The Breakfast Table

Do You Think You Can Make That Tent a Little Smaller?


Well, it wasn’t exactly the Orioles playing, since it was the All-Star Game. There were two or three Orioles in the mix that evening, and that’s about it. However, in support of your general point, my friend Stephen Singer reminds me that, seeing as how Bush was a baseball team owner, no game could possibly have been a particularly exciting novelty for him. And I accept that. But I wasn’t actually complaining about his leaving the game, which was his privilege (even if also, according to one school of thought, un-American). I just thought it might suggest a more general jadedness or sense of entitlement, which can result from never having had anything except the best of everything. And I do suspect my impression of the man in that regard is probably justified.

Two things struck me about the Jim Kolbe story. One was quite straightforward, and, I think, inarguable: The delegates who objected to his speaking were revealing the grossest prejudice, and there is no sophistry, regardless of how ingenious, that can muddy those particular waters. They can’t even pretend. He was not, after all, speaking about gay rights, or AIDS research, or even making a more general case for tolerance and openness. His remarks addressed no major policy controversy. The offended delegates couldn’t claim they were protesting a point of view. Kolbe was discussing trade issues. So those delegates who objected to his presence on the stage were doing exactly that, objecting to his presence. They were basing their objections not on his ideas–they probably would have agreed with those, had they bothered to listen–but rather, on what he is. They didn’t want him there because they hate the kind of human being he is (human being and person, as George Bush might clarify). And if that’s not arrant bigotry, then the word no longer has any meaning.

It’s not that I naively thought the Messiah had come and such feelings had disappeared off the face of the earth. I just thought they were no longer socially acceptable. Evidently I was wrong, at least at the Republican convention.

The other thing about this incident that caught my attention was an item on NPR this morning. Apparently, some members of the Texas delegation had originally intended to walk out of the hall when Mr. Kolbe rose to speak, but were finally persuaded to pray for him, rather ostentatiously, instead. And one of the members of the delegation who adopted this policy, apostrophizing Kolbe for the microphone, uttered the words, “I will pray for your soul.” And I swear, Evan, far from sounding like an expression of concern and brotherly love, it sounded exactly like a malediction. And it occurred to me that I’ve heard those words spoken a few times in my life, and despite their ostensibly charitable meaning, they have always sounded like a curse, an enraged denunciation.

I only saw a bit of McCain’s speech last night, as he “wholeheartedly” endorsed Bush. The media have played this story pretty straight, but it looked to me like the man was drinking castor oil, barely managing to get it down. Was that your impression, too, or am I projecting?

It’s odd how the press makes so much out of this kind of thing. Of course McCain was going to endorse Bush, and at least try to make it look wholehearted. And of course Bradley will do the same for Gore. That’s how political parties work. In our lifetimes, the only time it didn’t happen was in 1964, a truly exceptional year. Generally, it happens as a matter of course, even when the divisions and the personal animosity are far more rancorous than they’ve been this cycle. Gene McCarthy endorsed Hubert Humphrey in 1968, for God’s sake.

I feel sorry for Rudy Giuliani–when Fate decides someone’s a promising butt for a practical joke, She doesn’t pull any punches–but maybe even sorrier for Mssrs. Wayne Barrett and Andrew Kirtzman. According to the reviews I’ve read, they’ve both written very fine books about Giuliani, but the mayor no longer compels much interest, and it figures to diminish further rather than the reverse. Back to the drawing board, guys. I only hope neither of you is currently contemplating a biography of Ehud Barak.

As ever,