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June 25, 2023 – I last posted on May 27, 2023. Partly because I just got back from four days last week on a family stay-cation down in Panama City Beach. (21st floor, Ocean Ritz, very limited parking.) Which was fun, but marred by high winds, high waves and rip tides. For example:
(Panama City Beach has ticketed more than 70 for ignoring beach warnings. Or – if you don’t subscribe to the News-Herald – Men reportedly ignore Panama City Beach red flags: 1 in hospital, the other in jail. I know. I was there.)
But now I’m back home and need a post, quick.
Just my luck, I ran across a copy of George Will‘s 2002 book, With a Happy Eye, But… (Published just after the 9/11 attacks.) I don’t agree with all of George’s politics, but he’s enough of a loose cannon to suit me. For example, one reviewer called him a contrarian, and on November 8, 2016 – another day that may “live in infamy” – I posted Donald Trump made me a Contrarian.
Then too, he’s a Conservative With a Conscience. (These days an endangered species.) His conscience led Will to Confirm Nixon’s Treason. (Nixon scuttled the Paris Peace Talks, designed to end the war in Vietnam. He used secret information passed on from President Johnson, to make sure he – Nixon – got elected in 1968. If the talks had succeeded before the election, Nixon would have lost.)
Will also went head to head with fellow conservatives George W. Bush and – most recently – Donald Trump. (See Enemy of enemy is friend.) But mostly I admire his column-writing.
I fancy myself a columnist, or what columnists have become in this age of weblogs. And About the blog (above) tells about how I remembered some advice George gave years ago: “As I recall,” I wrote, Will “defined a columnist as a writer with three seductive skills: ‘be pleasurable, be concise, and be gifted at changing the subject frequently.'” A side note: I’ve learned to change the subject so frequently that my family says my writing “goes all over the place.” To which I can only respond, “Have you read the Book of Isaiah? That guy ‘goes all over the place!'”
Still, I’m trying to improve my column-writing Unity and Coherence, so back to Happy Eye, But. (The rest of the title: America and the World, 1997–2002.) George published this collection of columns just after the 9/11 attacks. His aim was to show that despite the terror attacks, Americans could look to the future with hope, quoting W.H. Auden‘s poem The Horatians:
We can only
do what seems to us we were made for, look at
this world with a happy eye
but from a sober perspective.
The line-spacing may seem strange – it looked even stranger in Will’s book – but that’s the best I could do. Back to the book: After starting to read it, on a lark I looked up “Trump” in the Index. I only found one reference, on page 257, as part of Will’s May 1998 column, “In Need of Another Moses.” The Other Moses was Robert Moses, “American urban planner and public official who worked in the New York metropolitan area during the early to mid 20th century.” The Need had to so with Governors Island, in New York Harbor, some 800 yards south of Manhattan. Will wondered why this “perfectly good island” was going to waste.
He reviewed the island’s history – including that “George Patton played polo there” – and wondered why no one, including the federal government, wanted to own and improve it:
It is passing strange that a congested city with a shortage of housing, green space, and Revolutionary War landmarks cannot find a moneymaking use for an island that is going to waste within hailing distance of the capital of money-making, Wall Street.
Which brings back the one-page reference to “The Donald,” in 367 total pages. (When was the last time we saw that ratio?) On why buyers were scarce, “‘Ferries don’t work,’ says developer Donald Trump.” (He cited the “long struggle toward profitability of Fisher Island in Miami.”)
Trump added that in 1998 Americans were “too antsy to wait on even good ferry service,” and said that even Staten Island didn’t prosper until the ferry-to-Manhattan service “was supplemented by the Verrazzano Narrows Bridge.” Then there was the general business rule of thumb – as he tweaked it – for projects with potential high yields but also high risks. That rule normally: The first investor will go broke, while the “second guy in will make money.” As adjusted in the 1998 Trump-tweak, in the case of Governor’s Island, “The third guy in will make money.”
A big problem, he says, is the government is chock full of blocking mechanisms. Environmentalists are particularly nimble at litigating development to a money-eating standstill.
And some side notes. I used Governor’s Island as a secondary objective in June, 2022, when I tried to kayak across New York Harbor, from Statue of Liberty park to Manhattan. (My visit to The Big Apple – June 2022.) And in September 2016 I kayaked across the Verrazzano Narrows from Staten Island to Brooklyn. (Looking back on “the summer of ’16,” and links therein.) Fortunately the tide was just right in September 2016. It neither swept me back into New York Harbor nor swept me out to sea, past Sandy Hook. I didn’t have that luck in June 2022. After an hour’s paddling I got no closer to either Manhattan or Governor’s Island, so I turned back.
But we were talking about looking to the future with both a “happy eye” and sober perspective. Which brings up Donald Trump and his possibly getting a second term on Election Day – 2024. (November 5.) And the fact that to many, the thought of such a second term would be a true nightmare, illustrated below. Thus the question: “Will we still be able to look to the future with a Happy Eye – even if Trump gets elected to a second term in 2024?”
I reflected on such a second term in “Why it might be better…” (Gasp!) That was in August 2019, well before the 2020 election. (I worried a lot, even that long before Election Day.) I thought it might not be too bad, for reasons including that he’d immediately become a political lame duck, and that such lame-duck presidents both lose power but often become more concerned with their legacy. (Like President Reagan signing an arms control treaty with Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev during his second term, despite opposing such a treaty in his first term.)
I also asked, “Wouldn’t it be better to get it over with? To get rid of Trump once and for all, in 2024?” (Rather than having these two, three or four years of suspense, wondering if there will really be that many stupid Americans? And who knows how he’d handle the crises Biden faced, or what might have happened otherwise.) But on whether we can look to the future with Happy Eye if he does get that second term: Here’s hoping we never get the chance to find out…
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See the Amazon version of Will’s book at With a Happy Eye, but…: America and the World, 1997–2002. It’s review began: “The Pulitzer Prize-winning author and Newsweek columnist takes on the presidents Bush, Mr. and Mrs. Clinton, Y2K, 9/11, trickle-down economics, Brooks Brothers suits, the essence of golf, and of course, those damn Yankees.” (Will is a Chicago Cubs fan. On that note he once wrote, in 2001, “It has taken me sixty years to identify the three keys to a happy life… A flourishing family, hearty friends, and a strong bullpen.”)
As noted above, I like his column-writing style, but see WITH A HAPPY EYE BUT… by George F. Will | Kirkus Reviews. It ended: “The gold standard among conservative columnists remains William F. Buckley Jr., who can be enjoyed as literature even if you don’t agree with him; the same cannot be said of Will.” (To which I say, “I beg to differ.”) Also, this review pegged Will as a Contrarian, as in: “Will, however, has always been better as a contrarian than an insider.”
Also re my being a Contrarian. My full post title, ‘Mi Dulce’ – and Donald Trump – made me a Contrarian (or actually an Independent). I dated and/or kept up with “Mi Dulce” for ten years, from 2013 on. But in quite a surprise, she died this past year. (I figured she’d hang around way longer.) I never knew her age, but it turns out she was 76. I turn 72 in July, so “76” is not that far away. See also Another “deja vu all over again?” Also, Re: Nixon’s treason, see “Point of order,” Pat Buchanan.
About Will’s going head to head with fellow conservatives. From Wikipedia, “In later years, he became known for his prominent criticism of Republican politicians, including Sarah Palin, Newt Gingrich, and Donald Trump. Will’s disapproval of Trump’s presidential campaign led him to become an independent in 2016, and he subsequently voted for Joe Biden in 2020.”
Re: Whose ox is gored. The link is to It all depends on whose ox is gored – The Jerusalem Post. See also The Goring Ox | Wisdom-Laws: A Study, which began, “The goring ox must count as the most celebrated animal in legal history.” Referring to Exodus 21:28-29.
The lower image is courtesy of The Nightmare – Wikipedia. “‘The Nightmare‘ is a 1781 oil painting by Swiss artist Henry Fuseli. It shows a woman in deep sleep with her arms thrown below her, and with a demonic and ape-like incubus crouched on her chest.”
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