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Blues Cruise

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Bush administration lawyer John Yoo asked, "this is like Lord of the Flies, and Karl Rove is Piggy?"  

“I disagree with that!” a woman next to me yelled, storming down the aisle with her hand in the air. “Excuse me! Excuse me! I disagree with that!”

Just as she was going for the microphone to amplify her complaints, the panel moderator looked at his watch and declared: “I hate to end this party, but we have to be out of here, thank you very much!”

The last event before cocktails and dinner was a lecture by Deroy Murdock, the only black National Review speaker. It was a curious outlier on the agenda, titled “How the Music of Memphis and Motown Helped Bury Jim Crow,” and set in a smaller, more intimate venue midship. Murdock was wearing a red satin dinner jacket and a black bow tie, presumably to look like a Motown singer. About 50 people attended, sitting on white leather lounge chairs, and there was a Rolling Stones tongue logo on a screen behind him as he cued up “Brown Sugar” on the sound system.

Murdock got the all-white crowd clapping along, including the venerable neoconservative intellectuals Norman Podhoretz and Midge Decter, who smiled broadly.

“Brown Sugar! / How come it tastes so good?”

When the music faded, Murdock, in a studious tone, read from his prepared notes: “It’s only rock and roll, but we like it!”

In his reading of racism in America, Murdock highlighted Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who he said promoted segregation in 1916. * “He, of course, went on to great fame and fortune afterward,” he observed.

The Democrats, explained Murdock, have been “very active in keeping black people down” from 1860 to … 2012. “Go ahead and applaud if you agree with that,” said Murdock.

The audience sat up and clapped hard.

Land ho! There were multiple Shore Excursions available to cruisers in the port of Ocho Rios, Jamaica, though many older cruisers I spoke with wouldn’t go ashore because of horror stories they’d heard about violence and robbery. For the intrepid there was the outing to a waterfall ($79.95), or lunch on an old Colonial plantation (“A Taste of Jamaica,” $99.95). A lot of people went for the plantation, which cruisers later described as rundown and serving bad food. “Jamaica is a dump!” complained Veronique Rodman, a spokeswoman for the American Enterprise Institute.

“It’s only good if you’re at a resort,” added the wife of one of the National Review columnists.

That night, Cal Thomas, a USA Today columnist and Fox News contributor, was the host of my table of eight. At an earlier panel, he’d suggested that his audience “starve the beast” of government by refusing to pay income taxes; but now his stage fire had waned, and he looked bored, peering around our table with half-lids, his hound-dog face propped in his hand. I sat next to a retired surgeon from California named Duane, who heralded the Dinesh D’Souza film 2016: Obama’s America as the definitive truth regarding Obama’s anti-Colonialist background, which now portended America’s inevitable slide into socialism. Thomas liked the movie but dismissed its impact on the election, saying it had preached to the converted and had “sourcing problems” besides. But Duane, who has thick glasses and a closely shorn flat-top, was undeterred, insisting it was relevant. “I disagree!” he spat.

This was a phenomenon that was common on the cruise—the conservative pundits and columnists from the National Review attempting to gently disinter their followers from unhelpful conservative propaganda. For people who believe in the truth of works like Dreams From My Real Father, a conspiracy-­theory documentary that argues that Obama’s real father was a communist propagandist who turned Obama into a socialist Manchurian Candidate, this could be difficult work.

As Thomas downed the rest of his drink, Duane said the only way out of the current quagmire is a “revolution,” citing the famous Thomas Jefferson line about watering the tree of liberty with blood from “time to time.”

What kind of revolution did he have in mind?

Duane’s eyes crinkled into a big smile. “You ever heard of guns?”

His wife sat up: “How do you like the veal?”

“It’s awful,” Duane growled, poking at it. “I can’t hardly chew it.”


*This article has been corrected to show that Roosevelt promoted segregation in 1916, not 1936.


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