Time Warp

by Victor Davis Hanson

NRO’s The Corner

‘Hope And Change’ Meet ‘A Return to Normalcy’?

It seems that, on the one hand, some conservatives are relieved that on matters of the Bush tax policies, the reaction to the financial meltdown, and foreign policy, including two wars, Obama has suddenly triangulated and, in sober and judicious fashion, become a mixture of a Clinton and GWB third term. 

But, on the other hand, while there is relief that Chomsky will not head State, and Bill Ayers not be Secretary of Defense, there is something troubling about announcing a candidacy in 2007 on a rather hard left premise of radical hope and change, running during 2008 on renouncing many earlier H & C positions (FISA, NAFTA, campaign financing, guns, abortion, taxes, capital punishment, drilling, nuclear, coal, missile defense, Iraq, the surge, Iran, etc.) to ensure election, and then as President-elect re-hiring many of the most emblematic status quo fixtures of the last 16 years.

As I interpret reaction to all that, there seems to be a assumption that we are getting Clinton III or Bush Lite, but with a hip soothing veneer that will bring obvious dividends in binding up wounds here and abroad.

Or in other words, first, the noble end of getting elected justified the disingenuous means of flipping positions, and, second, that noble end in turn was strengthened by the pragmatic means of getting Democratic centrists back in power that will win over independents, soothe conservative critics, and pretty much ignore the loud base, or buy them off with lower-level social and cultural bumper-sticker appointments.

Are we to be happy then that the elected Obama is proving to be a realist and pragmatist with some fine appointments rather than the ideologue outsider who savaged Hillary or demonized Bush and caricatured McCain, or rather shocked that the apparent consistency is only the desire to find political advantage? Who knows? — I surely don’t.

Still, it is hard to reconcile Obama’s status quo appointments with his fiery campaign anti-status quo rhetoric (e.g., “I also know that real change has never been easy, and it won’t be easy this time either. The status quo in Washington will fight harder than they ever have to divide us and distract us with ads and attacks from now until November.”) — and once one goes down the slope of expediency trumping all else, the way gets slippery fast.

Is it 2008 — or 1984?

We should all let President-elect Obama have some honeymoon time, but that said, so far the sudden cessation in ‘hope and change’ that became part of the American mindset for two years is surreal, and one of the most remarkable developments in recent American political history. Obama’s Clintonite appointments, his reliance on those well-known DC fixtures credentialed by Ivy League Law Schools, and his apparent backtracking on radical tax hikes on the “wealthy”, instantaneous shut-down of Gitmo, prompt withdrawal from Iraq, and repeal of anti-terror legislation seem to have delighted conservatives, relieved that the Daily Kos and Huffington Post are not calling the shots. But two minor points, it is still November, not late January. So no one knows anything yet and we should suspend judgment, despite the FDR and Lincoln daily comparisons.

Second, if we should see in January that the government really does not want to evict Khalid Sheik Mohammed & co. from Guantanamo, and does want to stay in Iraq until 2011 to finish up, and does want to let the present tax code ride for a bit, and does want to leave most Bush-enacted homeland security measures in place, then Obama has not merely embarrassed his hard-left base, but has terribly humiliated the media as well.

For years now we have been preached to that Guantanamo is a gulag where Korans are stomped and flushed (not laptops provided to the chief architect of 9/11), that we waged a foolhardy, amoral, and hopelessly ‘lost’ war against the Iraqi people, that the rich plundered the economy on the backs of the poor, and that the Constitution was burned so that covert agencies could play James Bond. I could go on, but you get the picture.

Given all that, are we now suddenly — in 1984-fashion — around late January either to be told all that was not quite so, or will we simply hear no more about how these Bush legacies have ruined America — or what exactly is the party line to be? There is still such a thing, after all, as Google.

The point is that somewhere around early to mid-2007 ABC, NBC, CBS, MSNBC, CNN, the New York Times, the Washington Post, NPR, Newsweek,Time, etc. chose to become — in the manner that they selected, emphasized, and presented their news stories — a quasi-official Obama media, or at least a quasi-official what-they-thought-Obama-was news media. Chris Matthews’ asinine statement about his investment in the success of the Obama administration was merely a crude summation of the creed of the more sober and judicious.

I don’t really think they can now pull off an Animal-Farm-like ‘two-legs were bad’, ‘now two-legs good’ complete turn-about just because they’ve taken over the manor. I do think that the media’s unprofessional lobbying for the cause of Obama — not now, but in a decade or two — will become a classic case study in any graduate class on journalistic ethics.

©2008 Victor Davis Hanson

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