Mulhall column: Of Chicken Valdostana and today’s political discourse
July 12, 2018
In 2002, the late Charles Krauthammer wrote, "To understand the workings of American politics, you have to understand this fundamental law: Conservatives think liberals are stupid. Liberals think conservatives are evil."
You get a sense of what Krauthammer meant in the recent story about Sarah Huckabee Sander's attempt to dine with her husband and friends at the Red Hen restaurant in Lexington, Virginia.
Whether in reaction to the Masterpiece Cakeshop ruling, the President's immigration policy, or something else, it's hard to say, but the restaurateur disinvited the White House press secretary.
It wasn't the only move, or the best, but in the grand scheme, no biggie.
Speaking of dining, my wife and I recently accompanied friends to Pastatively in Eagle for what turned out to be a hearty, classic Italian repast, and, no, I wasn't asked to leave.
Now I'm no Anthony Bourdain, but contemplating fine cuisine is in just about every way possible more satisfying than politics, so I rather welcomed the Red Hen kerfuffle if only for this brief diversion:
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Since Florent and Roza Gallicchio closed Florindo's in 2012, I've been on constant lookout for good local Italian fare. I'm a big fan of Brava, and now of Pastatively, and the Italian Underground is a sentimental favorite, though I confess I haven't dined there but a handful of times since Gregory Durrett sold the place. To this day, however, no one prepares Chicken Valdostana to rival Florent's.
I may have had doubts about an Italian eatery in an Eagle strip mall, but the scenic ride to Pastatively was worth it for several reasons, one of which had nothing to do with pasta fazool.
On our way through Glenwood Canyon, I mentioned how many calls and texts I'd received from Democrat gubernatorial and 3rd Congressional District candidates in the run-up to the primaries. Taken together, I explained, they amounted to a lot of effort on a single voter.
"It's because you write that column in the newspaper," my friend offered from behind the steering wheel. "They figure if they get your support it's a two-fer."
"I don't think so," I said, doubting any self-respecting Democrat would bother if they'd ever read this column. Before realizing that condition supported my friend's point, I added, "They scraped my number out of the Democrat voter roll. This fall they'll pick someone else."
He shook his head and changed the subject.
Fortunately, party affiliation isn't necessarily intellectual handicap, and when I boil down Krauthammer's law, on this he may have agreed. He did, after all, base his stupid v. evil proposition on ideology.
In thinking a person's stance wrong, unspoken disagreement suffices. However, if in another's position you find evil, quiet disagreement isn't enough, though that's quite beside Krauthammer's point.
Every individual is on some level morally bound to oppose evil when it's present and obvious and you think it could do real damage, particularly to the innocent, though in a political context, where civility supposedly matters, how you oppose it ought to be commensurate with what it is.
Turning a White House Press Secretary away from a restaurant is an example. As such, it's on the defensible end of the spectrum between quiet disagreement and, say, shooting a Congressman on a baseball diamond.
Some Democrat politicians don't help.
Consider Rep. Maxine Waters' recent call to action: "If you see anybody from that [Trump] Cabinet in a restaurant, in a department store, at a gasoline station," she insisted after Huckabee Sanders got sent home, "you get out and you create a crowd and you push back on them, and you tell them they're not welcome anymore, anywhere."
That's a shift toward the indefensible disguised as valid, 1960s civil disobedience.
Likewise, when Justice Anthony Kennedy announced his retirement the other day, Waters said, "The next Supreme Court Justice should be an illegal immigrant," maybe because a qualified citizen jurist like Miguel Estrada would never do.
The veracity of Krauthammer's law exists in too many on the left as an outwardly principled opposition to intolerance that rubber-stamps it for ideological noncompliance.
In fairness, Rep. Waters is neither the first nor the worst, and she won't be the last, but Waters and politicians like her extend the first half of Krauthammer's law beyond conservatives, and, at least for me, makes voting in the Democrat primary a Hobson's choice.
I nevertheless did cast my primary ballot — you know, civic duty and all that — but I would have rather done something more constructive, like reverse engineer Florent's Chicken Valdostana.
Mitch Mulhall is a husband, father and longtime valley resident. His column appears on the second Friday of each month.