by Victor Davis Hanson
NRO’s The Corner
What planet are we on? Hillary Clinton, of “suspension of disbelief” fame, now is complaining about the deleterious effect of domestic partisan discord on the conduct of foreign policy? Barack Obama, the once eloquent defender of the filibuster and the need to have constitutional protections against the tyranny of mere majority votes in the Senate, is now whipping his partisan horses onward to pass Obamacare with the barest of majorities? Joe Biden, the erstwhile Senate megaphone who used to preach against the arrogance that sought to steamroll his minority opposition, promising that someday when the tables turned Democrats would not show such hubris, now is eager to ram through healthcare by hook or by crook?
All this reminds me of the speechifying performance of Major Cassius Starbuckle (John Carradine) in John Ford’s The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance.
Why all of a sudden are liberal pundits urging Obama to go “gangsta” (Roland Martin) or go “Chicago-style” (Al Hunt) when it has been for two years politically incorrect to even hint that Obama has empathy either to the patois of the inner city or the ruthlessness of Chicago?
When it is a matter of healthcare, then supporters accept the associations as pluses, while assuming they would be racist or unfair if voiced by a conservative? And why, when the president’s ratings have gone from 68–70% to 48–46% (at nearly a steady -2% clip a month), primarily because of shrill partisanship and a perceived ultra-left agenda, would, in charlatan homeopathic style, his advisers suggest more toxin to cure the ailing patient?
Apparently, the point is that by appearing ruthless and ramming through healthcare, Obama will suddenly transmogrify into a “strong horse,” gain cred so to speak, and reassure trembling Democrats that the disadvantages of supporting a most unpopular agenda are outweighed by basking in the reflected glory from Obama the Strong. I suppose at this point anything goes, given we’ve gone from bipartisanship “good” to partisanship “even better,” from Bush the Constitution Shredder to Give Me More Predators, an open Guantanamo, and renditions, and from “Culture of Corruption” to Charlie Rangel, our chief tax legislator, absolving us collectively of tax problems by just blaming the preparers.
Europe—the Hyper-Power? Not Likely
There is a strange sort of ‘duh?’ essay in Time by Simon Robinson, wondering why Europe has not translated its apparent public utopia at home into a substantial foreign presence abroad to balance the increasing China/U.S. dichotomy. Aside from the fact China is hardly the U.S. abroad (when was the last time China inquired about human rights or addressed a world forum on the need for patent and copyright compliance?), the piece does not make the obvious conclusion that the E.U.’s lack of a foreign policy presence is logically because of, not despite, its socialist cradle to grave protocols at home.
The more citizens can expect an equality of result, count on lavish benefits regardless of their own degree of effort, calibrate collective success by the ability to satisfy a number of appetites, and measure their own transcendence through the ability to create a stable welfare state, then a number of foreign policy corollaries naturally follow: pacifism (let other less sophisticated worry about Neanderthal military forces); inwardness (why risk the good life for ‘them’?); depopulation (a long lunch is far better than dirty diapers); agnosticism and/or atheism (we, not God, have created a heaven on earth so why then worry about tomorrow?); and expanding socialism (we need more money for less work and can’t afford to waste any on a defense budget). Unless the current financial earthquake, or the demographic time bomb and the accompanying rise of radical Islam, bring radical changes, expecting European help abroad in extremis would be like asking the Eloi to take on the Morlocks.
The World Goes Silent on Guantanamo?
Given that there is now almost no leftwing furor over Guantanamo — reminding us that the problem was probably never the detention center per se, but rather the liberal narrative of George Bush as outlaw — there seems to have been an administration decision made not to worry much about reneging on the pledge to have closed it by January 2010.
One mystery remains, however — the apparent silence among Guantanamo’s critics in the so-called world community. Here at home we finally learned that the Bush as Constitution-shredder writ — based on the employment of tribunals, renditions, intercepts, wiretaps, troops in Iraq, the use of Predator drones — was not principled, but partisan, and so disappeared when Bush left and Obama embraced all his predecessor’s anti-terrorism protocols (and, indeed, in some cases trumping them, such as Predator targeted assassinations).
Why, though, did the so-called international community give up on the venom of its criticism of America as the illiberal lawbreaker, when our policies have continued unchanged? Apparently the world’s elites piggybacked on the liberal domestic bandwagon stereotype of Bush as the swaggering Texas white male cowboy, and are now OK with Obama, the Nobel Laureate and postracial internationalist, continuing his policies unchanged, albeit with a few requisite sops and empty gestures like the KSM trial-balloon, the faux-deadline on Guantanamo, and the loud inquisitions of former CIA interrogators.
When matters of anti-Americanism arise, we should remember all this.
©2010 Victor Davis Hanson