The Apocalyptic Style

by Victor Davis Hanson

NRO’s The Corner

The Problem

Following the speaker’s prediction of 500 million jobs lost a month, Secretary of Energy Chu now warns there will be no more vineyards in California soon, indeed, no more agriculture at all as we know it. As an owner of one of those doomed vineyards of a small farm of some 135 years in our family, I wonder. While we’ve had unseasonably warm weather this year and so far only a so-so snow pack, this is not all that unusual in my 50-year memory of California climate and weather. And as I write I am pausing at a rest stop in a pouring rainstorm in Los Angeles on the way to drive up tonight through a heavy blizzard in the Sierra.

Until we more carefully study global warming, I suggest the energy secretary might more modestly support allowing reactionaries to add a few more feet to our dams — or maybe even build one or two — so that in good years, millions of feet of snow melt can be saved rather than go out to sea.

You see, our California reservoirs were built for a state of 15 million, not one approaching 40. Until we get wind and solar and hope and change, let us mere mortals at least accept that our freeways, canals, dams, airports, etc. were never designed to serve the present population. The old way of allowing environmentalists to stop needed infrastructure — rather than Mother Nature — may be the real culprit for our current malaise.

Second, there is a disturbing pattern of what I would call “the apocalyptic style.” We are not just to worry about global warming, but that there will be NO more agriculture at all soon!

Then President Obama says if we don’t act immediately on the stimulus, financial CATASTROPHE looms!

Let me get this straight: We borrowed and spent too much under Bush, so we must borrow and spend even more under Obama to rectify things? We rushed to do the fall bailout and now rue the waste and haste, so naturally we should hastily rush to do this even bigger stimulus? And we are not just losing jobs, but 500 MILLION per month! And this from someone who recently declared that she was SAVING THE PLANET — all 6 billion plus.

A Rather Modest Observation

The last two days I got a lot of hysterically angry mail about a rather pedestrian, empirical observation the other day that Obama was in a near-meltdown in his third week of governance. I pointed to Obama’s trashing-then-adopting the Bush security plan (FISA, Patriot Act, renditions, Iraq, sorta of Guantanamo), the serial cabinet appointee implosions, the mockery of our tax laws, the embarrassing provisions of the $1 trillion “stimulus,” the lobbyist exceptions to the no-lobbyist policy, the unfortunate Al Arabiya interview, and the McClellanesque performances of Robert Gibbs.

But I think, nonetheless, the near-meltdown description is accurate (poll drops suggest as much) and serious. It is largely a logical dividend of Obama’s unnecessary, but apparently Pavlovian, tendency to preface every issue with (1) Bush et al. did this to us, and (2) I am bringing historic change never before seen. Then with almost mathematical regularity, we wait about 24 hours and learn that Obama either adopts many of Bush’s policies, or in policy and appointments (whether Clintonites or tax dodgers and lobbyists) proves about the same old, same old that we expect from Washington.

If Obama will just turn down the saintly ethical rhetoric and forget about Bush, then his all-too-human slips won’t be seen as all that bad, given our quite low expectations of contemporary politicians; and in humble fashion he will right things and get on with governance.

For two years the media and the Left transmogrified a bright and talented, though inexperienced, Chicago pol (who needed at least a half-decade of seasoning in the Senate) into some sort of divine totem in which they could invest all their hopes and seek penance for all their purported sins. They are now learning in just 15 days that scoring points against George Bush on the campaign trail and offering soaring platitudes with Reverend Wright cadences were not the same as governing the United States. In the same hysterical fashion that many hated George Bush, so they deified Barack Obama — and I expect, when disappointed, will begin to turn on the fallen prophet Obama as well.

Oddly, many of us who did not vote for him will give him praise and support when he does things that we think are sensible and help the country (like the welcome executive pay caps for those once-bold capitalists who wanted safe socialism on their way down).

A final thought. There are tens of thousands of talented liberals and moderates outside the Clinton circle and the retread politicians and lobbyists in DC. Historians will soon wonder why the radical hope and change candidate on the day after the election simply adopted as his own the entrenched Democratic DC elite whole hog — with all their egalitarian rhetoric serving as very flimsy cover for tax dodging, lobbying, and Wall Street-like tastes. It was quite astounding really — and not altogether necessary.

Not So Cool

What Obama needs to do is to explain to the American people just three things:

1) What exactly does he think was the cause of the current financial panic if not over-borrowing, unsustainable household and national debt, and reckless government housing policies, along with too accessible amounts of capital?

2) Why would outdoing what we did — borrowing, spending, printing cash — be a Zen-like fix of the problem?

3) Why, after seeing a hasty bailout result in messy consequences, would a hasty stimulus not result in messy consequences?

Such calm, fireside-chat explanations would be much better than these nearly hourly hysterical proclamations from his team about catastrophes, depressions, and disasters. When one adds up what Obama himself has said, what the Pelosi/Reid team have said, and what various cabinet members have voiced (farming doomed here in California?), either the U.S. is about ready to explode, or its leaders have become unhinged.

©2009 Victor Davis Hanson

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