Ben Stein's Diary

Defense Is the Ultimate Good

Oh, for Nixon!

By From the January-February 2014 issue

2010 Alfonso E. Perez-Gonzalez (Flickr Creative Commons)


I drove over to my apartment to get my mail. It is a funny thing about the apartments I have for offices at the Shoreham Towers in West Hollywood. I bought them first to have a quiet place to write that came with a good view, and then to get rid of a noisy neighbor. It never even occurred to me that they might be a good investment. 

Yet they have done better than any other real estate investment I have ever made. Now, bear in mind, the sums involved are barely pennies by Manhattan or Brooklyn chic apartment prices. Just nothing. But the point is that luck has a lot to do with it. Or maybe it’s because the Shoreham Towers is one of only two real high-rises in West Hollywood, and young, well-to-do people like views.

Anyway, I went over there to see if I had any interesting mail. As I did, I ran into Miss X, a beautiful woman whom I have seen coming and going at the Shoreham Towers recently. She has almost glowing blonde hair and a lovely smile. She was having car trouble when last I saw her, but today she was thinking of something else.

She had a musical instrument case. I soon learned that it had a valuable violin in it. I asked her if she could play the violin. “Oh, yes,” she said. “Classically trained. The woman who trained my trainer used to perform Wagner for Hitler.”

“High praise indeed,” I agreed. She nodded affably.

“Do you sing also?” I asked.

“Yes,” she said with a killer smile.

“I’ll pay you if you’ll just come up to my apartment and play the violin and sing as I open my mail,” said I.

“Okay,” she said. “I’ll be right up.”

In about a half hour, she appeared in a black cocktail dress and very high heels with her instrument case, a music stand, and a sheaf of music. “I’ll play Mozart,” she said as she unlimbered her music stand and her instrument.

And, sure enough, within moments, she was playing “A Little Night Music.” She was a bit rusty at first but then she played beautifully. She looked like a radiant angel and I thought, “How fascinating. Just out of the blue there is this woman with glowing blonde hair playing Mozart among my mountains of brokerage statements and insurance bills. I am just sitting here in my filing madness and I am overwhelmed with this woman’s beguiling music and it will cost me virtually nothing but enough to make a big difference to her. What must Buffett be able to buy?”

She played another short musical piece which I forget, and then she sat on my ancient couch while I retrieved e-mail and she sang, “New York, New York.” She even had small arm gestures to go along with her singing.

I was thoroughly charmed but I had work to do and I had to get my car washed so I paid her a modest sum (but excellent on an hourly basis). She agreed to come back and play for me any time I wanted and she walked out with her electrically charged blonde hair.

How many others are there like her? Her goal is to be a successful writer of TV shows, movies, and Broadway plays. A tall order but she is a capable woman. She wants Emmys, a Tony, and an Oscar. Well, that’s why they come to Hollywood. This one actually has some talent, though, which makes her unusual.


We drove down to the desert and had a moonlight swim last night and now it’s Thanksgiving. Our club had its usual over-the-top feast. There really was so much food there it was almost nauseating. But we ate it with pleasure anyway.

I kept thinking about the millions of Americans in the military and how they are facing Thanksgiving. Some are still far from home in Afghanistan, subject to enemy cruelty at a moment’s notice or no notice at all. Their families must be worried sick. Then there are the ones in Djibouti and Korea and Yemen, all at risk at any time. Then there are their families and their friends, all worried, all the time.

Can you even believe it? The Pentagon is proposing serious cuts to their housing allowances and medical care, all in the name of keeping taxes low on rich people. This is slashingly offensive. Our military men and women offer up their lives. Their pay and benefits should be sacrosanct. How can we save a few thousand dollars to add to the wealth of the rich by harming the military men and women and their families? It bewilders me.

It bewilders me how we can even for a moment consider letting the rich pay the lowest rate of tax in the Western world and take even a penny out of the military.

“Defense is the ultimate good.” I just made that up and it’s true. 

Meanwhile, the world is falling apart—tensions in the South China Sea, the total disintegration of the Middle East, U.S. connivance in making Iran a major power, Russia turning back to imperialism and subjugating Ukraine.

This is the reward of Obama’s utterly feckless foreign policy, of thinking that we can just withdraw into isolationism and military weakness without the usual costs and terrors that causes. I weep for this country having an amateur such as Mr. Obama at the helm. Oh, for Nixon!


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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.