Victor Davis Hanson Private Papers

The New Post-Trump Constitution

Victor Davis Hanson // National Review

The Left sees Donald Trump’s comportment, rallies, and tweets as a new low in presidential behavior that justifies extraordinary countermeasures. But Trump’s personal characteristics are idiosyncratic and may or may not become institutionalized by subsequent presidents. And it is not as if liberal icons such as FDR, LBJ, JFK, and Bill Clinton suddenly became saintly in office.

What is far scarier is the reaction to Trump, in both the constitutional and political sense. What follows are likely the new norms for the next generation of presidents, and they will probably be equally applied to Democrats who implemented them in the Trump era.

1) Private presidential phone calls with foreign leaders will be leaked and printed in the major media. The point will be not so much to air breaking news as to embarrass the president or to use such disclosures to stymie his foreign policy. Those who leak such information will be canonized as part of a “resistance.” Prominent officials in government will publish anonymous op-eds in the New York Times bragging about how they are daily undermining a new president’s administration.

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American citizenship is eroding

Victor Davis Hanson // Highland County Press

Today, many condemn the idea of nationalism by connecting it to race hatred (e.g., white nationalism). But historically, the modern nation-state has proven uniquely suitable to preserving individual rights. The American nation in particular was successful in uniting individuals of different races, ethnic backgrounds and creeds into one people based on shared principles, a unique physical space, and a common national story. Our nation is the best example in human history of positive nationalism.

The key to this benign nationalism is American citizenship, based on an understanding of American exceptionalism and formed by the American melting pot. But today, our citizenship is eroding and, along with it, American nationalism in the positive sense is disappearing.

American citizenship is eroding in three ways.

First, we are blurring the line between mere residents and citizens. We have between 45-50 million non-native-born residents in the U.S. today—the largest absolute number we’ve ever had. There’s no legal problem with the 30 million of them who have green cards or have acquired citizenship—although even 30 million is a challenge for the American melting pot to assimilate and integrate.

But we also have, according to a recent Yale and MIT study, about 20 million people who are here illegally. In regard to them, the classical ingredients of American citizenship—the right to leave or enter the country as one pleases, for example, or to vote in elections, or to reside here as long as one pleases—are being blurred.

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Remembering the Farming Way

Victor Davis Hanson // American Greatness

Almost all the pragmatic agricultural wisdom that my grandparents taught me has long ago been superseded by technology. I don’t anymore calibrate, as I once did when farming in the 1980s, the trajectory of an incoming late summer storm by watching the patterns of nesting birds, or the shifting directions and feel of the wind, or the calendar date or the phases of the moon. Instead, I go online and consult radar photos of storms far out at sea. Meteorology is mostly an exact science now.

Even the agrarian’s socio-scientific arts of observation that I learned from my family are seldom employed in my farming anymore. Back in the day, when a local farmer’s wife died, I was told things like, “Elmer will go pretty soon, too. His color isn’t good and he’s not used to living without her”—and tragically the neighbor usually died within months. Now I guess I would ask Elmer whether his blood tests came back OK, and the sort of blood pressure medicine he takes. I don’t think we believe that superficial facial color supersedes lab work. Farmers did because in an age of limited technology they saw people as plants, and knew that the look and color of a tree or vine—in comparison to others in the orchard or vineyard—was a sign of their viability.

I grew up with an entire local network of clubs and get-togethers, and ferried my grandparents to periodic meetings of the Walnut Improvement Club, Eastern Star, the Odd Fellows, Masons, the Grange, and Sun-Maid growers. They exchanged gossip, of course, but also vital folk and empirical information on irrigation, fertilizers, and machines.

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What Is the Middle East In the Middle Of Anymore?

Victor Davis Hanson // American Greatness

Since World War II, the United States has been involved in a series of crises and wars in the Middle East on the premise of protecting U.S., Western, or global interests, or purportedly all three combined. Since antiquity, the Middle East has been the hub of three continents, and of three great religions, and the maritime intersection between East and West.

In modern times American strategic concerns in no particular order were usually the following:

1) Guaranteeing reliable oil supplies for the U.S. economy.

2) Ensuring that no hostile power—most notably the Soviet Union between 1946-1989 and local Arab or Iranian strongmen thereafter—gained control of the Middle East and used its wealth and oil power to disrupt the economies and security of the Western world, Europe in particular.

3) Preventing radical Islamic terrorists from carving out sanctuaries and bases of operations to attack the United States or its close allies.

4) Aiding Israel to survive in a hostile neighborhood.

5) Keeping shipping lanes in the Eastern Mediterranean, the Suez Canal, and the Persian Gulf open and accessible to world commerce at the historical nexus of three continents.

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Angry Reader 01-09-2020

From An Angry Reader:

Subject: The Dangers of…YOU

Mr. Hanson,

It appears that they let just about anyone submit an opinion even a Stanford grad. I guess you didn’t have what it takes to get into Harvard. You are obviously a Republican and that is not a good thing right now. Republicans right now are deaf, blind and stupid! It is the ignorant and uneducated schmucks like you that have all the Republican believing that party is more important than country. You may have a degree but far from being educated. Educate yourself on the facts and stop spinning the truth to make yourself look relevant. Talk about misleading your audience. Like all Republicans, you are blind to what Trump has done to your country. I’m not saying he hasn’t done anything. I mean Mexico did pay for wall right? You are an embarrassment and a traitor. You love your bullshit party over your country! I say you are a fraud. Better start to learn Russian.

You have a great future at Fox and Friends.

Howard Selcer

Howard Selcer & Associates

302 Briston Private

Ottawa, ON K1G 5R1

Ottawa/Montreal/Toronto/Vancouver/Las Vegas/Chicago


Dear Angry Reader Howard Selcer,

You hit almost all the Angry Reader buttons: personal invective and ad hominem attacks (e.g., “traitor,” “ignorant and uneducated schmucks like you,” etc.), potty language (“bullshit”), personal arrogance (the pretentious titles and affiliations that remind us that you and your “associates” are pan-North-American and that a Harvard or Stanford pedigree equates with authority), the puerile grammatical incoherence (“that have all the Republican (sic) believing”; “You may have a degree but far from being (sic) educated”), the absence of a single example or fact to support your invective, and general ignorance about the target of your rant: I have never been a registered Republican, but currently am an Independent—after over thirty years of being a registered Democrat. Like most angry readers, you seem to deplore disunity even as your own harangues are clear evidence of why it exists.

Victor Davis Hanson

Victor Davis Hanson & Associates

The Hoover Institution, Stanford University, National Review, American Greatness, Tribune Publishing Company, Hillsdale College

Stanford/New York/Chicago/Hillsdale/Selma

Iran’s Options in a Showdown with America Are All Bad

Victor Davis Hanson // National Review

After losing its top strategist, military commander, and arch-terrorist, Qasem Soleimani, the Iranian theocracy is weighing responses.

One, Iran can quiet down and cease military provocations.

After attacking tankers off its coast, destroying an oil refinery in Saudi Arabia, shooting down a U.S. drone, and being responsible for the killing and wounding of Americans in Iraq, Iran could now keep quiet.

It might accept that its strategy of escalation has failed to lead to any quantifiable advantage. Trump did not prove a passive “Twitter tiger,” as his critics mocked. Instead, he upped the stakes to Iran’s disadvantage and existential danger.

The chances, however, for such a logical and passive readjustment by Iran are nil.

Iran believes that Trump’s beefed-up sanctions have all but destroyed its economy and could now extend to secondary boycotts of nations trading with Iran. U.S. sanctions have also squeezed Iranian expeditionary efforts to forge a permanent hegemony and a Shiite crescent extending to the Mediterranean.

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Iranian Analytics

Victor Davis Hanson // National Review

For all the current furor over the death of Qasem Soleimani, it is Iran, not the U.S. and the Trump administration, that is in a dilemma. Given the death and destruction wrought by Soleimani, and his agendas to come, he will not be missed.

Tehran has misjudged the U.S. administration’s doctrine of strategic realism rather than vice versa. The theocracy apparently calculated that prior U.S. patience and restraint in the face of its aggression was proof of an unwillingness or inability to respond. More likely, the administration was earlier prepping for a possible more dramatic, deadly, and politically justifiable response when and if Iran soon overreached.

To retain domestic and foreign credibility, Iran would now like to escalate in hopes of creating some sort of U.S. quagmire comparable to Afghanistan, or, more germanely, to a long Serbian-like bombing campaign mess, or the ennui that eventually overtook the endless no-fly zones over Iraq, or the creepy misadventure in Libya, or even something like an enervating 1979-80 hostage situation. The history of the strategies of our Middle East opponents has always been to lure us into situations that have no strategic endgame, do not play to U.S. strengths in firepower, are costly without a time limit, and create Vietnam War–like tensions at home.

But those wished-for landscapes are not what Iran has got itself into. Trump, after showing patience and restraint to prior Iranian escalations, can respond to Iranian tit-for-tat without getting near Iran, without commitments to any formal campaign, and without seeming to be a provocateur itching for war, but in theory doing a lot more damage to an already damaged Iranian economy either through drones, missiles, and bombing, or even more sanctions and boycotts to come. If Iran turns to terrorism and cyber-attacks, it would likely only lose more political support and risk airborne responses to its infrastructure at home.

Iran deeply erred in thinking that Trump’s restraint was permanent, that his impeachment meant he had lost political viability, that he would go dormant in an election year, that the stature of his left-wing opponents would surge in such tensions, and that his base would abandon him if he dared to use military force.

There are several Iranian choices, but they are apparently deemed unattractive by the regime.

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The Steele Dossier Bacillus

Victor Davis Hanson // National Review

In 2016, Hillary Clinton presidential candidate hired an ex-intelligence officer and foreign national, British subject Christopher Steele, to use Russian sources to find dirt (“opposition research”) on her then political opponent Donald Trump. So much for the worry about “foreign interference” in U.S. elections.

The public would take years to learn of the funding sources of Steele, because Clinton camouflaged her role through three firewalls: the Democratic National Committee; the Perkins-Coie legal firm; and Glenn Simpson’s Fusion GPS opposition-research firm.

Steele had collected rumor and gossip from mostly Russian sources in an effort to tar Trump as a Russian colluder and asset. We know now that his sources were either bogus or deliberately warped by Steele himself.

Almost everything in the dossier was unverified and later was proved fanciful. Yet with the help of high Obama administration and elected officials, the dossier’s gossip and rumor were leaked throughout the top echelons of Washington politics and the media. Its lies spread because its chief message — Donald J. Trump was a fool, dangerous, should never be elected, and once elected had no business as president — was exactly what the establishment wished to hear. In other words, the dossier was infectious because it was deemed both welcome and useful.

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Angry Reader 01-08-2020

From An Angry Reader:

You are doing the same thing you claim Maddow is doing. Aren’t you an elite grouper, just on the other side of Maddow? You left out many facts in your article. You need to look in the mirror. You are old enough to know better. America needs to unite, what are you thinking? How are you making things better?

Dear Angry Reader Dr. Stady,

If you would just list one example in which I have erred about the dossier or the impeachment melodrama, you might be more believable. When I have appeared on television, I have tried to provide examples and facts to support what I have said, and I have done so without ad hominem attacks. Rachel Maddow, in contrast, invested her credibility in the Steele dossier for months; during that period a variety of disinterested journalists and observers had pointed out that Steele’s main contentions, from Mr. Cohen going to Prague to Carter Page being promised a huge multimillion payoff from the Russians, were simply false, well aside from the salacious fables. But Maddow and others continued to peddle such fantasies because they found them useful to their larger agendas of removing Trump. Don’t believe me, simply read the current series in the liberal Washington Post about the unprofessionalism of the media in its use of the dossier and the “collusion” fabrications.

Again, when you accuse me of omitting facts, and yet cannot produce a single example, then you fall into the same fallacy as all the others who refuse to look at unpleasant realities. As far as uniting the country, I think you need to look at the Left for the present acrimony. I opposed most of Obama’s policies, but I never would consider calling for violence against him, as is now a common Hollywood trope in the case of Trump. Obama used the DOJ to go after journalists, the IRS to hound political opponents, and allowed the FBI and CIA to surveil a political opponent in his last year in office. He bypassed the Senate to ram through the disastrous Iran treaty, and empowered Vladimir Putin with 5 years of disastrous reset appeasement, which included a hot mic quid pro quo deal with the Russians about dismantling US missile defense in Europe in exchange for Putin’s good behavior during his own reelection. All that was reprehensible and yet I don’t think impeachable—at least I never called for Obama’s impeachment or censure, even when by executive fiat he simply granted amnesties and stopped enforcing immigration laws—in a manner he had earlier warned was either illegal or unethical.

The country is disunited. But the venom came from those who called the middle classes, deplorables, irredeemables, crazies, and dregs. And thus I suggest you redirect your concerns to the Left and ask them to turn down the heat and simply seek to persuade Americans of their cause in November 2020, rather than engage in the current celebrity assassination chic, the psychodramas of invoking the 25th Amendment, the Mueller circus, and now the suspended-in-animation impeachment.

Victor Davis Hanson

Why Trump will win again in 2020

Victor Davis Hanson // Spectator USA

My reasons for thinking Trump was going to be elected in 2016 were entirely unscientific. One of my Hoover Institution colleagues recently reminded me of my data-free, amateurish and bothersome predictions. I teach for three weeks at Hillsdale College every September during my vacation from the Hoover Institution. Each morning I try to ride a bike 15-18 miles out into the Michigan countryside. I have been doing that since 2004. Over the previous 12 years even this conservative rural Michigan county had showed no real excitement over George W. Bush, John McCain or Mitt Romney. But in 2016, Trump signs — both professionally made and hand-painted — had sprouted everywhere, on barns, lawns and sheds. Whatever Trumpism was, lots of southern Michiganders seemed ready for it. Six weeks ago, I rode the identical rural Michigan routes. Sometimes I stopped and talked to a few people. The script was almost predictable. After the requisite throat-clearing — ‘Trump should cut back on the tweeting,’ they said — they were even more eager to vote for him this time than last.

In my hometown near my central California farm, I spent autumn 2016 talking to mostly Mexican American friends with whom I went to grammar or high school. I had presumed then that they must hate Trump. Remember the speech in 2015 announcing he was going to stand, when he bashed illegal immigration, or his snide quip about the ‘Mexican judge’ in the Trump University lawsuit, or his expulsion of an interrupting Univision anchor, Jorge Ramos, from one of his campaign press conferences? But I heard no such thing. Most said they ‘liked’ Trump’s style, whether or not they were voting for him. They were tired of gangs in their neighborhoods and of swamped government services — especially the nearby Department of Motor Vehicles — becoming almost dysfunctional. I remember thinking that Trump of all people might get a third of the Latino vote: of no importance in blue California, but maybe transformative in Midwest swing states?

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