End of the cruise

National Review’s 2008 post election Caribbean cruise ended yesterday when the ship returned to Fort Lauderdale. I gladly accepted NR’s gracious invitation to join the cruise as a speaker and had a ball with my wife and oldest daughter. At the conclusion of the cruise, NR announced its 2009 cruise. Here are a few notes on the Caribbean cruise, in no particular order.

1. NR attracted an all-time high of approximately 715 passengers for the cruise. As the passenger list grew, NR added speakers to join the NR regulars and stars initially announced for the cruise. I understand that the greatest attractions among the added speakers were Governor Mitt Romney and Senator Fred Thompson. Both Governor Romney and Senator Thompson made outstanding contributions to the panels on which they appeared.

2. I believe it was Kathryn Lopez who alluded during one of the panels to a CNN story on the cruise. According to CNN, Governor Romney was “schmoozing influential party insiders on the National Review’s annual cruise.” I am not aware of any party insiders on the cruise. I did see Governor Romney “schmoozing” with the many NR passengers who sought him out; he freely made himself available to speak and pose for photographs with passengers at NR’s cocktail parties.

3. NR rotated passengers among the dinner tables to which the guest speakers were assigned. At dinner each evening my wife and I held down the fort at Table 95, so we had the opportunity to meet a good cross section of the NR passengers. They were as nice as they were well-informed, and they were incredibly nice.

4. Many of the passengers were repeat customers. I believe one of the ladies who joined us was making her tenth NR cruise. The speakers and panels are of course the principal attraction. Moderated by NR regulars such as K-Lo and John Miller, who asked good questions and got out of the way, the panels were outstanding. One of the best was the final panel on assessing the Bush administration, featuring John O’Sullivan, Bill McGurn, Shannen Coffin, Senator Thompson, Pat Toomey, Mona Charen, Ed Whelan, and Deroy Murdock. As you might expect, the assessment was mixed.

5. On that final panel Deroy Murdock argued that Bush is “our Carter.” For an extended taste of Deroy’s remarks on the final panel, see his column arguing that “What the Republican Party badly needs is a Night of the Long Knives.” Bill McGurn was President Bush’s chief speechwriter. He made a heartfelt defense of President Bush, testifying to his affection and admiration for him.

6. The speakers included conservative stars such as Mark Steyn, Victor Davis Hanson, Jonah Goldberg, Andrew McCarthy, Byron York and Bernard Lewis. It’s a hard working group. Among the columns that appear to have been written on the cruise are Professor Hanson’s “The same old change,” McCarthy’s “Obama and Gitmo” and Goldberg’s “Keep right.” During the cruise Jonah’s unfortunately timely book Liberal Fascism went into its thirteenth printing.

7. Byron York disembarked early in order to head out to the Republican Governors Association. From the RGA Byron has provided an update on Sarah Palin.

8. At age 92, Professor Lewis isn’t exactly slowing down either. His new book on Islam (co-authored with Buntzie Churchill) was just published a few months ago.

9. Jay Nordlinger stepped down as NR’s managing editor this year, though he is staying on as a senior editor. Jay is a NR cruise regular and a deservedly beloved figure among the NR cruisers. Had he been on the “assessing Bush” panel, incidentally, he would eloquently have defended President Bush as a great man (as he did on another of the panels). Sitting with Jay at lunch was a little bit like going out to dinner with an esteemed priest or rabbi. It seemed that everyone wanted to say hello and express his or her regards to him.

10. Jay too was working hard while on the cruise. His column “Bitterfest ’08” takes a look back at the election. Jay prefaces his column with a point he reiterated to me on Friday night:

I wrote about the election for months and even years. I particularly wrote about the consequences — bad — of an Obama victory. What am I supposed to do now? Say, “Just kidding”? “It won’t be as bad as all that”? “Never mind”? I’m afraid I can’t be as blasé, or chipper, as some other conservatives. I have an anxious feeling, and long have.

The whole thing deserves your attention.

11. Meeting Andrew McCarthy was a highlight of the cruise for me. Andy is the former Assistant United States Attorney who prosecuted the Blind Sheikh et al. for seditious conspiracy in the aftermath of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. Andy’s memoir Willful Blindness is one of the most important books of this year. The only review that in my view really does justice to the skillful narrative Andy weaves in the book is Tom Joscelyn’s “Are we serious?” in the Weekly Standard. Andy also reminded me of Hugh Hewitt’s superb interview of Andy for C-SPAN 2’s After Words program. The interview is accessible here.

12. John O’Sulilvan joined us in mid-cruise. O’Sullivan is the eminent journalist and former speechwriter for Margaret Thatcher as well as the author of The President, the Pope and the Prime Minister (a book which I recommend highly). At the panel assessing Iraq, Iran and the Middle East, O’Sullivan announced: “I must say, I think Sarah Palin is absolutely marvelous.” I was afraid that the raucous response he elicited would capsize the ship. He elaborates on his related thoughts in the column “A future for U.S. conservatives,” where he saves a racy prediction for the last line. Ah, the uses of praeteritio!

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