Victor Davis Hanson Private Papers

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This Election Year Features More Than One Presidential Race

By Victor Davis Hanson // Town Hall

A presidential campaign is figuratively called a “race.” Two runners sprint toward the Election Day finish line for the prize of the presidency.

But the 2016 presidential campaign has spawned lots of weird races.

The first sprint is one between embarrassments and scandals.

Will another WikiLeaks disclosure confirm that Hillary Clinton is a dishonest and conniving hypocrite? Or will yet another open-mic tape, disgruntled beauty queen or old Howard Stern interview remind us that Donald Trump’s private life was — and perhaps still is — uncouth?

The winner will be the candidate leaked about the least by Election Day.
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Our Neutron Bomb Election

 by Victor Davis Hanson // National Review

The shells of our institutions maybe survive the 2016 campaign, but they will be mere husks.

The infamous neutron bomb was designed to melt human flesh without damaging infrastructure.

Something like it has blown up lots of people in the 2016 election and left behind empty institutions.

After the current campaign — the maverick Trump candidacy, the Access Hollywood Trump tape, the FBI scandal, the Freedom of Information Act revelations, the WikiLeaks insider scoops on the Clinton campaign, the hacked e-mails, the fraudulent pay-for-play culture of the Clinton Foundation — the nuked political infrastructure may look the same. But almost everyone involved in the election has been neutroned. Read more →

Angry Reader

Comment from a Reader:

Maybe you can become his campaign manager now.  That is, if you can get him to sit still long enough for you to explain to him who Bull Halsey is.
Victor Davis Hanson’s Reply:
Your cynicism is noted. But,as you know, Trump refers to Gens. MacArthur and George S. Patton with frequency if not monotony. So your point is that Trump’s knowledge of World War II’s top commanders is incomplete in that he shorts admirals in his similes and allusions?

 

 

America’s Civilizational Paralysis

by Victor Davis Hanson // Defining Idea
 

Image credit:Barbara Kelley

The Greek city-states in the fourth-century BC, fifth-century AD Rome, and the Western European democracies after World War I all knew they could not continue as usual with their fiscal, social, political, and economic behavior. But all these states and societies feared far more the self-imposed sacrifices that might have saved them.

Mid-fifteenth-century Byzantium was facing endemic corruption, a radically declining birthrate and shrinking population, and the end of civic militarism—all the last-gasp symptoms of an irreversible decline. Its affluent ruling and religious orders and expansive government services could no longer be supported by disappearing agrarians and the overtaxed mercantile middle class. Returning to the values of the Emperor Justinian’s sixth-century empire that had once ensured a vibrant Byzantine culture of stability and prosperity throughout the old Roman east remained a nostalgic daydream. Given the hardship and sacrifice that would have been required to change the late Byzantine mindset, most residents of Constantinople plodded on to their rendezvous with oblivion in 1453. Read more →

Medieval America

By Victor Davis Hanson // Town Hall

 

Pessimists often compare today’s troubled America to a tottering late Rome or an insolvent and descending British Empire. But medieval Europe (roughly A.D. 500 to 1450) is the more apt comparison.

The medieval world was a nearly 1,000-year period of spectacular, if haphazard, human achievement — along with endemic insecurity, superstition and two, rather than three, classes.

The great medieval universities — at Bologna, Paris and Oxford — continued to make strides in science. They were not unlike the medical and engineering schools at Harvard and Stanford. But they were not centers of free thinking.

Instead, medieval speech codes were designed to ensure that no one questioned the authority of church doctrine. Culturally or politically incorrect literature of the classical past, from Aristophanes to Petronius, was censored as either subversive or hurtful. Read more →

Angry Reader

Comment from a Reader:

Dear Mr. Hanson;

I left the Republican Party soon after watching eight years of ineffective “leadership” by Mitch McConnell, John Bohner, and now Paul Ryan. But the tipping point came when Trump was nominated for president. I cannot belong to a political party that would nominate an ignoramus and blowhard who has no interest in America other than how it can enrich him.

Trump has the mentality of a not-very-bright 8 year old. I am sad to witness people like Dennis Prager, Bill Bennett, Ann Coulter, you, and many others I formerly respected who are now in thrall to the unsophisticated and ignorant Trump.

The GOP is finished. Conservatives and those who love and respect our Constitution must form a new organization to push back against institutional Leftism. Trump is the last person we need to lead that movement.

John Nernoff

Victor Davis Hanson’s Reply:

The use of the adjectival phrase “in thrall” has no support in anything I wrote about Trump, my least favorite of the 16 primary alternatives, and reflects poorly on both the reasoning and character of the Angry Reader.  Unfortunately, I live in the real world of 51/49% in which there are usually bad and worse choices. In that context, the specter of a 8-year Clinton continuum to Obama’s two terms is truly frightening. I suggest Mr. Nernoff review the latest Wikileaks trove and then collate it with prior hacked Clinton emails and Foundation business. “Unsophisticated and Ignorant” Hillary certainly is not. But I might prefer in our Manichean world of 2016 unsophistication to unconstitutional criminality and inveterate lying. If you seek monuments to why Hillary should not reach the White House, simply look around you from the carcass of the Middle East to a soon to be nuclear Iran to war drums from North Korea to Moscow—all a topping to a wrecked health care system, $11 trillion in new debt, and the corruption of once hallowed institutions from the IRS to the FBI. There is a 51% great likelihood that a president Trump would bring in far more conservatives than would Hillary Clinton; sometimes that is all we get.


 

Angry Reader

Comment on: Is Trump Admiral Bull Halsey of Captain Queeg?

October 4, 2016

So—you tuned in hoping to see “Bull” Halsey? I suppose that was a reasonable expectation if the following propositions were true:

       1. “Bull” Halsey was a draft dodger.

      2. “Bull” Halsey was a cheat.

  1. “Bull” Halsey was a four-flusher.
  1. “Bull” Halsey was an ignoramus.
  1. “Bull” Halsey got his information from “the shows.”

 I could go on—in fact, I could go on and on and on—but I hope you get the point. It’s that I’ve never seen this amount of self-delusion in one place at one time before. The mere act of instituting that comparison means your judgment ranks at zero, now and forever.

 Adios—

 Bob Acker

Victor Davis Hanson’s Reply:

Mr. Acker,

I wrote in the column that conservatives—not myself as you write—probably tuned into to see Trump as a Bull Halsey-like character, not as Captain Queeg of The Caine Mutiny. You do not understand the craft of allusion, metaphor, or simile. I suggested that Trump supporters probably thought he would come out in the first debate in speech and candor as aggressive and tough, in the manner that Admiral William “Bull” Halsey often employed tough rhetoric in World War II. Instead, I suggested that Trump’s confused debate performance reminded one of the neurotic fictional character Captain Queeg of the classic movie The Caine Mutiny, who melted down in courtroom rants about the trivial.

You strangely object to that narrow comparison because you seem to think that the life Trump has lived does not match the heroism of Halsey. True, but my limited comparison was to the impulsive Halsey’s combative language, not inclusive relative morality. According to your simplistic logic, Trump commensurately also could not be compared to the neurotic Queeg because Queeg never existed—he was first a fictional and later a cinematic character. So I am also not allowed to note the comparison between Trump and Queeg because it would be unfair to the non-person Queeg: the phantom of literature and film whose made-up life might not have been akin to Trump, the “four-flusher”?

The arrogance and puerility of your angry letter (“It’s that I’ve never seen this amount of self-delusion in one place at one time before. The mere act of instituting that comparison means your judgment ranks at zero, now and forever.”) only add to your utter confusion about comparisons to limited rhetorical characteristics of real and fictional characters.

Finally, if I were to say on occasion that Mitt Romney was Kennedyesque, in some of his better rhetorical moments, would the blinkered Acker then object that the comparison between the morally upright Romney and the dissolute and often abhorrent sexual practices of John F. Kennedy made the narrow rhetorical allusion unfair to Romney?

In sum, the angry letter is utterly incoherent, reminding us that ignorance and arrogance are a lethal combination.

VDH

Lessons From California’s Drought

 By Victor Davis Hanson // Defining Ideas

Image credit: Barbara Kelley

By the end of 2015, it had begun raining and snowing throughout California after fifty months of drought.

Meteorologists had long forecasted that the cyclical return of the so-called El Niño Southern Oscillation—the episodic rise in temperature of a band of ocean water that develops in the central and east-central equatorial Pacific—would end the drought.

The warmer Pacific alters winds, air temperature, and atmospheric pressures and thus tends to reroute northern storms to their proper course over the Western United States. If the current storm track persists through March, California’s drought may well come to an end.

Was California changed by the catastrophic drought—and did the country at large learn any lessons from it?
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