Dear Mr. President Oh dear! My friend Joan Collins has been seduced by Bill Clinton, and worse, has written all about it in the London Spectator, the world's most elegantly written weekly. Joan is no Jane Fonda, who should definitely have been tried and shot for treason; Joan's politics are right of center, and she has even been known to sound politically incorrect at times. So what happened?
Well, the weaker sex is capricious, even fickle at times, so I will give her the benefit of the doubt. Couple of schmucks took her to the Oval Office, the Draft Dodger came in and she swooned: "He grasped my hands firmly?he has beautiful, expressive hands, and enormous feet... The man has palpable sex appeal, and is much taller and slimmer than I'd expected..." Oy vey, et tu Joan?
This is the second time la Collins has let me down. Exactly 42 years ago she and I were an item. (She has written all this in her autobiography, so I am not exactly doing a Geraldo Rivera.) I lived at the Sherry-Netherland back then, where my father kept a year-round suite, and one day I returned unexpectedly to find Joan and my father having lunch together. What bothered me was a diamond pin the actress was sporting. It was anchor-shaped, a dead giveaway that the old boy had designs on little Joan. (Daddy would buy them by the dozen and pass them around.) Collins swears nothing happened, and who am I to doubt a lady's word, but my shit detector tells me that I'm a fool.
But back to Clinton and his big feet. I have often wondered exactly what I would say in the unlikely event of meeting the Draft Dodger. Probably something like, "Sorry old boy, there's no disinfectant around, I couldn't possibly shake hands..." (The same thing I would do if someone introduced me to John Podhoretz.) Mind you, I do not mean to insult the presidency, only Clinton. What he's done goes beyond ideological disputes. As a former Bush administration official, John Walters, says, Clinton "has besmirched political institutions people have died for."
This is unique. In the past, presidential transgressions would have been checked by public opinion and, failing that, by party opinion. Impeachment would follow if the transgressing president had not by then resigned. What has never been taken into consideration, however, is Clinton's shamelessness. Shameless people do not resign; in fact, they go on as before, wagging the dog, telling lies, playing the race card, and ordering his attack dogs on political opponents.
One thing that always baffled me was the hate journalists and media types showed for President Nixon. Richard Nixon was a friend of mine, and we corresponded regularly and dined at least two times a year together. I thought he was by far among the five most interesting men I've ever met. He was always kind, extremely polite to working people, and also had a sense of humor. His grasp of history was unparalleled. What he was incapable of was to project the kind of phony warmth, I-feel-your-pain bullshit Clinton does so naturally.
I once asked to speak to him in private as we were going into his house in Saddle River, as I wanted to thank him about a very nice letter he had written me when I got into trouble in England. He became extremely uneasy when I started to thank him, and suddenly he almost pushed me away. Unlike the Draft Dodger, who would most likely thrown his arms about me, Nixon was too embarrassed in maudlin situations. He was shy to show emotion, and the media never forgave him for it. Just as they never forgave him the fact he was born dirt-poor.
Talking of being born dirt poor, Ronald Reagan also was unpopular with the media. I'll never forget the look of hate on Gail Sheehy's face when I said he was bound to be a great president because of the way he handled the air-traffic controllers strike. If you think I have it in for Clinton, you should have heard la Sheehy that day. Ironically, I never met Ronald Reagan, although I dined in the White House mess twice, courtesy of my friend Christopher Buckley.
George Bush was yet another president disliked by the media. This time not because he was born dirt poor, but because he was born privileged. One cannot win with the left, and most media is left. The fact that he volunteered and became the youngest pilot in the Navy only served to have Clinton and Sid (the scumbag) Blumenthal, neither of whom has ever been within a thousand miles of harm's way, spread the vicious and totally false rumor that Bush had bailed out, leaving his fellow seaman behind. Just imagine the outcry of the media if Nixon had spread such a horrible lie about an opponent. Yet Clinton not only got away with it, the big lie partly worked. The Times certainly repeated it, but then they would.
I met President Bush in Wimbledon of all places, where he was a guest of Teddy Forstmann. He asked me what year I had won Wimbledon, and when I told him that I had lost in the first round, he smiled and said, "You're awfully modest." (I think he was under the impression that ex-competitors like myself were all ex-Wimbledon winners.) Chris Buckley, who served as a Bush speechwriter, told me that of all the presidents he has met, George Bush was by far the easiest and most natural. I found him to be first and foremost a gentleman, which in my book is the highest virtue.
I imagine Jimmy Carter would pass muster where a gentleman is concerned, despite his ungentlemanly conduct toward me 12 years or so ago. I was invited to Alice Mason's for a dinner in honor of Jimmy and Rosalynn. I was seated at a table full of tv types, none of them drinking anything stronger than water, in case they should look bloated on camera the next day. My neighbor was Helen Gurley Brown, and she proved wonderful company. When I asked her if I could drink her wine she said yes, and then asked everyone else to pass their untouched booze down to me.
Needless to say, I overdid things. After dinner I decided to challenge Jimmy Carter, who had banged on about democracy during dinner. I cornered him and popped my question: "If a crack dealer up in Harlem has one vote, doesn't an MIT professor or a philanthropist or a doctor who saves lives deserve 10, 50, 100 votes to the dealer's single one?"
The trouble was I was slurring my words something awful. "It's a very interesting idea," answered Jimmy, but then he gave a sign to some people with wires hanging out of their ears and they somehow got in between me and the ex-prez.
Oh well, it could have been worse. I become very nice when I'm drunk, and if some schmuck dragged me into the Oral Office late at night, I'd probably shake hands even with Clinton, God forbid.
Toby Young ARRIVISTE
White Mischief Among my British friends it's become very fashionable lately to get married outside Britain. Of the four weddings I've gone to this year, only one has been in London. If the others were in New York it wouldn't matter, but they've nearly all been in ridiculously far-flung places. One reason for this may be so the happy couple won't have to offend any of their friends by not inviting them. If you're getting married in, say, Borneo, you can invite absolutely everyone you know, confident that only your closest friends will turn up. On the other hand, if you are one of their closest friends, getting to the wedding is a royal pain in the arse.
As I write this I'm sitting in a beach hut on the east coast of Africa, having just attended a wedding in Nairobi, surrounded by monkeys. Okay, that may not sound too bad, but you should see these monkeys. They look exactly like the ones in Outbreak that carried the Ebola virus. Admittedly, the actual Ebola outbreak that the film was based on occurred several thousand miles away in Zaire, but these monkeys can really move. They seem to divide their time between darting about in a terrific frenzy and striking a succession of languid poses, like supermodels on crack. One just came within 10 feet of me, bore his teeth and started making an ugly, chattering sound. When I made a movement toward him he turned on his heels and mooned me, revealing an enormous pair of turquoise balls. Something tells me these creatures aren't friendly.
On the face of it, Kenya seems like an odd place to get married, and not just because it's 7000 miles away from New York. Following the antics of the Happy Valley crowd in the 1920s and 1930s, it acquired a reputation for sexual licentiousness that was captured in a famous joke of the time: Are you married or do you live in Kenya? In 1941, the Earl of Errol was found dead by the side of the road a few miles outside Nairobi and the subsequent murder trial of Sir Jock Delves Broughton exposed the hijinks of Kenya's white settlers to the eyes of the world. Lord Errol, the Military Secretary of Kenya, had slept with so many of his friends' wives the list of suspects was by no means confined to Delves Broughton. The jury heard about wild, all-night parties in Kenya's Rift Valley where cocaine and morphine were consumed alongside crates of champagne. It was the O.J. Simpson trial of its day.
Like Simpson, Delves Broughton had a brilliant defense team who hammered away at the forensic evidence and claimed their client was too frail to have committed the murder. In the end, the prosecution couldn't prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt and Delves Broughton was acquitted. There've been several books about the Errol case, including James Fox's White Mischief, which was made into that film starring Charles Dance and Gretta Scacchi. Fox concluded that Delves Broughton was guilty, but this verdict is about to be challenged by a new book written by a local historian, Errol Trzebinski, which is being published next year. Her hypothesis, which is bound to raise a few hackles in the expat community, is that Lord Errol was a Nazi spy assassinated by the British government.
The current generation of white settlers is adamant that they feel no obligation to live up to the legacy of their forebears, but the mythology that's sprung up around Happy Valley inevitably casts a long shadow. At the wedding I heard about something called the Deloraine Hunt Ball, an annual party that takes place at Rongai, 150 miles outside Nairobi. Deloraine House, apparently, is the closest Kenya has to a stately home. At 6 a.m., after drinking all night, the revelers change into their hunting gear and embark on a three-hour drag hunt, complete with a pack of hounds. Of the 50 people who participated this year, approximately 15 fell off their mounts.
The reason the wedding was in Kenya is because the groom, Aidan Hartley, is a white African. His father, Brian, was a colonial officer in East Africa and his sister, Bryony, owns a hotel in Nairobi called Giraffe Manor, where the wedding was held. The ceremony was conducted by a local priest called the Rev. Johnson Mwara. Much to the amusement of the congregation, he made no attempt to adapt what was evidently his stump speech on these occasions. He methodically went through the various causes of marital discord, warning Aidan and his bride to be on their guard against them. In order to illustrate the dangers of adultery he produced an elaborate metaphor that involved coming back to Nairobi from Mombasa by bus and resisting the urge to "snack" before returning to your wife's cooking.
"Why would you eat papaya," asked the Rev Mwara, "when you have antelope waiting for you at home?"
I have to confess, as I sat between two pretty girls at Giraffe Manor, listening to a group of Masai drummers and feasting on zebra and ostrich meat, I didn't regret coming all this way. However, I can't say Aidan felt the same. At the conclusion of the speeches the best man asked if anyone else wanted to say anything and I leapt to my feet and congratulated Aidan on marrying someone so much nicer than his first wife, Maria. I told the story of my last meeting with Maria at a party in Oxford. It was the first time I'd seen her in more than a year and she looked at me with a mixture of pity and contempt.
"What the fuck happened to you?" she asked. "You look like Winston Churchill."
I sat down thinking Aidan would be delighted by this self-deprecating little anecdote, but a few minutes later he took me to one sided and told me I'd very nearly ruined the wedding.
"Why?" I asked.
"Because neither my mother-in-law nor my father-in-law knows about my first wife, you arsehole," he screamed.
"Ah well," I said, "what do they expect? You're a white African. At least you divorced your first wife before marrying your second."
He was not amused.
George Szamuely THE BUNKER
That Was No Lady, That Was the Times "I'm a city boy, and I know enough that when I walk along and I see a dog shitting in the street, not to stop to examine his dung." The words are A.M. Rosenthal's. He is giving his opinion of Max Frankel's recently published memoir, The Times of My Life and My Life with the Times.
Rosenthal was for 17 years the chief editor of The New York Times. Frankel was his immediate successor. He held the job for eight years. In his book, Frankel bitches incessantly about Rosenthal. On top of that, he presents himself as the central figure in the defining moment of contemporary American journalism?the 1971 publication of the Pentagon Papers. Rosenthal dismisses Frankel's claims. "He wrote a good memo on something or other," he says scornfully in the December issue of Vanity Fair. He then goes on to say that his one journalistic regret is that he did not fire Frankel for having missed the Watergate story while he was the paper's Washington bureau chief.
This not exactly fascinating dispute about events that took place almost 30 years ago reveals how much American journalism continues to bask in the mock-heroics of yesteryear. Watergate! The Pentagon Papers! The words never seem to lose their power to thrill. Anyone who was around in 1971 would know that there was never the remotest possibility of the Times losing the Pentagon Papers case in the courts. But even if it had, so what? The Papers?an internal Defense Dept. history of the American involvement in Vietnam?were of no interest to anyone but a handful of scholars. Their publication neither helped nor hindered the U.S. disengagement from Vietnam.
Watergate and the Pentagon Papers were not a defining moment of American journalism. The journalists who came after were pretty much the same as the ones who went before. They were just more full of themselves. Their mission, however, remained the same. They were to mold the American public and make it less unacceptable to its masters. Journalists continued to fawn on power and became, if anything, even more ready to turn themselves into unpaid government spokesmen. Government is good, and public officials are always well-informed.
What was so obnoxious about the post-Watergate journalists was their patent dishonesty. At least James "Scotty" Reston, the Times' legendary Washington bureau chief, never pretended to be an investigative reporter. The Times has always loved authority and hacks have always loved the Times for it. A few years ago a PBS documentary about Reston had the narrator Diane Sawyer declaring that "Scotty had an entire nation paying attention to his words." Note the pleasing image of teacher and pupil!
The trouble is the Times has always been more whore than teacher. Take a few recent examples: A few weeks ago the Times published an excruciatingly long article about last year's bombing of Sudan. This mission, remember, took place just three days after Bill Clinton admitted on national tv that he had been lying for seven months about his relationship with Monica Lewinsky. Instead of a nerve gas factory the U.S. cruise missiles destroyed a pharmaceuticals plant.
Entitled "To Bomb Sudan Plant, or Not: A Year Later, Debates Rankle," the article recounts the debates that allegedly took place behind the scenes just before and just after the bombing.
It was typical New York Times stuff: mind-numbing in its tedium, obsessive in its transmission of trivia and deeply evasive in its basic message. What the Times failed to mention was the paper's role in peddling U.S. government lies. The Times accepted without question the cock-and-bull story about the nerve gas factory and Osama bin Laden's connection with it. Indeed, so eagerly did the Times lend itself to administration manipulation that when the Osama bin Laden story came under serious scrutiny, the Times changed tack. Five days after the bombing, we learned from the Times that the Sudan bombing was not about Osama bin Laden at all. It was really all about our old friend Saddam Hussein. The front page headline said it all: "U.S. Says Iraq Aided Production of Chemical Weapons in Sudan."
We now know what was behind this sudden shift in strategy. Not only were the Clinton administration's explanations for the bombing being ridiculed around the world, we learn from the Times they were under attack from within. The time had come to push another story. "The United States believes that senior Iraqi scientists were helping to produce elements of the nerve agent VX at the factory in the Sudan?" the Times story begins. The new explanation was as weak as the earlier one. Significantly, the Times expressed no skepticism about the two conflicting claims, and did not demand to see evidence for either thesis. Nor did the Times express outrage at the following revelation that appeared a little later in the same story: "The U.S?has rebuffed calls from the Sudan and other countries to turn over its evidence? 'I don't see what the purpose of a fact-finding study would be,' Peter Burleigh, the deputy American representative to the United Nations said."
Remember the bombing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade? In no time at all, the Times, like every other media outlet, was repeating the government line: The bombing was an "accident." Whenever the bombing was mentioned it was always accompanied by the words "accidental" or "mistaken." The Times did not know if the bombing was accidental or not. It was just outraged at the thought that anyone could think ill of the intentions of the U.S. government.
No one at the Times wondered how it was possible that NATO?the greatest military force in the world?could have been using four-year-old paper maps to guide its bombing. No one wondered how it was possible that the U.S. government did not know where the Chinese embassy was located. No one at the Times dreamed of asking the administration to release this ancient "map" so that we could see for ourselves what it was that the U.S. military believed they were targeting when they hit the Chinese embassy.
As far as the Times was concerned, only paranoid Chinese could raise unpleasant questions about the bombing. That Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder was also skeptical, declaring that "the explanation given by NATO?is far from enough and the Chinese government has every reason to demand a comprehensive?investigation into the incident and affix the responsibility for it," did nothing to dent the Times' smug outlook.
Recently, the highly respected liberal newspaper the Observer of London announced that as a result of its investigations, it has concluded that the NATO bombing of the embassy was deliberate. The U.S. had suspected the Chinese of transmitting Yugoslav army communications and also of monitoring cruise missile attacks, thereby helping the Yugoslav government to develop countermeasures against them.
The Times has not even deigned to give these extraordinary charges any coverage. No doubt, when it will cease to be possible to go on saying "accidental" bombing, the Times will be on hand to offer us 6000 unreadable words on all the inane petty infighting that preceded the deliberate bombing of the Chinese embassy.
Last week, Carla del Ponte, chief prosecutor of the U.S.-financed International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, announced that after months of intensive digging in Kosovo, her investigators had exhumed a grand total of 2108 bodies. This was a pathetic total. Of these 2108, moreover, we do not know how many are Albanian and how many are Serb. Of the Albanians we do not know whether they were civilians or KLA fighters. We do not know how they died, or when.
Remember the claims of U.S. Defense Secretary William Cohen and State Dept. spokesman Jamie Rubin that the number of Albanians killed by the marauding Serbs was likely to be around 100,000? Remember the NATO claims just after the end of the bombing that the number was likely to be 10,000? So where did all the bodies go? Del Ponte hastened to reassure her masters that the forensic scientists had only had time to investigate a third of the mass grave sites. This is a crock. One can be pretty sure that the investigators pounced on the most likely mass graves first.
The point is that there was never a scrap of evidence for any of these numbers. They were invented to justify the armed aggression against Yugoslavia. The Times was a fervent advocate of the NATO campaign and it has gone on repeating this 10,000 number even though its absurdity had been apparent from the beginning. To murder 10,000 people over a period of 11 weeks you have to kill at the rate of 140 a day every day. At that rate it is almost impossible to dispose of dead bodies. NATO would have found remains of massacres everywhere. The streets would have been littered with unburied bodies. They were not. Satellites could have photographed scenes of massacres. They did not. Once again, the Times deceived the public. The U.S. government is fortunate to enjoy the services of a whore that it does not even need to pay.
Jim Holt THE TIRED HEDONIST
Skin As we age we get ugly, but some rich people I know are not getting ugly nearly so fast as I seem to be. What could they be doing to retard the process? I asked one friend in his late 30s who has recently made a hundred million or so in fashion. He is both good-looking and vain, so I imagined that he must be availing himself of whatever means money could buy to mitigate the ravages of time. But I was wrong. All he had done, he assured me, was to have some Botox injected in a little wrinkle that had formed between his eyebrows; the wrinkle went away for a while, he added, but then it came back.
The next day I scanned my own face for wrinkles that might be temporarily annihilated with a shot of botox. The most conspicuous one was a line slanting outward from my left eyebrow up to my hairline. I consulted my dermatologist about this. She told me that the wrinkle was probably caused by the fact that I sleep on my left side. "Your face gets folded where you put it on the pillow," she said, and suggested I try sleeping on my back. Then I pointed out another little furrow to the side of my mouth. She blamed this one on the grinning expression I habitually wear. The laugh-line would vanish, she claimed, if I could confine myself to a more demure, Mona Lisa-like look of contentment.
Researching the matter a bit further, I was astonished to discover that 90 percent of all perceived aging of the face comes not from aging in itself, but from exposure to the sun. Were it not for the solar rays, I read, aged faces would be as unwrinkled as aged buttocks.
But can that be right? Is the difference between Mick Jagger's leathery map and the preternaturally smooth visage of David Bowie really just a matter of the differing amounts of time they have spent on the beaches of Mustique? And what about W.H. Auden, possessor of the wrinkliest mug in fact or fiction? After doing Auden's portrait, David Hockney said he couldn't help thinking that if his face looked like that, what must his scrotum look like?
Auden was no sun-worshipper, but he was a heavy smoker, and that might have had something to do with the peculiar topology of his face. A study done in 1995 showed that smokers were two to three times more likely than nonsmokers to have moderate or severe wrinkles. It is known that a chemical in tobacco smoke damages the collagen and elastin in the lungs, so the stuff may well have the same impact on the skin.
Happily, I find that the temptation to smoke is almost always resistible unless I am in a nightclub milieu, where the boredom would simply be unutterable without the diversion of cigarettes. Chronic nightclub habitues always look shockingly old and decrepit when you chance to run into them in broad daylight, with lizardy skin, bright green teeth and great bags of necrotic flesh hanging from their eyes. Smoke, booze and lack of sleep are obviously to blame, and I should have thought drugs too, but Diana Vreeland used to insist that drugs were actually good for the epidermis. Of course Edie Sedgwick had beautiful skin, Vreeland said?drug-users always do! This is nonsense, certainly, but one durst not contradict the Empress.
In especially grave cases of nightclub-face, a trip to Georgette Klinger's salon on Madison Ave. might be called for. There the nice ladies will enthusiastically knead and pinch and anoint and scruff your face until the glow of youth is restored. After your facial is complete, it is customary to buy several hundred dollars' worth of skin-care products and then walk up to 60th St. for a late lunch at Serendipity?where, if memory serves, you will find no trace of spinach or cantaloupe on the menu, both being forbidden by Miss Klinger as dermatologically insalubrious. That evening you will look like a million dollars. The next morning you will look, once again, like the wrath of God.
"Every man over 40 is responsible for his face," said Abraham Lincoln. "At 50, everyone has the face he deserves," echoed George Orwell. Lincoln and Orwell were both moral paragons; yet their own faces, while no doubt oozing nobility and integrity, looked as though they had worn out several bodies. It may be true that one's character is ultimately written in the contours of one's face, but wrinkles befall the just and the unjust alike, and the mask of the saint is every bit as hard as the mask of the sinner. So forget about virtue and try to stay out of the sun.
John O'Sullivan TRAVELING LIGHT
God Saved the Queen Strange though it may seem, there was much wailing and gnashing of teeth in establishment circles at the result of the recent Australian referendum in which God and the voters saved the Queen from being deposed as Australia's head of state in favor of an Australian republic with a commoner president.
"Saved" indeed is a laconic Australian understatement. It was a right royal victory for Her Majesty.
The Aussie republicans needed not only a popular majority across the whole of Australia but also separate majorities in four of the six Australian states. In the event they were trounced 55-45 nationally, and lost in all six states. In three of the states the monarchists even managed to ratchet up landslides of 58 percent and above. Most significant of all, the only constituency that voted massively for an Australian republic was Canberra?the nation's artificial capital?which is inhabited almost entirely by politicians, civil servants and lobbyists: the establishment.
And that explains all. Republicanism is not a great popular cause in Australia; it is an establishment obsession. The people who wanted to ditch the Queen were not unknown sheep farmers and Foster's-drinking larrikins, but media magnate Rupert Murdoch, novelist Thomas Keneally, top Queens Counsel Malcolm Turnbull, former Prime Minister Bob Hawke and almost every pundit who ever put spade to paper. And so determined were they to win the referendum that they carried on spinning even after they had lost it. In effect, the headline in every paper was: "Queen Wins?But Loses Really."
Reports and commentaries had an underlying note of patrician outrage that rich and well-educated urban people had been outvoted by...well, by peasants and blue-collar workers. It was hinted, none too delicately, that such an unreasonable state of affairs could hardly be permanent. Republicans would be back shortly, and they would win next time. Definitely. A sure thing. Bet the Outback on it.
This whingeing bias affected the foreign press quite as much as the native Aussie papers. Rupert Murdoch's London Sunday Times declared in a banner headline that the Queen was "hurt" by the strength of republican feeling in Oz. Exactly how did the ST hack know that the Queen's feelings were hurt, wondered Mark Steyn slyly in Canada's National Post. After all, the Queen had said nothing to Steyn about the referendum when he dined at Buck House the night before the vote, even though he kept drawing the conversation around to Australia with apparently careless subtlety.
But my favorite example of this wishful reporting appeared under the byline of Seth Mydans in The New York Times. Mydans quoted both a pro-monarchist, proud of his British convict origins, and a young Asian republican. Mydans tells us that the monarchist represented "Australia's fading traditions" and the republican "the millions of Asians who are changing the nation's demographic face."
I would be more impressed by Mr. Mydans' ability to forecast the future if he had a better grasp of the present. There are 850,000 Asian immigrants in Australia, most of whom arrived in the last 20 years, and the largest single group of immigrants is Brits who, in Mydans' terms, stabilize rather than change Australia's demographic face.
So what did happen? And why? This vote was, above all, a suspicious rejection of Australia's political establishment. The republic on offer was seen as a "politicians' republic" under the control of the dangerous Canberra mafia. It would have placed enormous power in the hands of the prime minister, including the right to dismiss the president?which is a little like allowing a Wimbledon finalist to dismiss the umpire if he dislikes the calls. John Howard, the canny monarchist prime minister, sensed that this overweening centralization of power would damage the republic's cause. But the republicans signed off on it too. They cannot now claim they always knew it was a doomed proposal.
The result also reflected the constitutional conservatism of most Australians. Opinion polls showed that 45 percent of voters wanted to keep "the status quo" and nine percent "the monarchy." Since the monarchy is the status quo, that suggests a settled conservative disposition in the electorate.
Those who want to revive republicanism, therefore, face a dilemma. In order to soothe the voters' distrust of Canberra and of a "politicians' republic," they would have to propose a popularly elected president on the U.S. model?as they apparently intend to do. But such a powerful presidency would mean the wholesale rejigging of Australia's parliamentary democracy and so would likely run afoul of the voters' constitutional nervousness.
Australians have voted Yes in only eight of the 43 constitutional referenda put to them this century. Since three out of six states had monarchist majorities of 58 percent or more this time, it is very far from certain that another referendum proposing a different sort of presidency would win majorities in the necessary four states. And besides, a different sort of presidency would elicit objections on different grounds.
Look, too, at which voters defeated both reforms. The largest votes against them were cast in the political heartland of the Australian Labor Party?even though Labor is the conscious standard-bearer of both republicanism and multiculturalism Down Under?and in the rural areas that support the more traditional members of John Howard's conservative coalition. Among blue-collar workers, middle-class housewives and rural farm-workers, loyalty to Australia's traditional institutions (including the Queen) remains strong.
It is the rich, like Rupert Murdoch, who are footlose constitutional radicals. Money, power and ambition naturally dislike having to curtsy to tradition. It is a reminder that some things must always be beyond their grasp. Maybe, however, the new Vanity Fair establishment should ponder the consequences of overturning national loyalties and constitutional traditions (which include, of course, America's longstanding and genuine tradition of republican government.)
Throughout the advanced world, formerly socialist blue-collar workers and once-conservative middle-class constituencies have been turning toward extreme nationalist parties like Austria's Freedom Party and France's National Front. Even The New York Times noticed this phenomenon in a recent editorial?though it had no clue why, or what to do about it.
The reason is that political parties on the left and right talk almost exclusively in the same dry economic language about the market economy and globalization. They have forgotten the language of patriotism, national pride and constitutional tradition. They have indeed already transferred half their allegiance from national to remote supranational institutions that the voters often dislike. And they are surprised and offended when the voters rebel and demand the sense of national community that they used to have but that the politicians have been persuaded is "xenophobic" or "nativist."
If the pols continue to resist, of course, they eventually get real xenophobia and nationalism. In Australia last week voters could still pull the lever for a civilized traditionalism?in Austria their only choice is Jorg Haider.
Sam Schulman HAMLET
Bloody World Government Perpetual peace. That's the dream that world-government enthusiasts hold out for us. And they are in the ascendant right now: Oddly, our national security is being overlooked by Strobe Talbott, who yearns for a time when "nationhood as we know it will be obsolete: all states will recognize a single, global authority." We're forced to listen to a chorus of lectures on world government by the likes of noisy selective moralists Bill Clinton and Tony Blair and pushy leaders of supranational organizations like the UN and the EU.
The song is the same: The only decent thing for a national government to do is to surrender their citizens' rights to some distant and unelected authority. What's curious is that, by a quirk of fate, we have the opportunity to examine the kind of world peace under which most people would have to live, were Talbott, Blair, Annan and the Eurocrats to get their way. If you squint, you'll see what "peace" under a world government would be like.
Here are some of its features, now and in the future:
1. The unchecked violent rule of local warlords within their own sphere. Today's versions are Russia, China and Iraq. A power, if big enough, but not too big, is easier for a central authority to appease than to overcome. So if these warlord states can persuade the central governments that they only want to control their own territory, then they will be left alone to do as they like to their citizens and smaller neighbors. So today Russia today is able to act out its version of the NATO bombing of Yugoslavia in Chechnya, and no one really objects.
2. The appeasement of terrorism as long as the capital is safe. In Northern Ireland and Israel, the "world government" stand-ins are pushing settlements on civilian populations that put them in harm's way and destroy their individual security. It is arguable in both cases (though I think it is a catastrophically bad argument) that compromising and sharing power with terrorists is a good idea. But conviction on the subject is not why the great powers are pushing it. They push it because they have no vested interest in the security of people who are politically and militarily insignificant to them. Tony Blair can rule without Northern Ireland as part of the UK; Israel has always been a nuisance to U.S. foreign and economic policy.
3. Highly selective enforcement of the "rules," abetted by an obedient opinionmaking establishment. The "world government" today operates as a real world government would: imposing its rules on its weaker enemies, but looking the other way when it is convenient to do so, as in Russia. In the meantime, it has hardly been reported, but NATO's war against Yugoslavia has just lost its final justification. The problem is stark?a dramatic shortage of Serb atrocities. The forensic pathologist leading the Spanish atrocity-hunting team has gone home in disgust. He had been told to expect to find about 2000 bodies in his bailiwick; he found only 187. Dr. Pujol told the London's Sunday Times, "I calculate that the final figure of dead in Kosovo will be 2,500 at the most. This includes lots of strange deaths that can't be blamed on anybody in particular."
But a world government is never called to account.
Another example is the bombing of the almost certainly innocuous chemical plant in Sudan. The New York Times revealed that no one in the administration ever seriously believed that the factory was a terrorist operation. But it doesn't matter. On the other hand, remember the desperately abject nature of Clinton's apologies for the "mistaken" bombing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade. The difference? Sudan is nugatory, but China is a warlord state, toward which we must elaborately interpret "the rules" in its favor.
Strobe Talbott hailed the European Union last month in London: It "not only gave Europe its first stateless currency since the days of the Roman Empire but also helped bring into being a concert of liberal democracies, in some ways the first, and certainly the most advanced in history." His reference to Rome is correct. Under the world government envisioned by the enthusiasts in Washington, London, Turtle Bay and Brussels, how we would live would resemble quite a bit how Roman citizens had to live under their empire. Here's some advice: make sure you live close to where a legion is stationed. Otherwise, life will be a bloody, contingent and lonely business. You'll live with no access to those who rule you; and no reliable guide to conduct or protection from authority.
Peace? Yes. It will be a peace based on a happy coexistence between two forces equally opposed to you: bureaucrats answerable only to "Rome," and local bullies or terrorists who have a gun big enough to push you around, but small enough not to pose a threat to global authority.