by Victor Davis Hanson
Free at Last
For any of those who went into a coma around January of last year and just woke up, let me explain this new era after Bush (A.B.), variously known as “this is our moment,” “we are the ones we’ve been waiting for,” and the era when the “planet healed” and the seas “receded.”
In sum, in the year 2 AB, your fossilized world thankfully no longer quite exists. Global warming is “climate change” and its data is “interpreted” rather than blindly “followed.” Natural calamities like the old Katrina hurricane were really man-caused disasters; and man-caused disasters like the new BP spill and the federal reaction to it were really unpreventable natural disasters. Bill Clinton, John Edwards, and Al Gore are men-of-the-people feminists who need comfort, not tawdry womanizing mansion-aficionados.
Iraq is no longer “lost,” but the greatest achievement of the Obama administration. Somehow its messy politics are proof of real democracy. Indeed, at last our influential intellectuals can talk of real “politics” going on in Baghdad.
Surging is now good. So is the architect of that policy, Gen. Petraeus. If any Republicans were now to suggest in a confirmation hearing that the Afghan ground commander “punted” on the truth, or that his testimony “required a suspension of disbelief,” or that Afghanistan should be trisected, well, he would be rightly castigated as a subversive, rather than praised as “patriotic.” Partisanship now stops at the shoreline.
The IED is on page 18 where it belongs; the discounted General Betray Us ads at the New York Times are filed away.
“Closed” Is a State of Mind
Guantanamo Bay virtually closed; only the Republican Congress prevented it from really being closed in the archaic sense of actually being still open. Wanting to do something is far more important than mundanely doing it.
Predator targeted assassinations are as necessary and humane as three waterboarding incidents were not. I know that because Ivy League law deans are silent about, or have signed off on, the current targeted assassinations. After all, would you rather have water illegally poured down your throat, or legally be vaporized as if hit by lightning? We are not killing “terrorists” or “Islamists” in Waziristan; instead our “overseas contingency operations” are aimed at reminding Muslims that their own past contributions to science have led to breakthroughs like Hellfire missiles.
No Enemies, Plenty of Friends
No longer need we arbitrarily dub an Ahmadinejad, Assad, or a Chavez as “hostile” or a Colombia, India, Israel, Poland, or the Czech Republic intrinsically an “ally.” Easy labels are gone; sophisticated reset analysis is back — about what we would expect when we drop the nonsense about being “exceptional” and instead contextualize to the world our own past sins from slavery to genocide to dropping the atomic bombs.
No one now falls for “neocon” propaganda, so we wisely keep mum about Iranian protestors and their supposed “democracy” or Honduras justices and their talk of “constitutional government” — at least when authentic progressive leaders are in jeopardy from reactionary capitalists. After all, why wait 234 years for a revolutionary American president, and then when we finally get him, waste that historical occasion by not bonding with other revolutionary leaders?
The People’s “Law”
In the last two years, we have evolved also beyond the old Neanderthal notion of the “law,” as if it were some moral notion engraved on stone tablets that “deserves” our “adherence.” How quaint is that?
Instead, a higher moral calling now adjudicates legal obedience. Immigration law is a construct that at times can or cannot be followed, depending on the plight of those affected. Voting fraud is really a race and class issue: one man’s “fraud” is another man’s “activism.” Big polluters can be invited to contribute billions to remedy their errors — and, lo and behold, they most certainly will if asked properly! Contracts? What contracts?
The smart way of fine-tuning the economy is to remind businesses that government and the people are its masters. When money-grubbing surgeons lop limbs or Las Vegas lures in the poor to blow their money, they will be called on it, and then work doubly hard to set things right with us, the people. Barack Obama and his business advisors know far better than speculators which creditor, in fact, deserves to be paid back, and which does not deserve to be paid back at Chrysler.
Taxes Are Good for Some
Few until now understood how fair tax rates — like 40% on income, 10% in some states on income, and, hopefully, 15.3% for FICA on all income, and new health surcharges — encourage social stability, spur entrepreneurship, and create wealth. Ask Timothy Geithner or Charles Rangel. Deficits, debts, and “borrowing” were just linguistic gymnastics, since money itself is a construct, a sort of record-keeping for those who hold power over others. Zero interest, “stimulus,” and “redistributive change” far better locate capital in our lives. The more trillions we borrow, the more we blinked and failed to create the necessary “stimulus.”
There are no longer things like a “jobless recovery” — that archaic term that once upon a time in 2004 referred to 6%, not 9+% unemployment. Indeed, there is really no longer such a thing as an unemployment rate at all. “Jobs saved” and “jobs not lost” are the better barometers, in that they require thought, reflection, interpretation, and imagination.
$800 billion in borrowed money saved millions of jobs; that unemployment did not stay below 8% as promised is a symptom of the same old DC “gottacha” game that relies on abstract numbers not the lives of real people. Instead, we live in an age of thanksgiving that someone prevented us from falling into 15% unemployment or even higher.
In this brave new age of A.B., racial relations have vastly improved. We know that because there is a new honesty and candor about a once taboo subject. The attorney general bravely called for a novel conversation and then single-handedly initiated that by calling us “cowards” — a cry from the heart for dialogue.
The president raised the difficult issue by carefully reminding us how “stupidly” our police act toward African-Americans — as he subtly elaborated on his earlier candor about the proverbial “typical white person” and those lower class whites who are xenophobic and cling to their guns. So we at last have a “wise Latina” at the Supreme Court, and had a “green czar” who was bold enough not just to explain how mass murdering was a largely white phenomenon, but how George Bush was in on 9/11.
The only bad thing about the new age of “After Bush” is that he never quite left. $1.7 trillion annual deficits? Bush did it. Another $3 trillion plus to the deficit? All Bush. GM bailout? Bush’s fingerprints. Afghanistan heats up? Bush again. A ruined Gulf? Bush and his oil cronies. Falling polls for President Obama? The legacy of the Bush racism. Guantanamo open? Bush’s people. Higher taxes? The Bush deficits.
In the age of “After Bush,” everything that is now good comes despite him, everything that is still bad is because of him. Remember that — and that is all ye need to know.
PS: Kaiser Postmortem
The hike on Saturday, July 10 up Kaiser Peak went especially well — perfect weather, magnificent views, few other hikers, the Huntington Lake regatta below, and only a snow patch or two on the way. About 28 of us met at the pack station base camp; we introduced ourselves, and then headed up to the summit at 10,300 feet. Everyone was relaxed; some wanted to go a 1/4, 1/2, or 3/4 of the way up, and explored on their own along the way.
About half of us in a long column after 3.5 hours made it to the top, talked, and enjoyed the view — and were all down by about 2-230 PM. About 20 of us went over to my house nearby and had tri-tip and beverages. After that shared ordeal, there were no strangers, and we all had a good time and more frank discussion.
I think we will do it again next year. I am always encouraged how well-read and well-informed readers are; and to meet them reminds me that things are not all that bad when so many know so much, even if they are now so worried about the commonwealth.
One topic that seem to reoccur, especially at the summit and its vistas: we all commented on the ingenuity and daring of our predecessors who a century ago built the Shaver/Huntington/Florence/Edison dams and hydro-electrical network with a fraction of the material wealth and technology that we now have on hand. The system resulted in beautiful lakes, power, and is largely unchanged a century later, so sturdy was their construction, so brilliant was their vision, and so hard was their work. There was a brief note of melancholy as we compared their vision of California to ours.
©2010 Victor Davis Hanson