Notes & asides

I’m struggling with a painful condition that has not yet been subdued by medication. The condition is disrupting my sleep and the medication is suppressing my energy. (I should add that my painful condition is only painful. It does not have any other physical effect.)

Borrowing the heading from the old National Review Notes & Asides column in which William F. Buckley responded to letters from readers — he compiled a selection in Cancel Your Own Goddam Subscription — I want to offer a few desultory (I’m alluding to Buckley) notes and invite readers to comment on- or off-topic.

• Talking about Thomas Hardy’s great novel Tess of the d’Urbervilles with one of my best friends, my friend asked me what I thought about Hardy’s use of coincidence (it drives the plot). “I think it’s unrealistic,” I said. “What do you think?”

“It’s realistic,” he said.

My friend was entirely right…

• If I hadn’t had the good fortune to attend Dartmouth and happen onto Jeffrey’s Hart’s course on the so-called Augustan Age in English literature, I might still be a brain-dead lefty. That I happened onto his class was all coincidence (and luck).

• Professor Hart died on February 16 in Fairlee, Vermont. I expressed my gratitude to Professor Hart in “Jeffrey Hart: An appreciation,” based on the original draft of my contribution to NR’s 1997 tribute by WFB and Professor Hart’s former students in “Jeffrey Hart: A teacher celebrated.” NR has now placed its 1997 tribute to Professor Hart online. It leads off with Peter Robinson’s contribution. I highly recommend Peter’s contribution. NR has also posted the editorial “Jeffrey Hart, RIP.”

• The New York Times has published a full-scale obituary of Professor Hart by Sam Roberts. Appearing under the headline “Jeffrey Hart, Influential and Iconoclastic Conservative, Is Dead at 88,” the obit goes well beyond the scope of his students’ 1997 appreciations.

• The Times obit includes a photo of Professor Hart posing with his memoir cum history (of the 1950’s), When the Going Was Good! The exclamation point put Hart’s praise of the 1950’s in your face. It’s a terrific book. Even better, however, was his memoir cum history of the 1940’s, From This Moment On.

• The Times obit mentions that Professor Hart wrote speeches for Reagan and Nixon. It does not mention that his contributions were limited to the presidential campaign of 1968, although it gives the correct order of his employment by the candidates. He was for Reagan before Reagan was cool. He contributed this classic if dated line to the 1968 Nixon campaign: “Ramsey Clark is a conscientious objector in the war against crime.”

• As you might infer, Professor Hart had a devilish sense of humor, but he would not laugh at his own jokes unless you laughed first. Once you laughed, he laughed uproariously.

• The left cannot stand or withstand free speech. Can the very concept even survive? I wouldn’t bet on it. See the excellent column by James Kirchick, “The self-muzzling of the free world.”

• Who could see this coming? Another hate crime hoax: “Jussie Smollett attack: Smollett charged with disorderly conduct for filing false police report, prosecutors say.” The AP account following this morning’s press conference in Chicago is almost painful. John Podhoretz warns: “Get set for the claim that Smollett’s hoax is still ‘true.'” John McWhorter offers the Atlantic essay “What the Jussie Smollett Story Reveals.”

• Chairman Bernie raised $6 million in the first 24 hours after he announced his 2020 bid for president. Kevin Williamson calls it “One last grift for Bernie Sanders.” According to Kevin, “the antique Brooklyn socialist who represents Vermont in the Senate, is not quite ready to retire to his lakeside dacha and so once again is running for the presidential nomination of a party to which he does not belong with an agenda about which he cannot be quite entirely honest.”

• The latest rap on the laws opposing the BDS movement is that they are unconstitutional. Ilhan Omar has of course adopted it in addition to her likening of Israel to apartheid South Africa. David Bernstein now helpfully explains “Everything you wanted to know about anti-BDS laws, part 1.” Part 2 is linked at the top of his column.

• What happens when you let a bona fide genius loose on the “infantile” Green New Deal? You get Richard Epstein’s “The farcical ‘Green New Deal.'”

• Vladimir Putin is threatening the United States. Something tells me that Putin is not entirely happy with his investment in our 2016 presidential election.

• I’m glad the FBI nipped this one in the bud: “Arrested Coast Guard Officer Allegedly Planned Attack ‘On A Scale Rarely Seen.'”