Victor Davis Hanson Private Papers

Welcome to Fantasy Island

Victor Davis Hanson // PJ Media

Photo via PJMedia

Photo via PJMedia

Listen to the president and one would think that he was in office during the financial crisis that began on September 15, 2008. For the nth time, Obama reminded the nation on 60 Minutes of the financial meltdown he inherited. That is his usual way of suggesting to the American people that they could hardly hope for normal times after six years of his own governance. In truth, Obama entered office on January 20, 2009 — over four months after the collapse of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac that precipitated a general financial meltdown.

One would not expect Obama to fault past liberal congressional intervention in the financial sector that in large part forced the issuance of subprime risky mortgages, much less the earlier deregulation of the financial industry under Bill Clinton that helped fueled the rampant speculation. The videos of the sad congressional banter about supposedly insensitive questioning of the duplicitous and corrupt Fannie head Franklin Raines, or the self-important bluster of former Rep. Barney Frank, make a good 10-minute tutorial on the meltdown — namely how Wall Street sharks, hand-in-glove with liberal congressional operatives and Clinton appointees, offered federally “guaranteed” mortgages to those who had no ability to pay them back, fueling a phony real estate boom and overvalued stock market.

Obama might at least admit that when he entered office the panic had largely passed. The tools needed to deal with it that he embraced had months earlier been implemented by someone else. Indeed, Obama was president for just a few months before the recession that began in December 2007 [1] ended in June 2009 — well before the effect of any of the policies, good or bad, could have taken effect.

Our current economic mess — the worst post-recession recovery since World War II, more people out of work than when Obama took office, a steady decline in real family income, massive new debt — is largely a result of his own policies of five consecutive $1 trillion deficits, the Obamacare catastrophe, new burdensome and capricious regulations, near-zero interest rates, and the anti-business psychological climate brought on by constant hectoring of the “you did not build that” and “at a certain point you’ve made enough money” sort.

Obama has a bad habit of claiming credit for good things that he opposed, and for blaming others for the bad things for which he was responsible. By his appointments (do we remember Steven Chu [2]?), by his rhetoric, and by his policies on new federal energy leases, Obama is on record against horizontal drilling and the fracking of natural gas and oil. Yet now he brags that energy prices are dipping, which is the case precisely because the private sector ignored him and went ahead to take risks to develop more gas and oil on largely private lands.

Energy-intensive industries are more efficient, and their foreign counterparts less competitive, because Obama was not able to reify his wind and solar dreams of the diminution of gas and oil.  A better 60 Minutes sound bite might have been, “Thank God the energy sector did not listen to me [3] and went ahead despite my efforts.” How odd that he appointed as secretary of energy someone who wished openly for European gas prices [4] (e.g., $9 a gallon), and himself promised to send electricity rates soaring by going after coal production [5], and then bragged that carbon fuels are now cheaper because his policies were insufficient to stop the private sector.

When Obama entered office (again in January 2009 — not the summer of 2008) Iraq was largely quiet [6]. Troops there were analogous to peace-keepers in the Balkans. There was a good chance that the country might have followed the trajectory of South Korea after the far deadlier Korean War. Yet don’t believe his critics about the status of 2009-2011 Iraq. Listen instead to both Obama and Vice President Joe Biden who at variously times bragged about Iraq’s “security” and “stability” that made it potentially one of the administration’s “greatest achievements.” In other words, one might have thought that Obama ordered the successful surge that brought such stability, rather than opposed it vehemently, anddeclared it a failure [7] when it had succeeded. When the country imploded, largely thanks to Obama’s reelection obsessions with the withdrawal of U.S. peacekeepers [8], he ceased with the serial campaign boasts of “I ended the Iraq war” (he had derided Mitt Romney [9] for wanting to leave troops in Iraq) — only to suddenly complain that either others were responsible for the mess, or the mess itself was inevitable.

The same paradox applies to his anti-terrorism protocols. To the degree that Obama abided by and took credit for the Bush-Cheney measures that he had once derided — Guantanamo Bay, renditions, drones, preventive detention, the Patriot Act — the U.S. remained free from a terrorist attack. And to the degree Obama sought to set his own policies — seeking to try terrorists in civilian courtrooms, transferring terrorists to U.S. prisons from Guantanamo, leaving the southern U.S. border wide open, setting red lines in Syria, bombing and leaving Libya, Benghazi, endorsing the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt — increased risk has followed.

Finally, Obama is blaming his intelligence team for not apprising him of the growing danger of ISIS all through 2013 and early 2014 — although such warnings were expressed to the Congress in open session and have been the stuff of the evening news broadcasts for nearly two years. But one wonders why  James Clapper or John Brennan, or, for that matter, former Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano would either miss the existential threat of ISIS or downplay the dangers that they privately knew to be true.

In a word, they were parroting positions outlined by candidate and then president Obama himself. His views about radical Islam were expressed clearly in his first interview as president  – to Al Arabiya [10] — in which he made two claims: his predecessor George Bush’s administration had been largely responsible for the problems with the Middle East, and his own father’s Muslim heritage and indeed his own name were powerful symbols of his new outreach to the misunderstood Islamic world.

Toady bureaucrats and careerists made the necessary adjustments almost immediately. It was not long after that the euphemism offensive began [11], in which man-caused disasters, overseas contingency operations and workplace violence excused the catalyst of radical Islam. John Brennan not only trashed his former boss George W. Bush, but also in a series of astounding statements over the next few years assured us that jihad was a normal, peaceful tenet of Islam and the idea of an Islamic effort to recreate the caliphate absurd. James Clapper outdid that by declaring the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt largely secular, insisting that Muammar Gaddafi would not lose power in Egypt, and flat-out lying to the U.S. Congress. Napolitano, remember, issued a white paper, focusing on returning veterans and conservative groups as those most likely to commit terrorism. That outreach did not deter terrorist killers like the Tsarnaev brothers or Major Nidal Hasan or the beheaders of ISIS. It is quite absurd now for Obama to blame Clapper and our intelligence agencies for downplaying the dangers of radical Islamist terrorists  when they were only dutifully following his politically correct lead.

In the make-believe world of Barack Obama, the American financial system melted down hours before he took office due to the crimes of others. He then quickly saved it, and devised an economic plan that has made Americans far better off than when he entered office. Obama next went on to revolutionize the energy sector to lower gas and electricity prices, brought stability to Iraq only to see it destroyed by others, and crafted a unique outreach to the Islamic world that has lessened the threat of violence and cooled passions in the Middle East. The net result, as the president reminds us, is a more secure, quieter world than anytime in history and unprecedented good economic times at home.

Whether such constructions are proof of delusions or mendacity — or both — the reader can decide.

Article printed from Works and Days:

URL to article:

URLs in this post:

[1] the recession that began in December 2007:

[2] Steven Chu:

[3] did not listen to me:

[4] for European gas prices:

[5] by going after coal production:

[6] Iraq was largely quiet:

[7] declared it a failure:

[8] with the withdrawal of U.S. peacekeepers:

[9] derided Mitt Romney:

[10] to Al Arabiya:

[11] the euphemism offensive began:

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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.

13 Thoughts on “Welcome to Fantasy Island

  1. Hoi Polloi Boy on October 7, 2014 at 8:22 am said:

    “…The make believe world of Obama…” is the American nightmare.

  2. Mendacious isn’t adequate to describe President Obama. I prefer “enemy of the truth.” It is more accurate. “Enemy of reason” is the only rung below that, IMO.

  3. Patricia Grayson on October 7, 2014 at 9:54 am said:

    “Muammar Gaddafi would not lose power in Egypt” did you actually mean to write Libya?

  4. I just don’t get why so many Americans don’t understand Islam, I guess it’s because of lack of knowledge in history. It says in their book, to deceive the non-believers, and to subject and kill them. It’s just like so many people don’t get that. Religion of Peace, hah! What a joke. We need a new Charles “the Hammer” Martel. Obama seems like he started (or greatly helped) the Arab Spring. I think this so-called leader of the free world must be tied in with the Muslim Brotherhood, think about it. I’ve also heard he’s an agent for Saudi Arabia, but I haven’t seen enough evidence to confirm that.

  5. This should be one of the rallying calls for Republicans/Conservatives/Libertarians in 2012 and for the Presidential debates, yet they shy away from it —-Barney Frank, Chris Dodd and Franklin Raines should be called before Congress and/or a Grand Jury….or, maybe I missed it when out of the country!

    “One would not expect Obama to fault past liberal congressional intervention in the financial sector that in large part forced the issuance of subprime risky mortgages, much less the earlier deregulation of the financial industry under Bill Clinton that helped fueled the rampant speculation. The videos of the sad congressional banter about supposedly insensitive questioning of the duplicitous and corrupt Fannie head Franklin Raines, or the self-important bluster of former Rep. Barney Frank, make a good 10-minute tutorial on the meltdown — namely how Wall Street sharks, hand-in-glove with liberal congressional operatives and Clinton appointees, offered federally “guaranteed” mortgages to those who had no ability to pay them back, fueling a phony real estate boom and overvalued stock market.”

  6. I feel so much safer with O in office.

    He can’t even keep the White House safe.
    Again, not his fault.

    Do you hear the sound of computer hard drives crashing?

  7. Doctor Falco on October 7, 2014 at 2:51 pm said:

    What is still fascinating me is that Obama has about 40 % aprouval , versus only 13% for the french president Francois Holland.

    Are the american more willing to live in Fantasy Land than the French?

  8. I want to shake myself out of the cynical state I’m in but I believe we are all in for disappointment with the 2016 elections. Some sane States will stave off what’s coming for awhile but we have lost our America to the disunited states. Just like white flight in the 60’s and 70’s we have been seeing flight from blue to red states but overall our federal government has continued to invade everybodys lives to an extent that what our grandparents and great grandparents who may have been fairly liberal would see today as a total nanny state ready to go full European Socialism. Kids put on your helmets indoors because your residence could be an unsafe environment. Why don’t we just admit it we work for the elites to go out and enjoy life and maybe show us what its like on television. Obama was a community organizer for goodness sakes! What the heck were the voters thinking? Trump is derided but at least he wants the U.S. to come out on top. Same with McCain and Romney. Obama is not the problem the people who voted for him are the problem. Our fellow Americans are the problem.

  9. Is “Muammar Gaddafi would not lose power in Egypt” a typo? Or do I not understand the meaning of that phrase?

  10. John Lewis on October 8, 2014 at 10:47 am said:

    What a pity that ISIS doesn’t seem interested in mock battles.

  11. David Park on October 9, 2014 at 8:59 am said:

    The biggest worry to come is a fear that the same people who voted for this duck that couldn’t float will repeat the process as long as the next duck is as good at simply quacking.

  12. thomas anderson on October 11, 2014 at 12:32 pm said:

    I think he meant Hose Knee Moo Bar Ack, not Moe Amour G-daffy. Otherwise nice take on fantasy island. Sure seems a popular destination. Especially when they’re buttering your bread. Don’t forget the final option when all earthly measures are impeded. An appeal to Heaven is what remains, and it’s about time we all began some humble supplication. Don’t doubt it. May you at least thereby gain some peace of heart.

  13. sillyoldbugger on October 12, 2014 at 5:33 pm said:

    Obama’s make believe world exists. But only on Martha’s Vineyard.

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