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Author Archives: Victor Davis Hanson

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.

Trump — or What, Exactly?

Victor Davis Hanson // National Review

In traditional political terms, there is always an alternate agenda to an incumbent president’s that reasonable voters can debate.

In Trump’s case, two massive annual budget deficits — coming on top of the previous two administrations that doubled the national debt — seem fair game. No president for the past 19 years has sought to offer any remotely sane budget. And with still relatively low interest rates, massive federal spending, a $22 trillion national debt, and an annual deficit of nearly $1 trillion, it is hard to imagine, in extremis, that there remains any notion of “stimulus” or “pump-priming” left.

Yet we hear little about such financial profligacy.

Not a word comes from Trump’s critics about the need for Social Security or Medicare reform to ensure the long-term viability of each — other than the Democrats’ promises to extend such financially shaky programs to millions of new clients well beyond the current retiring Baby Boomer cohorts who are already taxing the limits of the system.

To counter every signature Trump issue, there is almost no rational alternative advanced. That void helps explain the bizarre, three-year litany of dreaming of impeachment, the emoluments clause, the Logan Act, the 25th Amendment, the Mueller special-counsel investigation, Stormy Daniels and Michael Avenatti, Trump’s tax returns, White Supremacy!, Recession! — and Lord knows what next.

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With The Old Breed

Victor Davis Hanson // Claremont Review of Books

n the world of ancient Greece and Rome, collective reverence for the war dead helped explain why hoplites and legionaries fought so fiercely.

The great themes of classical literature are often those of battlefield commemoration. Pericles’ majestic Funeral Oration, the lyric poet Simonides’ epitaph for the fallen at Thermopylae (“Go tell the Spartans…”), Horace’s dulce et decorum est pro patria mori (“It is sweet and proper to die for one’s country”), the hundreds of elegant casualty lists carefully carved on stone, and the glimpses of funerals for the fallen on red-figure vases—all these remind us that without national commemoration and collective gratitude for the sacrifice of their youth, consensual societies of the past could not offer successful resistance against their more regimented or tribal enemies.

Senator Tom Cotton (R-AR) believes that proper commemoration still enhances civic responsibility. Accordingly, in Sacred Duty: A Soldier’s Tour at Arlington National Cemetery he offers three narratives to emphasize how and why America has learned this ancient lesson of honoring the war dead. He relates a regimental motto of the 3rd United States Infantry Regiment, also known as The Old Guard: “soldiers never die until they are forgotten.” Sacred Duty, focused for the most part on Arlington National Cemetery, is a multifaceted primer in why America so dutifully commemorates her soldiers, and how such formal gratitude contributes to our civic sense of self and to élan among our fighting forces. Or as Cotton, himself an Army veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan, puts it in more personal terms: “I…knew that, if I died, my battle buddies would bring me home and the Army would look after my family. That mutual pledge shaped our identity as soldiers and our willingness to fight—and, if necessary, to die—for our country.”

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Progressive Democrats Renounce Their Former Selves

Victor Davis Hanson // National Review

All politicians are “flexible.” If they are in politics long enough, many reinvent themselves ideologically several times over — given the perceived volatile mood of 51 percent of their constituency.

But rarely have we seen an entire primary field of candidates scrambling to renounce all their past identities and agendas — and to do so unapologetically, abruptly, and vehemently.

Apparently, they believe, at least in the primary, that the electorate will either identify as nonwhite, or far left, or both — and thus resent deeply any who are not.

To win the nomination, almost all the leading candidates on the Democratic debate stage now believe that they must renounce almost everything they once stood for — at least for a while. Given that most are white or affluent or children of privilege, or all three, sometimes the metamorphosis becomes low comedy.

Their rational seems to be that 1) no one will remember what they once promoted anyway, 2) everyone will give them a pass when, if nominated, they run in the general election on some of what they just renounced in the primaries, and 3) they really believe that mass immigration and declining demography has made America a nonwhite nation, that some sort of DNA identification badge will allow all of us to find and belong to the right racial caste, and that our superficial identities will govern everything we do, say, and believe (as happened in Rwanda or the former Yugoslavia).

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Victor Davis Hanson: What could sink Trump’s chances in 2020?

Victor Davis Hanson // Fox News

What factors usually reelect or throw out incumbent presidents?

The economy counts most.

Recessions, or at least chronic economic pessimism, sink incumbents. Presidents Jimmy Carter and George H.W. Bush were tagged with sluggish growth, high unemployment and a sense of perceived stagnation — and were easily defeated.

The 2008 financial crisis likely ended any chance for John McCain to continue eight years of Republican rule. Barack Obama campaigned on the message that incumbent George W. Bush was to blame for the meltdown and that McCain, his potential Republican successor, would be even worse.

A once-unpopular incumbent Ronald Reagan fought recession for three years. Yet he soared to a landslide victory in 1984 only after the gross domestic product suddenly took off at an annualized clip of over 7 percent prior to the election.

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Cosmic Injustice

Victor Davis Hanson // American Greatness

One of the weirdest characteristics of our global politicians and moral censors is their preference to voice cosmic justice rather than to address less abstract sin within their own purview or authority. These progressive virtue mongers see themselves as citizens of the world rather than of the United States and thus can impotently theorize about problems elsewhere when they cannot solve those in their own midst.

Big-city mayors are especially culpable when it comes to ignoring felonies in their midst, preferring to hector the misdemeanors of the universe. Notice how New York Mayor Bill De Blasio lords over the insidious deterioration of his city while he lectures on cosmic white supremacy.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg used to sermonize to the nation about gun-control, global warming, the perils of super-sized soft drinks, smoking, and fatty-foods in his efforts to virtue signal his moral fides—even as his New York was nearly paralyzed by the 2010 blizzard that trapped millions of his city’s residents in their homes due to inept and incompetent city efforts to remove snow. Or is the “Bloomberg syndrome” worse than that—in the sense that sounding saintly in theory psychologically compensates for being powerless in fact? Or is it a fashion tic of the privileged to show abstract empathy?

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The German–Soviet Non-Aggression Pact: A Bad Deal, 80 Years Ago

Victor Davis Hanson // National Review

Some 80 years ago, on August 23, 1939, Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union signed the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, formally known as the “Treaty of Non-Aggression between Germany and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.”

The world was shocked — and terrified — by the agreement. Western democracies of the 1930s had counted on the huge resources of Communist Russia, and its hostility to the Nazis, to serve as a brake on Adolf Hitler’s Western ambitions. Great Britain and the other Western European democracies had assumed that the Nazis would never invade them as long as a hostile Soviet Union threatened the German rear.

The incompatibility between Communism and Nazism was considered by all to be existential — and permanent. That mutual hatred explained why dictators Adolf Hitler and Josef Stalin both despised and feared each other.

Yet all at once, such illusions vanished with signing of the pact. Just seven days later, on September 1, 1939, Germany invaded Poland. World War II had begun.

After quickly absorbing most of Eastern Europe by either coercion or alliance, Hitler was convinced that he now had a safe rear. So he turned west in spring 1940 to overrun Denmark, Norway, Belgium, Luxembourg, France, and the Netherlands.

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The Strange Case of ‘White Supremacy’

Victor Davis Hanson // American Greatness

Any majority population must be careful not to revert to pre-civilized tribalism and oppressing minority groups. The United States, like every other country that enjoys diverse populations has struggled from its beginning to ensure equality, sometimes unsuccessfully, and only at the cost of thousands of lives.

While the United States was founded originally mostly by those of European ancestry and was plagued by the endemic racism of the age, especially in regard to African slaves and Native Americans, nonetheless its unique Constitution, embedded within a larger framework of the Western Enlightenment, institutionalized self-reflection and the chance for amendment. America’s founding documents were unique in their singular calls for innate and universal human freedom and equality under the law that would eventually and logically demand reification of such ideals.

In other words, in America there was a real chance to overcome not American sins per se, but the ancient sins of mankind in general.

The result is that more than 243 years after its independence, the current longest-lived democracy arguably is also the world’s most racially, ethnically, and religiously diverse nation and unmatched in its efforts to promote equality.

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How Robert O’Rourke Became ‘Beto’

Victor Davis Hanson // National Review

A  great deal of controversy has continued the past few days over Robert Francis O’Rourke’s longtime use of a nickname given to him at birth (albeit temporarily jettisoned while in prep school) — especially in the wake of his recent sensational and unfounded charges that Donald Trump is directly responsible for the mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, and that white supremacy defines America, past and present, and explains Trump’s culpability.

The point of the amused contention is not that O’Rourke was given such a nickname at or near birth. Rather, the controversy is over his continued use of the sobriquet for cynical political advantage in a somewhat related manner to Senator Elizabeth Warren’s longtime false cultural appropriation of a Native American identity for careerist purposes. After all, we live in a progressive era in which “cultural appropriation” is a mortal sin and non-minority university students are routinely chastised for wearing clothing or hairstyles associated with minority groups or appearing in dramas playing the roles of characters of a different ethnic background.

According to the Dallas Morning News, a quite prescient senior O’Rourke once explained why he had given the shortened form of the Spanish “Roberto” to his son as a nickname. And he seemed to imply that such naming was for political reasons in addition to avoiding confusing young Robert with his maternal grandfather of the same first name:

In the backdrop of the city’s multicultural community, his father, Pat O’Rourke, a consummate politician, once explained why he nicknamed his son Beto: Nicknames are common in Mexico and along the border, and if he ever ran for office in El Paso, the odds of being elected in this mostly Mexican-American city were far greater with a name like Beto than Robert Francis O’Rourke.

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Why target Tucker Carlson? It’s part of the left’s war on the right

Victor Davis Hanson // The Hill

The mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, have rightly shocked the nation. In our understandable collective furor over the senseless loss of life, all the old political divides are being revisited, now in a climate of often frightening blame, anger and distrust — from gun control to the role of extremist ideologies to mental health to responsibilities of political leaders not to inflame tensions.

Such reexamination is a fine and good thing.

But what is not is a different sort of outrage, one that leverages the deaths of innocents to destroy the reputations and careers of others.

It was to be expected that the progressive media and political activists would go after President Trump and his effort to secure the border by blaming him directly for the deaths in El Paso — while not extending such flawed logic to other mass shooters in Dayton and, previously, in Washington, D.C. Both those shooters explicitly claimed fervent support for left-wing causes and particular progressive candidates, such as Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.).

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Will 2020 Be a Repeat of 2004 for Democrats?

Victor Davis Hanson // National Review

Democrats by 2004 had become obsessed with defeating incumbent President George W. Bush.

Four years earlier, in the 2000 election, Bush had won the Electoral College but lost the popular vote. Democrats were still furious that Bush supposedly had been “selected” by the Supreme Court over the contested vote tally in Florida rather than “elected” by the majority of voters.

By late 2003, Bush’s popularity had dipped because of the unpopular Iraq War, which a majority in both houses of Congress approved but had since disowned.

Bush was attacked nonstop as a Nazi, fascist, and war criminal. “Bush lied, people died” was the new left-wing mantra.

Talk of Bush’s impeachment was in the air. Democrats remembered that his father, George H. W. Bush, had lost his reelection bid in 1992. They hoped the same fate awaited his son.

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