture charges.

A red-faced man who looks like an egg with a moustache glued on grumbles, “ If the Germans think they can take responsibility for the world, I don’t care about German courts. Bomb them.” I begin to witter on about the Pinochet precedent, and Kate snaps, “Treating Don Rumsfeld like Pinochet is disgusting.” Egg Man pounds his fist on the table: “ Treating Pinochet like that is disgusting. Pinochet is a hero. He saved Chile.”

“Exactly,” adds Jim. “And he privatised social security.”

The table nods solemnly and then they march into the conversation - the billion-strong swarm of swarthy Muslims who are poised to take over the world. Jim leans forward and says, “When I see these football supporters from England, I think - these guys aren’t going to be told by PC elites to be nice to Muslims. You’re going to get fascists rising up, aren’t you? Why isn’t that happening already?” Before I can answer, he is conquering the Middle East from his table, from behind a crme brl.

“The civilised countries should invade all the oil-owning places in the Middle East and run them properly. We won’t take the money ourselves, but we’ll manage it so the money isn’t going to terrorists.”

The idea that Europe is being “taken over” by Muslims is the unifying theme of this cruise. Some people go on singles cruises. Some go on ballroom dancing cruises. This is the “The Muslims Are Coming” cruise - drinks included. Because everyone thinks it. Everyone knows it. Everyone dreams it. And the man responsible is sitting only a few tables down: Mark Steyn.

He is wearing sunglasses on top of his head and a bright, bright shirt that fits the image of the disk jockey he once was. Sitting in this sea of grey, it has an odd effect - he looks like a pimp inexplicably hanging out with the apostles of colostomy conservatism.

Steyn’s thesis in his new book, America Alone, is simple: The “European races” i.e., white people - “are too self-absorbed to breed,” but the Muslims are multiplying quickly. The inevitable result will be “ large-scale evacuation operations circa 2015” as Europe is ceded to al Qaeda and “Greater France remorselessly evolve[s] into Greater Bosnia.”

He offers a light smearing of dubious demographic figures - he needs to turn 20 million European Muslims into more than 150 million in nine years, which is a lot of humping.

But facts, figures, and doubt are not on the itinerary of this cruise. With one or two exceptions, the passengers discuss “the Muslims” as a homogenous, sharia-seeking block - already with near-total control of Europe. Over the week, I am asked nine times - I counted - when I am fleeing Europe’s encroaching Muslim population for the safety of the United States of America.

At one of the seminars, a panelist says anti-Americanism comes from both directions in a grasping pincer movement - “The Muslims condemn us for being decadent; the Europeans condemn us for not being decadent enough.” Midge Decter, Norman Podhoretz’s wife, yells, “The Muslims are right, the Europeans are wrong!” And, instantly, Jay Nordlinger, National Review’s managing editor and the panel’s chair, says, “ I’m afraid a lot of the Europeans are Muslim, Midge.”

The audience cheers. Somebody shouts, “You tell ‘em, Jay!” He tells ‘em. Decter tells ‘em. Steyn tells ‘em.

On this cruise, everyone tells ‘em - and, thanks to my European passport, tells me.

From cruise to cruise missiles?

I am back in the docks of San Diego watching these tireless champions of the overdog filter past and say their starchy, formal goodbyes. As Bernard Lewis disappears onto the horizon, I wonder about the connections between this cruise and the cruise missiles fired half a world away.

I spot the old lady from the sea looking for her suitcase, and stop to tell her I may have found a solution to her political worries about both Muslims and stem-cells.

“Couldn’t they just do experiments on Muslim stem-cells?” I ask. “ Hey - that’s a great idea!” she laughs, and vanishes. Hillary-Ann stops to say she is definitely going on the next National Review cruise, to Alaska. “Perfect!” I yell, finally losing my mind.

“You can drill it as you go!” She puts her arms around me and says very sweetly, “We need you on every cruise.”

As I turn my back on the ship for the last time, the Judge I met on my first night places his arm affectionately on my shoulder. “We have written off Britain to the Muslims,” he says. “Come to America.”

SOURCE

---

Blues Cruise
Steaming past Guantanamo, en route to the Cayman Islands, a boatload of Republicans ponder the plight of a party at sea.

By Joe Hagan
NY Magazine
December 23, 2012

The whole thing was white, and broken, that much was clear. A week after the presidential election, when the dreams of Republicans were dashed with President Barack Obama’s victory over Mitt Romney, we were snorkeling in the blue waters of the Caribbean. In the distance was a shipwreck. “You could make out the pieces of it,” said Ralph Reed, the right-wing political operator who had bolstered the Evangelical Christian vote for Romney. “It was deep and murky.”

Jonah Goldberg, the National Review contributor and author of Liberal Fascism: The Secret History of the American Left, From Mussolini to the Politics of Meaning, also bore witness to the once-great vessel that foundered off the coast of Fantasy Island and was now sunken and covered in white barnacles. “I saw the silhouette of it,” he says.

But what, exactly, were we looking at? It was Friday, November 16. We were in Honduras, gazing at a wreck off a resort called Fantasy Island, near Mahogany Bay. Through my goggles, I watched Reed, in white swim trunks and black flippers, flap his way down through the extravagantly blue waters to the old sunken barge, part of the $64.95 Shore Excursion available to passengers aboard the m.s. Nieuw Amsterdam, an 86,000-ton cruise ship owned by Holland America Line. It was day five of the National Review magazine’s Post Election Cruise 2012, and the GOP’s recent problems were, mercifully, about 760 nautical miles away. The cruise, featuring the star columnists of William Buckley’s 57-year-old conservative biweekly, had been planned long in advance, and everybody had believed it would be a victory party. An e-mail from the magazine’s publisher arrived a few days before we embarked: “Do not despair or fret. At least not next week.”

Onboard the Nieuw Amsterdam, no one could follow his advice. “Who sent Obama here to destroy America?” a fiftysomething woman asked me one evening over dinner, as if it were a perfectly reasonable question. And here onboard the cruise ship, it was. If the Nieuw Amsterdam was a kind of ark of American alienation, at least it was an eminently comfortable one. The ship was a country unto itself, eleven stories high, 936 feet fore to aft, with eleven bars, six restaurants, two swimming pools, five hot tubs, a large caf, and a library. There was the endless buffet on the Lido deck, slot machines and craps in the casino, an Asian lounge singer who did a mean Copacabana, a discothque and a chamber-music cocktail lounge, cigars and Cognac by the pool, gift shops, and a full-service spa.

We departed Ft. Lauderdale on a Sunday, November 11, and began steaming to the southeast, headed for Half Moon Cay, a Bahaman beach resort owned by the cruise line, and thence southward, deeper into the Caribbean.

The cruise began with a cocktail mixer on the midship deck, Champagne glasses glowing in the pool lights. The crowd was noticeably older, a retirement crowd in vacation-wardrobe colors, with flashes of the idiosyncratic: a one-eyed man in retro Yves Saint Laurent glasses and a sixtysomething blonde in gold-lame pants. Ralph Reed, resplendent in a blazer and billowing pleated pants, held court among his fans. “I did my job!” I overheard him say.

Many onboard could recall a time when Buckley himself had cruised alongside them, in the nineties, but his ghost now seemed far away, a benevolent but faded spirit. Most of the roughly 600 National Review cruisers, who’d signed up for what was billed as the “conservative cruise of a lifetime”, were in their prime during the Reagan years - the greatest days to be a conservative. Nostalgia and loss hung in the air, with much talk of endings, both personal and national. To sum up his feelings about the election, John Wohlstetter, a national-security author in his mid-sixties who had met Buckley several times ("utterly gracious, and he listened"), recalled the words of a long-forgotten liberal lamenting a loss: “The people have spoken,” the bastards.

After drinks, we moved to the Manhattan Dining Room, an elegant two-story restaurant at the ship’s stern, where we would meet each evening, tabled with a different assortment of cruisers, sometimes hosted by writers and pundits from the National Review. Kevin Hassett, a former economic adviser to Mitt Romney, hosted my table of eight that night, arriving in a bright-green golf shirt and rimless glasses. He announced that this would be a “family” conversation in which he was the moderator.

“Minorities came out like crazy,” said Hassett, sighing. “White people didn’t get to the polls. There are far more African-Americans voting than they expected.”

“In Tampa,” noted Bobbie, a petite woman from Vero Beach, Florida, “they had lots and lots of lines.”

Hassett, with an oddly cheerful, Oh-What-My-Country-Has-Done-Now mien, predicted economic doom under Obama, the most likely scenario being another Great Depression, which would make 2008 look like a joyride.

That prompted a tall, extremely tanned blonde named Kay, from Old Greenwich, Connecticut, to ask Hassett, the co-author of the 1999 book Dow 36,000, “So what do we do with our money?”

The thing we have to understand is, these are people who dont have any morals.

He recommended investing in real estate in another country, maybe in Central America somewhere. A woman to Kay’s right wrinkled her nose: “How about a Western country? Okay, if Europe is what you want, go to Poland,” he said optimistically. “Go to Krakow, buy a house for $50,000, and it’s going to be like Paris in a few years.”

As we drained the Pinot Noir, Hassett gave his audience the insider’s view of the Romney campaign, describing how its election-monitoring software crashed on November 6 and Obama was probably behind it, because “those guys are so evil.”

The table grumbled in assent.

“The thing we have to understand is, these are people who don’t have any morals,” said Hassett. “They’ll do anything. I’m one of their No. 1 targets. I mean, they really want me bad.”

“Well, you’re safe on this ship!” said Bobbie boldly.

Then Hassett pivoted to the liberal media. “I actually think that Goebbels was more critical of Hitler than the New York Times is of Obama,” said Hassett, tucking into a piece of strudel. “I was in the middle of the fight against the propaganda, and I have stories like you wouldn’t believe. These people are so evil. They’re basically Fascists. It’s unbelievable.”

The audience seemed to listen raptly to this soliloquy - who aboard would argue? - but underneath there were currents of dissension. At breakfast the next day, I ran into Kay from Old Greenwich. Tall and stern, legal thriller clutched to her breast, she narrowed her eyes and complained that Kevin Hassett was too controlling of the conversation the night before and lacked social graces.

We arrived the next morning at Half Moon Cay, a small private island 100 miles south of Nassau that promised Jet-Skiing, parasailing, snorkeling, and a glass-bottomed boat. But it was to remain a mysterious green lump on the horizon: The seas were too rough for passengers to get into the tenders needed to go ashore. “Nature was not on our side,” announced Captain Vincent Smit over the intercom.

Instead, the cruisers milled around the cafeteria, lounged by the pool with their Grishams and Balduccis, or surfed the Internet in the Crow’s Nest lounge, a privilege that cost $1.25 a minute.

Then, at 3 p.m., the group gathered into the Showroom at Sea, a three-tiered amphitheater decorated in a bright-red Art Deco style, for the first of several sessions deconstructing the loss. Onstage were Reed, now in lime-green pants embroidered with pink swordfish and navy polo shirt with white piping on the collar; and Scott Rasmussen, the pollster who consistently overrated Romney’s chances of winning the election. “Rasmussen blasted the assembled Republicans with one crushing statistic after another. The exit poll data,” he said, “create a negative brand image of the Republican Party as a party that only cares about white people.”

The audience murmured unhappily.

“And that image is hurting among the youth,” he continued. “It is hurting across the culture. It is something that has to be addressed across the party. It has to be addressed. You cant just wish it away.”

Reed expanded on the theme. “You can’t run and win a national election in an electorate that is becoming decreasingly white and increasingly minority and lose 80 percent of the minority vote,” he said. “That math just doesn’t add up.”

Rasmussen offered some friendly advice about approaching minorities. “You show them that you really care, you talk to them as grown-ups on a range of issues, you get them involved,” he suggested, “and you accept the fact that it’s a long-term investment. And you accept that you can learn as much from them as you can teach them.”

This was harsh medicine to reluctant patients, and afterward some of them made their discomfort known. “That depressed me!” one woman said. To my right, a man snapped, “Thats bullshit!”

The man was Bing West, former assistant secretary of Defense under Ronald Reagan, a former Marine and a National Review contributor.

West, mocking Rasmussen, said: “If you stupid Republicans weren’t so goddamn bigoted you would have won the election!”

His wife, Betsy, who bears a resemblance to Nancy Reagan, patted him on the back and apologized on his behalf, saying, “I don’t know why he said that. He’s usually not like that.”

After a coffee break, we reconvened for a panel titled “Econ 1: The State of the Economy.” A large National Review placard hanging onstage swayed back and forth as the boat rocked. A moderator asked the four guests if they saw any signs of optimism in America’s economic future. There were no takers. Hassett said the national debt was like a monkey on Americas back, except there weren’t enough steroids to create a monkey that big. The debt, like an evil monolith, seemed to shadow the brows of everyone there, precisely quantifying their apocalyptic fears. America, by rejecting them, had rejected math itself, they felt, and therefore reason, and therefore reality. Their emotions, in casual conversation, in dinner patter, and in the panel discussions, ranged from sputtering anger to resigned fatalism, often in the space of minutes. As a 91-year-old from California (and nine-time National Review cruiser) told me as he lounged with a spy novel, “I think we’re going to go into the toilet, and I don’t think there’s anything we can do to stop it. We haven’t seen anything yet as far as the recession is concerned. Heck of a thing to look forward to!”

After dinner was a program called the “Light Side of the Right Side.” A frenetic, tightly wound man named James Lileks, a National Review columnist from Minnesota, warmed up the crowd with one-liners: “If we can put a man on the moon, we can put 50 million Democrats up there as well!”

The conservative need for their own cultural voice.

Rob Long, a conservative Hollywood TV writer behind a TNT show called “Sullivan & Son,” said the party has to accept that its been living in a fantasy world. “It’s like The Matrix,” he said. “You can continue to live in the dream world, or you can take the pill and we can unplug you and you can see that things are actually kind of bad.”

Conservatives, they felt, needed their own cultural voice - a Letterman, a Leno, an SNL, a 30 Rock - to compete with the overwhelming liberal dominance of the culture. “As the Republican image stood today,” said Lileks, “we’re the stupid people, were the yokels, we’re the dumb, were the racists, we’re the hicks, were against everything that’s hip and cool.”

Jonah Goldberg attempted a note of optimism, garnering hearty applause when he said conservative ideas were “still salable because, A, they’re correct. Two plus two is four. You have to believe that we’re going to be proven right by reality.”

In response, the moderator recounted the litany of dreary statistics from Reed and Rasmussen earlier that day. “So therefore we should give up and burn our passports and stay on this boat forever?” said Goldberg with real exasperation.

The crowd erupted in cheers.

We were circling Cuba. Kay from Old Greenwich was doing the backstroke in the Lido pool as cumulus clouds hung over the hazy green hills on the horizon line. A fat guy in sandals wandered by wearing a CLUB GITMO T-shirt. Steel-drum music was percolating through hidden speakers, and the Caribbean was so surreally blue it looked like a giant toilet-bowl puck had been thrown in to color it.

After two days, I was finding the “National Review” cruisers to be generally courteous and warm, old-fashioned and good-mannered, and responsive to good manners, too. In prolonged conversation, none felt it appropriate to ask what I did for a living. When I did reveal I was from New York Magazine - from the bluest city in the country - I was first met with quizzical stares but then cordial acceptance. The non-Beltway cruisers were particularly curious about the man they would come to refer to as “the mole.” A few took the opportunity to grouse to me about their liberal children, who seemed to bring them genuine disappointment and confusion. Others simply enjoyed talking to somebody under 50. I would come to enjoy my conversations with a 90-year-old named Dick from Connecticut, a veteran of World War II, who would call me to his poolside table for help on the New York Times crossword. “A Palestinian political party that’s not Hamas or Hezbollah,” Dick asked.

Fatah?

“That’s it!” he wheezed. “I always joke that it rhymes with fatwa!”

At other times, things got a little too old-fashioned for comfort. I met a man near the railing who was there as a caregiver for a 70-year-old National Review cruiser from Palm Desert, California. He was gay and seemingly liberal and had come on the cruise only to push his boss around in a wheelchair. As he smoked a cigarette, he recounted a conversation the two had about the ships largely Indonesian and Filipino staff.

BOSS: You notice none of the workers are white.

CAREGIVER: Except the managers upstairs.

BOSS: Well, that’s the way it should be.

There were, to be fair, two black National Review cruisers, approximately three Indian-Americans, and two Korean-Americans. The latter were John Yoo, the former Bush Administration lawyer who helped formulate its theory on torture, and his mom. “My mother is a geriatric psychiatrist,” he noted during a panel, eliciting a burst of laughter from the silver-haired crowd before he could finish the punch line. “I thought after the election this could be really good for the family business.”

In person, Yoo was charming and funny, widely praised by his co-cruisers for having tangled successfully with Jon Stewart during his sit-down on The Daily Show three years ago. Yoo worried that the Republicans were too quick to blame each other, saying, This is all out of Lord of the Flies and Karl Rove is Piggy and we’re supposed to all chase him around with spikes and throw him on a fire?

After a break for cookies came the 4 p.m. panel, “The Media: How Deep in the Tank?” Lileks, the energetic Minnesotan, was apoplectic that the mainstream media castigated Michele Bachmann for suggesting without evidence that Hillary Clinton adviser Huma Abedin had connections to the Muslim Brotherhood.

Eventually, the subject turned to the right’s need to get outside its own media bubble, which had helped fan the fiction that it was going to win the election. Michael Walsh, a conservative writer, said Fox News was “incredibly tiresome and needed to boot Sean Hannity.” During the Q&A, a woman asked about her favorite on-air personality, Mike Huckabee. “He reminds me of Elmer Gantry,” said Walsh, referring to the con man played by Burt Lancaster in the 1960 film. “I don’t take anything he says seriously. He’s another person who should be off Fox, by the way.”

HeҒs another person who should be off Fox, by the way.

“I disagree with that! a woman next to me yelled,” storming down the aisle with her hand in the air. “Excuse me! Excuse me! I disagree with that!”

Just as she was going for the microphone to amplify her complaints, the panel moderator looked at his watch and declared: “I hate to end this party, but we have to be out of here, thank you very much!”

The last event before cocktails and dinner was a lecture by Deroy Murdock, the only black National Review speaker. It was a curious outlier on the agenda, titled “How the Music of Memphis and Motown Helped Bury Jim Crow,” and set in a smaller, more intimate venue midship. Murdock was wearing a red satin dinner jacket and a black bow tie, presumably to look like a Motown singer. About 50 people attended, sitting on white leather lounge chairs, and there was a Rolling Stones tongue logo on a screen behind him as he cued up “Brown Sugar” on the sound system.

Murdock got the all-white crowd clapping along, including the venerable neoconservative intellectuals Norman Podhoretz and Midge Decter, who smiled broadly.

“Brown Sugar! How come it tastes so good?”

When the music faded, Murdock, in a studious tone, read from his prepared notes: “It’s only rock and roll, but we like it!”

In his reading of racism in America, Murdock highlighted Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who he said “promoted segregation in 1936.” He, of course, “went on to great fame and fortune afterward,” he observed.

“The Democrats,” explained Murdock, “have been very active in keeping black people down from 1860 to 2012. Go ahead and applaud if you agree with that,” said Murdock.

The audience sat up and clapped hard.

Land ho! There were multiple Shore Excursions available to cruisers in the port of Ocho Rios, Jamaica, though many older cruisers I spoke with wouldn’t go ashore because of horror stories they’d heard about violence and robbery. For the intrepid there was the outing to a waterfall ($79.95), or lunch on an old Colonial plantation (A Taste of Jamaica, $99.95). A lot of people went for the plantation, which cruisers later described as rundown and serving bad food. “Jamaica is a dump!” complained Veronique Rodman, a spokeswoman for the American Enterprise Institute.

“It’s only good if you’re at a resort,” added the wife of one of the National Review columnists.

That night, Cal Thomas, a USA Today columnist and Fox News contributor, was the host of my table of eight. At an earlier panel, he’d suggested that his audience “starve the beast” of government by refusing to pay income taxes; but now his stage fire had waned, and he looked bored, peering around our table with half-lids, his hound-dog face propped in his hand. I sat next to a retired surgeon from California named Duane, who heralded the Dinesh DSouza film “2016: Obama’s America as the definitive truth regarding Obama’s anti-Colonialist background, which now portended America’s inevitable slide into socialism.” Thomas liked the movie but dismissed its impact on the election, saying it “had preached to the converted and had sourcing problems besides.” But Duane, who has thick glasses and a closely shorn flat-top, was undeterred, insisting it was relevant. “I disagree!” he spat.

This was a phenomenon that was common on the cruise - the conservative pundits and columnists from the National Review attempting to gently disinter their followers from unhelpful conservative propaganda. For people who believe in the truth of works like Dreams From My Real Father, a conspiracy-theory documentary that argues that Obama’s real father was a communist propagandist who turned Obama into a socialist Manchurian Candidate, this could be difficult work.

As Thomas downed the rest of his drink, Duane said the only way out of the current quagmire is a “revolution,” citing the famous Thomas Jefferson line about watering the tree of liberty with blood from time to time.

What kind of revolution did he have in mind?

Duane’s eyes crinkled into a big smile. “You ever heard of guns?”

His wife sat up: “How do you like the veal?”

“It’s awful,” Duane growled, poking at it. “I can’t hardly chew it.”

Mitt Romney messaged whiteness. That was one of his greatest failings.

The first thing you see when you step onto the dock on Grand Cayman, the largest of the Cayman Islands, is a two-story Margaritaville, Jimmy Buffett’s chain restaurant, decorated in neon parrots.

The night before, I’d been invited to lunch with John OSullivan, a British columnist for the National Review who is white-haired and speaks in a compellingly slow and erudite Queen’s English, often about the “dangers of Islamists.” He lives in Alabama with his wife, Melissa, who has the lilting accent and winsome charm of a southern socialite. She asked me with genuine concern about the problem of Muslims owning all the taxi medallions in New York City. “How the hell did that happen?” she asked.

With six other cruisers, we ventured to a restaurant called Grand Old House, recommended to O’Sullivan by Richard Rahn, the supply-side economist who helped bolster the Caymans as a tax haven for people like Mitt Romney. It’s a Colonial-style restaurant that might make a good set for a movie about nineteenth-century plantation owners: a view of the Caribbean through white columns, complete with rattan furniture and slow-moving ceiling fans carved into the shape of palm leaves.

Over tuna tartare and caviar and a bottle of 2008 Byron Chardonnay, O’Sullivan, wearing a pink oxford and Wayfarers perched on the tip of his nose, discussed issues as diverse as modern slavery, Hispanic Catholicism, male prison rape, and the preservation of “the Anglosphere,” which he defined as the former British colonies “who use English as their common means of communication.”

During a discussion of Iran, a tall, jovial foreign-policy columnist named John Thomson was shouted down by everyone at the table for calling Barack Obama an intelligent man. “He’s not with us,” whispered a woman named Nancy from Key Biscayne.

I casually mentioned that the phrase “Anglosphere” was perhaps unfortunate given the rights image problem as a majority white party. OSullivan agreed they might need a different word.

We haven’t done our marketing that well, conceded Thomson. “That was Mitt Romney. Mitt Romney messaged whiteness. That was one of his greatest failings. I’m a white Anglo-Saxon.”

Melissa O’Sullivan, the Alabaman wife of John, wasn’t buying the idea that Republicans had alienated minorities. “We’ve invited them to join us!” she insisted.

Susan from Princeton granted that the Republican Party is lily white and it’s a problem and it is messaging and Mitt Romney screwed up royally.

But Ms. O’Sullivan again took umbrage. As everyone went silent, she recalled a conference she attended in Australia in which a liberal nun (who didn’t even have the decency to wear a habit) criticized America for its “inner-city racism.” Offended, Ms. O’Sullivan recounted what she wished shed said to this nun:

“Pardon me, madam, but I have been in your country of Australia for ten days and the only Aborigines I’ve seen have been drunk on the street, and at least if we were in my country they would be serving the drinks at this conference!”

Ms. O’Sullivan then warned against watering down the purity of the conservative agenda to placate minorities or, as she put it, rather succinctly, “the bastardization of the product.”

Under the shade of some palm trees, Ralph Reed took off his shirt and fed an orange to a giant iguana.

Day five, Friday afternoon, and we were on a white-sand beach in Honduras, biding our time until a boat would take us offshore to snorkel over the shipwreck. Even Reed, among the youngest people on the cruise, was in a way a figure from an earlier time. Rob Long, the right-wing Hollywood writer, told me the night before, over cocktails on the midship deck, “I like Ralph Reed, but he’s done.”

“We lost,” Long continued during a long interview over coffee later that week. “We are losers.”

Which meant they must necessarily compromise. The C-word I heard nowhere else onboard during this cruise, except from Long, the self-appointed Cassandra who told the crowd the night before that “our operatives are incompetent and we live in a dream world.”

“That’s what losers do, they compromise,” Long told me as Freddie Mercury belted out “Somebody to Love” over the cafeteria sound system.

On Saturday morning, I found myself in a hot tub with Dorothy from Utah. Late seventies, short hair, nice tan, sparkly blue eyes. Her husband collapsed in the heat in Jamaica, and she was monitoring him while he ate breakfast under an umbrella. Dorothy voted for Romney and was so devastated when he lost that she spent the day after the election praying for America.

“It was hard to lose. And losing didn’t always bring out the best in people. They were struggling to comprehend the rejection, to understand how it had come to this.” As talk turned to her family, Dorothy lamented the misfortunes of her oldest son, who she said was stolen from her by “the seventies,” which was her code for drugs. She had grown up in the early fifties and was utterly bewildered by the sixties, ill-equipped to navigate the cultural upheaval. At 58, her son was now divorced and unemployed, living in various campsites, and she didn’t know who to blame. I saw tears on her cheeks and I put my hand on her shoulder. I’m afraid, she told me. “Writethat. Were scared to death.”

Indeed, that sense of fear was everywhere on the ship, fear of an impending debt crisis that would crush all fortunes, fear that the Anglo majority was now marginal for the first time in their adult lives, fear that the country the cruisers once knew had fully given way to something more diverse, foreign, incomprehensible.

This is a more downbeat bunch this year.

A steady downpour started in the afternoon as we motored through steel-gray waters back to Florida. Tomorrow would be a new gray dawn in America. Up in the Crow’s Nest, the rain pelted on the windows as Jonah Goldberg, having just finished a panel about the scurrilous designs of the left, slumped on a couch, loosened his tie, and sighed. He had won $200 at the craps table with John Yoo last night, but now he was tired and ready to go home.

“This is a more downbeat bunch this year,” he said. “We lost in 2008, but it was almost boisterous and fun. This, a little less so. People were dyspeptic.”

“Their conception of what the country is about, they really were sure the country would reject Barack Obama,” he continued. “I do think it hits them hard. The fear I have, why this election stung, I think, Obama has successfully de-ratified some of the Reagan revolution in a way that Clinton never could and didn’t even try to. That’s what freaks people out, that feeling in their gut, either Obama has changed the country, or the country has sufficiently changed that they don’t have a problem with Obama. That’s what eats at people.”

It was the last of the cocktail mixers on the Lido deck. The National Review speakers, including Rich Lowry, the magazines editor, who flew into the Caymans to join the cruise halfway through, seemed relieved to have it end. “We don’t do this for fun,” he admitted.

On the leeward side of the Nieuw Amsterdam, John Yoo stood next to his mother, Sook Hee Yoo, a small, elegant Korean woman in black-framed glasses. She described herself as nonpolitical, an objective observer. And she had a diagnosis.

“To protect the ego, you have a defense mechanism: denial and projection,” she told me as her son leaned in to hear over the party din. “You deny your problem, saying it’s your fault and not mine.” Instead of projection, blaming other people, we have to think of a positive solution. But I didn’t hear that yet.

“They are still grieving,” she concluded as her son winced and began to break in, fearing she’d gone too far. I hope not for more than six months. The grieving process should only be six months. If it goes on for more than six months, it could go into a major depression.

SOURCE

Posted by Elvis on 07/19/07 •
Section Dying America
View (0) comment(s) or add a new one
Printable viewLink to this article
Home
Page 1 of 1 pages

Statistics

Total page hits 9359673
Page rendered in 0.8529 seconds
41 queries executed
Debug mode is off
Total Entries: 3182
Total Comments: 337
Most Recent Entry: 08/15/2019 09:50 am
Most Recent Comment on: 01/02/2016 09:13 pm
Total Logged in members: 0
Total guests: 8
Total anonymous users: 0
The most visitors ever was 114 on 10/26/2017 04:23 am


Email Us

Home

Members:
Login | Register
Resumes | Members

In memory of the layed off workers of AT&T

Today's Diversion

The world is a dangerous place, not because of those who do evil, but because of those who look on and do nothing. - Albert Einstein

Search


Advanced Search

Sections

Calendar

August 2019
S M T W T F S
        1 2 3
4 5 6 7 8 9 10
11 12 13 14 15 16 17
18 19 20 21 22 23 24
25 26 27 28 29 30 31

Must Read

Most recent entries

RSS Feeds

Today's News

ARS Technica

External Links

Elvis Picks

BLS Pages

Favorites

All Posts

Archives

RSS


Creative Commons License


Support Bloggers' Rights