by Victor Davis Hanson
I. I am not on the Obama bus
I followed the Obama senatorial campaign and even his early career in Chicago, and confess I was not impressed. I think on any occasion he announces a moral standard it is reactive — not proactive — and we can be sure it serves as cover for something of questionable morality. So when he says he won’t do something, it usually means he already has. Let us count the ways:
a) “Highest ethical standards” are proof we will get Richardson, Geithner, Daschle, Solis, etc. nominated who cannot or do not pay all their taxes — among other things. There will be only praise for, not silence about, tax-cheats and unethical players in Congress like Chris Dodd, John Murtha, or Charles Rangel. To suggest otherwise is to be cynical, sharp, partisan; most on the Left who preach about the Wall-Street/DC nexus and the “big guys” at the trough are silent on this disturbing new big money/Democrat connection.
b) Christian, Sermon-on-the-Mount declarations about forgiveness and ‘moving forward, not backward’ indicate that “Bush did it” is now the standard throat-clearing before every speech abroad. Suggesting that we do not wish to dredge up the past is assurance that we will try to humiliate lawyers in the Justice Department who years ago gave opinions at a time of national crisis. Do we try federal judges whose opinions we don’t like?
c) Talking about “financial sobriety” and “halving the deficit” guarantee that we will triple the annual deficit, and add more to the national debt in eight years than we did in aggregate since the founding of the republic.
d) Soaring rhetoric about the reset button, a new softness, more listening, a new page, etc. assure us that we will have no moral compass, and treat Venezuela like Columbia, Georgia like Russia, Iran like Iraq — the more we hear of a new morality, the more we know there will be no moral distinctions.
e) The demonized percentile who makes over $250,000 who alone will be taxed — won’t be alone to see new taxes. Confiscate all their cash and you still cannot pay off debts piling up at $1.7 trillion per year. So gas, cigarette, alcohol, taxes will climb and soon even that will not be enough. The more we do not hear that, the more it is coming.
f) The more Bush gave us “false choices” and shredded the constitution, the more Obama will adopt FISA, email intercepts, wiretaps, renditions, Bush’s Iraq plan, the same old in Afghanistan, etc. Let us see whether Guantanamo closes within a year: watch especially the reaction to the poor teen-aged Somali pirate and ask yourself whether this administration wishes to repeat that again and again — or whether other countries wish to have their framed, railroaded, tortured, and misunderstood pseudo-terrorists back on the streets of Berlin, Paris, or Cairo. Again, when one on Team Obama trashes Bush the law shredder, then assume that we have already adopted his security protocols.
g) We are postracial, transracial, multicultural, etc. and rightfully so don’t talk about ‘Hussein,’ or one’s ethnic background, etc. But abroad? All that qualification simply means YOU don’t dare do it, but HE does, all the time, everywhere, both to sway world opinion and ever so gently to distance himself from America’s past when convenient : so the first thing on the Latin American summit table is “race.” Arabs are told to be comfortable because of Barack’s names, first and second and third, his Muslim father, his non-traditional background. In other words, anytime anyone in the U.S. is told that racism is lurking its ugly head around every corner, be assured that Obama will broadcast his race and heritage to Europeans, Turks, Arabs, and Latin Americans. The two behaviors are joined at the hip. The warning always follows its antithesis.
II. I do not understand the morality of the Left.
Let me get this straight: catching the beheader and architect of mass murder Khalid Sheik Mohammed and waterboarding him in Guantanamo at the zenith of worry about more 9/11s, anthrax attacks, and the European bombings is outright torture, an horrendous stain on the U.S. (cf. what FDR did to saboteurs caught on the east coast during WWII). But blowing up the heads of two Somali pirates during negotiations or incinerating houses of suspects in Waziristan (lots of “collateral” as they say in Hollywood) is okay? Did I miss the habeas corpus, Miranda rights, Army Field Manual rules, appeals, etc. that were followed in the nano-second between the trigger pulling and the heads exploding?
III. There was something to admire about Joe Frazier.
I have another confession to make, given that I just saw an ad for a new documentary on the Ali-Frazier fights, a film I will try to see soon. Here it is — I never admired Mohammed Ali. Not that much at all.
He was a brilliant boxer, but his megalomania ushered a number of deleterious trends into all sports — the ego-driven gestures (which were to be later manifested in everything from spiking the ball to trash talking the opponent) were all repellant.
So was his weird racism — as he all but said that the more noble Joe Frazier or the sad Leon Spinks were somehow African-Americans of a different, lesser caste from himself. Then he played on white guilt, writing doggerel, offering half-educated rants, opining in juvenile fashion — all with the notion that a Howard Cosell or some other enabler would transmogrify that nonsense to the elite public as something deep and provoking, and thereby deeply fulfilling to a mostly upscale liberal audience desperate to find transracial resonance in the 1960s and 1970s.
No, I liked blunt, quiet, moody, and methodical Smokin’ Joe Frazier far better. I never bought into the notion that he was unduly bitter and unfairly blamed Ali (cf. the latter’s slurs of “Gorilla” against Frazier). He had the harder upbringing, showed more courage with the talent he was born with, and had a quiet nobility about his carriage entirely lacking in the narcissistic Ali, who crafted the pseudo-role as the “uppity” successful black that white closet racists were supposed to fear and loathe.
Frazier’s quietude was true of George Foreman whom I thought the better individual and character than Ali. Far from being status quo yes-men, both fighters showed far more courage and individuality than did Ali, whose outrageousness was scripted and calibrated to please the ruling media elite. There was a tragic dignity about Frazier lost on the better-looking, more glib, swift-footed dancer, political activist Ali.
IV. The whole “torture” controversy took me back to fall 2001 and fall 2002. I was reading some old essays by various people written right after 9/11 and on into 2002-3. Thomas Freedman had a dramatic, but sensible piece warning us we were in World War III and worrying that the Bush administration was doing too little and bogged down in Norman Minetta’s security quirks. Andrew Sullivan in one of his earlier manifestations (which one, I am not sure) was dreaming of using nukes against Saddam should he be tied to biological weapons, and earlier whining that Bush, like his Dad, would wimp out and not have the guts to go into Baghdad. David Frum was proud of his contributions to the Axis of Evil speech, and busy writing his book, The Right Man. I could go on, but you get the point.
Some others who signed the “Take out Saddam” letter to Bill Clinton, later proved to be the most ardent critics as they turned on Bush. Pundits who used to talk about Bush’s moral clarity now talk about? — Obama’s moral clarity. Call me a cynic, but there is only one constant with this Powellism: whatever is in power and riding high, the DC-NY nexus wants a part of; whatever is in decline and unpopular, they were scarcely ever for. This is the rise/fall/and rise of Harry Truman all over again.
Do the Obamians realize that no one is exempt from such cycles of adulation/vituperation? Should this $1.7 trillion deficit gambit fail, or should we be hit again after so publicly trashing the Bush-security measures, do they grasp that the present aficionados will be the first to reincarnate yet a third time and denounce them for security laxity and economic stupidity?
Generally on war, Orwell was right: the quickest way to end one is to lose it. We should think hard about going into one (we did from December 2001 to March 2003, through the debates at the U.N., both houses of Congress, an off-year congressional election, national protests and rebuttal, etc.), but once in one, we should win, since the consequences of defeat outweigh all the pundits’ points about ‘my brilliant war, their stupid occupation”
All the above should not be contrarianism, but simply common sense.
©2009 Victor Davis Hanson