by Victor Davis Hanson
Some openings for Obama
1) Iraq. Far fewer American soldiers died in combat in Iraq over the last forty days than were murdered in Obama’s Chicago during the commensurate period. So now Obama can claim the Petraeus plan as his own, accept the gradual withdrawal, and ‘win’ Iraq. The Moveon.org crowd will see that our troops, as under the last year of Bush, are continuing to leave — but now itself take credit that ‘we are getting out.’ The centrists will be happy that we didn’t suddenly abandon Iraq as Obama once promised. In two years, on the present schedule we will be mostly out of the country, and Obama can again boast about ‘solving’ the mess. Few will remember that Bush’s tough decision on the surge, much less that his continued constancy, ensured 26 million Iraqis a new start — and, with a constitutional rather than Saddamist Iraq, made U.S. interests more secure in the region.
2) Energy. Gas is nearing $2 a gallon. Oil is at $55 a barrel. That fall could be worth nearly a half-trillion dollar stimulus per year as oil free falls to one third its 2008 high. Already, families who drive 2000 miles per month are saving $150-250 per month in fuel costs. Obama might get away with a 10 cents a gallon tax and could use it to pay down the deficit (he won’t), but you get the picture that the U.S. government, and/or its citizens, suddenly has options and can siphon something back from OPEC.
Reagan likewise realized a real windfall when prices crashed in the early 1980s. What we don’t want to see is some Carter-like, oil-shale monstrosity, but rather lightly siphoning profits from our enemies to encourage alternate fuels so that we are ready for the next hike. Let us pray that Obama includes coal and nuclear power to run the grid, and limits his hands-off, green boasting to areas that don’t have much oil anyway; e.g. “I promise not to drill in Manhattan or Berkeley!”
3) Our enemies. Obama can concentrate on talking about lowering oil prices (or rather should appreciate that the natural market forces are giving him low prices freely). If we go down to below $50 a barrel on oil, I think Iran would have real problems with its centrifuges and missiles. Putin and Co. won’t be so bellicose given their cash reserves will vanish (they are beginning to do that already). Radical Islam will find fewer floating dollars to tap into. Hezbollah will be cash poor (and much weaker vis a vis Israel). Chavez will have to cut all those subsidies with which he used to buy allies. The point is that most of our enemies are oil exporters, and the crashing prices could bring Obama real foreign policy dividends if he finds ways to keep oil prices low when the economy rebounds. Right now, for all the talk of gloom and doom, Obama has been given a great foreign policy and economic gift. Let us hope he finesses it the right way.
4) Europe. Be careful what you wish for. Europe has been given a free ride long after continent E.U. became the largest economy in the world. The hate-Bush religion was largely a cover for deeply entrenched anti-Americanism, spurred by the rise of U.S. global cultural hegemony that prompted envy and jealousy at the crass rich and powerful Amis. But now the Euros too have taken the Obama vows — and that gives the United States some leverage. He could smile, and hope and change them into either contributing more to NATO and Afghanistan, or quietly continue to withdraw U.S. troops under the banner of removing the hegemon and letting Europe be Europe. Talking nice and carrying a big stick is far better than berating the Europeans while we give them a blank check.
5) Illegal immigration. Obama realizes that three past rolling amnesties — and, in some years, a million new illegal aliens arriving across our borders — over the last few decades have changed somewhat the electoral map of New Mexico, Arizona, Texas and California, and may soon alter them altogether. So I doubt he has much incentive to do the right thing on illegal immigration. But the vast majority of Americans are still furious that the law is held to such ridicule. What then might he do?
Essentially nothing. By that, I mean allow the fence to continue; let the immigration service continue to fine employers; count on the weak economy persuading fewer to come north and some to return south; quietly deport felons and lawbreakers. If entries are stopped, if the pool is static; and if the formidable powers of integration and assimilation return, despite being stymieing in the past by multiculturalism, then all the contentious issues of amnesty, guest workers, etc. start to recede. So doing nothing, but letting present policies continue would turn out to help him a great deal.
Final campaign thoughts
I offer these not out of partisanship, but out of real concern and confusion
1) I pray each night that Barack Obama gets up healthy and stays that way — since the idea of Joe Biden as President is as frightening as Sarah Palin is not. Even Al Gore’s similar combination of ego and surrealism is no match for Biden’s self-important outbursts. I don’t think Putin and Chavez will say, “Aw shucks, that’s just old Joe being Joe Biden.”
2) Why didn’t McCain just once say: “Mr. Obama: Bill Ayers bragged about bombing our country right before 9/11. You were 40, then, not eight. So why did you keep emailing this unrepentant terrorist for the next four years?”
3) What was the sanctimonious refusal to evoke Rev. Wright all about? Why didn’t McCain just say: “Mr. Obama: you claimed in 2004 you never missed a service at Trinity. A few you months ago you said you did. Which is it — when you run for Senate in Illinois you brag you’re a loyal worshiper with Rev. Wright, but when you run for President you say you’re not? The issue isn’t race; it is your character.”
4) Why did Sarah Palin relent to the insane gottach interviews with Couric and Gibson? Why not just do the warm up, soft-ball radio interviews with Limbaugh and Hannety first, then say, “I’ll do my first excusive no-holds barred interview the day after Joe Biden does his?” The result was Couric played gotcha, the media did the rest in making her a clothes-grabbing, hillbilly yokel, and few remembered that a little later Biden bragged to the same Couric that FDR addressed the nation on television as President in 1929.
5) Intellectuals said Obama was their guy. Then why not have him release his Columbia transcript so thinking people can lord his grades and classes over Bush, Palin, McCain, etc.? You’d think reporters would wish to find something to wax about — like an A+ in Gender and Post-Colonial African Literature, or an honors thesis on Psychology of the Oppressed.
6) How can Obama be serious in saying his grandmother was born in 1922 and yet lived through both world wars? Weak on WWII? Like Americans supposedly liberating Auschwitz?
7) Where did all these Clintonite retreads come from in the hope and change era? And does Billary think they have an in with, or are gnashing their teeth at, the ‘the king is dead, long live the king’ former coterie — Podesta, Emaneul, Richardson, Ross. The list is growing daily and these ‘keep Saddam in his box/give a basketball or two to the North Koreans’ guys are not new.
On election night McCain seemed sort of relieved. And so did Bush? Were there any conservatives who really wanted to be President this year? Was an honorable man like McCain tired of hearing about the “new McCain” and the wonderful lost “old McCain” — in the same manner that Bush tired of “Bush Hitler”? Do you think Oliver Stone in 2012 will do an “H” about young Obama blowing coke and smoking weed?
9) I never saw any evidence in Chicago of Obama’s racial healing, or bipartisanship in the U.S. Senate, or much moderation anywhere. So why does anyone think as President he will “rule,” as they say, from the middle? See below.
10) I think the Democrats privately don’t really believe that there have yet been vast structural changes, so they will ensure they occur: get rid of talk radio via the fairness doctrine; trials and hearings for former Bush officials; open borders and amnesty or ‘earned citizenship,’ and no more secret ballots for union members. All of that could help to ensure lasting Democratic majorities — and I think we will see it all come to pass.
©2008 Victor Davis Hanson