by Victor Davis Hanson
The Hope and Change Edicts
What are we to make of our current NASA chief, the distinguished retired Marine Corps major general and astronaut, Charles Bolden, who, in an interview with Al Jazeera, listed a “foremost” NASA objective as finding “a way to reach out to the Muslim world and engage much more with dominantly Muslim nations to help them feel good about their historic contribution to science, math, and engineering.”?
All of this, Bolden adds, expands the Obama “Cairo initiative,” those lofty revisionisms that the president offered to the Muslim world last summer in Cairo.
Surely, there is some mistake? Did a right-wing satirist hijack the transcript and insert “to help them feel good”?
OK — if it is a correct transcription, here are four or five off-the-top-of-the-head problems with this nonsense:
1) NASA is supposed to launch rockets and other craft, study space, and travel above the atmosphere. Its duties, especially at a time of budget restraints, are not to make any one “feel good,” much less “the Muslim world.” (e.g., why not “the Latin American world” or “African world”?).
The “Muslim world,” I think, feels pretty good about itself; in contrast, I fear we in the West apparently do not. (e.g., so far no Muslim leaders that I know are reaching out to the West to assure us that they both respect Western civilization and want to emphasize their admiration for our culture).
I wouldn’t mention the “Cairo initiative.” Bad idea. That was the most embarrassing speech given by an American president in a decade. Last June Obama misled his audience on nearly every “fact” presented, from the absurdity of Muslims in Cordoba supposedly serving as beacons of tolerance during the Inquisition (there were essentially no Muslims in Cordoba by that time), to the assertion that Muslims helped to jump start the Renaissance and Enlightenment (when in fact, flight from, or reaction against, Islam in the eastern Mediterranean had far more to do with both European intellectual awakenings). An early 15th-century Greek scribe fleeing the steady year-by-year Ottoman advance toward Constantinople, bringing with him a manuscript of a previously unknown Greek author, or Romantic Enlightenment thinkers like a Lord Byron writing of the need for a Greek revolution against the Turks, is not a sign of an Islamic pedigree for Da Vinci or Voltaire. Wait — maybe the president meant that attitudes toward Islam, as in fear of Islamic absolutism, helped to foster these two intellectual movements?)
2) Worry not, Gen. Bolden, about Muslims and space. Relax — soon there will be an intercontinentally-delivered Iranian bomb. The Syrians like space — otherwise they would not be testing Scuds. And not long ago, Dr. Khan did his best to make Muslims acquainted with the potentials of nuclear energy released in the stratosphere. Where did this idea originate that Muslims are not interested in space? Was it an article from Rev. Wright’s newsletter (e.g., “Pastor’s Page”) that suggested the Jews had new bombs that could detect Arabs — a sophisticated “ethnic bomb”?
3) It is beyond the power in 2010 of even Gen. Bolden to change the Islamic history about and attitudes toward science. To read of Ottoman scientific investigation between 1500 and 1900 is to learn of real trepidation among any Muslim scientists challenging the “authority” of the Prophet, by claiming near divine knowledge about the way things work, whether at work on lighthouses or munitions. There is a reason Dr. Khan went to the West to learn bomb-making rather than to Libya or Yemen — and it had nothing to do with the failures of the West to remind Muslims of their glorious scientific past.
4) Once more, no worry, Gen. Bolden: we know you support “diversity” and wish to make the other feel good about himself. Otherwise you would not be at NASA. But Al Jazeera? These were the guys that broadcasted the snuff videos of beheadings and, in Iraq, always seemed, strangely, to be right on the scene with cameras just as American Humvees were at the opportune moment blown into the sky by massive IEDs. Al Jazeera, in other words, is antithetical to everything NASA used to be.
5) There is no record that the 18-month long outreach has worked in any department. Again, 2009 saw more foiled terrorist attempts here at home than in any year since 2001. The Middle East is at the brink. Iran is more, not less, hostile for our outreach. All that has changed with Syria is that it now openly sells missiles to Hezbollah, oblivious to our courting. A Major Hasan or Abdul Mutallab does not care whether we send a video to Iran or NASA boasts of its caring to Al Jazeera. Turkey is growing more hostile, and cares not a bit that Obama apologized for slavery and the treatment of Native Americans. I could go on, but to the tiny degree that anyone in the Muslim world takes note of the NASA outreach, it will mostly be terrorists who equate our niceness with appeasement, and become encouraged that ex-American generals are now redirecting NASA to educate Muslims on their supposedly glorious scientific past, and not so interested in deterring them as was true after 9/11.
The Ministries of Truth
What is going on here? The president is setting the tone, and a host of truth departments are his choruses.
Eric Holder’s job description did not include calling us “a nation of cowards.” Nor does it include dropping  a won case about voter fraud, especially when the perpetrator is a known racist who indulges in “hate speech.” But perhaps Holder thinks he can score a brownie point or two from his boss for his radical rhetoric and symbolic “resistance”?
Ditto Hilda Solis’s silly video calling for workers to report bad employers — “documented or not.” She threw that fillip in about not enforcing the law, despite immigration being outside her purview, since she knew that it would remind her leader that she too is a revolutionary on the barricades.
I don’t think Janet Napolitano’s job at Homeland Security is dealing with “man-caused disasters” like power outages, BP leaks, mine explosions, etc. But again, she wanted Obama to take notice of the fact that she is a true believer by using words that make Muslims feel “good” about themselves.
And then there is Energy Secretary Chu. Why blurt out predictions of “no more agriculture in California”? Instead of figuring out how we are to have enough power to turn on the lights, Chu interjects alarm about the end of farming in the richest agricultural state in the union, part of a green editorial at a time when hundreds of thousands of acres of productive farmland lie idle during one of the wettest years in California’s recent history.
What was “boot on their neck” about, Secretary Salazar? That brag assures Obama that his Interior secretary is on board, and can use the Chicago way to shake down $20 billion.
We could do this all day — Van Jones and his various lunacies, Anita Dunn and her Mao worship. The real point is, however, that Obama has set a revolutionary tone, and everyone beneath him is falling all over themselves to trump it — and thereby gain traction and approval from their leader.
“We are the moment we’ve been waiting for” means that federal officials no longer worry about their tasks within their job description, but, in varying degrees and according to their station, must chant along in a holistic revolutionary process, one that sees traditional American strength as weakness, and sympathizes with those abroad who feel wronged by America. At home, the government is now on occasion one with those who break federal law for revolutionary purposes, against those who have capital and have found success. The law becomes malleable while the rhetoric reflects the higher calling of social justice.
Notice to truth ministries: on race, we got the message from “stupidly,” “typical white person,” “clingers,” “cowards,” and “wise Latina.” From now on it’s all redundant.
On capitalism and free enterprise, we got the message from the Chrysler broken contracts; the slurring of surgeons, Las Vegas, and insurance companies; “kick ass” and “boot on the neck”; “redistributive change”; “spread the wealth”; “them”; and “they,” etc. No need for any more.
Overseas, on day one it was the Al Arabiya interview. After that, the Cairo speech and the NASA Al Jazeera interview were just relish.
A Most Unusual Person
I don’t get involved in the particulars of promoting political candidates. If I did, it would probably hurt more than help those I look kindly upon (e.g., I just walked into a Fresno Target and was accosted by an angry pastor who went off on my column about Obama as a tragic figure; these “incidents” are near weekly occurrences in the conservative Fresno area; but oddly nonexistent elsewhere in more liberal places).
I know about a dozen congressmen, and have met some senators. But in New York’s 20th Congressional District this year one of the rarest individuals I have ever met is now running for Congress, and as a first-time candidate. He is a conservative, but then so are hundreds of office seekers.
Chris Gibson, however, is different from the rest of us. His past is almost mythical: PhD from Cornell, author of a good book on military/civilian relations, 24 years in the military, retired at rank of colonel, West Point instructor, 7 overseas deployments (4 in Iraq), a medal winner for gallantry (4 bronze stars), wounded in battle (purple heart) — it goes on and on. I met him when he was a security fellow at Hoover, and again in Iraq when deployed in Anbar province during the surge in 2007. I don’t think I have ever met anyone quite like him — fearless, soft-spoken, 19th century in belief and comportment, honest. I hope readers will learn about his candidacy. I lamented his retirement because I think he would shortly have been promoted to general, and would eventually follow in the Petraeus mold, in the best sense of that characterization.
In addition, I am sure that the DNC strategy this fall will devolve into personally denigrating new candidates, given that liberal incumbents in purple districts won’t be able to run on the presidential record of the last two years. But all that said, if we are going to save the country, we need leaders like Gibson, who has always lived the life he advocates. I wish him well. He reminds me of my neighbors now all gone, who used to show up on the farm around 1960, when at 7 I would hide behind the tractors and listen in on them talk with my grandfather — an old breed that is so sorely missed.
©2010 Victor Davis Hanson