Victor Davis Hanson Private Papers

Transitioning to the Post-Obama Era

By Victor Davis Hanson // PJMedia

Trump on the Stump (PJ Media)

Trump on the Stump (PJ Media)

How will the country wake up from its coma in 2016 to reality in 2017?

Next year the lame-duck, legacy-starved Obama administration will double down on its executive orders, bureaucratic fiats, and circumvention of the law. Obama will seek to fundamentally transform America, contrary to law, effecting change in ways he was not able to by adhering to the law. The media, as it has the past seven years, will not only ignore the illegality, but also rationalize and commend it.

Then comes 2017.

If a Republican is elected president, what will the media and its liberal sympathizers do should the next chief executive decide to follow the Obama modus operandi?

Consider a number of issues, starting with immigration.

Obama, when facing midterm and general elections, warned that executive-order amnesty and non-enforcement of immigration laws were simply out of bounds for a constitutionally elected president. Then he pursued both, and became exactly the constitutional monster that he had warned us about.

The media kept silent, happy that the noble end of open borders justified any means necessary to achieve it. In 2017, we will have a precedent that any American president can simply build a wall, close the border, and deport whomever he finds in violation of federal law.

In January 2017, the new president might announce a cut-off of all federal funds for sanctuary cities found in violation of federal law. Or, also taking his cue from Obama, he might allow individual municipalities to nullify federal laws as they see fit: The Endangered Species Act null and avoid inside Salt Lake City? Gay marriage illegal within the city limits of Mobile? Gun control mandates too much of a hassle for those living in Laramie? Texas towns free to burn coal as they please?

The media will object, but they will sound shrill and empty given their prior sanction of Obama’s illegal precedents. Apparently, from now on the president alone will set immigration laws, enforcing statutes he finds useful, ignoring those he doesn’t—and all without credible censure from the media.

How about the Affordable Care Act? Before the 2012 election, Obama once again unilaterally decided not to enforce provisions of his own statutes. Few in the media said a word. On that same Obama principle, the next president could repeal Obamacare simply by doing nothing, and ending all enforcement of its provisions—in the manner of the Defense of Marriage Act, which was rendered irrelevant by non-enforcement. If rednecks storm the voting booths in Biloxi and are prosecuted for voter intimidation, will the next president simply drop the case and claim the Obama administration’s record on voting rights was too politicized to have been taken seriously?

The media snoozed while the EPA was found to have acted illegally by the GAO for employing “covert propaganda” in pushing new water regulations. So what would it do if the next EPA director used public funds to run an ad campaign ridiculing the idea of man-caused global warming?

Should politics and religion affect federal bureaucracies? Perhaps the next NASA chief can decide the space agency’s “foremost” mission to be Christian outreach, to remind demonized Christian evangelicals that their faith has had a wonderful record of scientific achievement. If that is more important than resurrecting American rocketry, then once again there is a precedent for it.

Intervention abroad? Obama set another precedent that should the next president wish to attack a sovereign nation, he need not, as did the two Bushes, go to Congress to authorize the use of force, but simply unilaterally bomb away without either a congressional or UN mandate (in the case of Libya, the UN authorized only no-fly zones and humanitarian aid, but not close ground support).

Transparency? What will the press do in 2017 if the next president taps the communications of journalists as happened with the Associated Press reporters? What if the next secretary of State decides to use private emails and an off-the-record server, while erasing past communications, among them top-secret correspondence?

What if the war on terror fails in 2017 with a spectacular strike on our embassy in Jordan? Will the media go along with a presidential narrative alleging that a left-wing video maker caused the violence rather than al Qaeda?

Cannot the next president use the bully pulpit to remind the poor that it is high time for them to profit? Or to remonstrate with the lower middle classes that at some point they should decide to make some money? Or to admonish them to at least build something on their own? Would that be labeled class-driven divisiveness?

If in 2017 the Secret Service again melts down, the VA is still plagued by scandal and malfeasance, the IRS inordinately targets left-wing non-profits, and the Justice Department runs guns to Mexico, will the media talk of a “culture of corruption”?

On matters of race and gender, if the administration can redefine sexual assault on campus by more or less doing away with due process and free speech, would the next president issue an executive order ending affirmative action, in order to follow rather than to undermine constitutional protections?

If we get hit again by a major terrorist attack, will the media stay silent if the next president cites the task of disproving climate change as our number-one challenge?

What if the reckless Donald Trump were president? Thank Obama for Trump, because long ago the president ended altogether the idea of extreme language in politics. Obama has said anything and everything with implicit media sanction. And we are already harvesting with Trump what Obama and the media have sown.

I thought Trump was quite callous in ridiculing a physically disabled reporter—but what was the media to say when Obama had done the same with the Special Olympics?

Would an anti-Semitic Trump confidant, in Al Sharpton style, be an incessant visitor to the White House? Would Trump’s former preacher whine that he was now controlled by Jews? Would the foreign-born Mrs. Trump complain that the U.S. was a downright mean country, of which she had never until now been proud, given its propensity to “raise the bar” on everyone of her aspirations?

Would a reporter from National Review praise Trump’s pant crease, or a Weekly Standard writer declare him the smartest president in history, or a Fox journalist wax on about his tingling leg as Trump spoke?

Would we be shocked at Trump if he lectured the EPA or the Office of Civil Rights that they hadn’t built anything — but exist only because fifty percent of America paid their taxes?

Trump is said to “know nothing.” Perhaps. Do you think he is confused whether Austrians speak German, or believes corpsman is pronounced corps-man, or thinks there are 57 states in the Union? Would Trump label the Falklands the Maldives?

Would Donald Trump cross the racial line to weigh in on a current high-profile criminal case, and suggest that had he another daughter she would have looked just like the deceased? Would he dare go to the UN to deplore an average bloody and lawless weekend in Chicago, reminding the world that a tribal U.S. has a long way to go? Or at an Islamic prayer breakfast, would Trump remind Muslims not to get on their religious high horses given the outrages of the Caliphate? Perhaps if Guantanamo is closed by executive order, Trump would reopen it by one too?

Would Trump dare use his sloppy epithets in reference to foreign leaders? Would he dismiss Putin as a back-of-the-class cutup or obsessed with “macho shtick”? Would his aides with impunity tell reporters that Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas is a “chicken sh*t”? Would he lecture us that America is as exceptional as Greece or Britain? Maybe he would visit the Middle East and Turkey and remind the world from foreign shores that the U.S. has a lot to own up to?

If Trump were to take selfies, claim he was usually the most interesting guy in the room, set a new presidential record for golf outings, and pick the Final Four on live TV, would we still dub him narcissistic, distracted, and buffoonish?

Would he go to a NASCAR rally and urge his supporters to “punish our enemies”— or write off the inner cities by reminding his base that such folk “cling to their guns” and their eccentric Rev. Wright-like churches? Would that be over the top? Or perhaps Trump would go to a NRA convention to urge members to get “in their faces” and to be sure to take their plentiful guns to a knife fight? Would the media find that incendiary?

Or perhaps Trump would announce that his personal references in his past books were not factual, but “composites” that he had made up to convey the real truth about his past? Or maybe he could become the second presidential candidate in history to renounce federal campaign financing protocols in the general election? Or would he become the second greatest recipient of Goldman Sachs money?

The media in 2017 has a stark choice between its continued irrelevance and utter hypocrisy. I think starting in 2017, journalists will prefer to be called hypocrites to toadies, and so demand of the president what was never demanded of Obama.

Ex-President Obama too will face his own dilemma. He will either proclaim that he had to resort to extralegal measures for extraordinary challenges like none other in U.S. history—and that such lawlessness could never again be justified in normal times by any other president. Or he can confess that his activist successor is simply polarizing the country and ignoring the law in the manner that he did too. So no big deal.

2017 will be a rare moment of truth-telling—one way or the other.

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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.

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