by Victor Davis Hanson
NRO’s The Corner
Anatomy of vero possumus
It is odd that after five weeks we can pretty much see the next four years:
1) Gorge the Beast on the home front. Shock-and-awe, “We’re in the Great Depression” hysteria stuns the country into buying into what will be a multi-trillion dollar borrowing commitment. Once the desired social agenda is in place (and it is now), then there will be no alternative but to raise taxes and return wealth to its proper owners. (This is a variant of the Reagan-era “starve the beast” concept of cutting taxes, and supposedly cuts of wasteful spending follow — but a far more successful variant since taxing a few “greedy” is always easier than cutting everyone’s entitlements.)
2) Carterism abroad. The al Arabiya interview, the Hamas billion-dollar stimulus (the Chinese loan us the billion to give them,) and the Russian rebuff on Iran (no “haggling” please) sum up the Enlightenment arrogance that soaring rhetoric, stated good intentions, occasional abandonment of principle, and demonstration of caring and sensitivity can win over almost anyone. Of course, that assumes that disputes don’t reflect genuinely antithetical values, but simply miscommunication and misunderstanding — or unnecessary “Manichean” world views of wrong and right. We’ve been here before between 1977-1980, so how it will end is no mystery. (No wonder they sent back to the owners the Churchill bust; whether the Brits send back one of Stanley Baldwin or Clement Attlee remains to be seen.)
3) The passive-aggressive style. We will get utopian rhetoric about a new ethical bar, followed by the nominations of serial tax dodgers, lobbyists, and DC insiders. We will hear sermons about a new bipartisanship, followed by comical attacks on talk radio, and deeming “unpatriotic” any who resent the ramming through of the largest increase in debt in a half-century. And there will be vero possumus oratory about a new unity and brotherhood, as serial attacks on private-jetting and Super Bowl-partying “rich” deliberately conflate the mega-rich with the small business-people and professionals who make between $250,000 and $500,000 and provide most of the nation’s jobs and the nation’s income tax revenue — and therefore must be both gouged and demonized in the process.
All that is left for central casting is the cardigan sweater and the fist pounding on the desk.
The “They Did It” Presidency
Obama’s awkward corrective call to the NY Times that “Bush is the socialist, not me!” comes after claiming that the Brit protocol disaster was due to his weariness and the frenzy of the job. That claim comes after the White House orchestrated attack on Rush. Yet the problem for Obamians is not in the stars, but in themselves, mostly a result of that classically unfortunate combination of hubris and inexperience. The Obamians need to get a life and govern the country, rather than blaming their gaffes on Bush, Rush, life, etc. . . .
At least we’re liked now
When Obama said he would restore our image in the world, few were mature enough to realize that there were already sympathetic governments in Europe, India’s billion people liked us, and all of Africa was appreciative of what Bush had done. Fewer still accepted the fact that, given the sorry state of the world, the United States faces an awkward choice: It can either be largely disliked for taking a principled stance in support of constitutional government and open markets, or it can be liked for being unprincipled.
We seem to have forgotten that those who most hated the Bush-Cheney administration were Putin, Chávez, Assad, the Castro brothers, Kim Jong Il, Ahmadinejad, Hamas — and European intellectuals. So, yes, we can be liked in the age of Obama, and the way to do it is to give up Eastern Europe to Russian concerns, be praised by Chávez for our newfound socialism, drop sanctions against Cuba, talk to Iran and Syria without preconditions, ignore Korean missiles, rebuild Gaza (though I hope that does not include restoring the depleted rocket inventory), tack hard to the left of the salons and coffee houses of the E.U., and drop all that bothersome talk about democracy and constitutional government.
In other words, the way to be liked is to become like those who don’t like us. Who knows — maybe the U.S. will now be asked to chair the U.N. Human Rights Council?
©2009 Victor Davis Hanson