Ben Stein's Diary

Obama’s America—and Mine

In case you missed it -- Ben's Diary from the September issue.

By From the September 2012 issue

Send to Kindle

Tuesday

TATYANA TERASOVA SEDLAR, rest in peace. Alex and I are up in a blazing hot Portola Valley, California, a rural, tony suburb of San Francisco and the Silicon Valley. The occasion is the memorial service for beloved Tatyana, the beautiful Siberian/Russian woman, also of Ukraine, who was my close friend and who died two or three days ago.

She was married to my friend Eric Sedlar. I knew her for about four or five years before she met Eric, a stunningly smart software genius at Oracle. I have said before that she was beautiful with gleaming blue eyes, a perfect smile, and flaxen hair—on top of regular features, a razor wit, and deep insights into America, even though she had been here only a short while when I met her. She died of (apparently) an accidental drug interaction. Everyone here is in deep shock and pain. I miss her keenly every moment.

Tatyana’s mother and father are here from Ukraine, along with her brother, whom she often discussed.The parents are staggered with pain.

Worst hit of all, of course, is Eric. The man is visibly coming unglued with loss and torment. Their daughter, Anna, was here playing with her grandmother, Tatyana’s mom, a few minutes ago. I think she is inside with her nanny now. Eric just lost his own mother a year or so ago, so he is laid low.

It is too hot here out by the pool of Eric and Tatyana’s immense home. Way too hot. Plus, there is a photo of the deceased from maybe six or seven years ago. She looks impossibly beautiful. She truly was impossibly beautiful. Torture to look at that photo.

Eric spoke briefly. A stupendously beautiful friend of Tatyana’s, also from Russia, spoke movingly. The woman (I later learned) is a highly accomplished polo player, but her real skill is in love and friendship.

We were all sobbing, and I had to move back to the pool house because of the punishing heat.

I spoke at length to the polo player after the service. Up close, she was much younger than I had realized. As I said, she was suffering terribly, but was so beautiful that I could hardly pay attention to what she was saying. Still, her excruciating sense of outrage and loss shone through her beauty. And, again, the Russians know how to make gorgeous women. So do the Poles and the Irish.

My wife is English. She’s the best. She looked magnificent in her black suit. Even in tragic moments like these, beauty makes an impression. Beauty is beauty and not to be denied. It has its own compulsions, even in death.

After the event, Alex and I went to visit our dear pals Al and Sally Burton at the home of their lovely daughter, Jenny, and her husband, Tom, at a fabulously cheery and airy house in Woodside, another tony suburb. Jenny has four large dogs that follow her everywhere, which was endearing.

Al and Sally are in their eighties, but looked well and were alert. They are friends as good as anyone could have. My life would have been much poorer in every way without them.

Then up to San Francisco to appear before a friendly, lovely group of mortgage bankers. I kept thinking that if they were as cheerful as they are with business as bad as it is, they must be able to fly when business is good.

Wednesday

A MORNING SPEECH to the mortgage bankers, then a flight to Dulles with beloved Alex on United to speak early tomorrow morning in National Harbor, a new attraction near Washington, D.C. We stayed at the immense and lovely Gaylord Hotel. We got lost wandering around looking for a place for Alex to smoke, but otherwise it was fine.

Thursday

UP AT 6:30 A.M. EDT, WHICH IS 3:30 A.M. my time, to speak to a fabulous bunch of people in the office supply business. They are grouped together under the name S.P. Richards. They may be the best audience I ever had. There is no pleasure quite like having an audience who gets all of my jokes and uplifting patriotic comments. How I love a standing ovation! It’s the ham in me, but it’s a big part of me.

Then, off to our apartments at the Watergate for a long nap… a very long nap.

Afterward, our lovable driver, Bob Noah, took us over to Oxford, Maryland, my favorite town on the East Coast, for a walk, and then to the Tidewater Inn in Easton for crab cakes.

They were delicious, but I was too tired and should have just stayed home and rested. I have a fine view out of my bedroom window, and that should have been enough.

I am getting run down from all of this travel.

Sunday

NOW, THIS IS MORE LIKE IT. Alex and I have been lying low, just resting in our dwellings at the Watergate. Occasionally, I venture out to be on Fox or CNN, but mostly, I stay home and we just eat eggs or hot dogs.

One afternoon, some documentarists came over to interview me about the 40th anniversary of Watergate. The interviewer asked me if it had dawned on me that I am one of the last people connected with Watergate still living (marginally) at the Watergate. I told him I was not even in D.C. during the first year of Watergate, but I was tangentially connected.

The question and my answer made me feel old. I guess I am old.

I did come up with one bon mot on Wolf Blitzer on CNN. Someone, maybe Paul Begala, was going on about how evil Bain Capital was. I said that no one was taking into account that most of the investors in private Equity were college and university endowments and union pension funds. When Bain hit a home run in terms of investor returns, the main beneficiaries were not vampire capitalists but eleemosynary (nonprofit, doing good) entities. No one ever mentioned that on Mr. Romney’s behalf. Paul asked me after the show why the Romney people had not brought that up. Good question.

However, on a more immediate matter… on Sunday, we dragged ourselves out of the Watergate and went off to Dulles to catch our United flight back to LAX. Madness. They had no ticket for my wife, although the reservations were made and ticket bought long since. After a long struggle, a polite woman named Mrs. Jovita at United said she had a seat for my wife. We went on that cursed bus to the gate. It was a mob scene: hot, humid, awful.

Worse, the gate agent laughingly told us that no matter what Mrs. Jovita might have said, they had no seat at all on the plane for my wife. She actually laughed as she held up her fingers to show a zero…as in zero seats for my wife. Madness.

We went back to the Watergate to lick our wounds and make a rez for a flight back on Virgin America the next day. Why would United do that to us, very frequent travelers? Apparently it had to do with a ticketing error when we boarded in SFO a few days ago to come to IAD. But what incompetence! My mother used to say that she had been taught in economics that the customer was king. But now (she said it in the ’70s) the customer was “the lowest dog.” Does United really feel that way? Certainly some don’t, but obviously, some do.

Monday

NOW, THIS IS MUCH BETTER. Alex and I are on Virgin America to L.A. from Dulles. The cabin is beautiful. The flight attendants are treating us like customers instead of inconveniences. My greeter, who helps with my bags, recently lost his son to criminals. He was distracted and forgot my computer at security. The fabulous people at Virgin America went a long way to get it back for me. Miracle. This would not happen at most airlines.

The food is great. There is a lovely young woman passenger named Sarah who came by and spoke to me about the problems of human trafficking. This is a serious problem in many parts of the world and the woman in question gave me a book about it. The book is extremely disturbing. It is especially disturbing about sexual slavery in the Third World. The tales it tells of Japanese sex slavery during World War II are horrific.

Despite that disturbance, the flight was great. My Julie Goodgirl was waiting for me at home, and I was happy. As always, I was completely exhausted. But the sky was clear, and the air was warm, so Alex sat outside and smoked as I swam and threw the tennis ball for Julie Goodgirl. She caught it, ran around the pool with it, dropped it near where I swam. I threw it again and so it went. The clouds were few, but what clouds there were glowed from the lights of L.A. and illuminated the palm trees like a backlight.

Can this be real?

Oh, happy day.

Wednesday

NOW, THIS IS SOMETHING. Wifey and I are at a theater in Hollywood watching a premiere of a movie made by my old marching companion from Expelled, the fine John Sullivan, and a serious conservative thinker, Dinesh D’Souza. The movie is called 2016: Obama’s America.

The basic point of the movie is that Mr. Obama picked up his father’s anti-British, anti-American views as a way of bonding with this father, whom he met only for about an hour, long into his life. The father was apparently a true nutcase, who, if I understand this movie right, had about four wives simultaneously, none of whom knew about the others. He was also a mad drunk and a terrible driver— which cost him his life.

The movie makes a connection between Mr. Obama’s father’s miserable life and Barack Obama’s resentments and agenda.

It is a fascinating argument and beautifully put forth. The cinematography is spectacular and Dinesh is a fine interviewer. The interview with Mr. Obama’s half-brother—the spitting image of our president, only living in a microscopic tinroofed shanty in Africa instead of the White House—is genuinely riveting. The man looks EXACTLY LIKE OUR PRESIDENT, only he’s living in a slum in Nairobi. By the way, the man is intelligent and well spoken.

There is much else in the movie. The most chilling part is about Mr. Barack Obama’s wish to disarm the USA. I think it’s a bit misleading, because that plan for unilateral nuclear disarmament is supported by a number of deeply confused Republican former secretaries of state as well. Still, it’s terrifying.

Anyway, it is a great movie and I gave it a long standing ovation afterward.

Then, over to Yoshi for sushi, and then home to swim and watch my usual documentaries about World War II.

Saturday

UP TO SEATTLE BY VIRGIN AMERICA to transfer to Horizon Air to Sandpoint, Idaho. Virgin America was great, as always. We had an incident with a super rude gate agent named Becca at Horizon in Seattle who was just determined to have a fight with us over our luggage. Luckily, someone higher up calmed her down. But, again, why have someone who wants to fight as your point of contact with the public?

In Sandpoint, we rendezvoused with our pals Mike and Nancy Visser, their beautiful daughters, Megan and Payton, and their handsome sons, Dave and Tanner. I met them last summer and was totally taken with their friendliness and the kids’ amazing good manners. Megan, at 15, is probably the most polite young person I have ever met and a conversationalist in a class by herself. She actually asked me to tell her about my summer jobs, bringing back many memories of the Washington Post. The Vissers are from Calgary. I stayed in touch with them, and now they are staying at one of our condos. (I cannot afford all of this real estate much longer, either financially or in terms of strength.)

We had a fine dinner with them at Trinity, watched the lake darken, and then, back to my bedroom to watch the latest documentary I have about Stalingrad. All just terrifying. But all is well in my room with Mr. Buffett’s trains roaring by. Peace in Idaho. Perfect. Make sure you watch 2016: Obama’s America. Important viewing. Vital viewing.

Like this Article

Print this Article

Print Article
About the Author

Ben Stein is a writer, actor, economist, and lawyer living in Beverly Hills and Malibu. He writes "Ben Stein's Diary" for every issue of The American Spectator.