by Victor Davis Hanson
The Olympic Fiasco
I think most Americans were rooting for Chicago. As I wrote on NRO’s corner, I know I was. But Rio had a really convincing hope and change/ multicultural/new guy on the block case. And consider: given the recent bad windy city publicity (YouTube beatings, state and city corruption, Blagoism, Daley ward mobsterism, rumors of pre-Olympic wheeling and dealing on land angles, administration Chicago hard-ball Rahm Emanuel/David Axelrod politics, etc.), Chicago, Illinois was seen abroad as less competitive, far less competitive, than the other cities. I think almost any fair-minded neutral judge could grasp how those realities were going to play out. (Do not forget that Euros love to be gratuitously fickle and so in the first round trashed the reset-button, fawning American who wants to wow them through obsequiousness. And the more I watched Barack/Michelle do the “I grew up in the neighborhood” thing, the more I noticed the Euro-audience wincing (not smart bragging about your childhood Chicago “right hook” to an audience that has just watched horrific fighting in the streets of Chicago).
But even without the self-centered story-telling it was a hard sell anyway. How can a post-national, I’m sorry Obama, trapped in a sort of we are the world paradox, be seen in nationalistic and near tribal fashion stumping for his own home town? Again, it did not help that he appeared in campaign mode, tossing out the usual personal, somewhat hokey (and all but narcissistic) stories about himself and his family, that I know don’t resonate, much less make effective arguments, in the less therapeutic world of hardball politics abroad. In short, the community organizer was out organized by the multicultural ascendant Rio.
Almost all of Michelle’s statements were heartfelt and well meant. But they too proved in a global context counterproductive — and almost embarrassing in their now accustomed egocentricity. So the mystery remains, why did Obama think he should risk presidential and national capital in such ambiguous circumstances? Ego? Sloppy prep work? Payback to pals? Hubris? — e.g., I can fly in, do the hope-and-change cadence, fly out, and leave them hypnotized.
Sarkozy Drew Blood
Sarkozy really hurt Obama internationally, since his sarcastic ‘beam back down Barack’-like statement cut to the bone on the issue of such fluffy talk versus little substance: utopianism sermonizing on non-proliferation is great, but what about the spinning centrifuges? What does the Left do when the French are now to our Right? How can a weaker power sound braver than the stronger? And more principled? Europe is becoming worried, in the “be careful what you wish for” fashion about the Obama era, since the old bad cop/good cop game is up. It is now Europe good cop/US nicer cop. Much irony in this again…
The Challenge Ahead
Here is the problem for our President: the Iranian negotiation is an IED that will blow up in our faces. The theocrats want, need a bomb for a variety of reasons (why would a country that burns natural gas off at the oil well head need “peaceful” nuclear power?). Bombs have been a win/win situation for both Pakistan and North Korea. If Iran wins, we are off to the races — Saudi Arabia next, Egypt? Syria? Venezuela?
I hope the President is up to encouraging madcap drilling in the Alaska, Gulf, California, and the Dakotas to get these new finds into production, since if or when the Israelis strike, all hell is going to let loose in the Gulf. Cannot someone tell Obama that the moral, the peaceful, the only realistic thing now is to get tough with Iran through ostracism, sanctions, boycotts, even, heaven forbid, a blockade if need be, to prevent the far more terrible scenarios that lie ahead?
So What’s Ahead for Us?
Healthcare reform is stalled. Our Afghan generals are exasperated with the administration’s politicking of the war. Cap-and-trade as written is unworkable and will implode. Most think we wasted the stimulus, not need more of it. Higher taxes haven’t hit, but they are going to sting his elite supporters. Promises will be broken as all sorts of additional taxes will fall on the middle class to stop the $2 trillion deficits before the Big Inflation comes, and it is coming. Immigration reform will be a disaster since it will be framed as quasi-open borders in political concessions to La Raza identity groups. Yet these are all unpopular issues that would require a President with 60% approval ratings to push them through. But when healthcare reform crashes, and it will as envisioned, then the rest of the agenda will line up as falling dominoes.
Where is Dick Morris?
Obama needs a Morris to mentor him in the arts of triangulating: distancing himself from Reid and Pelosi (rather than outsourcing to them the 1000 page healthcare bill); talking tough about deficits; balancing budgets; pro-American themes abroad; symbolic personal responsibility issues; the whole nine yards of Clinton reinvention. But I assume he will go instead the Carter-cardigan-sweater, pound-the-table-in-“you are not up to my moral standards,” sanctimonious route.
So I’m Worried
I am not a fan of the Obama agenda. But I also don’t want an impotent Commander in Chief abroad for three very dangerous years to come. So I am worried that the U.S. will be crippled with a weak, unpopular executive, as happened to Bush (35% approvals) in 2007-8. Our currency is tanking. Our debts are climbing. Our energy needs are breaking us. Our borrowing is out of control. The country is divided in a 1859/1968 mode. And the world is smiling as Obama, now hesitant and without the old messianic confidence, presides over our accepted inevitable decline. The country needs to buck up and meet these challenges head on, since the world smells blood, whether in Iran, Russia, the Mideast, North Korea, or South America, and in a mere 9 months of the reset button.
We Should Vote for Anyone . . .
Who offers a coherent systematic agenda of reform. What do most want? Not necessarily a Republican or Democrat, or at this 11th hour to be mired in messy issues like gay marriage (I’m opposed to it), but rather fundamental matters of finance, investment, and defense. Here are ten random suggestions; dozens more could be adduced.
1) Fiscal sanity that leads to federal spending freezes and a balanced budget that in turn soon allows a paying down of the debt.
2) An oil/nuclear/coal/natural gas rapid development effort (again, to exploit especially new fields in Alaska, California, the Gulf, and North Dakota) to tide us over until alternate energy and new conservation lessen dependence. The alternative is to dream on about “green jobs” while we go broke trying to pay for scarcer imported oil, and lose our autonomy in the next price hike or Mideast crisis, even as we suffer amoral rants from oil-rich unhinged thugs like Ahmadinejad, Chavez, Gaddafi, and Putin.
3) A new national consensus on security to decide that when and if we go to war, to see the effort through, on the principle that whatever the mistakes we commit in battle are far outweighed by the cost of defeat.
4) A bad/worse choice gut check reform on entitlements, especially concerning those unsustainable like Social Security and Medicare, that calibrates payouts in terms of incoming capital — whether by raising age eligibilities or curbing automatic cost of living hikes.
5) Clear, demarcated, and enforced national borders, and an end to illegal immigration through greater enforcement, employer sanction, border fortification, and a change in national attitudes about unlawful entry.
6) Zero tolerance on government corruption. There is no reason why someone like a Charles Rangel is still the Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee.
7) Tort reform, including limits on personal injury settlements and loser-pays law suit reform.
8) A renewed commitment to national and regional missile defense, on the expectation that the next two decades are going to be terribly dangerous, as lunatic regimes may well threaten to hold an American city or ally as nuclear hostage.
9) Federal investment in hard infrastructure projects, not redistributive entitlements or Murtha-like earmarks, such as freeways, dams, water projects, electrical grids, ports, rail, etc., with regional needs adjudicated by national bipartisan boards.
10) A move to lower taxes, preferably by alternatives to the present income tax system, whether by a consumption tax or flat taxes, calibrated to commensurate spending cuts.
©2009 Victor Davis Hanson