02m56s Hungary in the news. (Tucker pro, EU & globalists con.)
11m27s Defeating the progressive left. (Clues from 100 years ago.)
22m35s Does National Conservatism have a future? (Ireland's warning.)
29m02s Repeal the FPA! (Ex-presidents are rich enough.)
38m05s Did the Brits kill Salazar? (Some of us thought so.)
40m26s Death in D.C. (COVID way behind homicides.)
44m42s Signoff. (Man and wife, and wife and man.)
01 — Intro. And Radio Derb is on the air! Greetings, listeners, from your uxoriously genial host John Derbyshire, here with some observations on the first week of August, 2021.
Today, August 6th, is Mr and Mrs Derbyshire's 35th wedding anniversary. [Applause.] Thank you, thank you. Yes: Thirty-five years ago today we tied the knot, in a sooty little town in Manchuria. Looking at it through the other end of the telescope, this sweet lady has put up with me for 35 years. Some sort of Congressional Medal is in order.
In lieu of that medal there will be appropriate festivities this evening, Friday evening: a nice restaurant dinner with both kids present and no expense spared. I'm striving to put the podcast together ahead of that, so we shall be on the air earlier than usual this week.
According to tradition — this tradition most likely cooked up by jewelers with profits in mind, but hey — every significant wedding anniversary is associated with some precious metal or mineral. The thirty-fifth just barely passes the significance criterion; its association is with coral.
So this is our coral wedding. If we lived somewhere more tropical, we could celebrate it underwater. There isn't much coral around Long Island, though, so the restaurant dinner will have to do … along with a large, rather beautiful coral tchotchke that I bought from Pottery Barn.
02 — Hungary in the news. I'm happy to see that Hungary is in the news. Longtime readers and listeners know that I am a Hungarophile from way back. A quick scan of the Derb achives shows fond mentions of Hungary all the way back to April 2002. One of the longest reviews I've written in recent years was about a 20th-century Hungarian novelist. The magazine that published that hasn't sent me a book to review in the five years since, I can't imagine why.
There are two reasons Hungary is in the news, a political reason and a media reason. The political reason is that the EU, the European Union — which, to a good first approximation, means Germany — is ganging up on the current Hungarian government under Viktor Orbán, who has been Prime Minister of Hungary for fifteen of the past nineteen years.
The media reason is that nationalist-conservative gadfly Tucker Carlson is in that country this week, broadcasting his nightly Fox News show from Budapest.
Those two reasons have a common origin. Viktor Orbán has pursued a strongly National Conservative policy line. He has set his face firmly against mass Third World immigration and he's established secure national borders. Orbán's Hungary has strong natalist programs to encourage Hungarians to marry and have children. In June this year Hungary's National Assembly, with Orbán's encouragement, passed a law banning the promotion of homosexuality in school educational materials. Orbán has severely curtailed the propagandizing activities of George Soros … And so on.
Orbán's Hungary, in short, is an unapologetic beacon of National Conservatism. That's driving globalist progressives crazy, both in Europe and here. The EU is threatening to cut off financial support for Hungary, even perhaps to expel Hungary from the EU if the country doesn't get in line with globalist-progressive ideology. That's a real threat to Orbán.
Hungarians would like to stay Hungarian, without the blights of mass immigration and Heather Has Two Mommies textbooks in kindergarten.
On the other hand, they like being in the EU. Their country is comparatively poor, down there with Romania and Greece in the EU rankings of per capita GDP, and that financial support comes in handy. So, with employment opportunities limited, so does the ability to travel freely to work in other EU countries without passports and visas.
And yes, our own globalist progressives hate Orbán, too. "Hate" is in fact too mild a word for effusions like those of neocon David Frum on Twitter this week. Sample, quote:
When American media personalities express admiration for Orbán, that is what they are admiring: plunder of the public for the benefit of a complicit few; suppression of media that report the plunder; racism and reactionary religion as cover for the gullible and/or hypocritical.
Wow: "plunder of the public for the benefit of a complicit few; suppression of media that report the plunder." Nothing like that could happen here in the Land of the Brave and Home of the Free, could it? Excuse me … [cough … Hunter Biden … laptop … cough].
Now, it's true that Orbán makes that kind of thing easier than it ought to be. Yes, he's too tolerant of corruption, especially when it enriches his own family and friends. But — and now I'm quoting, quote:
The unhappy truth is that liberalism as we Americans have known it is probably dead. Our future is almost certainly going to be left-illiberal or right-illiberal. It's not the future I would prefer, but we are not being given a choice here.
I took that from a brilliant piece by Rod Dreher at The American Conservative, August 4th. It's a long piece, four and a half thousand words including footnotes, but well worth your time and trouble.
Life, and especially political life, rarely offers perfection as one of your choices. Perfection in national leadership for me would be a leader who believes in and promotes National Conservatism and does all he can to stop the cultural revolution, while being personally frugal and honest, with no track record of enriching himself or his family from the public fisc. That would be perfection.
What if Rod Dreher is right, though? What if the choice we end up with is between an Orbán type, sincerely National Conservative all the way through, but not averse to putting his hand in the cookie jar now and then, up against, on the other hand, a willing tool of the nation-destroying revolutionary Left with just as sleazy a personal record?
I personally would not hesitate for very long, especially if the party of the second part there was incoherently senile.
Is Rod right? Is our future destined to be either right-illiberal or left-illiberal? Let me give over another segment to that.
Sorry about that, but there really is some first-rate deep commentary from a patriotic-conservative viewpoint — even, occasionally, a race-realist viewpoint — available nowadays on websites like American Greatness, UnHerd.com, Quillette, the aforementioned American Conservative, and others: not of course forgetting the still center about which all else turns, your own, your favorite, your mentor and guide, VDARE.com.
You won't of course agree with everything you read on every one of those outlets. Some of them cast their nets pretty wide. When I read something that really makes me stop and think, though, it's almost always from that general area of the blogosphere.
That's all by way of introduction to your next reading assignment, students — pay attention there at the back, please. Er, Sir, would you mind putting down your cellphone? … Thank you.
This is an August 1st piece by Christopher Roach at American Greatness. Title: The Salazar Option. Antonio Salazar was the Prime Minister of Portugal for nearly forty years, through most of the 1930s, 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s.
Portugal had gotten rid of its monarchy in 1910 and set up a republic. The country then went through a 16-year period of progressive revolutionary rule, ending with a military coup in 1926.
After a couple of years of political churning and cratering national finances, Salazar was made Minister of Finance. Within one year he had balanced the national budget and stabilized the currency. In 1932 he began that 36-year reign as Prime Minister — in effect, an authoritarian dictator with a National Conservative program and a particular attachment to the Roman Catholic church.
In my own school and college years in England, Salazar was faintly present in the background of European politics. Educated youngsters like myself mentally yoked him together with Generalissimo Francisco Franco of Spain. "Fascist dictators," we muttered to ourselves, and moved on to some topic more interesting.
That was a ridiculously over-simplified view of things. Salazar and Franco both disliked fascists. Salazar put them in jail when he could, along with communists, who of course he also hated. Fascism was modern and anti-clerical: Salazar and Franco were reactionary and devoutly Catholic.
During World War Two Portugal was generous to refugees from further east in Europe; countless lives were saved. Portugal's ambassador to Nazi-occupied Hungary was arrested by the Gestapo for helping Jews escape.
No, Salazar and Franco weren't model parliamentary democrats, but they certainly weren't fascists, nor even totalitarians. I've lived in totalitarian countries, and I lived briefly in Franco's Spain: no comparison.
American elder statesman Dean Acheson, who was Secretary of State under FDR and Truman, and very far from being any kind of fool, was a great admirer of Salazar. He praised the Portuguese leader extravagantly, sample: "This remarkable man, the nearest approach in our time to Plato's philosopher-king." End praise.
And there was nothing the least bit sleazy about Salazar. He was personally frugal and abstemious. To quote from his New York Times obituary, quote:
He was ascetic rather than exuberant; aloof rather than gregarious; professorial rather than demagogic; understated rather than ostentatious.
That word "professorial" is worth another quote. This is from Modern Times by the British historian Paul Johnson. Mine is the 1983 edition: PJ has done at least one revised edition. Quote:
Between 1932 and 1961, university professors never made up less than 21 percent of Salazar's cabinet. They held half the cabinet posts 1936-44; about one in four of the dictator's colleagues came from a single department, the law faculty at Coimbra University. This catedratiocracia, or rule by dons, was highly successful in promoting slow but steady economic growth, maintaining a strong currency, holding back inflation, and, above all, in giving Portugal what it had never possessed in modern times: political stability.
You need a little historical perspective there. In the U.S.A. today, it would be hard to think of anything less appealing to a National Conservative than cathedocracy — rule by university professors. Even assuming you could keep out the Gender Studies and Critical Race Theory quacks, quite respectable disciplines like History, English, and Law tilt strongly left-radical. I shudder to think of their professors in positions of political power.
Mid-20th-century university professors in Portugal — perhaps even in the U.S.A. — weren't that crazy, though, and Portugal under Salazar was reasonably well-governed, as authoritarian regimes go.
So, what does Christopher Roach want to tell us about Salazar at this American Greatness piece?
Well, he groups Portugal together with Spain, Mexico, and France. All four nations, he argues, fell under the control of progressive revolutionaries in the early 20th century. For Mexico and France the results were disastrous, the left triumphant; but in Spain and Portugal, quote: "self-conscious counterrevolutionary political movements stopped them cold during the 1920s and '30s." End quote.
Roach is not of course — of course — hoping for a non-democratic authoritarian police state on the model of Salazar's Portugal or Franco's Spain. He only wants to tell us that the revolutionary left is relentless and ruthless, today just as much as a hundred years ago, and won't be defeated by gentlemanly forbearance and appeasement, which has basically been the posture of the Republican Party in recent decades.
We need, he says, to take power and use it — but take power lawfully, constitutionally, and use it lawfully and constitutionally. Quote:
Thus, Trump did not clean house of his enemies in the government, nor have he and other Republicans done much — other than kvetch — at the hostile political interference of Big Finance and Big Tech.
Well, that's your second reading assignment. No more, I promise.
04 — Is National Conservatism destined to oblivion? Longtime listeners, hearing all that, may be recalling some observations I've made before and be saying to themselves: Hey, wait a minute here, Derb.
Example: July 17th last year I ran a segment titled: Will Poland go Irish? That segment followed the Polish presidential election of that month, which resulted in another win for the Law and Justice Party, P-i-S for short, but with a slightly reduced majority from the 2015 election. P-i-S is a National Conservative party, like Orbán's in Hungary.
Poland is a sort of Hungary lite. Its National Conservatism doesn't get as much publicity as Hungary's partly because Andrzej Duda, the P-i-S leader, isn't as outspoken as Orbán, and partly — if you want my opinion — because Poland doesn't have any equivalent figure to George Soros, to ring the anti-semitism alarm every time Duda moves against the progressives.
In that segment last July I let my thoughts stray to Ireland, as they so often do. I wondered aloud, quote from self:
I've written about the transformation of Ireland from a traditionalist, conservative, Catholic, intensely ethnonationalist place to the Heart of Wokeness celebrating homosexuality, feminism, and mass immigration. Might Poland take the same path?
That question's highly pertinent to what I've been talking about here this week. If Poland took Ireland's path away from traditionalism, Catholicism, and ethnonationalism, might Hungary follow suit? If, as seems possible, Viktor Orbán loses next year's election, might that mark the beginning of the turn, the end of Hungarian exceptionalism?
It's hard not to think that religion is at the heart of the matter. Go back to Christopher Roach's comparison of radical progressivism in our own time to what was happening in Spain, Portugal, France, Mexico a hundred years ago. Those were all Catholic countries; and a big part of the energy of the leftist revolutionaries was anti-clerical. In some cases, parts of Mexico, for example, Catholic priests were hunted down and killed: Graham Greene wrote an award-winning novel about it.
The counter-revolutionaries, like Salazar and Franco, had corresponding energy on their side from defenders of the faith. It's easy to believe that without that energy, they would not have won the struggle with progressivism, and the left would have triumphed in their countries, too.
Fast-forward to today. Sure, Hungary and Poland are still predominantly Catholic countries. There has been much falling-off, though, both by the faithful and by the church itself. Where the faithful are concerned, here's a quote about Poland from March last year, quote:
The proportion of school leavers declaring themselves believers has dropped from 81 percent to 63 percent in a decade.
The Roman Catholic hierarchy is nothing like what it was a hundred years ago, either. On many social issues, in fact, it sides with the progressives.
These are the slow, deep currents moving under the boats of Eastern Europe's National Conservatives. Will hedonism, progressivism, ease of travel, and new generations of social-media technology win out over nationalism, traditionalism, localism, and Christianity, as they have already done in Ireland? Is revolutionary egalitarianism in fact the new religion of our age?
Are Hungary and Poland perhaps not torch-bearers for the future, but only guttering candles of a political outlook that is dying everywhere in the West? Is their National Conservatism just a remnant, destined to oblivion, like the last outposts of the old paganism when Christianity itself swept over the Roman Empire seventeen centuries ago?
Well, we shall find out — sooner rather than later, to judge from Ireland's transformation.
When the story first broke we were told that nearly 700 guests had been invited, to be waited on by a staff of 200. That caused a mild public fuss, though, coming as it did when the news was a-buzz with stories about new masking, vaccination, and lockdown orders on account of the covid pandemic. We now hear that the Obamas have scaled back the party somewhat, although they're not putting out revised numbers.
The original guest list must have been a roll call of our ruling class: big names from the federal bureaucracies, judges, media stars, software tycoons, Wall Street financiers, and so on. No little people at all, unless you count the ones waiting tables.
Reading the story, I indulged myself in some brief — and, I confess, shamefully uncharitable — fantasies about tsunamis, volcanic eruptions, rogue nuclear attacks, and so on. I'm sorry, really sorry: please don't send the FBI round, it was just idle fantasizing.
I think most conservatives find the imperial lifestyle of our ex-presidents distasteful, if not disgusting. What happened to small-"r" republicanism? What happened to the Cincinnatus ideal of civic virtue in our rulers: the citizen of some social standing leaving his farm for a spell of public service, then voluntarily relinquishing power and returning to the farm?
I'll admit to being a bit shame-faced writing this, on account of having once been taken in on this topic. That was when I wrote We Are Doomed twelve years ago. After railing against the tens of millions of dollars Bill Clinton accumulated after leaving office, I wrote this, quote.
When Harry Truman left office in 1953, he had no income but his army pension of $112.56 a month. He had to take out a bank loan while negotiating a deal to write his memoirs. That was the way of things all over the Anglosphere. It was part of the tradition of modest Anglo-Saxon government. When Bob Menzies, Australia's longest-serving Prime Minister, left office in 1966 after 18 years in power, having given up a lucrative legal career for politics, he could not afford to buy a house in Melbourne.
I got those details about Truman from David McCullough's 1992 biography. They have been much quoted elsewhere, which makes me feel a little better about having been conned. I wasn't alone: Congress was conned, and so was Truman's successor, Dwight Eisenhower.
Long before McCullough's 1992 biography of Truman came out, Truman's claims of post-presidential poverty had inspired the Former Presidents Act, the FPA, signed into law by Eisenhower in 1958. The FPA, still of course in force, has ever since provided ex-presidents with a handsome salary, currently near a quarter-million dollars a year, plus millions of dollars worth of side benefits for office and travel expenses, security, and so on.
And yet Truman's claims to poverty were all bogus. In a July 24th article in New York magazine, investigative journalist Paul Campos, having scrutinized some of Harry Truman's recently-released financial records, debunks all the tales about Truman's post-presidential poverty — those very tales that inspired the FPA, which now provides ex-presidents, including of course Obama, with millions of dollars a year in benefits from the public fisc.
In fact, quote from Paul Campos, quote:
Harry Truman was a very rich man on the day he left the White House, and he became a good deal richer in the five and a half years between that day and the passage of the FPA. Moreover, Truman departed from the White House with so much money because he apparently misappropriated what in today's terms would be millions of dollars from the United States government.
So, there's an idol who turns out to have had feet of clay. If Bob Menzies was another fraudster along the same lines, I don't want to hear about it.
I nurse the very faint hope that these revelations about Truman might bring about the repeal of the FPA. When an ex-president can get $400,000 for making a single speech, as Obama does, together with of course numerous other opportunities for enrichment, why are tax-payers expected to contribute to the money pile?
If the buggers want to be rich, let them earn their way to it, via the many opportunities they have to do so. Repeal the FPA!
As I said, it's a faint hope. Ah well, I still have Calvin Coolidge. After leaving office in 1929, Cal's only real commercial venture was as a director of the New York Life Insurance Company. Claude Fuess, his biographer, tells us that Coolidge always attended the board's monthly meetings, going to New York on the train from Northampton with his secretary, Harry Ross, and spending one night at the Vanderbilt hotel. Quote from Fuess, page 451:
The price of this suite, by special arrangement, was ten dollars, and when Mr. Coolidge received his envelope containing fifty dollars — the fee allowed each director — he turned it over at once to Mr. Ross, who paid all the bills.
Back then we still had small-"r" republicanism. Now we have taxpayer-funded imperial extravaganzas.
At the time of Salazar's death in 1970, there was a story going round that it was Britain's fault. The elderly Salazar, the story went, had sat down on a deckchair which promptly collapsed under him, precipitating a stroke. He never completely recovered from the stroke, and died two years later from the indirect effects.
That deckchair was said to have been made in Britain. So, Salazar's death was caused by shoddy British manufacturing. So the story went in the London tabloids.
I don't know if this ever rose to the level of a diplomatic incident, but it was much discussed. Britain's self-esteem in 1970 was at a low point. She'd lost her empire, twice been rejected for membership of the European Common Market, and was coming to believe that her manufactured products, deckchairs I guess included, were not very good.
Reading up Salazar to prepare this podcast, I see that a school of revisionist historians has come up arguing that the deckchair story was a fake, to prevent unnecessary embarrassment to the dictator. In fact, these historians say, Salazar had fallen in the bathtub.
I don't know what current scholarship is on the truth or falsehood of the deckchair story; and my mental peace will be very little disturbed if I never find out.
Item: I don't say much about the covid panic because I find the entire topic inexpressibly boring. The hysteria about covid is wildly overblown; and yes, I understand that politicians are playing it up for all they're worth, as a lever to deprive us of yet more of our old liberties.
Plenty of commentators are covering all that, and I leave you in their hands. For myself, I persevere in my own native fatalism. Covid's an infectious disease. You might get it. You might die. Someone you love might die. The odds are small, though; on the list of things you should be worrying about, covid isn't very high.
Here's an illustration of that from The Washington Post, August 2nd. Headline: Washington, DC, murders surpass coronavirus deaths in July by nearly 3-to-1 ratio.
Yep: In the month of July there were 21 homicides in our nation's capital city, but only eight deaths from covid.
Hold on, I see a new tweet just come through from DC Mayor Muriel Bowser … Oh, never mind; it's just an update on her Boil Water Advisory. Gotta boil that water, you Washingtonians. You wouldn't want to be murdered without a flask of well-boiled water close at hand, would you?
Item: Under the wise and beneficent rule of our dear friend President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov, the citizens of Turkmenistan live full and happy lives. One thing, however, has been missing from their lives: musicals, as in Broadway musicals.
Cherishing their national independence and unique national character, the Turkmens of course don't want our musicals — Oklahoma!, My Fair Lady, The King and I, and such. They want to produce musicals of their own.
Up steps our own State Department. Quote from RealClearPolicy.com, July 30th, quote:
The U.S. Mission to Turkmenistan is paying $55,000 to send six theater and choir directors to the U.S. for 7 to 10 days to [inner quote] "participate in musical theater production workshops with their U.S. counterparts, observe productions of musicals, view at least one live musical and engage in follow-up virtual mentorship sessions with their U.S. colleagues." [End inner quote.]
I do hope these innocent Turkmen directors are given suitable models to work from. I should hate to hear that, after arriving back home, they had attempted to stage a production of Springtime for President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov. That might not end well.
For the Derbs' wedding anniversary, here's something suitable to play us out: the duet between Papageno and the Princess in Act One of Mozart's opera The Magic Flute.
Papageno the bird-man has just rescued the Princess from the clutches of evil Monostatos … Who, by the way, as well as being evil, in the original libretto is also black. I wonder how many modern productions of the opera that has survived into.
So Papageno and the Princess are taking a break after their escape and chatting about love. The chatting culminates in this beautiful duet.
Actually I'm just going to play you the last couple of minutes of the duet. The Princess sings: "Love sweetens every sorrow; every creature pays homage to it." Then Papageno sings: "It spices every day of our life; it works in the cycle of nature." Then they both sing together:
Its high purpose clearly proclaims
There is nothing more noble than wife and man.
Man and wife, and wife and man,
Reach towards God.
There will be more from Radio Derb next week.
[Music clip: Kiri Te Kanawa and Thomas Allen, "Bei Männern welche Liebe fühlen."]