What Do These Frist Six Months Mean?

by Victor Davis Hanson

PJ Media

Where Are We Going?

Abroad: I think the Europeans, who, remember, caught Obamania quite early, thought they were going to get more of the bipartisan American security shield, albeit with a charismatic multicultural veneer that would resonate with their citizens: no more Texas. No more Christianity. No more twang. No more nuculear. No more Iraq. But same old NATO. Same old bad cop to their good cop. Same old wide open Ami economy. Same old chance for triangulation. And?

As we are seeing in the Middle East, in the case of Israel, with Turkey, on the recent Iranian upheaval, and during the South America visit, Obama is clearly to the left of Europe. He sees himself more as multicultural prophet born out of the Third World, foe of colonialism, angry at past imperialism, skeptical of capitalism, eager to showcase his non-traditional ancestry and tripartite nomenclature. By coming from the West, but separating himself from the history of his own country, Obama has become a citizen of the world, who polls far higher, as intended, in the Middle East, than does his own country.

At no point does he suggest that the fact his father left Kenya for the U.S. and fathered at least one son who would grow up American rather than Kenyan was a great gift, as we see with the ordeal of many of the Obama half-siblings in Africa. Yes, he talks about change in America, but never tells the world exactly how an America of many races and faiths never descends into the hatred and violence we see most elsewhere in diverse societies. How, after all, does one apologize for success? (”I am sorry we are not killing as in the Balkans; so sad we do not follow the Rwandan model; schucks, no Kurd-Shiite-Sunni troubles here.”)

It used to be cute to talk about how “Bush turned off the Europeans.” Perhaps. But beneath all the public demonstrations and burning effigies, the old guard knew that Bush, like Clinton, Bush, and Reagan (but not Carter), would be there should the Russians, Koreans, Chinese, the lunatic regimes in the Middle East, the al Qaedists and the rest threaten Western interests.

I don’t see how they can assume such a thing any more.

From the trivial like the treatment of the Churchill bust or the DVD gift to Gordon Brown, to the profound like the serial apologies, voting present on Iran, and deer-in-the-headlights stance on Korea, they must assume that the “European Rapid Deployment Force” is now their primary bulwark against the foes of civilization.

Bottom line: “Be careful what you wish for.”

It is neither caricature nor reductionism to suggest that the degree to which a country has expressed past hostility to the United States, the more it wins attention and apology from Barack Obama. In contrast, to the degree a country is constitutional and pro-American, the more likely it will be either ignored by Obama or its internal affairs “meddled” with. Cf. the case with Iran, Venezuela, the West Bankers, Russia, etc. In contrast, woe to Israel! (And Iraq too).

Weird Iranian Politics

There is a certain difficulty, unease really, that one sees among Leftist and liberal commentators on Iran. The demonstrations in Tehran are ideal topics of liberal anguish: hundreds of thousands in the streets, women, gays, students, all calling for freedom, human rights, and non-violent change — and opposed by religious fundamentalists, the gun-toting army, creepy police. It should be a no-brainer.

But there is often silence. Why and how?

1) Obama is President. U.S. official policy is now liberal official policy, and there is a certain party line to embrace (we forget how right-wing radio went after Bush for the Dubai ports deal, the steel tariff, open borders, the deficits, No Child Left Behind, Prescription drug, etc.).

That means the President’s heretofore Kissingerian realism — wait until one side wins, and then deal with the winner in terms of our own interest — gets a pass. Suddenly liberals, who called for the overthrow of everyone from the odious Pinochet to the even worse Somoza, are silent, offering Obama sound enough talking points that we must not play into the hands of this or that side, that both sides have anti-Americanism in common, that the bomb lurks large. Their realism may be clever and in the long run astute for the U.S., but it is realism nonetheless, and just the sort of realpolitik that they used to decry.

2) The Iranian fascistic government — theocratic, anti-gay, anti-religious tolerance, anti-feminist — has always disguised its venom with Che-like popular anti-Americanism. Its theocrats don’t wear ties. They mouth Hollywood-like anti-Americanism. They hate Bush as much as the Left does. In other words, the Iranians (cf. again Clinton’s lunatic 2005 Davos remarks praising to the skies Iranian “democracy”) have always been given a sort of exemption given their Third-world fides, and refrain “we are the perpetual victims of a CIA-inspired coup over six decades ago.” (Kermit Roosevelt did not prevent democracy in Iran from 1979 to 2009 any more than Pearl Harbor forced the United States to spend a lot on defense the next 60 plus years).

3) Iraq looms large. The Iraqi elections were far more open, far more inspected than anything in the long history of Iran. Maliki is a more legitimate leader than any in Iraq. And yet we shun Maliki as tainted, while suggesting that Iranian thugs are somehow more authentic (note the large number of essays suddenly appearing arguing Ahmadinejad really won the election and the result should be respected.)

Here at Home

We know the boilerplate: The President outlines the problem, punctuated with those awful “them” and “they” and “some” and “others” who as extremists stand in the way of all good things and present “false choices,” but remain unnamed. (Sort of like the tropes in 1984).

Then the standard references come to “the mess we inherited,” the “prior administration,” and “what we found.” These are the prefaces to his reluctance to … (fill in the blanks: run the private sector, spend massive amounts of money, take over health care, raise taxes, etc.). Then he pauses, takes a deep breath, and in fact outlines ways to take over GM, regulate compensation, run up massive deficits, nationalize health care, and plan record tax hikes.

Then he finishes with variations on the old campaign formula “this is the moment,” “hope and change,” “yes, we can,” “we will not be deterred.”

No one can quite believe that one has just heard Obama deny that he’s going to do exactly what he then outlines he is going to do — but at least for the last six months this deception sounded good.

Historically Challenged?

In a recent column I suggested that almost all Obama’s historical references were wrong or distorted: Berlin airlift, death camps, Inquisition, Muslim contribution to the European Renaissance and Enlightenment, Muslim discoveries of breakthroughs in science, math, printing, etc., suggesting that as a postmodernist he (and/or  his speechwriters) does not really believe in absolute truth, but rather relative competing narratives predicated on race/class/gender. And the means of magnifying the accomplishments of those “without power” justifies the ends of diminishing those “with power.” The list of other inaccuracies in his Cairo speech could be expanded from the contemporary Middle East to his references to John Adams and Islam.

Apparently that list of inaccuracies brought the following dismissal (but not corrections or interest in correcting the record) from Robert Gibbs:

Who’s Victor Davis Hanson and what does he know?
President’s spokesman puts money on Obama speechwriters
(Posted: June 16, 2009, 9:48 pm Eastern, © 2009 WorldNetDaily)

Robert Gibbs, the spokesman for President Barack Obama, today questioned who is [1] Victor Davis Hanson and what does he know, when WND correspondent Les Kinsolving asked Gibbs about “mistakes” Hanson has pointed out in Obama’s speeches.

Hanson, a nationally syndicated columnist and historian, wrote just one day earlier about “Our Historically Challenged President.”

He noted Obama’s reference during the presidential campaign to when his great-uncle “helped liberate Auschwitz, and that his grandfather knew fellow American troops that had entered Auschwitz and Treblinka.”

“Both are impossible. The Americans didn’t free either Nazi death camp,” Hanson said.

Then came Obama’s gaffe during his Victory Column speech in [2] Berlin in 2008.

“He began, ‘I know that I don’t look like the Americans who’ve previously spoken in this great city.’ He apparently forgot that for the prior eight years, the official faces of American foreign policy in [2] Germany were Secretaries of State Colin Powell and Condoleezza [2] Rice — both African-Americans,” Hanson said.

Hanson continued, citing Obama’s reference to the Berlin airlift, when the “world had come together to save Berlin.”

Only, Hanson pointed out, the fact is that “it was almost an entirely American and British effort — written off by most observers as hopeless and joined only by a handful of Western allies.”

Then in Cairo recently, Obama’s historical allusions “were even more suspect.”

“Almost every one of his references was either misleading or incomplete. He suggested that today’s Middle East tension was fed by the legacy of European colonialism and the Cold War that had reduced nations to proxies,” Hanson said. “But the great colonizers of the Middle East were the Ottoman Muslims, who for centuries ruled with an iron fist. The 20th-century movements of Baathism, Pan-Arabism and Nasserism — largely homegrown totalitarian ideologies — did far more damage over the last half-century to the Middle East than the legacy of European colonialism.

“Obama also claimed that ‘Islam . . . carried the light of learning through so many centuries, paving the way for Europe’s Renaissance and Enlightenment,’” In fact, Hanson wrote, medieval Islamic culture “had little to do with the European rediscovery of classical Greek and Latin values.”

“Obama also insisted that ‘Islam has a proud tradition of tolerance. We see it in the history of [2] Andalusia and Cordoba during the Inquisition.’ Yet the Spanish Inquisition began in 1478; by then Cordoba had long been re-conquered by Spanish Christians, and was governed as a staunchly Christian city,” he said.

And to Obama’s claim that it was “not violence” that ended slavery, Hanson mentioned the Civil War.

In today’s news briefing, Kinsolving asked, “Historian Victor Davis Hanson cites what he terms, ‘The president’s politically correct canard that the Renaissance was fueled by Arab learning, and the president’s statement that abolition of slavery and civil rights in the U.S. were accomplished without violence,’ as two of seven presidential errors. Question: Does the White [2] Housebelieve Dr. Hanson is wrong? Or do you believe your speechwriters and the president made some mistakes?”

Said Gibbs, “Lester, I have to hand it to you that you have in only one question covered some five or six centuries of world history.”

“No. No. Just mistakes … White House mistakes,” said Kinsolving.

“Well I … Should I ask you a question and you respond, or should I give a…,” Gibbs said.

“I’d be delighted anytime,” Kinsolving said.

“At least you’re not leading into where you think the answer to such a historically significant and important question,” Gibbs said. “I’m not familiar with the [2] work of the esteemed historian. I haven’t seen it. I can assure you that not knowing who this historian is, I’ll put my money on our speechwriters.”

At the Washington Times, which publishes Hanson, editorial page editor Richard Miniter told Kinsolving: “To Mr. Gibbs: If you are in need of information about those in positions of higher learning, please write us.”

Oh well….

European Outtakes

Some ironies on the recent European trip.

At a beautiful winery in Frascati the host was explaining that the quite stunning vineyard we were standing in was “organic” and farmed “without poisons and chemicals” — but our group was, in fact, at that moment standing between vineyard berms, with their tall weeds shriveled up and dead, obviously sprayed with Parquat.

A crowd of some very obese (as in mega) Germans was walking ahead of us on the sidewalk in Rome, and a passerby snickered to me “Fatso Americans.”

The inability to line up orderly, the run-’em down driving that puts pedestrians in constant risk, and the smoke anywhere assumptions all reflect a certain degree of selfishness at odds with the utopian E.U. claims of fraternity and egalitarianism. Or are the two naturally symbiotic rather than antithetical?

Letters and Posts

I don’t moderate any posting. If they are filtered, it is done by those at Pajamasmedia.com on the basis of obscenity or hate speech. Some replies to some commentary:

Yes, I would prefer real names to faux-ones on the postings. But it’s your call.

No, I have never attacked any politician’s children. And won’t. I liked Chelsea Clinton, never wrote a word disparaging her, not one. If one can find an attack I wrote on her, please post it. Any on the right who ridiculed her looks were wrong to do so. I found her effective in the recent Hillary campaign. When politicians’ children begin giving campaign speeches and entering the arena, their views are fair game. But that was not true with the Palin children, and Chelsea’s views (only) were legitimately questioned, but not her looks. (I remember that the Bush children were both apolitical and yet constant sources of jokes and ridicule by the press in a way the Kerry and Gore and Biden children were not and should not have been.)

Yes, I thought Letterman’s serial apologies were pathetic. They are all offered with snickers, and his sarcastic/nihilist trademark. He wants this to go on to boost ratings, and, as a narcissist, enjoys it since it is about him. But he hasn’t simply, honesty, briefly, clearly said “I’m sorry first, to the flight attendants, second to Governor, third to the Palin daughters, fourth to Mr. Rodriguez. I have no excuse for my outrageous comments, and they won’t happen again.” Instead, we get skits about the apologies, and more “they’re mean to poor me outside my studio” segments.

No, I don’t care if “trolls” come to this site, or if they are directed to by political operatives. Free speech trumps all. Nothing they can post matches the daily venom that I get on my personal email. The arena is open to all, the only rule being proper language and decorum.

Yes, the content of the postings is remarkably perceptive and learned — and I’m honored you come here.

©2009 Victor Davis Hanson

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