As this ghastly year wobbles towards its sorry, cliff-surrounded end, most of us will be looking for little shreds of consolation. P.J. O’Rourke, writing in today’s Wall Street Journal, offers just what we’ve been looking for: some observations that are both funny and wise. His piece is in the form of a letter to the president. I hope the Leftists and Progressives and Sentimentalists among you will not do yourselves the disservice of ignoring Mr. O’Rourke’s column simply because it contains some criticisms of the president. The piece also gives credit where credit is due. For example, it offers thanks to President Obama for taking out (that is, for letting the Navy SEALS take out) Osama bin Laden. It also, sincerely and enthusiastically, thanks him for not being Jimmy Carter.
As for the criticisms, several items are open to debate and varying interpretation. Among the bullet points in Mr. O’Rourke’s “partial list” are the following:
• Telling the Taliban to play by the rules or you’ll take your ball and go home;
• Leaving Iraq in a lurch (and in a hurry);
• Watching the EU go down the sink drain and into the Greece trap and wanting to take America along on the trip;
• Miscalculating human rights and strategic engagement in the Chinese arithmetic of your China policy;
• Being the personification of bad weather during the Arab Spring with your chilly response when you encountered its best aspects and your frozen inaction when you encountered its worst; . . .
But the really telling criticism cuts to the heart of what is wrong with the Leftist agenda. It also, and not incidentally, touches on an oft-noted but insufficiently explored fact: that Lefts tend to be dour people with no laughter in their hearts.
Why do they tend to be dour people with no laughter in their hearts? Because they regard life as a zero-sum game. That is, in Mr. O’Rourke’s analogy, they believe the good things in life is like a box of pizza. There is only so much to go around, and once that last wafer of pepperoni is scarfed down that’s it, no more dinner.
As Mr. O’Rourke notes, this view of life has international as well as domestic implications. For the message coming out of Washington today is that scarcity and privation is the name of the game. Our allies and our enemies abroad have tuned into that station just as faithfully as have the citizens of this country.
It’s a curious thing. Leftists are supposed to be the caring, sharing part of the political fraternity. In point of historical fact, it is an easy thing to demonstrate that their caring has always been more a rhetorical than an actual strategy and that their sharing has been accomplished overwhelmingly with other people’s goods. That said, however, there is still the fact that Leftists are hailed by their enablers as the non-crabby politicians, the people who come into office promising two things: More and Free.