Issues of the Day

by Victor Davis Hanson

NRO’s The Corner

A Pyrrhic Passage?

At an outdoor rally today, the president described the healthcare debate as a referendum on the “character” of the country, and I do believe he was correct. 

The president is pushing legislation that a clear majority of the people dislike, and whose details neither he nor his supporters can explain in simple language. Its ends-justify-the-means passage will require legislative gymnastics that border on the unconstitutional, and in Orwellian fashion are designed to reassure its sheepish supporters that they can appear not to be voting for the bill they vote for. And to achieve a House majority, Obama must offer an array of personal favors, political payoffs, federal stipends, and open threats, which, if done in the private sector, would be actionable acts of felonious bribery or racketeering.

So, yes, this is a reflection about character; and so far the president has throughout this entire shameful process been shown to be utterly wanting on that count, as he misrepresents both the bill’s contents and the opposition to it. All of his “let me be perfectly clear” and “make no mistake about it” and now-tired rhetoric and faux cadences simply cannot change that disturbing reality.

That such chameleon legislation is the work of a supposedly healing, post-partisan, post-ideological politician makes it even more embarrassing. There will be lots of us — Democrats, Republicans, Independents — who simply will not vote this fall for any congressional representative who votes for this tawdry DMV-like takeover of healthcare.

‘Hanks Attacked by Conservatives . . . ‘?

Tom Hanks said this to Douglas Brinkley in a Time interview: “Back in World War II, we viewed the Japanese as ‘yellow, slant-eyed dogs’ that believed in different gods. They were out to kill us because our way of living was different. We, in turn, wanted to annihilate them because they were different. Does that sound familiar, by any chance, to what’s going on today?”

Some of us dissected this nonsense point by point. In subsequent remarks Hanks did not back away from his theses that the Pacific war was predicated on racism (I wonder whether our WWII alliances with China and the Philippines, or our prior alliance in WWI with Japan, were as well?), and thus similar to our attitudes in the current war on terror. (Racism apparently explains the American effort to foster democracy in Afghanistan and Iraq, and save Muslims in Afghanistan, Bosnia, Iraq, Kosovo, Kuwait, and Somalia.)

What was strange is the media’s reaction to the reaction. Why is being appalled by Hanks’s infantile philosophizing a “right-wing” or “conservative” reaction? Would not liberals as well be angry that in blanket fashion, Hanks had reduced veterans’ efforts in the Pacific after the surprise attack at Pearl Harbor (and to be followed by a magnanimous peace that fostered autonomous Japanese democracy) into largely a racist rage to annihilate?

A Little Perspective

Some have remarked at the unusually harsh rhetoric accorded to the Israelis over the Jerusalem issue, especially the assumed American loss of face. Perhaps. But this administration has been embarrassed quite a lot, whether Putin’s snub of the missiles-for-Iran-help deal, the pathetic outreach video et al. to the obnoxious Ahmadinejad, Chavez’s various antics, and the more subtle Chinese putdowns. In each of these cases, American outrage seemed muted in comparison to what was accorded the Israelis — after all, a democracy thinking of building houses in Jerusalem is not quite like autocracies annexing Tibet, absorbing parts of Ossetia, sending agents into Columbia, or building a nuke on the sly. Instead, the American pique I think is intended to signal a rather sizable change in our foreign policy. Whereas in the past we argued with the Israelis privately, and put pressure on them through diplomatic channels, now we have joined the chorus of its public critics. And when the United States echoes the popular chorus of Europe, or even mimics the invective of the Arab world, there simply is no other power around to stop what will soon become a piling-on party.

The message is out — say or do what you please about Israel, and it will more likely now resonate with the U.S. I wish this administration had at least said something as curt to the Syrians or Iranians for their past support for chronic infiltrations across their borders into Iraq to kill American soldiers, rather than pondering whether to build apartment buildings in Jerusalem endangers American soldiers. Whether Israel and the Palestinians, or the British again in the Falklands, or the Columbians, or the Hondurans, or the Poles and Czechs, there is no particular advantage in being a pro-American democratic ally; attention and outreach instead come from being our antithesis.

©2010 Victor Davis Hanson

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