by Victor Davis Hanson
Think of the hope and change of just the last six months that have changed all our lives. It was, I remember, around the beginning of February when the understandable liberal angst about the Bush deficit simply disappeared. Gone. Vanished. No more haranguing about red ink and shorting our grandchildren.
For the last eight years, I had some admiration — albeit along with plenty of bewilderment — at the newly fiscally mature Congressional Democrats and their impassioned attacks on Bush’s fiscal irresponsibility.
But then suddenly their principled opposition paid off. Deficits disappeared — at least the multibillion species. Yes, borrowing was replaced by kinder, gentler multi-trillion dollar “stimuli.” This was our moment, this was our time when a crushing debt of the last eight years was at last alleviated, and with the New Math we can be so stimulated as to grow our way out any shortfall the naysayers claim follows.
The other Bush nightmare immediately went as well — the primitive way of counting joblessness by the percentage of unemployed workers. Gone too was the Neanderthal idea that the silly Congressional Budget Office knows anything about the projected growth in GDP. And who can accurately project the likely size of deficits (and especially the arcane idea that you can’t save money on health care by borrowing another $2 trillion first to get the needed economies in place)?
So who said the government couldn’t run GM, or teach Chrysler a thing or two? All gone, those worries. Now I just read the New York Times columnists or listen to geniuses like Larry Summers and Timothy Geithner, and have discovered just how light, breezy, sunny things are becoming.
At about the same time we all awoke from our eight-year trance, the energy crisis ended. Flat out was gone. Solar, wind, geo, and bio swept the country. The old anxieties — nuclear this, coal that, ‘drill, baby, drill’, shale, tar sands, and that wolf in sheep’s clothing, natural gas — all went back to Texas with Bush’s oil cabal. Now in the age of alternative energy, I know you share my relief that we have both plentiful power and a green planet, once Cheney’s old friends also slid back into the shadows and Palin “got over” her fetishes about ANWR.
I once worried that a Civic was too small, and now see that it is far too big. I just drove over the passes of the California coastal range and for the first time realized that I once used to be bored silly with those bleak untouched “natural” landscapes. Instead, in the ‘age of wind’ now I just absorb the manmade beauty of a far better horizon of hundreds of swishing windmills-2-, 3-, 4-propellered varieties, some white, others grey, with beautiful dirt roads carved out from the once ugly natural hillsides to each one — all unobtrusively churning, churning so that I can have air conditioning this summer without a carbon imprint.
I think it was around early spring when we could relax that Bush’s godawful “war on terror” was won. Finally, the Bush/Cheney hysteria ended, and we got instead the much preferable “overseas contingency operations.” These well-planned humanitarian efforts dispensed with any lingering “man-made catastrophes.” I used to shudder when I heard “Guantanamo” and braced for the “Stalag” and “Gulag” invective that followed. But then mysteriously that went away too in late winter. In place of those icky “enemy unlawful combatants,” there were suddenly misunderstood “detainees,” replete with personal stories about like our own.
Better yet, Guantanamo was almost, nearly, about to be closed as well, at least we knew sometime it would be gone and that was just as good as if it already was. Who knows, I thought at the time, maybe the innocent once released may at last turn up on a beach on some Caribbean island, as we make long overdue amends to these framed “terrorists”?
As I said, this spring everything got even better, lighter — we no longer heard of IEDs and suicide bombers in Iraq. And the occasional Hellfire missile attack in Afghanistan, I think, must have ended as well. True, I was a bit taken back when the Somali pirates were killed. But I am sure that before their heads exploded someone at least text-messaged them their Miranda rights in a way never accorded the poor three who were waterboarded at Bush’s Guantanamo concentration camp.
Well before summer, the Constitution was almost restored. I felt for the first time in eight years that we were a civil, legal society again. Why?
Well you see, suddenly Ivy-League brilliant legal scholars, “on our side” for a change, discovered a sophisticated and humane way to rehabilitate military tribunals, renditions, wiretaps, intercepts, phone intercepts, predator assassinations, even Iraq itself. I know they did so, because I see no announcements of any more forthcoming cutting-edge Hollywood movies with hard-hitting titles like “Rendition”, “Redacted”, “Stop-loss”, and “Lambs for Lions,” no more George Clooney Middle East films about oil intrigue and evil white guys cozying up to Gulf sheiks, no more empathetic, sensitive Robert Redfords as professors with glasses down over their noses, Charlie Gibson style, as they dissect Bush’s war. Oh yes, we are a civil society again, both at home and abroad.
I remember sometime in April as well, corruption just ceased on its own as if by magic. As a conservative, I was bothered by a creepy Larry Craig, Mark Foley, Jack Abramoff, Duke Cunningham, and Tom Delay, and what Ms. Pelosi swore was a “culture of corruption.” But then these miscreants long ago either all quit, or were indicted or just crawled away.
In their place far better men like Chris Dodd, Barney Frank, John Murtha, Tom Daschle, Timothy Geithner and others taught me that, unlike those right-wing crooks and deviants of the last Congress, a more noble caste can sometimes get tangled up in detail, caught amid the bureaucracy, bogged down in forms and paperwork. As a result, the better sorts forget to dot an ‘i’, or cross a ‘t’, turn in a 1040 or do the last page on a financial disclosure. And why not in their zeal to protect us, the little guy and ensure the big boys do not devour the noble lambs among us? So corruption and venality and perversion in Washington, they too have ceased as well. There are no lobbyists in government. Period. I can assure you of that.
With the April rain the planet stopped heating up and the oceans receded. Gone are the days when hot streaks in Phoenix were proof of Bush’s global warming, or falling bridges in Minnesota or subway crashes in DC revealed rightwing neglect of the people’s needs. Instead, the occasional train crash, plane implosion, or hot/cold, dry/wet, cloudy/clear streak, well, told us nothing at all about anything. Once in a while stuff just happens even in the new America.
Was it in May — do you remember? — when suddenly the world loved us again, even those we used to defame as “thugs.” Think of it — Ahmadinejad, Assad, Castro, Chavez, Ortega, etc., all polarized the last eight years, were finally at least talking not so unfairly about America. All these, we discovered, had legitimate grievances against our America all along — some dating back to Hiroshima, others to 1953 in Iran, still more originating with the treatment of the Native Americans, colonialism, and the shameful harassment of Muslims after September 11. The reset button was pushed, and as the weather got warmer, so did our former enemies. They gave books to a literate President, and offered kindly advice about the pernicious America of his youth. No wonder an American President in shades can golf again and be ‘cool’ as he swings, rather than being wealthy and snooty prancing on the course while the innocent die in Iraq.
Now in near summer there are no tensions any more, at least those serious ones that Bush created out of thin air. It’s good to know that we don’t “meddle” any more in Iran, that North Korea is just blustering when it claims (who can believe that?) it will shoot a missile Hawaii way. Who believes that Putin really wants to bully his neighbors or replace the dollar as the international currency?
There never really was an “axis,” much less the reductionist “evil,” still much less any notion that North Korea or Iran posed much of a threat to anyone. (As if Hawaii ever might have needed one of those Bush boondoggle missile-defense systems!). It’s good to see the Queen, Sarkozy, and Merkel at last at ease with a competent, sensitive President. Unwatchable DVDs and inscribed i-Pods are a hell of a lot better than neck rubs for Angie and “Yo Blair!”
By June it had been almost six months of joy in not having an historically-challenged President mangling the English language and “making-up stuff” as he went along. (And wasn’t it nice to get rid of the hack Scott McClellan and finally get a true intellectual like Mr. Gibbs, as suave and cosmopolitan as his boss at those televised press briefings?).
Some of us, true, were a little confused about that bit about Muslims suddenly fueling the Renaissance and Enlightenment, or stopping those awful Christians in Cordoba from torturing, or Islam inventing printing and medicine and high math. But then for the first time I realized I went to school in the old days and was brainwashed by the ‘narrative’ that had privileged white male Christian heterosexuals. Brilliant speechwriters of a younger, better generation disabused me of all that. And if not, what’s wrong with a few ‘noble lies’ anyway?
Here it is nearly the first of July and all racism has disappeared as well and there are no more red, no more blues states. I know that because Justice Sotomayor has assured me that I could never, with all the legal training in the world, be as good a justice as someone of her race and gender. Eric Holder, thank God, taught me, a mere typical white person who clings to my guns, that I was cowardly in keeping silent about race. Michelle reminded me that Princeton must have been something like Guantanamo for once tormented poor souls like herself and Justice Sotomayor stranded on an Ivy-League atoll — always forced to look over their shoulders as they endured all those nasal-voiced Buffys and Brents scurrying around in their V-neck sweaters and Gucci shoes on their Friday-night way to Nantucket or the Hamptons. I now know by this fall that Acorn, “comprehensive” immigration reform, the “race on the table” discussions with Hugo Chavez in South America, the Senate apologies for slavery, and more to come have made us a more racially tolerant society in a way George Bush with his inauthentic Powell, Rice, Gonzales, etc. appointments could never imagine.
It is an incredible time. We all feel in our legs, in our souls this new lightness of being, in which the old burdens — that tired jobless recovery, those billion-dollar deficits, the hatred of the world, the old stegosauruses GM and AIG, those nasty energy shortages, the old unpatriotic, won’t-pay-their-fair-share misers, that trumped up GWOT-have godlike, magically been ordered to go, and so they just vanished. We have become ever so happy, ever so light as never before.
©2009 Victor Davis Hanson