Victor Davis Hanson

Autopilot Nation

Conservatives lament, and liberals brag, that Obama has fundamentally transformed America.

by Victor Davis Hanson // National Review Online


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About victorhanson

Victor Davis Hanson is the Martin and Illie Anderson Senior Fellow in Residence in Classics and Military History at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, a professor of Classics Emeritus at California State University, Fresno, and a nationally syndicated columnist for Tribune Media Services. He is also the Wayne & Marcia Buske Distinguished Fellow in History, Hillsdale College, where he teaches each fall semester courses in military history and classical culture. He recently published an historical novel The End of Sparta (2012), a realistic retelling of Epaminondas invasion and liberation of Spartan-control Messenia. In The Father of Us All (2011), he collected earlier essays on warfare ancient and modern. His upcoming history The Savior Generals(2013) analyzes how five generals in the history of the West changed the course of battles against all odds. He was awarded the National Humanities Medal in 2007 and the Bradley Prize in 2008. Hanson, who was the fifth successive generation to live in the same house on his family’s farm, was a full-time orchard and vineyard grower from 1980-1984, before joining the nearby CSU Fresno campus in 1984 to initiate a classical languages program. In 1991, he was awarded an American Philological Association Excellence in Teaching Award, which is given yearly to the country’s top undergraduate teachers of Greek and Latin. Hanson has been a National Endowment for the Humanities fellow at the Center for Advanced Studies in the Behavioral Sciences, Stanford, California (1992-93), a visiting professor of classics at Stanford University (1991-92), a recipient of the Eric Breindel Award for opinion journalism (2002), an Alexander Onassis Fellow (2001), and was named alumnus of the year of the University of California, Santa Cruz (2002). He was also the visiting Shifrin Professor of Military History at the U.S. Naval Academy, Annapolis, Maryland (2002-3). He received the Manhattan Institute’s Wriston Lectureship in 2004, and the 2006 Nimitz Lectureship in Military History at UC Berkeley in 2006. Hanson is the author of hundreds of articles, book reviews, scholarly papers, and newspaper editorials on matters ranging from ancient Greek, agrarian and military history to foreign affairs, domestic politics, and contemporary culture. He has written or edited 17 books, including Warfare and Agriculture in Classical Greece (1983; paperback ed. University of California Press, 1998); The Western Way of War (Alfred Knopf, 1989; 2d paperback ed. University of California Press, 2000); Hoplites: The Ancient Greek Battle Experience (Routledge, 1991; paperback., 1992); The Other Greeks: The Family Farm and the Agrarian Roots of Western Civilization(Free Press, 1995; 2nd paperback ed., University of California Press, 2000);Fields without Dreams: Defending the Agrarian Idea (Free Press, 1996; paperback, Touchstone, 1997; The Bay Area Book reviewers Non-fiction winner for 1996); The Land Was Everything: Letters from an American Farmer (Free Press, 2000; a Los Angeles Times Notable book of the year); The Wars of the Ancient Greeks (Cassell, 1999; paperback, 2001); The Soul of Battle (Free Press, 1999, paperback, Anchor/Vintage, 2000); Carnage and Culture (Doubleday, 2001; Anchor/Vintage, 2002; a New York Times bestseller); An Autumn of War (Anchor/Vintage, 2002); Mexifornia: A State of Becoming (Encounter, 2003),Ripples of Battle (Doubleday, 2003), and Between War and Peace (Random House, 2004). A War Like No Other: How the Athenians and Spartans Fought the Peloponnesian War, was published by Random House in October 2005. It was named one of the New York Times Notable 100 Books of 2006. Hanson coauthored, with John Heath, Who Killed Homer? The Demise of Classical Education and the Recovery of Greek Wisdom (Free Press, 1998; paperback, Encounter Press, 2000); with Bruce Thornton and John Heath, Bonfire of the Humanities (ISI Books, 2001); and with Heather MacDonald, and Steven Malanga, The Immigration Solution: A Better Plan Than Today’s (Ivan Dee 2007). He edited a collection of essays on ancient warfare, Makers of Ancient Strategy (Princeton University Press, 2010). Hanson has written for the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Los Angeles Times, International Herald Tribune, New York Post, National Review, Washington Times, Commentary, The Washington Post, Claremont Review of Books, American Heritage, New Criterion, Policy Review, Wilson Quarterly, Weekly Standard, Daily Telegraph, and has been interviewed often on National Public Radio, PBS Newshour, Fox News, CNN, and C-Span’s Book TV and In-Depth. He serves on the editorial board of the Military History Quarterly, and City Journal. Since 2001, Hanson has written a weekly column for National Review Online, and in 2004, began his weekly syndicated column for Tribune Media Services. In 2006, he also began thrice-weekly blog for Pajamas Media, Works and Days. Hanson was educated at the University of California, Santa Cruz (BA, Classics, 1975, ‘highest honors’ Classics, ‘college honors’, Cowell College), the American School of Classical Studies, Athens (regular member, 1978-79) and received his Ph.D. in Classics from Stanford University in 1980. He divides his time between his forty-acre tree and vine farm near Selma, California, where he was born in 1953, and the Stanford campus.

12 Thoughts on “Autopilot Nation

  1. Hoi Polloi Boy on January 6, 2015 at 8:19 am said:

    “And Obama himself? He will probably enjoy a lucrative post-presidency deriding his opponents, whose opposition ended up helping him, while praising his own failed policies, which neutered his presidency.”

    Must be following Carter’s playbook, who hasn’t shut his yap for 35 years. It’s disheartening to know I’ll go to my grave having to hear from Obama from now on.

  2. David Seward on January 6, 2015 at 8:46 am said:

    Again, you have illuminated the falsiity of the Obama agenda. The man has become the Lier in Chief, cheapening the Presidency at every turn. Perhaps conservatives will stem the damage already done, but this President’s legacy will be one of raw political ambition without a “smidgen” of statesmanship apparent anywhere. It will be a sad legacy of divisiveness, obfuscation, deceit, amoral policy making and a clear distaste for our republic’s Constitution and Bill of Rights. The average American will always press on regardless of incompetence in the White House. We have done it time and time again. In the end our people always outlast the politicians.

  3. Joe D'Agostino on January 6, 2015 at 9:34 am said:

    I think I realize now I will find no more than the old rhetoric of the out of touch neo-conservative mindset here.

    “Six years of slumber later,” six years of mindless party politics – one party devoted to attempting to govern, the other devoted to obstruction of that other party, Did the government come close to shut down several times and actually did shut down for a week? I can’t even remember. It’s hardly been slumber. Mere rhetoric to characterize gridlock struggle as some sort of intended state of economic management..

    ” a surging America” – are we talking about a recent economic report? I don’t see a surging America. Is this a rhetorical set up for the slumber? From sleep to surging? No time to smell the coffee? Wake up, America Reagan rhetoric?

    ” finally is transcending” Transcending is a wonderful word. just words, though.

    “even the effects of hope and change.” More words and even these words don’t make sense. Aren’t hope and change good things when facing a crisis of global economic meltdown? Are we supposed to be so keyed to the partisan nature of political dialogue that “hope and change” are anathema. How does one transcend the effects of hope and change? One must read the code to realize the rest of this article will be a screen about how everything the current administration as attempted is wrong and it is all linked to one person, the president.

    I once thought that laying the blame and credit to the current president for every current event was a simple device to distract the simple. Now I realize it is not a distraction, it is a serious call to political war. It is much easier to identify a leader, a person, a focus rather than an abstraction, or principles or policies. It is still a smoke screen. Blah, blah, blah. The commentators keep talking to their converted flocks.

    • And you say VDH says nothing? You spent four plus paragraphs saying nothing, but you think conservatives are wrong… how about proving your points or answering your questions? Never mind, you probably can’t, so I will.

      Yes, the government “shut down” for a week if you count putting more boots on the ground to close public monuments by barricading them. There was no real shutdown; it was all a sham put on by this administration to irritate as many people as possible by crying wolf about not having a trillion dollars to blow on “stimulus” and crony capitalism.

      While I don’t think the economy is surging, it is doing better, thanks in large part to lower oil costs. Lower transportation costs and cheaper pump prices create spendable income, so yes, despite the president’s work, the economy is a little better.

      “Hope and change” is forever tainted by this administration – I doubt I will ever use them together in the same sentence again. The global economic meltdown? How was “hope and change” going to do anything to fix that? Same ridiculous grumbling about obstruction from conservatives.

      Pretty much everything this administration has attempted has failed miserably in some way. The ACA has not reduced the cost of healthcare, in fact most people are only starting to feel the monetary effects of this ridiculous law. Four US citizens died in Benghazi under this administration’s watch. The IRS has been politicized and used as leverage for the administration. I could go on and on, but everyone else reading this is already aware of the issues. Maybe you should try getting your news from somewhere other than CNN and MSNBC.

    • Mitchell Karera on January 7, 2015 at 6:25 am said:

      No, son, change is not necessarily a good thing even in the wake of a global economic meltdown. Change can be for the better but it can just as easily be for the worse (witness the previous six years).

  4. I’ll take competition anywhere and everywhere over government socialism. They say the oil boom is now a bad thing, they are wrong. Cheap energy creates jobs, it opens the floodgates to creativity and independence.

  5. Helen Parnagian on January 6, 2015 at 10:27 am said:

    Obama is so shallowly rooted, so fanthomlike in his persona, it is hard to mull over his future, if he has one. No doubt he will milk the system for perks, charge huge amounts for speaking arrangements and play a lot of golf. Maybe on the golf course is the most comfortable place for his post-presidency role but even there, try as he might, he’s not going to be able to call the shots. Destiny has a life of its own.

  6. Helen Parnagian on January 6, 2015 at 10:35 am said:

    I hope my attempt at moderation helps print this. HC

  7. dupere on January 6, 2015 at 4:13 pm said:

    In the USA, its finance. An obstructionist President for the next 2 years and God forbid, another Democrat puppet shell elected to the presidency in 2016. Add to that, the treasonous RINO’S still kissy kissy with Bankruptor in Chief. The United States, the defender of the free world, is being led into financial peril. Is the peril set in motion by the truth in folllowing article, combined with the above statements ?—- See the article from zero hedge “” How the petroldollar quietly died, and nobody noticed.”” Russia, Russia toil and trouble; fire burn and cauldron bubble.” —- Have no fear, Obama is here.

  8. David Park on January 7, 2015 at 9:38 am said:

    Next time we vote in a candidate to be President, let us avoid one whose river of oratory floats a loaded oil tanker but whose stream of wisdom, experience, and past record of performance scrapes the bottoms of empty kayaks.

  9. Americans are a stubborn bunch. Bent on succeeding, although un-garateed, even by God, they nonetheless go through the motions, inspired by a resilient system of government put in motion a couple of centuries ago, based on simple words from a short written document, that allows at least a chance for it, regardless the transient political ideology that occupies the nation’s capitol at any given moment.
    Rhetoric, the preferred medium of politicians, has the ability to inflate or deflate depending on the intent of it’s owner, guided wholly by their ideology. Contrast the words of Reagan with those of Carter. Who’s words inspired and cemented a mindset that helped lift the country out of a debilitating period of social and economic malaise and hopelessness? Evidenced, there followed the largest peacetime economic boom in American history. The vast majority will take a positive over a negative slant every time. Granted, real policies that work toward actual solutions to problems MUST follow the rhetoric. The sort of soaring, glittery speech employed by Obama the candidate soon lost it’s luster when it was followed by Obama the president who, at every available turn, used the bully pulpit to apologize to the world for America’s (in his mind) dispicable deeds. Combine that with the six years now of vacuous and ill conceived policies that have produced only scant positive economic results. Culturally, words will also help or hurt. The tact Obama and his ilk took when the country, confronted by a series of unfortunate incidents involving race, desperately needed a salve in the form of calming and thoughtful words from it’s first post-racial(?) leader. But, in each instance, the rhetoric Obama ultimately chose had the reverse affect, fueling the proverbial fire and rending open the wound that had been healing nicely for forty years. The sort of speech utilized by this administration and it’s other nefarious cohorts is certainly culpable in a large way for the subsequent crimes and acts of violence perpetrated against the police and private citizens across the country.

    Words are just words, indeed!

  10. John Lewis on January 10, 2015 at 10:18 pm said:

    Yes; Obama will be a comparatively young man when his presidency ends. He will have many years in which to taste his defeat – his defeat that he tried his utmost, but failed to break you.

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