Lucian Freud, noted British artist, dies


Lucian Freud, one of Britain’s most noted artists, has died at the age of 88.

Freud, who was a grandson of Sigmund Freud, the pioneering figure of psychoanalysis, died at his London home on Wednesday.

Born in Berlin in 1922, the future artist fled with his family to England at the age of 10 after Hitler took power in 1933.

A figurative painter, he was famed for his portraits and paintings of nudes.

“The vitality of (Freud’s) nudes, the intensity of the still life paintings and the presence of his portraits of family and friends guarantee Lucian Freud a unique place in the pantheon of late 20th Century art,” said Nicholas Serota, the director of the Tate Gallery in London. “His early paintings redefined British art and his later works stand comparison with the great figurative painters of any period.”

On having your (political) heart broken — the Edwards scandal


The e-mail came when I was in Mexico, at a fitness resort that — in pursuit of wellness — confines BlackBerry use to guests’ rooms.

“Need to chat briefly with you regarding John Edwards and the effects of this scandal on his future political career.” It was from a reporter I know at People. I had no idea what he was talking about. Though I’d cut way back on my news intake, not to mention my beloved carbs, while at the ranch, I figured that my furtive Web browsing during the week was keeping me reasonably well informed on the big stuff.

His follow-up message, in response to my away-from-my-e-mail auto-reply, vibrated in my pocket during dinner, where no one else at my table had a clue what scandal had erupted. I stole a look at the screen, my transgression, I hoped, concealed by the tablecloth.

“What do you think are going to be the effects on John’s political future, most notably his chances for a vice presidential nod from Obama? From your perspective, where does this scandal, if you will, rank in the history of American politics? Why do you think so many people are appalled by these developments? His wife’s illness?”

It would be 24 hours later that I fully re-introduced media toxins into my system. Ingesting the National Enquirer account of Edwards’ purported Beverly Hills Hotel visit to the purported mother of his purported love child turned out to be as shocking to my system as the I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter! Light that I unthinkingly shmeared on the ranch bread, won at bingo, that I’d brought home with me.

But the e-mail alone — “appalled,” “his wife’s illness” — was enough to get me to contemplate the awful, unsubstantiated conclusion the moment I got it. I know enough to mistrust rumors. But I couldn’t help hypothetically feeling the same nausea, the same kicked-in-the-stomach wallop that hit me when Bill Clinton fessed up to his sexual infidelity and to lying about it. Appalled? No, more like heartsick.

I had spent the weekend before the Iowa caucuses — still undecided, even after the torture of watching what seemed like a gazillion pre-primary debates — taking in every minute of every Democrat’s stump speech that I could find on C-SPAN. Some online issues poll I’d taken told me that Dennis Kucinich was the candidate closest to my views, but I was in no mood to be romantic or sentimental about my choice.

What surprised me was that Edwards turned out to be my candidate. I wanted a fighter, someone as furious about what had happened to America and to the Constitution as I was, and Edwards — unlike Barack Obama, who struck me as having been snookered by high-minded editorial writers’ jonesing for bipartisanship — seemed ready to kick butt and take names. And much as I respect Hillary Clinton’s smarts, I was world-weary of the pols and hacks who surrounded and spoke for her, and her stump speech sounded uncannily like what I had written for Walter Mondale; much as I respect him, 2008 isn’t 1984.

Edwards’ populism rang my bell. He had some political problems — the haircut, the house, the lackluster performance in the Cheney debate — but watching him ignite crowd after crowd that snowy weekend, I experienced him as sublimely authentic. Plus, of course, there was Elizabeth.

It wasn’t just her bravery in the face of cancer that made people love her. It wasn’t just the young children. It was also how authentic she was, and how smart, and the sacrifice she was prepared to make, the trade of precious family time for a higher purpose.

John Edwards couldn’t recover politically from his loss in Iowa. As I write this, his camp is dismissing the Enquirer story as typical tabloid trash. That may be entirely true, just as other political scandals, from John McCain’s love child to John Kerry’s swift-boating, have also turned out to be smears spread by political enemies. Is mentioning the Enquirer story lashon hara, the evil tongue? If you can’t talk about contemporary political discourse — all of it, even the vile — you can’t talk about contemporary politics.

Even if the Enquirer’s story turns out to be no more than a hit job, I won’t soon forget the feeling that those e-mails from People churned up in me.

As potentially appalled as I was for Elizabeth Edwards, as potentially amazed as I was by what would have to be John Edwards’ colossal arrogance, what disturbed me most was the possibility that I may have been played for a chump, that I had been as politically na├»ve as any greenhorn who’d just fallen off the turnip truck, that my belief in Edwards — not just in the message, but in the message-bearer — demonstrated that, for all my years of accumulating a justifiable cynicism, I was still susceptible to the stagecraft of political authenticity.

The night that Obama won the Iowa caucuses, I found myself, like many Americans, thrilled by his rhetoric and moved by his story. The Edwards “scandal” has made me mindful of how inclined I have become to believe in Obama. His recent positional shifts, while disconcerting, I have chalked up to a misguided effort to chase voters who will never be for him anyway. But the emotional whiplash engendered by the Enquirer allegations has reminded me that Kool-Aid, like in-room cable news, was also absent at the wellness ranch.

I believed in “I still believe in a place called Hope” until the blue dress. Do I still believe in the “audacity of hope”?

New York Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan once remarked, “There’s no point in being Irish unless you realize that sooner or later the world will break your heart.”

He may just as well have said Jewish.

Marty Kaplan was deputy campaign manager of Walter Mondale’s presidential bid (yes, he lost 49 states), and chief speechwriter for Mr. Mondale when he was Vice President. His column appears here weekly. He can be reached at martyk@jewishjournal.com.

Only democratization can fight Islamists


Natan Sharansky’s June 5-6 Democracy and Security Conference in Prague could reinvigorate the commitment of the United States to support the growth of liberal democracy. If not, the Islamists win a crucial advantage.

There are two basic foreign policy philosophies. The idealist school of thought, which holds that our national interests include the spread of liberal democracy, has a long history in the United States, going back at least to Democratic President Woodrow Wilson. It competes with the realist school, which defines national interests narrowly and elevates stability as the foremost value in international relations. President Bush came to office as a realist, and in a stunning post-Sept. 11 transformation became a hard-core idealist.

However, one can be an inept or ill-served idealist. Bush’s errors have led many to reject the underlying theory. But we can throw out the bathwater of Bush’s mistakes, while keeping the baby of democratization.

Under the influence of Sharansky’s book, “The Case for Democracy,” Bush understood that liberal democracies are rarely dangerous to one another. Therefore, fostering democratization abroad bolsters international security and is in our national interest.

As Bush said in Prague, “Years ago, Andrei Sakharov warned that a country that does not respect the rights of its own people will not respond to the rights of its neighbors. History proves him right. Governments accountable to their people do not attack each other.”

Bush’s rhetoric has been superb, but his follow through has been inconsistent. In Egypt, for example, Bush pressed President Hosni Mubarak for multicandidate presidential elections. But the election was held under restrictive regulations that heavily favored the ruling party, and today, Ayman Nour, who ran against Mubarak, sits in an Egyptian prison.

Former Egyptian political prisoner Saad Eddin Ibrahim said in Prague, “I feel disappointed and betrayed by George Bush. He said that he is promoting democracy, but he has been manipulated by President Hosni Mubarak.”

Worse, Bush apparently has a shallow understanding of liberal democracy, equating it with elections. This is clearly nonsense, considering the elections regularly held in such citadels of liberty as the Soviet Union, Cuba and Saddam Hussein’s Iraq.

In fact, elections without the requisite foundations of an open society, including the rule of law, independent media and noncorrupt security forces, merely permit the most thuggish elements to seize control. This was grimly demonstrated by the Palestinian election that brought Hamas to power.

Nevertheless, this does not invalidate the idealist theory. It simply implies that nurturing liberal democracy requires patience; elections must come at the end, not the beginning, of the process.

Nor has Bush properly used all the foreign policy instruments at his disposal. Military action must be part of the nation’s toolbox, but economic and political pressure are probably more effective in the long run during an ideological war, such as the current war against Islamism.

Bush should have learned this from Sharansky. After all, the United States didn’t win the Cold War by invading or bombing the Soviet Union. The Jackson/Vannik Amendment, linking trade with free emigration, and the Helsinki accords on human rights did at least as much to topple the U.S.S.R. as NATO’s military strength.

Thus, the final document of the Prague conference includes calls for the following:

  • “Seeking national and international initiatives, in the spirit of the Helsinki accords, that link bilateral and international relations to the question of human rights.”
  • “Exerting pressure through peaceful diplomatic, political and economic means on governments and groups abusing human rights to discontinue their practices.”
  • “Providing incentives, through diplomatic, political and economic means, to governments and groups willing to improve the human rights record in their countries and to embark on the road to democracy.”

Nothing has been as disillusioning, nor given realists so much temptation to say, “I told you so,” as Iraq. There’s plenty to be unhappy about when considering post-liberation Iraq.

Still, the essence of the problem is that the Islamists are fighting back. That shouldn’t surprise us. It would be surprising if they didn’t. It just means, as Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) said in Prague, “We have a responsibility to support the forces of freedom not only when it is easy but when it is hard.”

It is time to renew our commitment to liberalization and democratization — it is what the Islamists fear most. Congress should pass comprehensive legislation conditioning relations between the United States and nonliberal democracies on progress toward liberalization. This is not imperialism. It is support for decent values and democracies abroad.

We have the right to condition trade, foreign aid and other goodies on the character of the regime with which we are dealing. If we don’t, we tacitly support the conditions under which Islamism has flourished. Our national interests are at stake.


Paul Kujawsky is a member of the California Democratic Party Central Committee.

‘Marriage’ Material


Somewhere in the middle of the Israeli import "Late Marriage," a 12-minute sex scene unfolds between the main characters.

"I [said I would] do the scene because it was natural," said Ronit Elkabetz, one-half of that onscreen couple.

The 37-year-old Israeli actress believes that the film’s much-talked about passage stands out for its realism: no shying away from anatomy — female or male; no Hollywood-stylized romance, ripe with female exploitation. Just warts-and-all lovemaking shot in real time to convey the power — and the awkwardness — of the characters’ union.

There are others reasons why the film connected with Israelis, Elkabetz said.

"It’s a really good story," she said, adding that the film’s foreign Georgian community backdrop didn’t hurt.

In Dover Kosashvili’s "Late Marriage" ("Hatuna Meuheret"), Elkabetz portrays Judith, the worldly 34-year-old single mother who becomes the center of controversy and conflict between her 31-year-old lover (Lior Ashkenazi) and his traditional immigrant family. The lighthearted tone that shades "Late Marriage" does not prepare viewers for the film’s raw, decidedly un-Hollywood ending.

"Late Marriage," which premiered at the 2001 Cannes Film Festival, brought Elkabetz much acclaim.

Growing up in Haifa, she admired American actresses such as Bette Davis. After serving in the army, she moved to Tel Aviv to make films such as "Ben Gurion" (1997).

"I don’t think there’s a difference being an actress in Israel," she said of her craft. But she did say that Israel’s government-supported film industry does not allow for tremendous career or salary growth. Perhaps that’s why the actress, who recently won a screenwriting grant, plans to make her own films.

Despite her relocation to Paris, where she works in film and on stage, Elkabetz will always act in Israeli projects."It’s my family, it’s my country," she said.

"Late Marriage" opened May 22 in limited release at Regent Showcase, 614 N. La Brea Ave., Los Angeles, (323) 934-2944; Laemmle Town Center 5, 17200 Ventura Blvd., Encino, (818) 981-9811, and Edwards South Coast Village 3, 1561 W. Sunflower Ave., Santa Ana, (714) 540-0594.