In The News

Paul Greenberg
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Posted: Sep 21, 2007 12:01 AM
In The News

Felipe Calderon, the Mexican president, played to the nationalistic galleries in his own State of the Union address the other day- even though he was prevented from delivering it directly to his county's Congress. (He's the second consecutive president of Mexico to be denied that privilege by an obstreperous opposition.) Senor Calderon had to settle foran invitation-only event at the National Palace to attack the gringos'daring to enforce their immigration laws. In a particularly unfortunate phrase, he warned: "Mexico does not end at its borders."

You can imagine the political hay that immigration-bashers will make of that assertion; it'll confirm all their overblown fears about a Mexican Reconquista. Thanks, Senor Presidente. We don't have enough hysteria in this country about a Hispanic invasion.

Think of the reaction in Mexico if our president were to proclaim, "The United States does not end at its borders." How long before he would be denounced as a yanqui imperialist - 30 seconds at most?

No doubt a great nation's influence and responsibilities does not end at its borders. (Which is why every American who gets himself in a jam in a foreign country heads straight for the U.S. Embassy.) But there are more tactful ways to talk about a country's responsibilities abroad than declaring its borders expandable.

 

Pete Seeger, the legendary American folk singer and fellow traveler, has finally come around. The 88-year-old icon of American folk music was reacting to a critical article in the New York Sun by Ron Radosh, who's made a career of pointing out the comsymp aspects of the American left during the Cold War. This time Radosh noted Pete Seeger's long, long silence about Stalin's crimes. And Seeger responded by writing his first-ever anti-Stalin ditty. Hooray! Better half a century late than never.

The song is called "The Big Joe Blues," and it's done in Woody Guthrie style complete with yodel. ("I got the Big Joe Blew-ewew-ew-ews.") At last, an instant folk song that every honest, red-white-and-blue conservative, that is, true American liberal, can sing along with. ("I'm singin' about old Joe, cruel Joe/ He ruled with an iron hand/ He put an end to the dreams/ of so many in every land.")

Imagine: an anti-Stalinist ballad written and composed by Pete Seeger, the very epitome of the whole political species that Comrade Lenin once summed up as Useful Idiots.

Here's the moral of this story: Never give up on anybody, even fellow travelers.

 

Adolf Hitler made the news posthumously when his stash of gramophone records turned up in the attic of a former Soviet intelligence officer; he'd found them in the Reich chancellery when Berlin fell in May1945 and "liberated" them.

The most striking aspect of the collection is that Nazi Germany's great Wagner fan, champion of Pure Aryan music, had had the good taste to collect some of the finest recordings made by Jewish musicians, including performances by pianist Artur Schnabel, whose mother was killed by the Nazis, and violinist Bronislaw Huberman, who founded the Palestine Orchestra, forerunner of the Israel Philharmonic, in 1936.

There's doubtless an ideologically acceptable explanation. Maybe Der Fuehrerwas planning another of his exhibits of Decadent Art. There was one that featured works of Jewish painters; its contents are now highly prized by collectors.

 

Patrick Leahy, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, says he needs to question Alberto Gonzales about the kind of advice the attorney general, now on his way out of office, gave George W. Bush.

So much for the constitutional separation of powers. If Congress could learn all the confidences of the executive branch, who would risk giving the president candid advice? Which may be why just about every president - going all the way back to George Washington and the foofaraw over Jay's Treaty - has fought congressional attempts to monitor presidential communications.

Imagine the ruckus that would erupt, and rightly so, if the White House suggested that it be allowed access to Senator Leahy's strategy sessions with his aides - or even with his fellow Democratic senators as they cook up these power grabs.

If a president or his advisers could be compelled to testify about their conversations, the constitutional separation of powers "would be shattered, and the president, contrary to the fundamental theories of constitutional government, would become a mere arm of the legislative branch of the government (for) he would feel during his term of office that his every act might be subject to official inquiry and possible distortion for political purposes." - Harry S Truman, rejecting a subpoena from the House Committeeon Un-American activities, November 1953.