Irving Kristol, who died last week, was generally seen as the father of neoconservatism, a non-existent concept in Europe where we’re steeped in more traditional and less opportunistic politics. I once sat with him at a dinner in honour of William Buckley given by Drue Heinz in her east side townhouse. We were four: Kristol and his wife, Teresa Manners, as she was back then, and yours truly. Kristol was pleasant and fun to talk to. He was particularly intrigued by the fact that Lady Teresa’s old man was a duke and that Belvoir Castle was pronounced Beaver. One thing I noticed was that the old boy did not know how to eat properly. I found that interesting. Perhaps Kristol wished to retain a certain proletarian connection with his Trotskyite past. Never mind. He was civil when Teresa asked him what he thought of a certain rock band.
Kristol believed that neoconservatism reached out beyond the traditional political base, thus making the idea of conservatism more acceptable to voters. In this I beg to differ. Neoconservatism is a hoax, like being just a little bit pregnant. Its heroes include FDR, a major criminal in my book, and exclude Calvin Coolidge and Dwight Eisenhower, the models of what a president should be, unobtrusive, distant and non-meddling.
Kristol was one of those eagle-eyed types who recognised political trends while the rest of us were out whistling Dixie. They saw the curves before we did. And shifted their allegiance accordingly. Nothing wrong with that, as there’s nothing wrong with opportunism, either, except that it lacks originality. I was never convinced of their conservative principles — they spent too much, interfered all over the world, and were ready to go to war for Israel’s sake rather than that of America. America reached her nadir when a bunch of neocons, the Feiths, Abramses and Wolfowitzes of this world, convinced a moron to attack the only dictator in the Middle East who was at war with radical Islam. We all know the rest, although the prize for cynicism goes to Tony Blair, because unlike Bush he knew what was going on but took his people to war anyway in order to ensure business as usual after he left office.
Otherwise it’s nice to be back in the Bagel. That fishlike-looking dwarf, the mayor, is angling for an outdoor ban on smoking, which has some of us up in arms. Mind you, it doesn’t surprise me. Bloomberg is like most of his fellow billionaires, a dictator posing as a man of the people. The whole art of politics today is to pander to the weakness, fear and greed of the people. There are more non-smokers than smokers, end of story. When Bloomie banned smoking in indoor places, he claimed it was to protect non-smokers. So what is the use of banning it outdoors? Between cars that idle all day while their drivers sit and watch tiny TV screens, incinerators and industrial waste, there’s enough pollution in this city to leave a layer of black soot on one’s windowsill. Bloomberg applies the law selectively and when it suits him, and even tramples on it as when he chose to run for a third term and had a bunch of lawmakers in his pocket rubber-stamp it. Actually, and paraphrasing the great Bernard Levin, he has the same effect on me as a man sucking a lemon in the front row has on a flautist playing a Mozart concerto.
The big stink this week is about race. Jimmy Carter didn’t help when he said that it was racism that got people’s backs up against Obama. All people are a bit racist, but opposition to Obama has nothing to do with it. I have a black friend who once asked me whether I’d like my daughter to marry a black man. Unlike most, I answered truthfully. ‘I’d rather she didn’t. Would you like yours to marry a white guy?’ ‘Only if he were very rich,’ he said. Just two friends exchanging truths. But to politicians truth is an alien concept, to be twisted and used to their advantage, so this hullabaloo about race is yet another phoney issue which serves the Left: 71 per cent of whites in America think that racism is at least somewhat of a problem; 85 per cent of blacks think the same thing. That’s according to a poll conducted by a TV network. And I don’t believe a word of it. People will answer in the manner expected of them. According to the Taki poll, conducted over a period of 73 years here and abroad, in Vietnam, Pakistan, India, Canada, South America, Europe, even in Mustang, a tiny country that lies between Nepal and Tibet, everyone feels his or her race is discriminated against. Even worse, and horror of horrors, most people would like to live among their own kind, as viciously racist a concept as I can think of. ‘We may have made some progress, and we may have a black president, but the scourge is still with us,’ writes a black columnist for the increasingly funny Big Bagel Times. The scourge is definitely still with us, the scourge being the Times, that is. We are all racists, so get used to it, starting with those black folk who prefer to live in Harlem rather than with the poor little Greek boy in the upper east side.