The Long View: Bhutto Assassination; the Speech & Silence of Hillary Clinton; Catholic England; Spelling Upgrade

Benazir Bhutto

Benazir Bhutto

With hindsight, it would appear that Mark Steyn’s comment, quoted here by John J. Reilly, that the prime ministership of Benazir Bhutto was an anachronism was entirely accurate. The secular, liberal movements that her family represented were the dream of the mid-twentieth century West, but the rest of the world has clearly felt otherwise.

Bhutto Assassination; the Speech & Silence of Hillary Clinton; Catholic England; Spelling Upgrade

Of the dead, we should say nothing but good. At any rate, we should say nothing but good on the day they die, which seems to have been Mark Steyn's policy when he spoke on the Hugh Hewitt show yesterday about the assassination of Benazir Bhutto. Nonetheless, he did contrive to suggest, ever so tactfully, that she had been a distracting anachronism

[I] think Benazir Bhutto represented, in a sense, the embers of the Pakistan that Mohammed Ali Jinnah, the country’s founder, wanted to build, which was a country with a Muslim population that generally speaking operated to a secular, socialist, Westernized tradition... her father was prime minister of Pakistan, not a good prime minister. Benazir Bhutto’s second term was certainly more successful than that. But the idea that this modern, Westernized, glamorous woman would be the solution to Pakistan’s problems in 2007 was a delusion of the State Department, and its logical consequence was her murder...

[Pakistan] developed as the complete opposite of India. India is pluralist, secular, progressive, modern, and Pakistan, instead, has regressed with each generation to the point now where as Stanley [Kurtz] points out, what were hitherto relatively modern cities, are now taking on the characteristics of the sort of tribal cave lands, as it were, in their political character.

Actually, she had enough support to win a future election that was not too badly rigged. Then it would have been likely that she would have led a patronage-and-revenge-driven government that would have failed, but failed after (as Mark Steyn speculated) the military had become less competent and less able to pick up the pieces.

The assassination was a September 11 event in this way, perhaps: It is important not because it changed the situation, but because it revealed how bad the situation already was.

* * *

The assassination was also like September 11 in that it caused a large slice of the American commentariat to say that the "Holiday from History" in which the presidential campaign has been so far conducted has come to an end. Apparently, Peggy Noonan's Friday column at Opinion Journal was submitted before the assassination, but it happens to address the event rather well.

America needs, she says, a "reasonable" candidate who has the executive experience and defense-policy expertise to be a plausible leader in the event of an emergency. She finds that most of the major candidates from both parties meet her minimum criteria; but not, alas, all of them:

My central problem is that the next American president will very likely face another big bad thing, a terrible day, or days, and in that time it will be crucial--crucial-- that our nation be led by a man or woman who can be, at least for the moment and at least in general, trusted. Mrs. Clinton is the most dramatically polarizing, the most instinctively distrusted, political figure of my lifetime. Yes, I include Nixon.

And how did Hillary Clinton actually respond to the assassination?

Hillary Clinton is calling for an independent, international investigation into Benazir Bhutto’s assassination, suggesting that Pakistani security forces or military might have been involved...“We cannot expect to move toward stability without some reckoning of who was responsible,” Clinton said, listing off Al Qaeda or other extremists, or more ominously, internal forces, as possible culprits.

May I suggest that taking steps that cast doubt on the legitimacy, such as it is, of the existing Pakistani regime is an example of defective mentation?

* * *

Lately, of course, Senator Clinton has been trying to avoid making comments like this, or indeed any substantive comments at all by adopting a "don't ask" policy:

As she races through Iowa in the days before next week's caucuses, Hillary Clinton is taking few chances. She tells crowds that it’s their turn to “pick a president,’’ but over the last two days she has not invited them to ask her any questions.

I wholly sympathize with this strategy. There is nothing more annoying to someone in a representative capacity than to have to explain and re-explain perfectly obvious measures to rabbles of ignorant and whining constituents. When silence is not an option, however, I would suggest the tack taken by Anthony Henley, Member for Southampton of the conspicuously unreformed 18th-century British Parliament, in this letter of 1734 to some constituents who complained about the excise tax system:


I received yours and I am surprised at your insolence in troubling me about the excise. You know what I very well know, that I bought you. And I know well what perhaps you think I don’t know, that you are now selling yourselves to somebody else. And I know something you don’t know, that I am buying another borough. May God’s curse light on you all. May your houses be as open and as common to all excise officers as your wives and daughters were to me when I stood for your scoundrel corporation [as a candidate for Parliament].

I found that in Walter Russell Mead's latest book, God and Gold: Britain, America, and the Making of the Modern World. Yes, there should be a review soon.

* * *

Regarding British constituencies, the Telegraph reports that, in some ways, England has become a Catholic country:

Roman Catholics have overtaken Anglicans as the country's dominant religious group...The statistics show that attendance at Anglican Sunday services has dropped by 20 per cent since 2000. ....More people attend Mass every Sunday than worship with the Church of England, figures seen by The Sunday Telegraph show...the number of people going to Sunday Mass in England last year averaged 861,000, compared with 852,000 Anglicans ­worshipping....The rise of Catholicism has been bolstered by an influx of immigrants from eastern Europe and Africa...Attendance at Mass in 1991 was recorded as 1.3 million, a drop of 40 per cent since 1963. But over the past six years it has fallen by only 13 per cent, with the rate of decline slowed by immigrants from Catholic countries.

Talk about a Pyrrhic victory.

* * *

The Board of the American Literacy Council had its regular annual meeting yesterday. There was much shouted conversation for about an hour. The shouting had less to do with the intensity of the debate than the fact we were making a conference call with participants from Denver to Prague, and the quality of the individual connections varied. Anyway, there seemed to be a consensus that neither C nor K should be abolished. I am holding out for saving Q, but that looks less hopeful.

Copyright © 2007 by John J. Reilly

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