A War Like No Other: How the Athenians and Spartans Fought the Peloponnesian War By Victor Davis Hanson
2/1/06: I arrive at the Four Seasons in Beverly Hills at 11:45am and stand behind Professor Hanson (before he addresses David Horowitz's Wednesday Morning Club).
"You're our speaker!" I say. "And you have to wait in line too."
That creates a stir and suddenly everyone wants to talk to him.
Dr. Hanson says this is his 16th book. His first was one was published when he was 28.
I imagine Vic and I switching effortlessly between Greek, Latin and Hebrew as we discuss the lunch menu ("Vine-ripened tomatoes and buffalo mozzarella with micro greens, sweet basil and balsamic syrup [followed by] chicken picatta with capellini pasta, sauteed mushrooms and currant tomatoes, lemon beurre blanc with capers [followed by] milk chocolate timbale with gianduja sauze and almond nougat [and] fresh raspberries") and the great issues of life.
After getting my name tag, I find Cathy Seipp talking to two men about her highschool English teacher.
"Was he the one who touched you inappropriately?" I ask as a means of introduction.
"NO!" says Cathy.
Cathy and I wear matching all-black slimming outfits. We belong in a Debbie Gibson video for "Lost in Your Eyes."
The conversation switches to Cathy's highschool history teacher.
"He was so young," says Cathy. "He must be still alive."
"He died six months ago," says the man.
At the end of the conversation, the men say Cathy "looks so well."
"That's what everyone says," Cathy reflects. "I'm not sure if I believe them."
I see a friend and introduce him to Cathy. He's volunteering for the city of LA to visit the survivors of people who die suddenly (in a shooting, suicide, etc). She suggests I do an article on him. She wants me to clean up my life.
"Everything good in my life today is because of Cathy," I say.
"That's true," she says. Cathy rarely minds taking credit.
My friend notices how I stand taller and look happier when the conversation focuses on me.
Cathy reprimands me for repeatedly referring to our speaker as "Dr. Hanson." She says "that's gross and declasse." Professor Hanson is much classier.
As I hand out my business card to my adoring fans, Cathy realizes something is missing from her life. I volunteer to make her business cards (one standard, one for her hush-hush dominatrix gig).
During the lengthy introductory speech about what a wonderful guide to Italy Dr. Hanson was for this Jewish family of five, I speculate that Vic was the true author of the chick-lit Under the Tuscan Sun.
"Your mind is going off in strange directions," worries Cathy.
The crowd numbers about 130 persons, mostly men (more attracted to topics such as war and ancient Sparta). A third of crowd stands and applauds when Rock Star Hanson approaches the microphone.
I speculate about the throwing of underwear.
"That comes afterwards," says Cathy.
Dr. Hanson: "Why do we want to study something that happened 2,500 years ago?"
Because human nature hasn't changed.
"You had this clear antithesis - one side was a democracy (Athenia) and one side was a military dictatorship. One side was a sea power (Athenia) and one side was a land power."
Thucydides, a philosopher, was embedded with the Athenian army. He wrote A History of the Peloponnesian War.
"Athenia was sophisticated, skeptical, powerful, wealthy, but it lost.
"You didn't go to Sparta to do anything. It was a loser place.
"In 1998, Bin Laden declared war against us because we supported the UN embargo against Iraq and because we had troops on holy soil. There's no longer a UN embargo and our troops are no longer in Saudi Arabia."
I see Rabbi David Wolpe and his wife.
"The Iranian president needs to know that there's a certain point at which, if the intelligence suggests [he's about to develop nuclear weapons, he knows he's going to get attacked].
"Wars start because of perceived grievances and [wars] break out because of a perceived lack of deterrence. If the reasons for a war are not removed...they restart.
"Previous Israel-Arab wars were not allowed to finish because of Russia's nuclear deterrence.
"We have about 18-months before they make the fatal decision to enrich uranium to such a degree [that the Iranians] can make six or seven twenty megaton bombs.
"Their president goes to a well and listens to voices. He also says that he spoke to the UN for 27-minutes and nobody blinked their eyes. He may want paradise.
"We're trying to get the [world] on board [against Iran].
"The worst choice is to allow him to go nuclear.
"I really get tired of people like Hillary Clinton saying 'No option off the table.' What does that mean? Does that mean you are going to support the United States Air Force going in for, not one strike, not two strikes, but for three weeks day-after-day pounding 200 sites of Iranian installations, and you see children on Tehran and Al Jazeera [tv] and correspondents broadcasting from hotels in Tehran and you have the Europeans privately delighted and publicly furious. You'll have Dan Rather as an anchor, back out of retirement. That's all going to happen.
"When that happens, John Kerry and Hillary will be the first ones to come forward to [criticize] this unnecessary [bombing] that derails the progressive European alliance."
Dr. Hanson says he used to lean towards supporting a draft, but now he doesn't. He notes studies that show there's no difference in civic involvement between those who've served and those who have not. The military prefers a volunteer army. Volunteers stay longer.
"When I talk to someone from Iran or Greece, I have a basic rule. If I sit down with a Greek, I give him five minutes and if he does not mention the 1967 coup [supported by the US, it led to seven years of military rule], I'll have dinner with him. If I sit down with an Iranian and he doesn't mention [CIA-deposed Iranian Premier Mohammad] Mossadeq in 1953 in eight minutes, I'll have dinner with him."
Dr. Hanson hopes that Hamas will try to invade Israel.
He says that over the past five years there's been an amazing change in Arab websites' views of the US. They used to condemn us for the CIA installing thugs. Now it is naive Americans pushing democracy.
Dr. Hanson supported Israel's withdrawal from Gaza.
Victor Davis Hanson Speaks To Wednesday Morning Club
I park my van on Beverly Drive south of Sunset Blvd and run across several lanes of traffic and a couple of crosswalks and finally up the long driveway of the pink Beverly Hills Hotel.
It's 11:30AM, September 19, 2003. I get my name tag and ask the lady for the paperwork to join the Wednesday Morning Club.
"It's $500," she says, looking me up and down and judging that I can't afford it.
"I know," I reply. She fetches me a packet. I stuff it in my Museum of Tolerance tote bag.
My friend Debbie Gendel taps me on the shoulder. Five minutes later, Cathy Seipp arrives. The three of us are an inseperable team for the next two hours. Author and TV writer/producer Rob Long sits at our table as does TV producer Mike Sullivan and his wife. All we're missing is Mickey Kaus whose razor-sharp Slate.com blog illuminates many of the issues we discuss today.
We chat with executive director of the Wednesday Morning Club, Michael Finch, the MC who recently married.
I ask Cathy how many of her ex-boyfriends are in the room. She gives me a dirty look.
The girl gets around.
Cathy's temporary tattoo on her shoulder gets a lot of attention, as intended. Just the thing to shake up a stodgy Republican crowd. A slithering lizard.
I show Cathy and Debbie the new book I'm reading - The Whore's Child by Richard Russo. A superb collection of short stories.
As I look through the materials on our seats, I count six pictures of David Horowitz, founder of The Center for the Study of Popular Culture. Probably three pictures would've satisfied my appetite. How many pictures of Horowitz would you need to help the digestion of your lunch?
I see four acquaintances from various Orthodox shuls around the neighborhood. One, who I thought disdained me, gives me a thumbs up and shakes his fist in a gesture that means "Way to go!"
Later he explains that he was watching a panel discussion at the LA Times Bookfair where I took after author Johnathan Kirsch on his hatred of Orthodox Judaism. I learn that I was respectful, but coherent and devastating in my approach. Kirsch completely avoided my question. I worked hard on my question and this was the first time anybody noticed.
Any single woman who wants to meet guys should come to Republican gatherings like this one. There are no single young women but many single young men. There's a table of UCLA Republicans and they are all male. Most people appeared to be married, as is the Republican custom. Married people take care of each other, notes Dennis Prager, and therefore do not look to the government to take care of them. A solid family structure is the enemy of the Democratic party.
Actor Robert Davi (from Israel) gives the longest introduction in the history of the Wednesday Morning Club (a right-of-center Hollywood group started by David Horowitz). "Let an actor speak without a script and you get incoherence," somebody mutters.
I make a run for the mens room. Outside the Sunset Room, I spot three WMC assistants eating their lunch at a side table, able to just barely peak in on the program. I feel jarred.
I wonder how many of the swarthy immigrants serving us our lunch are legal immigrants?
Cathy and Debbie teach me table manners. They instruct me to tell my waiter, when he brings my salad dressing, that I want a vegetarian entree. I feel too chicken so Debbie calls the guy back to our table and makes the request.
I really want a vegetarian entree without vegetables. I just eat the pasta.
I eat the salad with my fingers, which Debbie and Cathy frown upon. I think I am the only person in the room, which is filled to capacity (about 150 persons), pulling my lettuce apart by hand and carrying shreds of it to my mouth. Feeling barbaric, I use a knife to cut out the good parts of the lettuce. When the waiter clears my salad plate and utensils, I see I've used the wrong knife, because he leaves it, messy and dirty, before me while clearing the clean salad knife.
Debbie instructs me on what to do with the bread rolls but I skip them for the cheese toast, which crumbles all over me.
I tear into the berry tart desert but it tastes coffee-like and I should not eat caffeine. I eat the whole thing anyway. It didn't taste as good as it looked. It should've been more chocolatey.
I sit about 50 feet from the lectern. I put my tiny cell phone-size brand new Sony ICD-ST10 digital recorder (my first digital recorder after 18 years of using tape recorders for journalism) on the table and point it at Victor Davis Hanson. Set for the lowest and longest recording mode, I put DIRECTNL on the microphone and hope for the best. When I get home and play it back, the quality is amazing.
Victor Davis Hanson gives an eloquent 30 minute speech followed by 15 minutes of questions.
Hanson recently spoke on Capitol Hill to congressmen and staffer about his new book Mexifornia. Dr. Hanson is a classics (Greek and Roman language, history and culture) professor at Cal State Fresno. He's introduced correctly as a "classicist."
Shortly after he begins talking, a congressional staffer stands up and starts ranting that Dr. Hanson is a racist and xenophobic. Then the staffer runs out, but not before stealing the pizza that the entire group was supposed to enjoy afterwards. The staffer had to be tackled in the hallway.
It turns out to be a staffer for the leader of the Democratic party in the House, Nancy Pelosi. When a spokesman for Pelosi was questioned about the incident, he said that the staffer was offended that Hanson was a "classist" (meaning someone who believes in a class system, like Hindu culture used to maintain, or Britain, where there were clear demarcations between upper, middle and working classes).
Victor mentions threats to his life.
Hanson says that over the course of a lifetime, an illegal Mexican immigrant costs the American government about five times what he contributes in taxes.
He relates a story about a businessman friend who hires illegal aliens. The friend was on his way to a familiar restaurant when he saw seven aliens standing outside in their boxer shorts. It was laundry day. The Mexicans had put all their clothes in the laundry but their boxers. The offense of having to look at such an ugly site is a small example of the social price we pay for limitless illegal immigration into California and Texas.
"At least they were wearing their boxers," says a relieved Seipp.
Hanson recently engaged in a public dialogue in Washington D.C. with the Mexican consul, who piously proclaimed how sad it was that his country was losing millions of its citizens to the US. "What can we do?" he sighed, and with his passive voice and gesture, showed there was nothing his country could do.
Hanson: "You could tell them to stay."
Mexico wants millions of people, particularly its lower class, illiterate mestizos (mixed-race) to go into the US to find work, otherwise it would have a revolution on its hands from its internal pressure and might have to clean up and reform its government. The second biggest source of hard currency from abroad for Mexico, even higher than tourism, is the $12 billion dollars a year that illegals in the US send back to family in Mexico.
Mexican elites say that their mestizos who cross into the US are Mexico's revenge on the US for losing their war 150 years ago.
Hanson said farmers he knows don't want to employ Mexicans with tattoos, shaved heads and who speak English. They want the first generation Mexicans because they work harder. The second generation is corrupted by America and embittered by the lack of progress its illegal peers make into American society.
Hanson took a lot of dead-on potshots at Cruz Bustamente, a third generation Californian. Bustamente was Mike Bustamente when he entered Fresno State but decided, after joining MEChA (the Mexican supremacist organization), to change his name to something more latino. Mike did not attend his final year of Fresno. He just took courses by correspondence.
MEChA resembles Nazi ideology. It's a silly pernicious organization that has driven latino politics left.
Debbie, Cathy and I kvell over Hanson. "He's compassionate," says Debbie, a political eclectic. She and her husband Morgan will attend a fundraiser for Democrat John Edwards this evening.
It is 1:30PM. Time to go home.