by Victor Davis Hanson
Questions Still Not Answered
Why didn’t Colin Powell and Co. jump ship in, say, June or July, and endorse Obama after many months of campaigning when his positions were already well known? That is, why wait until late October when, after the financial meltdown, Obama surged in the polls? Had Powell come out even in the first week of September, he could have demonstrated that although Obama was down by three points, he was willing to stick his neck out with a principled endorsement that may well have made him persona non grata in a McCain-administration Washington.
Why didn’t the media or McCain just ask Obama a few of the following questions: Why did you keep emailing and phoning Bill Ayers for three years after 9/11, when the country was gripped by fear of terror, and Ayers, like bin Laden, said that he had not done enough bombing, and had no regrets about the terrorism he had committed?
Why did Obama say in 2004 to the Chicago Sun-Times that he went to Trinity Church every Sunday at 11AM, and then later claim he had not been there that regularly once Rev. Wright’s venom was disseminated to the general public? Is Obama for, or not for, a simple yes or no, missile defense, nuclear power, off-shore drilling, and coal-powered electrical generation? There might be legitimate answers, but surely the public could profit by them, rather than worry over the Palin pregnancies, wardrobe, or Tasergate.
Why did the greatest furor against Palin originate with women, both liberals like a Gail Collins, Maureen Dowd, or Sally Quinn, or conservatives such as a Peggy Noonan or Kathleen Parker?
So far, none of them has adduced the necessary arguments that would justify their venom against Palin: they have not demonstrated that Vice Presidential nominee Palin has less government or executive experience than does Presidential nominee Obama; they have not shown that she has said anything in two months as disturbing as what Joe Biden says almost any day, and, in that vein, they have written few columns about Biden’s lunatic assertions, such as FDR addressing the nation on television as President in 1929, or that our nation’s enemies will test Barack Obama, and his reaction will so disappoint the American people that his polls will immediately sink; they have not shown that Palin’s ideas about shrinking government and keeping taxes low are less sound than Obama’s in time of economic downturn to raise aggregate taxes and expand government. So whence the vitriol, especially the frequent invective about Palin’s family, education, accent, or mannerisms, or the rather sexist suggestions that her looks bewitched either McCain or others?
Why do so many conservatives think that an Obama-elect might prove a centrist, and so why do they use phrases like “I pray” or “I hope” that Obama might turn out, well, not to be Obama?
Jimmy Carter did exactly what he promised: raised taxes, grew the government, told the world he had no inordinate fear of communism, trashed our allies as retrograde right-wing authoritarians — and we got the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, the Iranian hostage-taking (have we forgotten that the “Great Satan” originated as a slur against Nobel laureate Carter?), communism in Central America, the Cambodian Holocaust, and spikes of 12% inflation, 18% interest, and 7% unemployment.
For his first two years (until 1994 Gingrich’s ‘Contract with America’ revolution, and Dick Morris’s ‘triangulation’), Bill Clinton, as promised, raised taxes, raised spending, tried to ram through socialized medicine, and by fiat wanted to force the military to accept those openly gay.
So why would any conservative think that Obama — friend of Ayers, Khalidi, Meeks, Pfleger, and Wright, veteran of mysterious campaigns in which rivals in 1996 and 2004 simply dropped out or were forced out, erstwhile advocate of repealing NAFTA, controlling guns, stopping new drilling and nuclear plants, zealot for bringing all troops home by March 2008, advocate of a trillion dollars in new spending, and raising the tax burden on the 5% who now pay 60% of the aggregate income taxes, supporter of more oppression studies and racial reparations — would not likewise try to govern as he has lived the last 20 years?
Why would anyone think that an Obama would not wish to enact the visions of those who first backed him — the Moveon.org crowd, ACORN, The Huffington Post, Sen. Reid, Rep. Pelosi, a Chris Dodd or Barney Frank — rather than the late pilers-on like Colin Powell or Scott McClellan? We should remember that, unlike the cases of Carter and Clinton, Obama would have both houses of Congress, and a (Republican) precedent of the federal government intervening into the free market, in the manner of 1932.
The Fox Ambush
I don’t like dry-gulching journalism, but there was a strange scene when the Fox reporter caught up to Bill Ayers and stuck a microphone in his face as he went up the sidewalk of his rather impressive home: Ayers, with a bright red star on his T-shirt, shoos away the reporter with the apparent mumble “this is private property” before the police arrive. How strange that an advocate for communalism and an erstwhile attacker of police stations reverts to the notion of property rights and police to protect him from an intrusive reporter. Right out of Thucydides Book III and the strife on Corfu, when the historian warns that those who destroy the protocols of civilization may well one day wish to rely on them.
What Was Conservatism?
Few seem to know anymore. The decline in the fortune of the Republican Party has prompted some conservatives to claim they were abandoned, and now must seek refuge of all places in the agenda of Barack Obama — as if growing government, larger entitlements, and higher taxes are the proper antidotes to the unhappiness of the last eight years. One is unhappy with the excessive spending of the Bush administration and the former Republican Congress so he favors the greater spending of the new administration and congress to come?
The tragedy of the Bush administration was largely fiscal. There were, of course, two costly wars, the economic downturn after September 11, Katrina, and the unregulated Fannie and Freddie fiasco that proved the catalyst to the Wall Street subprime speculation.
But that said, by spending beyond the rate of inflation, running up large annual deficits, adding to the national debt, and voting in more entitlements that could not be funded with existing revenues, conservatives committed two suicidal acts. One, they discredited tax cuts, which under George Bush clearly brought in more aggregate revenue and primed the economy. Had we balanced budgets by spending restraint, no politicians would now dare to suggest the answers for our present budget woes were to be found in higher taxes.
Second, conservatives grew the size of the government. Perhaps No Child Left Behind or the Medicare Prescription Drug supplement was felt to be necessary to ensure bipartisan congressional support for the unpopular Iraq War, perhaps not. But when a conservative grows the size of government, he not only suffers the wage of hypocrisy, but he wins the additional charge of encouraging all others to do the same. The inattentive water master who opens the flood gates of the dam can hardly complain that torrents cascade out.
Yet Conservatism is pretty simple, and is based on just a few principles. Human nature remains constant, and thus is predictable across time and space. There is a certain humility that comes with conservatism, since the ways of the world, despite the technological chaos, are constant. We know, 1000 years past or right now, that the more we tax something the less we get of it, while the more we subsidize, the more we obtain — given that people will slack when they can, and won’t when they can’t.
Sometimes this conservative take on human nature can get a little depressing, when we know that punishments really do deter crime, or silly things like high walls keep or fines on employers really do keep out illegal immigrants, or strong nations ready for war are not attacked while weak ones eager for peace are. So here we are on the eve of yet another great retrograde experiment, akin to the European socialist model that contradicts human nature — one that its creators over there are now fleeing from as we apparently, a day late, a dollar short, seek to emulate it.
©2008 Victor Davis Hanson