The Obamaites’ About-Face

by Victor Davis Hanson

National Review Online

Californians have been experiencing ten days of the wettest, snowiest weather in recent memory. In the usually arid San Joaquin Valley, flooding is ubiquitous. The high Sierra passes are locked in snow well before the first of the year. If the United Kingdom is dealing with the irony of its elites’ recently warning of an end to snow on a now snowy island, out here our version of that embarrassment is water everywhere after Energy Secretary Chu warned us that our farms would blow away and that he could envision an end altogether of California agriculture — logically, he asserted, given that 90 percent of the annual Sierra snowpack would soon disappear.

While the state struggles with flooding and blizzards, Governor Schwarzenegger is advertising himself to the Obama administration as a possible post–Van Jones green czar, to regulate energy for the country as he has done for a now insolvent California. But then, once global warming morphed into climate change, too much rain, snow, and cold could become as symptomatic of too much man-made carbon being released as too little rain, snow, and cold once were. Start that engine, and thou shalt both burn and freeze in hell.

This week Attorney General Holder was warning about the threat of terrorism — but not terrorism in the usual liberal Timothy McVeigh, “even Christians can be terrorists” sort of gobbledy-gook. Rather, Eric Holder, as this Christmas’s new Dick Cheney, is warning about US citizens who are stealthy radical Islamists. Holder fears that they wish to succeed where the would-be Times Square, subway, Portland, and Christmas airliner bombers all failed. He assumes that the terrorists among us for some reason did not read the Al-Arabiya interview, fully appreciate the Cairo speech, see the famous bow to the Saudi king, or hear of administration pressure on Israel. In short, “All religions produce terrorists,” is now followed by “But some religions produce more terrorists than others.”

So, gone for the moment at least are we “cowards” who racially stereotype, oppose the Ground Zero mosque in Neanderthal fashion, and fail to appreciate Holder’s own commitment to shutting down Guantanamo and trying KSM in a New York federal court. Much like his colleague Harold Koh (who, as an Obama State Department justice official rather than a Yale law dean, is no longer suing to put an end to waterboarding at Guantanamo, but is instead opposing those who are suing to stop Predator assassination missions), Holder in a blink of an eye went from trashing the Bush-Cheney anti-terrorism protocols to sighing that it is almost a matter of when, not if, home-grown Islamic radicals will kill lots of us. Holder’s road to Damascus is eerily reminiscent of the sudden conversion in 1938 of British intellectuals, who, as Czechoslovakia was swallowed, abruptly went from 15 years of trumpeting League of Nations pacifism to calling for British military deterrence against fascism. Unlike Holder, however, they at least explained why they had made their about-faces.

To be fair, the Obamaites are simply channeling their commander-in-chief, who spent a near decade, from 2001 to 2009, pontificating on the illegality or superfluousness of the Patriot Act, renditions, tribunals, Predators, Guantanamo, and overseas wars, and then as president embraced or even expanded all of them — with not a word of remorse that his earlier demagoguing might have done great harm both to the efficacy of the programs and to the reputations of those involved in them, as well as to his country’s image abroad. I suppose we are all Orwell’s farm animals now, mystified but quiet as we wake to see the commandments on the barnyard wall crossed out and written over.

On the matter of taxes, two years after borrowing $2 trillion to expand, stimulate, change, and reset the economy, and after talking of limb-lopping doctors, fat-cat bankers, junketeering CEOs on their way to Vegas and the Super Bowl, and how “at a certain point you’ve made enough money,” Obama has now embraced the abhorrent Bush-era tax rates, and he is courting CEOs. The latter are apparently sitting catatonic on the sidelines, with hundreds of billions in cash but unwilling to expand operations for fear that Obama will adopt EU-like socialism. At exactly what point did the caterpillar of massive borrowing and government spending emerge from his chrysalis as the butterfly of not raising taxes on anyone in a recession and of balancing budgets? At 8, 9, or 10 percent unemployment? At 50, 48, or 43 percent approval? Or at the idea of 30, 40, 50, or 63 lost House seats?

Obama reset-button diplomacy rested on two assumptions: (1) all problems abroad either started with or failed to transcend George W. Bush; and (2) multicultural non-judgmentalism must replace neo-conservative promotion of human rights across cultures and nations. Now? I don’t think anyone argues that China, Russia, or Venezuela has become a little softer on dissidents, or that North Korea is a little more quiet, or that Iran is a little less likely to press ahead with its nuclear proliferation, or that Japan, Britain, or Eastern Europe is a little more confident in American leadership, or that Iraq is lost or Afghanistan saved because we put “our eye back on the ball.” As a result, in six months, US foreign policy will probably be indistinguishable from that of the second George W. Bush term — even as we continue to hear sermons about bold new multicultural initiatives delivered in Nobel-laureate rhetoric. When did “Bush did it” become “And we did too!”?

When one loses one’s faith, the aftermath can be startling. As gas hits $3 a gallon at Christmas, with fears of $4 by summer-vacation time, expect suddenly to hear of plans to tap more natural gas, build more nuclear reactors, and lift the suppression of offshore drilling — all beneath a loudly trumpeted but very thin wind and solar veneer. What are we to expect next — a few windmills fastened atop a drilling rig in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, some solar panels on the domes of new nuclear-power plants, a supercharger as an upgrade on the Chevy Volt?

An unrepresentative but quite influential intellectual elite — in the media, the universities, the arts, and government — is vested in Barack Obama, in his unpopular doctrinaire agenda, but even more so in the symbolism of his person. The result is paradoxical. For his political survival, Obama now accepts that his faith-based ideas about the environment, radical Islam, taxes, stimulus, the economy, national security, and foreign policy are not supported by any evidence in the real world. Yet he knows as well that the more he must become empirical, the more he must assure his flock of believers outside the farmhouse window that he still walks on four rather than two legs.

The wonder is not that politicians change as politics dictate, but that the most vehement leftism now accepts nonchalantly what it not long ago so ardently demonized. The oddity is not that Obama must back up after driving his country into a brick wall at the end of a dead-end street, but that as he backs up, turns around, and heads in the other direction, he can still be praised as if he had dematerialized and gone ahead right on through the wall.

©2010 Victor Davis Hanson

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