Same old tone
Everybody was a winner: Nancy Pelosi won the minority leadership easily and overwhelmingly; Harold Ford Jr. got the publicity he set out to collect; and the Republicans acquired a tempting target for their endless culture war. (My own view of the party leadership changes can be found here.)
It should be obvious that "San Francisco Democrat" -- first uttered by Jeane Kirkpatrick in her keynote address to the 1984 GOP convention in Dallas -- is unsubtle conservative code for gay-bashing. It is reminiscent of the insinuations deployed several years ago by Republican staffers against another Democratic leader, Tom Foley.
So is this kind of veiled bigotry what Republicans mean when they boast about "changing the tone"?
No doubt they would insist that they're just defending "family values." As a mother and grandmother married to the same gentleman for 39 years, Pelosi can compare her family values with those of anyone on the other side of the aisle. By that measure, she looks considerably more wholesome than a couple of Speaker Hastert's most recent predecessors.
She grew up in Baltimore's Little Italy and thus, unless I am mistaken, also has the honor of being the first Italian-American to serve as the leader of either party in the House or Senate. That's another milestone worth celebrating -- but we should also anticipate Tom DeLay's first "Sopranos" joke, as he and his colleagues continue their earnest efforts to encourage bipartisanship.
"Mrs. Miniver" -- the remake
Christopher Hitchens took umbrage at my mention of "armchair hawks" with reference to Andrew Sullivan and him. He raises a billow of pompous smoke about this and that, but the very personal heart of his argument deserves quotation in full, particularly because there aren't a lot of laughs in the war on terrorism:
"The whole point of the present phase of conflict is that we are faced with tactics that are directed primarily at civilians. Thus, while I was traveling last year in Pakistan, on the Afghan border and in Kashmir, and this year in the gulf, my wife was fighting her way across D.C., with the Pentagon in flames, to try and collect our daughter from a suddenly closed school, was attempting to deal with anthrax in our mailbox, was reading up on the pros and cons of smallpox vaccinations, and was coping with the consequences of a Muslim copycat loony who'd tried his hand as a suburban sniper. Should things ever become any hotter, it would be far safer to be in uniform in Doha, Qatar, or Kandahar, Afghanistan, than to be in an open homeland city. It is amazing that this essential element of the crisis should have taken so long to sink into certain skulls."
At first I wasn't sure whether to take this seriously. (It reads a lot like Neal Pollack.) But apparently it's all true.
I must have missed reports that the anthrax attack was directed at the Hitchens minage as well as Tom Daschle's office. They're courageously soldiering on, so please don't worry. Someone who knows Mrs. Hitchens remarked in an e-mail yesterday that when last seen, "she was busy redecorating their apartment, and seemed rather unfazed by the terrorist threat."
[8:32 a.m. PST, Nov. 15, 2002]