Ben Stein’s Diary
So, as usual, I spent a large part of the day in my office reading and writing and then lying in bed thinking with my poor old brain.
Often I make lists of who were the most beautiful dogs I ever owned or the men and women of the highest character, but tonight, after reading about the foreign and domestic policy catastrophes of the last several decades, I tried a different approach:
I asked the search engine in my brain this question: What have been the greatest triumphs of mankind in the last century and what have been the worst calamities? Such were my grim searches in the recesses of my mind.
In America, surely by far the greatest triumph has been the liberation of the colored men and women of this country. An entire ethnic group that had dwelt in cruel oppression in a large part of the nation has been set free. A people in bondage within a free country, the African-American people, have been given every single right that white people have under law and then some.
This is a bad morning. I was greeted by a headline in the New York Times that said Defense Secretary “Chuck Mullet” Hagel was planning to submit a budget to Congress to cut the size of the military to a level not seen since 1940, before the U.S. entered World War II.
The article went on to say that the Pentagon realized that this would be an inadequate force for even very small wars and certainly would not allow the U.S. to police the world and keep control of contingencies like a North Korean attack on the South or a Chinese attack on Japan or an Iranian assault on Saudi Arabia or a Russian invasion of the Ukraine.
The Defense Department officials further said that because U.S. forces would be stretched so thin, the U.S. could not win wars quickly and there would be more casualties in any future war.
So, in other words, the President (of course it’s not Hagel…he’s just a bobble head for Obama and his ultra-leftists) is deliberately disarming America to the point where he cannot guarantee his ability to defend the nation.
Here I am in the Napa Valley at a hotel called the Carneros Inn.
Yesterday, I went to LAX to catch the plane to SFO. In the waiting area, I saw an astonishingly beautiful young redhead. The sun was shining through her auburn tresses and she looked like an angel. By one of those coincidences that rarely happens, she sat next to me in seat 6F.
She was even more lovely close up. She turned out to work for a super luxury brand called Burberry, heading a staff of personal shoppers who help well-to-do men and women buy things at Burberry. We had a great talk and I just could not believe how beautiful she was. A goddess. And down to earth and talkative. Just a dream.
She’s engaged to a successful businessman and I wish her well.
I have been fighting a generally low feeling for some time now. I awake dizzy and depressed. I sleep long hours in the day in my office, on a bed with my dogs. We all lie there fast asleep and then I get up and check my e-mails, pay bills, and go back to bed. This morning, I felt particularly bad. I don’t want to pretend I can tell the future, but let’s just say I had a creepy feeling.
Sure enough, when I got up at about 1:15 to check my e-mails, there was disaster in black and white. My literary agent and dear friend, Lois Wallace, died on Friday night, said the e-mail from her colleague, Jeff. I felt as if I had been punched in the stomach while being electrocuted.
I spent almost all day lying in bed listening to old Big Band music. I have not been well, and this is perfect therapy. I just let my mind run free to go down freeways and alleyways and this is where I came out....
At the intersection of Income Inequality and Poverty.
Here is what my mind dredged up.
There is an immense amount of income inequality here and everywhere. I am not sure why that is a bad thing. Some people will just be better students, harder working, more clever, more ruthless than other people. Some people will have better family connections than others. Some people will have richer parents than others. Unless we want to do away with property rights — a surefire route to dictatorship — we will have a lot of men and women who are rich by inheritance. Frankly, I feel sorry for them.
A few nights ago, a dear friend who happens to be an inmate at a prison in a Southwestern state saved my sanity. It was such a God-shot, such a blessing, a miracle, that I feel as if I should share it.
I had been on a long trip. On one of the many horrible airplane flights of the trip or in an endless TSA line at the world’s worst airport, Dulles, not Dallas, Dulles, or in some fetid hotel room, I had caught a vile ’flu. I was in a daze, irritable, wheezing, coughing, exhausted.
But here was the problem. I had an enormous — I mean eight inches high — stack of bills that I had to pay. I own a lot of things and employ a lot of people, and there are insurance bills and tax bills and HOA bills and boat loan bills and it never ends.
So, I was sitting in my office at home paying the bills, feeling ever sicker, noticing that my loving bride had forgotten to give me many bills that now would have a late fee, and I was feeling CRAZY. Beleaguered. Under siege. Crazy. Plus, I had ordered some chicken and it was an hour late.
Our last morning of a one-week stay in Greenville, South Carolina. Tommy is not feeling well, so Alex, our beautiful daughter in law Kitty, our angelic little granddaughter Coco, and our driver/pal Bob Noah, are eating brunch in the Spoonbread Room of the Westin Poinsett Hotel.
It is a sunny room with floor-to-ceiling windows facing southwest flooding the light blue-and-white tile floor, the neat white tablecloths, and the beckoning buffet table. There are only a few other diners, probably because we are eating so late. Near us is a well-dressed woman in a wool suit like the ones my mother used to get at Lord & Taylor or Saks Fifth Avenue. She is with her husband, also well-dressed in a gray suit.
The woman came over to talk to me and get her photo with me. She is on the board of a number of local public/private partnerships and she is lively and articulate. She is also black and it makes me so happy that a black woman and her black husband are eating in the best dining room in downtown Greenville, South Carolina, sharing tales of executive and legislative leadership.
Up early to appear on Fox News with the old gang from Cavuto on Business. It is a smart, lively group, and I love doing it enough to get up at 6:30 to get to the studio in West L.A. on time. That’s saying something.
Last week was a time of intense travel. First to Orlando to, then to Greenville to visit our son and his beautiful family in that beautiful, leafy town. I really can hardly tell you how much I love Greenville. The people are the main asset. Friendly, good looking, outgoing, helpful.
The food is also amazingly delicious. Up country South Carolina cooking. Just one tasty meal after another at the Poinsett Club, which has become just about my favorite spot on the planet. Rich, gleaming floors, helpful and kind staff, delicious food of every variety. It is sort of what a club is meant to be and I feel extremely blessed that they let me in. Then of course there is the Waffle House.
Whatever one may think of Richard Nixon, even his harshest critics usually would concede his foreign policy genius. By opening up China, surrounding the Soviet Union, making peace possible between Israel and Egypt, signing the first significant arms control treaty with the Soviets, and ending the war in Vietnam, Nixon made the world a far more peaceful place. He wanted a “generation of peace,” as we Nixon speech writers were told to call it — and he got it.
What would Nixon do now? What would he do with a resurgent, militant Russia, led by a shrewd aggressive empire builder — atop a foundering state?
What would he do about the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the annexation of Crimea to Russia by a plebiscite at bayonet’s point?
I don’t know and he’s not talking. But based on a lifetime of study of RN and his mind, I offer these guesses on what he would do.