Ben Stein's Diary

What Happened?

Pat Buchanan's new book is the greatest. Plus more.

By 7.7.14

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Saturday, July 5, 2014
Still here in Sandpoint, Idaho, and it is too darned hot. It’s often hot in the middle of continents in summer and this is no exception. The real problem is the humidity though. We left D.C. to escape the humidity. It was unbearable, like being in a steam room with your suit and tie on. We do not have much humidity in L.A., but we sure have plenty of it here in North Idaho this summer.

However, it’s all fine. There are hundreds of friendly people out on City Beach, many wanting to say hello and pose for pictures with this old fellow. There is incredibly tasty kettle corn. And there is Lake Pendoreille, limitless cool blue expanse of water, blue sky, clouds, and mountain forests. My brilliant, world-traveling sister, called me to report on her just concluded trip to Tanzania. She generously noted that while it was beautiful, it was no more beautiful than North Idaho, and then added, “No place is.”

I spent a good chunk of the day reading Pat Buchanan’s amazingly fine new book, The Greatest Comeback, on his association with Richard Nixon from late 1965 until Nixon’s amazing victory in the ’68 election for President. The book is a masterpiece. Others, better at reviewing than I am, will review this book. I will just say I was entranced, astonished, overwhelmed by Pat’s observations, his insights, his poetry, the scope of his vision. He is not afraid to be politically incorrect. He is overwhelmingly pro-RN, of course, but compelled to point out logical and historical mistakes in Nixon’s worldview. Above all, The Greatest Comeback is the ultimate insider’s guide to how the great game of presidential politics is played. I cannot think of a better way to spend your time or your book-buying dollar than on this book. The section on Nixon and Pat’s trip to Africa in 1967 and what happened to the leaders they met on that trip will make you gasp.

All in all, for anyone interested in 20th century politics and how the human spirit works within the political process, and the most fascinating man ever to sit in the Oval Office, The Greatest Comeback is must reading. Chapter and verse to follow from the reviewers.

Then, nappy sleep, and then out on the mighty Cobalt to dinner in Hope. We went to Ivano’s Del Lago with our boatman, Tim Farmin, and our dear pals from Calgary, Mike and Nancy Visser, and their unbelievably well behaved kids, Megan, Tanner, and Peyton. We ate on a deck looking out at the setting sun on the water as it slipped behind the mountains. There were no bees as there have been in past years. The service was flawless, and a musician — “Brother Music” — played a double-necked guitar, picking out folk songs like, “A Man of Constant Sorrow.” I talked to him for a long time. I sure hope he inherited money.

Everyone in the restaurant was in a great mood as we gorged ourselves on unimaginably good ribeye, barbecued spare ribs, shrimps, and a brownie sundae, above all, the orange-red-deep blue-gray beauty of the sunset. The view is so wide and powerful that it’s like being on a drug to be there. We are numbed out on glory. Goodbye and goodbye and goodbye to all of my friends in the restaurant, a sort of “Rick’s Café Américain” on a very large lake in the panhandle of Idaho, a place out of the combat zone.

There were six Cobalts in the marina, all leaving for the sunset, all careful not to hit each other, all happy with the incredibly fine product of Kansas engineering. Then, racing back in the gloaming to port at The Seasons, the condos where we live in Sandpoint. I could smell the campfires along the shore and the slightest smell of roasting beef as we zoomed along. “How amazing,” I thought to myself. “My relatives in Europe breathed in Zyklon B or else were buried alive after being shot in Russia, and I get to breathe in the mountain lake air of Bonner County, Idaho as I steer my Cobalt after eating a brownie. ‘Lucky’ and ‘blessed’ do not take it far enough. Just bathed in the blessings of God to an extent I cannot express. There is not enough gratitude on this earth to express how grateful I am.”

Then, goodbye to the Vissers, who are leaving early in the morning for Canada. And then goodnight to Tim, and then a long spell of watching the hypnotic Forensic Files on TV. My wife and I said our prayers and then off to sleep, as always, listening to the BNSF trains gliding by in the Sandpoint night.

Sunday July 6.
I awakened early, stood out on my deck, and took pictures of the sun rising over the deep blue and gray Sandpoint waters and sky. The scene was an entryway into paradise. However, I don’t feel well. 

As fate would have it, I have a mild ’flu. I lay in bed and read more of The Greatest Comeback and my brain reeled at how much Pat Buchanan knows, how funny he is, and how well he writes. Then, hours listening to Tommy Dorsey. He was awfully good. He soothes rather than terrifies. Big difference from today’s “music.” What the hell happened that demolished popular culture? What satanic input poisoned the well and gave us murder instead of “Stardust”?

Then, wifey and I went to dinner at Trinity on the Lake, watching the sun set over a small marina, over City Beach, and over the twinkling lake. By half an hour into the meal, we were the only people there and we were in a hushed purple cocoon. How far we are from Basra or Aleppo or Gaza. How far from hell and how close to heaven. And how many men and women suffered and died to allow us up here in North Idaho to live in peace. Gratitude. We must swear it: Eternal gratitude. That is what the evening south wind blew in.

A postscript: as I was taking my fiber, I put in a DVD of the first season of Saturday Night Live. It is brilliant. The second show was almost entirely live performances by Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel… Mrs. Robinson, The Boxer, and I felt myself back in 1975 watching the show in my 33rd floor apartment at 60 W. 66th in New York. I was writing a column for the Wall Street Journal, under the tutelage of Bob Bartley. That’s not the point. The point is that Simon and Garfunkel were great, talented, moving, inspiring, a tonic for the human spirit. Not upsetting. Not terrifying. A different world. What happened?

And out on the railroad tracks the oil tankers roll by. On the lake, there is one sailboat at anchor with one green light. What happened?

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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.