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Monthly Archives: June 2008

It Doesn’t Always Compute

June 28th, 2008 - 1:41 pm

What You Won’t Read

Two of the Three in the Axis of Evil — Korea and Iraq –seem no longer to be acquiring weapons of mass destruction. Throw in Libya as well, and the end of Dr. Khan’s proliferation business, and things have gotten at least a little better. I say that because I keep reading about nuclear proliferation and America’s asleep-at-the-wheel posture, when in fact we alone supplied the pressure to stop a lot of it. Meanwhile, the Iranian theocracy will continue to issue existential threats to Israel, hint that it is nearing completion on enrichment, and rattle more sabers in hopes of creating continuing tension that helps spike oil prices and land it another $10 – $15 million a day in revenue.

And You Won’t Read This Either

That the World’s Saint, Mr. Gore, who lectures on carbon emissions and green behavior, built an ecological monstrosity of a castle that gulps energy at gargantuan rates; while the world’s villain, George Bush, built an eco-friendly, far more modest house that uses a fourth less power than the average home. But then when one compares the Kerry homes, the Edwards playhouse, and all the other liberal mansions, it makes sense. Modern liberalism for our elites is really a psychological state, in which an individual crafts an all-encompassing world view in the abstract to offset a rather materialistic and self-centered desire in the concrete. Here in California Sens. Boxer and Feinstein, and Rep Pelosi live like the privileged they are, while decrying the plight of the less fortunate. Someone who forbids drilling in ANWR rarely decides to down-size her home. A Senator Dodd who rails at the mortgage lenders’ greed has no problem taking a cut-rate loan from them–if it is a question of buying appropriate homes for his sixty-something efforts at establishing a young family. Hypocrisy is a human, not a political sin per se, but something about the combination of neo-socialist politics and extremely elite personal tastes suggests that there is a direct rather than an accidental connection—in the mind at least the former making possible the latter.

Dreams From My Grandmother

Is the title of a brief essay I wrote on Obama for NRO next week. I think as the general election unwinds, Obama will no longer omit mention of the grandmother who raised him in preference to dreaming about the African father who abandoned him—much less again throw her under the bus to save Rev. Wright by making the morally equivalent argument that her private (and confidential) fears of young black males on the streets were the same sort of prejudice as were his Rev.’s open and public denunciations of whites, Jews, Italians, etc. Now that it is no longer a question of establishing one’s racial fides in Chicago, but rather of winning hearts and minds in fly-over America, expect this modern Proteus to change shape yet again and become the child of the Midwest, his grandmother as essential to his identity as she once was an embarrassment in Chicago ward politics.

Not So Liberal

This is the apparent current logic of much of environmentally sensitive America:

a. It is ecologically wise to forbid safe drilling off Santa Barbara but OK to count on dangerous extraction off Nigeria? Don’t drill off Florida but mine coal all you want for America’s electricity in West Virginia? Please save the Alaskan tundra, but sell as much messy Siberian oil as possible?

b. Gas prices aren’t all that bad since it will force us to buy Priuses–which only the affluent can afford? I have no doubt that a lot of SUVs, Crown Victorias, and F-250s will come on the second-hand market cheaply in the near future–and will be about the only automobiles the poor can afford for small trips to the store. Not drilling in the US was about the worse thing anyone could have done for the lower classes. 3-4 million barrels a day more would indeed have lowered both the price of gas in real terms here, and cooled down the psychological climate that spurs on speculation

c. We would rather take hard-earned US cash and hand it over to Iran, Venezuela, Russia, Saudi Arabia, etc. than invest in American infrastructure by earning (soaring) federal revenues for gas and oil leasing in known areas of easily recoverable oil?

d. By any sane measure—reducing the trade deficit, bolstering the dollar, earning revenue for cash-strapped states, keeping billions out of the hands of lunatic regimes, ensuring the independence of American foreign policy, helping our own poor to afford transportation, preserving the ecology of the planet—it makes sense to drill, use coal cleanly, develop tar sands and shale, and build nuclear plants, until we transition to Obama promise of “wind, solar, and millions of new jobs in green industries!”

A Modest Proposal

Before we listen to any more sermons from actors, in the interest of intellectual seriousness and saving the planet, Hollywood celebrities should take a voluntary vow neither to fly on a private jet nor to engage in silly facial surgery. The one is energy selfishness, the other proof of intellectual lightness.

Keep Counting

FISA, NAFTA, campaign financing, Iran, town hall debates with McCain, Jerusalem, handgun control, death penalty applications, Rev. Wright— the list of Obama’s inoperative statements continues to grow. His advisors worry that the Hope and Change mantra is wearing thin (have you noticed that more and more crowds seem to roll their eyes when he gets into the sermonizing cadence when talking about the mundane?). But they worry more that when he gets specific, he says silly things or something that flips from what he said earlier–about what one would expect from someone who has very little experience, but enormous confidence in his powers to convince by his oratory.

Is San Francisco the Future?

I spent some time speaking in San Francisco recently. In crude and exaggerated terms, it reminds me of H.G. Wells Eloi and Morlocks. There are smartly dressed yuppies, wealthy gays, and chic business people everywhere downtown, along with affluent tourists, all juxtaposed with hordes of street people and a legion of young service workers at Starbucks, restaurants, etc. What is missing are school children, middle class couples with strollers, and any sense the city has a vibrant foundation of working-class, successful families of all races and backgrounds. For all its veneer of liberalism, it seems a static city of winners and losers, victory defined perhaps by getting into a spruced up Victorian versus renting in a bad district, getting paid a lot to manage something, versus very little to serve something. All in all, I got a strange creepy feeling that whatever was going on, it was unsustainable–sort of like an encapsulated Europe within an American city. The city seems to exist on tourism, and people who daily come into the city to provide a service, get paid–and leave. One businessman tried to assure me my anxieties were misplaced: “We are a revolving-door city: young people want a year or two in the “city” to have fun, so flock here, take menial jobs, cram together in an apartment, enjoy our night-life, and then leave wiser and ready to start life somewhere else in the real world. In the meantime, they are willing to work hard for us for little pay.” I think that about sums up the city.

I remember SF in the late 1950s and early 1960s as a kid visiting with his parents. A much different place altogether of affordable homes, vibrant docks, lots of construction—and children everywhere.

A Week That Was

June 24th, 2008 - 12:50 pm

Obama Worries

Here are some things rarely discussed that worry me about Obama:

Class Strife.

By exempting millions from any income tax at all, he is going to institutionalize, in the fashion of Rome, two classes: the growing angry number on the receiving end of bread and circuses—and the shrinking few who will pay all the income taxes.

The former will not show gratitude, but always think a greedy class of parasites on top constantly pays them too little and has an endless supply of capital for others’ needs. Gone will be the old American notion that when we see a nice car in the parking lot (I drive an older Honda with 100,000 miles on it), we walk around it in fascination—replaced by a European desire to kick in the fenders in resentment.

Business.

Listen sometime to Obama’s references to business—90% of the time they occur in a pejorative context. And when he is not overtly critical, his curiosity is a sort of naïve, wow admiration of the hip zillionaire like a Buffet or Jobs who has made so many hundreds of millions that in their golden years they suddenly don’t care much about income tax rates, death taxes, etc.—at least not in comparison with the notion that they are seen as magnanimous liberals and proof that a choice few can be both rich and generous.

Never-never land.

Obama is counter-intuitive and seems to come up with exegeses opposite to what facts suggest. The surge is working in remarkable fashion. Nonetheless, as in 2007, he continues to insist that it has failed or is of only marginal significance—even as troops prepare to hand over entire provinces to the Iraqis and more and more are scheduled for withdrawal.

Any fool knows that wind and solar, even on hot, windy days, will not furnish more than 10% of our power needs for the immediate future. Why then would he omit other sources of much needed short-term energy, when we founded the nuclear industry, have the world’s largest supply of coal, have 3-4 million more barrels of oil per day recoverable off our coasts and in Alaska, and vast amounts of tar sands and shale? If electric cars are the answer (one per household?), then nuclear power seems essential so we can plug into the grid as we sleep. All this is simply omitted. What does “millions of new jobs in green industries” mean—especially in the foreseeable future of $5 a gallon gas?

Even Al Gore’s jet burns fossil fuels, as does John Edwards’ playroom, as do John Kerry’s mansions, as does Rev. Wright’s 10,000 sq. ft palace. Why trash the industry that allows us to live in the concrete while praising in the abstract industries that cannot help us much in the present?

One-sided history.

There is a constant refrain in his historical exempla that take a one-sided view of Americana as largely pathological. Obama always seems to reference slavery, the Underground Railroad, the Civil Rights marches, and women’s suffrage. Not a word in balance about the Founding Fathers, Andrew Jackson, Shiloh, the Way West, the Gold Rush, the age of American invention and discovery, World War I, World War II (the victories like the Bulge or Iwo, not just Hiroshima, Rosie the Riveter, and the Japanese Internment). I have no problem with evocation of past reform and needed change, just the notion that there wasn’t much else apparently good.

Less than flip-flopping

Obama seems to assume that his charisma will explain every inconsistency. Trash NAFTA to the yokels—but send backchannel assurances to elites that he is a free-trader. Waffle on Rev. Wright and adjust hourly so that the black base accepts you were “forced” to pay lip service to the “establishment”, while gaining laurels from suburban whites for your racial transcendence. In fact, talk of transcending race in the manner that a Gen. Powell or Sec. Rice had done it, while warning that your enemies will use your race and middle name against you. Praise for months public financing, and then when you don’t need it, trash both the law and your opponent who is using it.

Obamanics

I think few understand the full effect of Obama’s tax hikes—payroll, income, estate, capital gains, etc—on the so-called “rich.” I know plenty of couples who live in Bay Area and for all their income are not entitled. They make together about $200-250,000. That at first glance seems like plentitude.

But not so fast. A tiny 1200 sq. foot home in Palo Alto or Menlo Park can go for a million (a friend just bought a cottage for $800,000 [two bedrooms]). Mostly Hispanic Redwood City rarely sees a modest home for less than $700,000. Gas is right about $4.80 a gallon. State taxes hit hard with nearly a 10% take. If they send a child to a private school like Santa Clara it can cost $50,000 a year in tuition, room, board, books, and expenses. These are not all CEO jetting to Hedge Fund Retreats.

His proposed estate taxes will kill an upper-middle class California coast couple for whom a $1 million-plus house, and 401K nest eggs were a lifetime effort. Depending on the caps Obama chooses, such estates may be taxed at death a second time at 45%.

Remember two facts: the additional revenue (if it is additional, since many will hide their income or rest on their laurels given the tax bite) won’t go for deficit reduction, given whopping new entitlements. Second, those who pay 100K more a year in FICA, income, and capital gains taxes will still be the greedy rich whose income was ill-gotten anyway.

Weddings

I put on a wedding for my daughter this Saturday at 6PM at the farmhouse for about 180 guests. At 5PM it seemed like an utter disaster. The temperature in the garden was 109 and it was unbearable. Last minute runs into town to get umbrellas, fans, misters, and ice water didn’t seem like they would do much. At 5:30 suddenly a hot Valley-type wind came up—the sort of tropical blasts that often come in unexpectedly when the temperature soars over 105.

At first it provided relief, then in minutes it blew table cloths into the wind, blasted off all the table place settings, and whipped up lighting cables. Suddenly a dirt storm was more the danger than heat prostration.

But then as if by magic, at 6:00 PM, five minutes before the ceremony began, suddenly the wind died down after doing its best to cool temperatures, and the wedding went off without a hitch, followed by a lovely nighttime dinner with pleasant breezes.

In the space of 30 minutes, one guest said, “I’m dying. See what happens when you try to have a outside wedding in late June in the Valley,” followed by one that smiled, “This was a great idea to eat out here in this pleasant breeze.”

All the other wedding problems—like blown circuit breakers taking out fans and lights just before the wedding music started—were the normal minor glitches compared to the weather. My daughter got married in the same house where her grandmother had in 1947, and her great-grandmother had in 1911—and was the sixth continuous generation to live in the same bedroom.

McCain in Fresno

I attended McCain’s lunch yesterday in Fresno. It was notable for a couple of reasons. First he told a largely ag-industry audience that farm subsidies and ethanol programs were mistakes, and he still won over the crowd, most of which had been Thompson or Romney supporters. He seems to like the role of underdog, and keeps hammering away at Obama on his flip-flopping, or as I put in the NRO corner:

Time usually has been crucial in many past campaigns. In 1968 Humphrey might have won in another week; while Jerry Ford could have overtaken Carter in another 10 days. Obama is already playing a sort of 4th-quarter defense. He knows that the more town-halls, and impromptu speeches and interviews, the more likely, given his inexperience and doctrinaire liberalism, he is going to say something that comes off quirky, whether the off-the-cuff rants at fund-raisers like the clingers speech or the latest about “them” going after his middle name and race, or Cartesque lectures about over-eating Americans in SUVs and the apparent utility of high-priced gas, or the flip-flopping on Nafta, the war, campaign financing, Rev. Wright, et al. McCain is the proverbial steady tortoise, Obama the flashy racing hare — the key question being how far exactly are they respectively along the course to the finish line in November?

World War II Again

When the Wehrmacht entered the Soviet Union in 1941 and swept through during much of 1941 and 1942, thousands of Jews were murdered by special corps of Nazi executioners. To say that somehow the war prompted these deaths that otherwise would not have occurred had Hitler been left alone raises two questions: one, had Britain and France kept out of the war, and had Hitler broken his pact with Stalin and invaded Russia, would German soldiers not have killed Jews en masse? And two, if the Holocaust was only an artifact of the war, how was it that there were legions of German killers who rounded up Jews at almost the first moment they entered Russian soil? Was this all ad hoc? No prior discussion or prep? All this a sudden change of character once the shooting war started? A 1939 Hitler was reasonable,but in 1941 he experienced a sudden personality change that led to monstrous policies brought on by conditions imposed by bellicose enemies? Mein Kampf a mere thought exercise? Himmler et al simply a little over the top? The SS a bit player of the late 1930s?

Catching up With Correspondence

June 20th, 2008 - 1:58 pm

I enjoy reading the posts and private emails, and here are some reactions, both to supporters and angry detractors.

World War II

I did not write that Buchanan is either a racist or an anti-Semite, only that his views on World War II are profoundly wrong—and wrong in a fashion we have not witnessed in a long time (perhaps since A.J.P. Taylor’s The Origins of the Second World War, which was, I think, far better argued).

We should remember that almost everything that Hitler said was either later contradicted by his actions or simply false or unhinged. In Italy as Gen. Kesselring was retreating, Hitler’s minion Himmler ordered the German high command there both to start rounding up Italian Jews (well over 10,000 were gassed in the camps), while Hitler lectured about avoiding blowing the river bridges in the face of advancing Americans and British on the grounds that they were of historic and artistic importance. We forget that was his method: to assemble thugs and murderers to carry out his butchery while he talked of art and culture and peace.

So it is not hard to find an isolated quote or act on Hitler’s part that seemingly suggests civilized considerations or by a great stretch might mitigate his entire and sole responsibility for millions of dead. But overall most disinterested historians and observers can see that there would have been no World War II without the career of Hitler in the 1930s.

As far as the Jewish issue, revisionists must accept that given the 6 million gassed in studied industrial fashion, neither quite seen before nor after, any suggestion that World War II was preventable had Hitler been treated with more consideration of his supposed legitimate grievances can only be interpreted as a certain callousness. While true that prior to 1939 Hitler had killed few Jews, his eugenics were well known and Nazi Jewish cleansing in business, universities, and public life was well under way in such a fashion that the later camps were logical, not an aberrant artifact of the war.

The Neocon Slur

Much of the correspondence centers on “neocon,” as in Buchanan’s wrong label “neocon court historian”. I’ve written no biography of any administration official, much less been subsidized or asked to do any particular writing to further an administration goal. I have been to the White House only on 3-4 occasions, always accompanied by a larger group of historians of widely differing views.

Neocon means “new conservative” and I suppose refers to those of the once hard left who, largely in distrust of the Soviet Union and disillusionment with Great Society programs, moved right, most prominently during the Reagan era. Buchanan himself worked with them in the Reagan White House, and I would imagine supported their tough, correct stance on rollback, and the questioning of 1960s entitlements.

The word became a pejorative slur with gusto in 2003 with the lead-up to Iraq. Perhaps some essays by neo-cons questioning the motives and patriotism (wrongly I think) of paleo-cons accentuated the falling out. But the big break came in 2004-6 with the insurgency in Iraq, when neocon became de facto synonymous with “Jew” and there were overt efforts to tie Kristol, Perle, Wolfowitz, Feith and others to a sort of covert cabal that had forced us to go to war for Israel—this despite the fact that Bush, Cheney, Powell, Rumsfeld and Rice were neither Jews nor neocons nor malleable dupes. That Francis Fukuyama, James Woolsey, or Bill Bennet were neocons seemed likewise to have had little effect on the Israel “amen corner” thesis.

I came to support neocon approaches first in the wars against the Taliban and Saddam, largely because I saw little alternative—in a post-9-11 effort to stop radical Islam and state sponsors of terror—to removing such odious enemies, and did not think leaving the defeated in power (as in 1991), or leaving in defeat (as in Lebanon), or installing a postbellum strongman was viable or in U.S. interests.

Few would agree, but I persist in thinking we will prevail in Iraq, and the consensual government there will not only survive, but have a positive effect throughout the region, finally give the Iraqi people hope for a civilized future, stop Iraq’s transference of petrodollars into dangerous arsenals, worry the theocrats in Iran, and remove Iraq as a perennial threat to its neighbors.

I have always detested communism, and have never been a hard-left, disillusioned Trotskyite, but rather a conservative Democrat. In the past, my only real political jousting had been in two areas, academia in which Who Killed Homer?” questioned postmodernism and contemporary leftwing academic theory, and in books on farming such as The Land Was Everything and Letters to an American Farmer, which were defenses of the agrarian tradition and won no support from either corporate agriculture or new-age organic growers who did not like the conservative rural ethos expressed. Much of my speaking in the 1990s was to small audiences of farmers, who were being squeezed by corporate subsidized agriculture and yet were not new-age, organic leftists. Mexifornia reflects that conservative worry about the effects of unchecked illegal immigration–at a time when many or most neo-cons were Wall-Street Journal open-borderites.

I thought the 1998 letter to Clinton asking for regime change and an attack on Saddam was wrong, but, after 9/11, came to the conclusion, like 75% of Americans, that there would never be peace in the region, nor a chance to rollback Islamic radicalism with Saddam’s terrorist-sponsoring regime in power. The 12 years of no-fly-zones, embargo, oil-for-food, and UN sanctions were not only weakening and losing support, but playing into the hands of our enemies.

I remember in 1998 being called by a news agency about preemption, given that I had written a book about Sherman and Patton, The Soul of Battle, but replied that I didn’t think starting a war with Saddam was wise or would garner public support. That said, I also remember being in Greece in 1998-9 and losing a number of Greek friends over the Clinton bombing of Belgrade, which I supported on grounds that it was clumsy, but apparently the only way to stop mass killing. Remember at that time, none on the Left damned Clinton for taking us to war without UN sanction or a Congressional ratification. And firebrands like Gen. Wesley Clark did and said things far more provocative than anything the sober and judicious Gen. Petraeus has yet uttered.

I disagreed with many of the decisions made about the Iraq war, and voiced them several times in print during the last few years—especially the concentration on WMD rather than on all 23 Congressional writs to go to war, the pull-back from Fallujah, the fiery “bring ‘em on” rhetoric that sometimes was not followed up by equally aggressive action, the mysterious sudden retirement of Tommy Franks as soon as the insurgency started, the inability to find generals who believed they could win the peace, and a number of other issues.

Disbanding the army was a mistake in the short-term, I think, not because purging Saddam’s high officers was unwise (it will eventually pay dividends), but largely due to the failure of finding jobs immediately for military-age soldiers with dangerous skills. I did not think that sending another 100,000 troops was either feasible or even wise in the long term, but supported the much smaller 30,000 surge, largely because it sent a message of determination, came with Gen. Petraeus, and ushered in a change of tactics. We forget that many who were demanding the present surge, were demanding a much larger one, well beyond our force capability.

In the end, Gen. Abezaid’s policy of keeping a light footprint may be proven right, but ironically only by the Petraeus surge of 30,000 more troops to provide a window of Iraqi security. Ironic I say because while the two’s views should be antithetical, they may end up being complementary.

But unlike some other critics, I never thought such lapses were either fatal to our cause, or by any standard unusual in military history. I took issue with those who had supported the war, and then suddenly abandoned it, and with the thinking that a brilliant three-week campaign reflected their views, while a botched occupation could only have belonged to others. Rather, I assumed that the US military would always find a way to win, that the victory would be of enormous importance, and that while observers should point out perceived mistakes in operations, it was easy to do so from the rear and such criticism should never reach a level to cause a loss of morale either here or abroad, especially while soldiers were in the field of fire.

What If History

I admire counter-factual thought exercises and have contributed to a number of such volumes myself. I agree with Buchanan that Stalin’s regime was every bit as monstrous as Hitler’s, and given the size and natural wealth of the Russian Empire, and the greater prostylizing efforts of global communism, in theory as, or more, dangerous. Long ago I wrote about the irony (voiced by George Patton) of fighting to save Eastern Europe from totalitarianism and ending up by ensuring it there.

But all that said, as many readers so eloquently pointed out, by the mid-1930s, given the innate doctrines of Nazism and the career of Hitler, I don’t think there were very many options given allied leaders. A review of the 1930s again and again shows efforts to the nth degree in France and England to disown World War I, to vow peace at all costs, and to send a message to Hitler that they would never repeat the Somme and Verdun. Other than Churchill’s influential realism, there were almost no prominent allied leaders in France or Britain who tried to galvanize their countries to oppose Nazism expansionism.

Once Hitler invaded Poland, the last chance to prevent a global conflagration would have been to launch an immediate invasion in the West, to cross the Rhine with well over 100 British and French divisions. It would have been touch-and-go, but might well have stopped Hitler and precluded the disastrous chain of events that followed. The Soviet Union and Japan, we forget, became formal or de facto allies or at least non-belligerents of Hitler largely on what they had seen in 1936-9, coming away with the lesson that the allies were weak and decadent and European fascism was the wave of the future and thus in some way should be joined or at least accommodated.

Obamiana

Some wrote that I was obsessed with Obama. Curious is a better word. I can’t think (readers help please) of a presidential candidate in the 20th century (not Carter, not Harding) so unprepared to be president.

The comparison with the young Congressman, Senator, student of history, and war veteran JFK proves the opposite.

By the same token, I persist in thinking that the novels, plays, and films comparing Bush to a Nazi or in some way deserving of assassination were both reprehensible and unprecedented, surely more than the hatred expressed for Nixon, Reagan, or Clinton. And I think such genres should and will stop with Obama. Indeed, one of the most startling developments in recent memory will be the utter about-face (compare already the Obama rejection of beloved federal campaign financing, his backtracking on the war timetable, etc.) of the liberal media. It would be incensed if one did to a President OBama what has been done to Bush. Suggesting that the Right in this instance does the same I don’t think is persuasive. Even the mainstream hysterical Clinton haters, here or abroad, did not write columns praying for a John Wilkes Booth to return.

The election

I think the Obama lead will widen, but that by October we will see a certain learning curve, in which the race will hinge on how quickly Obama discovers how to be prudent versus his dally gaffes and astounding pronouncements on education, geography, world affairs, race relations, and prior associates.

In key states, I don’t think he will learn fast enough and that will make the difference, as we saw in the latter primaries. I meet more and more prudent and centrist voters, who are impressed by Obama’s rhetoric and sympathetic to the notion of an African-American president and the undeniable symbolism it entails, but simply won’t entrust their country to someone of such marginal experience and dubious past associates.

A final thought. Both McCain and Obama are change/reform candidates with ample rhetoric about a kinder, gentler politics. That said, let’s see how really different this campaign becomes. I suspect it will be every bit as nasty and tough as 2004 on both sides.

Obamiana

June 17th, 2008 - 9:01 am

The Michigan Speech

After listening to Obama’s well-delivered Detroit speech tonight, I was struck by some reoccurring themes. He warned against those who would sow divisiveness, racial and the like, but not a word about his erstwhile pastor and purveyor of racial hatred, Rev. Wright.

He talked about old and new politics, but tore into John McCain in the old style, wrongly characterizing for the nth time McCain’s explanation that it is American casualties, not our troops’ foreign presence per se, that mostly bothers the public about Iraq—a war which Obama yet again wrote off, regardless of the amazing success of Gen. Petraeus and the Iraqi government.

In addition, he suggested that once rare natural disasters like the recent Iowa flooding are now reoccurring at 1 year and more intervals due to climate change.

Two other things struck me. Once again there was the initial warning from him about fainting during his speech, and a sort of messianic riff on why he chose to run at such a young age (e.g., because we all can’t wait any longer for his needed change). At times, he seems almost unaware of the image he conveys of self-absorption–also evident from the other night: when asked to comment on the late Tim Russert, he naturally referred to the time he, that is, Obama, interviewed Russert, rather than vice versa.

Second, at times in emphasizing a point, he will for a moment or two depart from a set speech and begin talking in his accustomed conversational style–a manner strikingly different from his usual preaching mode in which his cadence, accent, and intonation are in obvious imitation of the tradition of the African-American sermonizer.

Critics faulted Hillary for her occasional clumsy falsetto voices that were geared to particular racial and ethnic audiences. But Obama, albeit with far more elegance and panache, nevertheless switches into a delivery that is obviously patterned after a Rev. Wright, and not the natural expression, intonation, and idiom of someone who grew up in private school in Honolulu. And the nature of the audience seems to help determine the degree to which Obama delivers a speech in the style of the African-American church. So far no one has noted this, or felt it of any importance. But it is novel, if not disturbing at times to see a presidential candidate talk in conversation in one fashion, only to speak publicly in quite another–a jarring dichotomy that far exceeds the normal informal/formal pattern of private and public speech and thus borders on artifice and contrivance.

While listening to the speech, despite Obama’s praise of Hillary, I thought I heard the crowd boo at the mention of her name, especially when the Michigan governor evoked it. I think there is a tension there that is neither discussed publicly nor will abate.

A modest prediction…

Should Obama win in November, I think we will see—and should hope for— a new call for “bipartisanship” — no more filibustering, no more stalling presidential appointments in committee, no more creepy Alfred Knopf novels like Nicholson Baker’s Checkpoint, no more Michael Moore’s hit-piece documentaries about a sitting president, no more vile award-winning docu-dramas like Death of a President, no more New Republic articles with titles like, “The Case for Bush Hatred.”

No matter how controversial the Obama tenure, an ex-president Cheney (a la Gore) will not give speeches about Obama’s “brown shirts.” A conservative counterpart to Garrison Keeler should not be talking about Obama’s “brown shirts in pinstripes” and retired Senators like John Glenn surely should not be suggesting about the Obama team — “It’s the old Hitler business.” And there won’t be a black conservative who adopts the ethics of Julian Bond talking of Obama and “the Confederate swastika.”

There also won’t be a Guardian columnist like Charles Booker writing filth like the following: “The world will endure four more years of idiocy, arrogance and unwarranted bloodshed, with no benevolent deity to watch over and save us. John Wilkes Booth, Lee Harvey Oswald, John Hinckley Jr. — where are you now that we need you?”

Instead, any such vituperative movie, novel, column, or essay in the Western public domain will rightly be dubbed a “smear” and worse, and we will hear–again, as we should– calls for collective, bipartisan condemnation.

In other words, the Left will suddenly wake up and realize that over the last eight years the country and indeed the English-speaking liberal world have done enormous damage to public discourse in reprehensibly and shamefully promulgating films, books, and essays about hating and, indeed, killing a President.

After destroying the protocols of good taste and decorum, an infantile 60s generation in their age and sobriety will now understand that they themselves (see Thucydides on Corcyra) are likewise in need of some shared standards of public expression, rightly fathoming that such easy venom weakens a free society.

Yes, the Left will suddenly adopt a new maturity about a President Obama, and responsibly demand of us all to excise from our vocabulary over the top hate speech, such as comparing an elected administration to Nazis or fantasies about killing American presidents.

And this, once again, will be as it should be–albeit eight years too late.

Another modest prediction…

I think Iraq will continue to stabilize, the Europeans will continue to sober up—about the paralysis of the EU, the dangers of Iran, the problems with immigration and demography, and post facto appreciate the US role in the world over the last 8 years in destroying thousands in al Qaeda and discrediting it in Muslim eyes. And when this is all over, at some future date, many here and abroad will say of the now despised Bush “He kept us safe.”—especially should we see an Obama presidency that abruptly leaves Iraq, calls off the war on terror in favor of writs, indictments, and subpoenas, and waits on European and UN prompts about world crises.

Patrick J. Buchanan got upset that I wrote a column about the World War II revisionists, especially his book, and that of Nicholson Baker’s on the allied “crimes” of bombing German cities. I produce his column by paragraph and then comment in brackets.

In attacking my book “Churchill, Hitler and ‘The Unnecessary War’: How Britain Lost Its Empire and the West Lost the World,” Victor Davis Hanson, the court historian of the neoconservatives, charges me with “rewriting … facts” and showing “ingratitude” to American and British soldiers who fought World Wars I and II.

[In dealing with Mr. Buchanan, one must accept at the beginning two caveats. First, as is his style, he will always resort to ad hominem attacks in lieu of an argument. Thus note at the very beginning his sneering “court historian of the neoconservatives.”
Second, Buchanan unfortunately is neither a reliable journalist nor an historian, and thus simply cannot be trusted to report accurately what is written. He says I charge him with “rewriting… facts” (note those convenient three dots). I did not charge him with rewriting facts, but simply advancing a thesis contrary to them: “Questioning the past is a good thing, but rewriting it contrary to facts is quite another.” (emphasis added)
And I didn’t just criticize Buchanan’s book, but in a brief 750 word newspaper column lumped it together with the novelist Nicholson Baker’s (Human Smoke) equally critical attack on the allies in World War II—both as signs of the sorry state of historical revisionism that has sprung up in the climate of the Iraq war.
Writing a book whose theme is that the allies, and especially the British, unwisely and unduly pressured Hitler, and therefore were culpable for much of the carnage of World War II, again, does not “rewrite… facts”, but simply ignores them. And, yes, it does indeed serve to lessen the enormous sacrifices that American and British soldiers endured to stop a monstrosity like National Socialism, whose doctrine of racial hatred and territorial expansion logically led to a German government attacking by 1940 most of its neighbors, to the east, west, north and south, and eventually, in industrial fashion, murdering 6 million Jews.

Much of Hitler’s madness was outlined well in advance in Mein Kampf. By the late 1930s his harsh treatment of the Jews was a harbinger of things to come, once his own power was consolidated and Germany free from outside objection.]
Both charges are false, and transparently so.
Hanson cites not a single fact I got wrong and ignores the fact that the book is dedicated to my mother’s four brothers who fought in World War II. Moreover, the book begins by celebrating the greatness of the British nation and heroism of its soldier-sons.

[Within a 350-word critique devoted to the theme of his book, I cited his misreading of the Versailles Treaty (see below), and his special pleading that serves to exculpate Hitler’s Nazi government. Again, the thesis of Buchanan’s’ book is not based on facts, but can only be advanced by contradicting them. And it has a disturbing habit of mechanically at times praising those who are his natural targets—or supposedly naive victims—of the book, as if that allows him to further denigrate their wisdom and sacrifice.]


Did Hanson even read it?

[Unfortunately I did read it, and was appalled by his absence of logic—hence the column.]
The focus of “The Unnecessary War” is on the colossal blunders by British statesmen that reduced Britain from the greatest empire since Rome into an island dependency of the United States in three decades. It is a cautionary tale, written for America, which is treading the same path Britain trod in the early 20th century.
[This is as ludicrous as it is disingenuous. By 1939 the British Empire was in financial straits, its global economic position long displaced by the industrial power and growing population of the United States, and its empire an increasing economic drain. Its so-called decline had begun at the end of the nineteenth century, and was confirmed, not created, by World War II. Despite the cast-off and occasional warning about Hitler’s cruelty, the book accepts that there was nothing intrinsic within National Socialism as practiced under Hitler that would necessarily have led to war, and indeed a number of legitimate grievances that would justify Hitler’s own preemptive wars.]


Hanson agrees the Versailles Treaty of 1919 was “flawed,” but says Germany had it coming, for the harsh peace the Germans imposed on France in 1871 and Russia in 1918.
Certainly, the amputation of Alsace-Lorraine by Bismarck’s Germany was a blunder that engendered French hatred and a passion for revenge. But does Teutonic stupidity in 1871 justify British stupidity in 1919?

[Again, Buchanan misleads. I wrote that Versailles was less harsh than the treaties imposed on the defeated by Germany—and less harsh than what Germany had planned for the allies. 1871 was not a matter of “Teutonic stupidity”, but the logical result of German aggression and carefully thought-out punishment.]
Is that what history teaches, Hanson?
[Again, Buchanan is not truthful. I argued the problem was not Versailles, but the inability or the unwillingness of the allies to promote and foster German postwar democracy, occupy the country and thereby remind the German people that they had not been “stabbed in the back” in foreign territory, but militarily defeated on the battlefield and in full retreat when their generals sued for peace. That would have had a powerful effect in reminding the German people that neither Jews nor socialists had caused their defeat, but the madness of invading France, and the futility of fighting Russia, France, Britain, Italy, and the United States all at once.]


In 1918, Germany accepted an armistice on Wilson’s 14 Points, laid down her arms and surrendered her High Seas Fleet.
Yet, once disarmed, Germany was subjected to a starvation blockade, denied the right to fish in the Baltic Sea, and saw all her colonies and private property therein confiscated by British, French and Japanese imperialists, in naked violation of Wilson’s 14 Points.
Germans, Austrians and Hungarians by the millions were then consigned to Belgium, France, Italy, Serbia, Czechoslovakia, Romania, Poland and Lithuania, in violation of the principle of self-determination.
Germany was sliced in half, dismembered, disarmed, saddled with unpayable debt and forced, under threat of further starvation and invasion, to confess she alone was morally responsible for the war and all its devastation — which was a lie, and the Allies knew it.

[France, Britain, and Italy did not accept the 14 Points, and thus it was never an official allied position. Germany knew that when it discovered that Wilson could not speak for the allies, given the late entry of the United States into an ongoing allied effort. Germany lost two large slices of territory, about 13 percent of it European landmass, land once annexed from France by its invasion of 1870, and areas in what would become Poland that had been annexed by Prussia during the aggrandizement and long unification of the Germany. Much, though not all, of the returned territory had been won through coercion by imperial Germany in a series of wars, and was given back following plebiscites. As I wrote, the treaty was “flawed” by our modern sensibilities, but by the standards of the times, far less punitive than what Germany herself customarily demanded from the defeated. France did not invade Germany in 1870, 1914, or 1940, but by May 1940 found itself for the third time in seventy years with a German army advancing on Paris.]


Where was Hitler born?
“At Versailles,” replied Lady Astor.

[Buchanan’s citation of the quip of the aristocratic hostess Nancy Witcher Langhorne as an authority on Versailles is revealing and gives his game away—a woman known for her virulent anti-Semitism, pro-Hitler appeasement, and close correspondence with another kindred soul in Ambassador Joseph Kennedy. Her slurs about Czechoslovakian refugees, prejudice toward Catholics, lunatic pronouncements on slavery and blacks, and reprehensible slanders of British soldiers proved her to be unhinged—but apparently earns a citation of wisdom from Buchanan.]


As for the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk Germany imposed on Russia in 1918, is Hanson aware that the prison house of nations for which he wails, which was forced to disgorge Finland, the Baltic republics, Poland, Ukraine and the Caucasus, was ruled by Bolsheviks?
Was it a war crime for the Kaiser to break up Lenin’s evil empire?

[This is surreal and reveals Buchanan’s lack of even a simple grasp of history. Lenin had been in power for a little over a few weeks when negotiations with Germany began in November and December 1917—and only a few months when the treaty was signed in March 1918. His “evil empire” was in fact the centuries-long imperial Russia of the Tsars. Yes, imperial Germany did want Russia to “disgorge” land—so that it in turn might gorge upon them. That’s why the Kaiser seized much of the Ukraine, the Baltic States, and Belarus. Many on Buchanan’s list of free states “disgorged” in fact in the last year of the war came under sway of the German empire as virtual dependencies.

In short, Germany demanded and until defeated got its hands on a great deal of Russian territory, ninety percent of her coal, and much of Russian industry—a greed that severely hampered its efforts to transfer manpower and material to the Western front in 1918. Note that Buchanan omits my mention of Germany’s plans for Western Europe in the event of its victory, which we know from post-World War II archives would have made the Versailles treaty tame in comparison.]


Two years after Brest-Litovsk, Churchill himself was urging Britain to revise Versailles, bring Germany into the Allied fold and intervene in Russia’s civil war — against Lenin and Trotsky.

[Now Buchanan is praising the Churchill he serially damns as the fool who had prompted World War II. What Churchill was trying to do was exactly what I stated in my essay—incorporate Germany into the family of Western nations—something impossible not because of Versailles, but because a defeated German army in November 1918 retreated from foreign territory and reentered the fatherland, promulgating the myth that it had never been beaten, when in fact it was within days of annihilation by an advancing allied army that included over a million American soldiers.]
As for my thesis that the British war guarantee to Poland of March 31, 1939, was the “Fatal Blunder” that guaranteed World War II and brought down the British Empire, Hanson is mocking:
“Buchanan argues that, had the imperialist Winston Churchill not pushed poor Hitler into a corner, he would have never invaded Poland in 1939, which triggered an unnecessary Allied response.”
First, Hanson should get his prime ministers straight. It was Neville Chamberlain who issued the war guarantee to Poland after the collapse of his Munich accord. Churchill was not even in the Cabinet.

[Buchanan, again, cannot honestly reproduce quoted material. Pace Buchanan, note that I did not write “Prime Minister” Churchill—and for precisely the reason that he was not Prime Minister in September 1939 when Germany invaded Poland. But the very reason that the British turned to the “imperialist” Churchill in extremis in May 1940 was because he was on record in the British Parliament and in public life since 1932 for restoring British military preparedness, and, from at least 1936, enlightening British naïve rightists about the sinister nature of Hitler’s National Socialism. Yet Churchill is the veritable villain of Buchanan’s book, not the maniacal Hitler.]
Second, Hansen implies that I portray Hitler as a misunderstood victim. This is mendacious. Hitler’s foul crimes are fully related.
(a) Hanson, not Hansen. (b) Hitler’s crimes are mentioned in the customary Buchanan disclaimer fashion; but if they were “fully related,” they would make it impossible to empathize with a psychopath whose polices ended logically in the Holocaust.]
Third, was it moral, Hanson, for Britain to promise the Poles military aid they could not and did not deliver, thus steeling Polish resolve to resist Hitler and guaranteeing Poland’s annihilation?
[Now this is a strange contortion. The Poles were already steeled since they had known first hand German aggrandizement since 1914, had seen what Hitler had done in the Rhineland, Austria, and Czechoslovakia, and knew well the futility of appeasement. A militarily weak Britain and morally bankrupt France are to be faulted for not attacking in the West in September 1939, but applauded for at least declaring war on Hitler and finally apprising him that his aggression would no longer be treated with rhetoric but now with armed resistance. ]


Was it wise, Hanson, for Britain to declare a world war on the strongest nation in Europe over a town, Danzig, where the British prime minister thought Germany had the stronger claim?

[This is ludicrous. Danzig was a mere “town"? In fact, Britain declared war because for years Hitler had serially violated all of its WWI and international agreements, dismembered Czechoslovakia, and revealed the true nature of Nazi global aggrandizement as outlined years before in Mein Kampf.]
What were the consequences for Poland of trusting in Britain?
Crucifixion on a Nazi-Soviet cross, the Katyn massacre of the Polish officer corps, Treblinka and Auschwitz, annihilation of the Home Army, millions of brave Polish dead, half a century of Bolshevik terror.

[This is reprehensible. Now British military weakness is blamed for Auschwitz, rather than the innate sinister nature of Nazism? Does Buchanan believe that had Britain not tried to stop Hitler, the death camps would have never occurred? Does he know of the prewar Nazi precursors to the Final Solution, the geneses of which were clear from Germany’s own treatment of its chronically ill and mentally disturbed?]
And how did Churchill honor Britain’s commitment to Poland?
During trips to Moscow, Churchill bullied the Polish prime minister into ceding to Stalin that half of his country Stalin had gotten from his devil’s pact with Hitler, and yielded to Stalin’s demand for annexation of the Baltic republics and Bolshevik rule of a dozen nations of Eastern and Central Europe.

[Churchill distrusted Stalin, but by 1943 understood that a weak British Empire had no leverage at all against Stalin’s 400 divisions. Again in hindsight Churchill can be made to look illiberal, but given the realities of the times, there was no one more suspicious of the ally Stalin, or more sympathetic to the Poles. ]
Was it worth 50 million dead, Hanson, so Stalin, whose victims, as of Sept. 1, 1939, were 1,000 times Hitler’s, could occupy not only Poland, for which Britain went to war, but all of Christian Europe to the Elbe?
[How odd that the allies are indirectly blamed for the Holocaust, as if its seeds were not innate to Nazism. Most credit Stalin with the atrocious crime of killing 20-30 million of his own, versus Hitler’s 6 million. How that translates in “1,000 times” I am not sure—except by the misleading qualifier “by Sept.1 1939.” But here Buchanan engages in hindsight. In 1939, Britain knew of no other means—not political, not diplomatic, not economic—of stopping Hitler from absorbing all of Europe, an agenda of aggression clear from 1936 onward.]
Churchill was right when he told FDR in December 1941 it was “The Unnecessary War” and right again in 1948, when he wrote that, in Stalin, the world now faced “even worse perils” than those of Hitler.
[This is disingenuous. The aggregate of Churchill’s writings make it clear that he felt the war had been unnecessary only on the grounds that he felt, rightly I think, that it could have been prevented by standing up to a then weak Hitler in 1936, which would have humiliated the Nazis and perhaps even led to a change of government or at least a sort of containment of Nazism. And note Churchill’s choice of word “perils”. Churchill did not think, as implied by Buchanan, that Hitler was any less evil than Stalin, only that the Red Army and the resources of the Soviet Union gave it the potential to become far more dangerous than a much smaller Nazi empire.
Both World War II and the Cold War were necessary. And while the Soviet government was a vile and evil entity, millions of Red Army soldiers were not communists, but brave patriots who did much to stop the Wehrmacht, and, yes, by their efforts did save allied lives. Again, they fought for a horrendous government, but the motivation for many was not global communism or Comrade Stalin who had butchered millions of their families and friends, but to rid German soldiers from the soil of Mother Russia.]
So, what had it all been for?
[World War II—forced upon, not the fault of, the allies—was worth it. It ended fascism and Nazism, liberated thousands from death camps and starvation in forced labor compounds, led to a new democratic Europe, prevented the extinction of European Jewry, and reformed a once serially bellicose Germany that had attacked France three times in 70 years. Today’s Europe and Japan are proof of our grandfathers’ achievement.]


Historian Hanson should go back to tutoring undergrads about the Peloponnesian War and the Syracuse Expedition.

I guess Mr. Buchanan believes that working as a political operative in Richard Nixon’s White House is better training for history than formal study of classical languages and history. I think his ancient Greek citation is a vague reference to my support for the removal of Saddam Hussein and the effort to foster constitutional government in Iraq. But once more, Buchanan reveals his ignorance of history. The Syracuse expedition, as he calls it, was a case of a democratic Athens attacking a larger and democratic Syracuse and its Sicilian allies at a time when its adversary Sparta was not beaten. When I last looked the United States had not expanded its war on radical Islam by invading democratic India.
And the last time I had any notice of Buchanan himself was when his American Conservative magazine asked the so-called “War Nerd” (who once “daydreamed” of burning down my vineyard [which in fact later mysteriously experienced a roadside brushfire], cf. his “Victor Hanson: Portrait of an American Traitor” http://groups.google.com/group/eurolegalgroup/browse_thread/thread/62138f41e7283b35) to review A War Like No Other, and wrote an incoherent rant about Iraq rather than the book in question.
I stand by everything I wrote about Patrick J. Buchanan’s book, and find his latest effort further confirmation of his delusional views about both past and present.

Defining Insanity Down

June 11th, 2008 - 10:52 am

Leave Clint Alone

There were about 110,000 American soldiers involved in storming Iwo Jima. 700-900 were African-Americans, less than 1% of the aggregate force. The Clint Eastwood films of the battle focused on the flag raising on Mt. Suribachi, where African-Americans were not present, and the caves on the Japanese side, where they likewise were not in evidence.

Eastwood is now damned by the racialist Spike Lee and others for not including African-American faces among generic shots of U.S. forces. Examine the logic of this creepy criticism: from now on, apparently, we are to guess at racial and gender percentages present at historical events. Thus the number of WAVEs, Hispanics, whites, Blacks, Asians, etc. must be guestimated on World War II battlefields, and then actors and cast members in those proposed percentages must be represented on the screen, regardless of the general theme or focus of the film.

Apparently Spike Lee does not believe that it is possible that those on Suribachi who looked down at the invasion force, or those on landing craft who scanned the beaches might well have seen 99% of the force and not any of the 1% minority. One could get carried away with this: weren’t there more percentages of whites present around the Mandela movement in South Africa that appear on films; did civil rights films accurately portray the racial breakdowns present in the movement? And the LA gang genre—weren’t there whites and Hispanics involved in anti-gang activity whose presence was Trotskyized?

This monitoring is rather scary, since it recalls Soviet films, in which, regardless of the topic discussed, class struggle and solidarity had to resonate through the choice of the sets, dialogue, and camera shots.

A modest suggestion? We apparently need a new “Office of Racial Representation” in which a government commissar will monitor all films, and either censor or airbrush each take to achieve the correct racial formula deemed necessary to promote perceived contemporary “fairness”. God help us all if we devolve into a European-Canadian big brother atmosphere of political groupthink.

The Obama Warp

I remember how George Allen was pilloried as a neo-racist for his macaca remark and his fascination with Confederate memorabilia. Why then is James Webb being talked up in liberal circles for a Vice President nomination, given his far more evident Confederate sympathies?

I also thought identifying with a candidate on the basis of race was illiberal. Why then is a 90% or more African-American majority voting for Obama deemed a mere matter of “pride”? And what is so admirable that millions in Africa and the Middle East suddenly inform our journalists abroad that they would change their opinion of American should we elected a person of color, or the son of an African, or somebody who was once a Muslim, or someone with a middle name like Hussein? In other words, why would liberals think it is liberal to favor someone solely on the basis of shared race or religion—a bias that was the traditional enemy of the Enlightenment? These examples could be multiplied, but we are starting to see that when Obama is in question, all previous liberal ideologies are suddenly up for discussion, adjudicated only by the degree they help or hurt Obama.

Rethinking Rev. Wright

The conventional wisdom is that Rev. Wright was a bullet dodged, given the serial losses from Ohio and Texas onward. Perhaps. But note that after the Wright mess, Obama’s resonance in the African-American community radically increased, as his racial fides was strengthened; and former 60% margins consistently peaked at 90% and above. So too abroad: the more Rev. Wright was heard to damn the US, evoke Hiroshima, and dub America a terrorist nation, the more Obama was embraced by millions abroad in Africa and the Middle East as a kindred soul. In other words, denouncing Wright was accepted as genuine by most Americans, but to others as a sort of wink and a nod, pro forma distancing (as Wright himself noted) from a racist critic of the United States who otherwise strengthened Obama’s maverick credentials.

Some simple Sound bites

Energy: Anwr, off-shore drilling, shale, tar sands, liquid coal—none of these will make us energy independent. But they will give us the necessary bridge to new generation fuels, ensuring in the interim that we don’t go broke, enrich our enemies, or hurt the poor until we reach the nirvana of wind, solar, electric cars, biofuels, and nuclear power. What is so moral about refusing to pump oil carefully on our soil, but demanding that the reckless Russians or Saudis drill ever more? And can we rightly suspect that the Left, by its inaction in Congress on energy production and radical environmentalism, welcomes the gas shortage? Note their glee at less burning of fossil fuels, more state centralized control with unionized mass transit, and, as Obama noted, an end to our crass SUV culture. Now if only Nascar would shut down and Winnebago plants close…

Iraq: Al-Qaeda, not us, chose Iraq as the main theater of battle in the war between radical Islam and the West. They went there, lost, disgraced their cause, turned off Muslims and in the process strengthened our hand in Afghanistan and weakened their ability to carry out operations at home against us. We learned how to fight on their home turf and win hearts and minds, they learned how to lose their fight at home—and the population in the bargain. By going into Iraq, Al Qaeda, not us, took its eye off the ball in Europe, the US, and Afghanistan.

Immigration: Close the border. All the other acrimonies can be then worked out, once hundreds of thousands cease coming illegally across the border.

The War on Terror: it’s hard to cite freedoms lost by everyday Americans due to government action; it’s easy to cite liberties lost by our collective fear and political correctness—whether it is a matter in the West of producing a novel, cartoon, opera, film, or papal commentary.

The Mortgage Crisis: 96% of monthly mortgages are met. Speculators and investors got hurt when home prices fell to their 2002-3 levels; first-time, entry-level buyers are being given a windfall.

Taxes and Spending: Tax cuts raised more revenue; but excess federal spending squandered the additional income. The solution, then, is to keep tax cuts, cut federal spending, and use the ensuing surplus to pay down the debt.

Where is the Wind and Solar?

June 7th, 2008 - 11:52 am

A Lost Opportunity

Gas in central California is right at $4.50 a gallon. Those who are hurt most are the poorer who don’t drive Priuses and Civics, but who pull into the rural service station not far away from my home with second- and third-hand SUVs, Crown Victorias, and F-150s. Most are either Hispanic or poor whites. None can afford solar panels, hybrids, or on-demand water heaters.

Somewhere, somehow the Republicans, inept as usual, have not been able to make the argument that they as a whole voted for ANWR, off-shore drilling, tar sands and shale, refineries, clean coal and coal to liquid—not to enrich oil companies or destroy the environment, but to provide accessible energy supplies to the citizenry, while Democrats stopped them all.

It really is a class issue. Democratic elite environmentalists road-blocked all these avenues, each of which might have added a million barrels here, a million there. We’re not talking going back to $2 a gallon, but that additional production might have allowed gas to stay at $2.50 a gallon for example. Few Americans realize that the current Democratic leadership (cf. the SF regional proximity of a Boxer, Feinstein, and Pelosi) pretty much reflects the ideology of an upper-class Bay area elite, with ample capital and income, access to mass transit, who really has very little concern in the world for a guy who lives in Parlier and hangs doors up and down the Valley in his 10-year-old Ford 250-truck and trailer.

And then there are the other issues: as oil climbs, we note that an extra 3-4 million barrels a day would translate into over a third of a billion dollars daily in national revenue, monies not given as well to our enemies, whether in Russia, Iran, the Gulf, or South America. Environmentalists should accept that a derrick off Santa Barbara means clean world extraction; one off Nigeria or in the Persian Gulf means a spill waiting to happen. So much for our shared “Planet Earth.”

Meanwhile we wait for solar and wind and Obama’s rhetoric about “alternative energy” and “thousands of new green jobs” to fill the tank.

A Modest Proposal

Will all the Greens, new-age environmentalists, Gorites, and Hunffinton Post Hollywood crowd, just make three simple pledges to match their deeds with their rhetoric? (1) I swear I will not fly on any gas-guzzling, carbon-footprinting private jet; (2) I swear I will not live in an energy-wasting house larger than 8,000 square feet; and (3) I swear that I will not drive a car that gets less than 25 mpg. That would be for most of us pretty easy to do; so will the prophets of the environment take the pledge and help the nation and planet?

Saddam’s Trillions

As the extreme left talks about Iraqi war-crimes, as violence subsides, as American troops start drawing down and as constitutional government increases its authority, we should stop and ponder a Saddamist 2008 Iraq. Given that oil prices are spiking on the soaring demand of the Chinese and Indians post 2003, we can imagine what Saddam’s Iraq would now look like today: billions in oil revenue available for more weapons; more French and Russian sweetheart deals; a $50 billion oil for food scandal now reaching into the hundred of billions; thousands of sorties in the no-fly zones, with international pressures for Americans to cease their provocative policing; even more bounties for suicide bombers as Iraqi oil coffers increased; the defenseless Gulf sheikdoms even more inviting targets, and so on.

The Bush Rules

1. Good economic news (2002-7) is due to natural cycles beyond Presidential control; bad news (2001, 2008) results from Bush ineptness.
2. Natural disasters like Katrina cause hundred of deaths due to Bush incompetence and are unprecedented. When tens of thousands die in Indonesia, Burma, or China, we are reminded of nature’s capricious fury.
3. Bush is unilateral and partisan, so legislation like No Child Left Behind or Prescription Drugs either is not bipartisan, or the sort of thing Sen. Obama would do even better.
4. All bad news in Iraq is Bush’s fault; the radical turn-around this year is either nonexistent or due to those who acted without Bush’s authority. When violence subsides in Iraq it is an accident; when it does the same in Afghanistan it is due to multilateral cooperation.
5. Bush is selfish and parochial, liberal Democrats magnanimous and international. Therefore protectionist trade policies, trashing Columbia and NAFTA, opposing the Dubai ports deal, voting for record farm subsidies and give-always, and blaming Turkey for its nineteenth-century predecessors are progressive.
6. Energy: see above. If I were a conspiracist, I would suggest that the Democrats wanted high gas and energy prices to favor radical environmental, no-growth causes, garner power into the hands of centrally-planned, union-run transit authorities, teach the US to be a better, more contrite citizen of the world (cf. Obama’s admonishment to put away our (not the Senators’) SUVs, and persuade the American people that the desired national profile and habitat are to be more Oregonian or Seattlean than Wyominian or Kentuckian.

McClatchy Rules

Recently McClatchy’s Michael Doyle contacted me about an article he was writing about a local Fresno-area person’s receipt of an award. Here are the first few paragraphs on the story with some comments in brackets.

Valley native gets $250k honor
Conservative foundation bestows award on Hanson.
By Michael Doyle / Bee Washington Bureau
06/04/08

WASHINGTON — A prominent conservative foundation is lavishing a $250,000 award on Victor Davis Hanson, the Fresno-area farmer and classics professor turned public intellectual.

[In the case of foundations, anything not the Ford, Guggenheim, or Rockefeller is “conservative.” One never reads “prominent liberal Gates Foundation” or “Left-leaning" Rockefeller Foundation]

The Bradley Prize becomes the latest and far-and-away most lucrative in a line of honors bestowed on Hanson, who holds emeritus status at California State University, Fresno. While the prize is novel, the dollars send a deliberate message.

[Note the ambiguous “deliberate message”—never specified, only ominously implied?]

Quite a shock,” Hanson said by e-mail Tuesday, shortly after arriving in Washington from Europe. “I’m very appreciative, and did not think someone from rural Selma would have his voice heard with other more distinguished authors and thinkers.”

Hanson considers home to be his 40-acre family farm in Fresno County, where he was raised by his mother, Pauline, and father, William.

[I don’t have a home, only a considered one]

Often, though, he’s in the San Francisco Bay Area or traveling. Most recently, he has globe-trotted as a presidential appointee to the American Battle Monuments Commission, which oversees 27 overseas military cemeteries.

[This is false. I was leading a private tour at my own expense. That becomes “globe-trotting" as a government functionary. The ABM commission oversees many of our nation’s war cemeteries abroad. It pays no salary; before my first meeting I tried to visit as many cemeteries as I could on my own time and expense. Doyle’s “Globe-trotting” means lecturing to a group in France and Belgium]

He is traveling in headier company than when he published his first book in 1983, titled “Warfare and Agriculture in Classical Greece.” He has since authored or edited another dozen books that address modern controversies, consulted with the likes of Vice President Dick Cheney and energetically championed the U.S. invasion of Iraq.

[I wrote 17 books; the Bee mentions by name only my PhD thesis of some 35 years ago. I don’t know what “headier company” quite means; though I suggest that a Michael Doyle, like all of us, now associates with “headier company” than when he published his first newspaper article years ago. “Consulted” with the “likes” of Dick Cheney means being invited to a dinner with various scholars 6 years ago at the Vice President’s residence.

The rest of the article is a harangue about my support for the Iraq war before ending with:

The award was established in 2004 by the Wisconsin-based Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, which bills itself as "strengthening American democratic capitalism." The foundation generally funds free market and right-of-center entities.

The foundation, for instance, funded Connerly's American Civil Rights Institute, and it supports Stanford University's Hoover Institution on War, Revolution and Peace, where Hanson is a senior fellow in residence.

[There is no conflict of interest between Hoover and Bradley. The Bradley Prize selection committee is independent of its other grant-giving committees and commissions and has nothing to do with the Hoover Institution]

All this is a world away from something simple like “Local resident Hanson received one of our four Bradley Foundation Prizes.”

t.

Both Obama and McCain have pulled off the once unthinkable. The former dethroned some 16 year of Clintonian political hegemony by the sheer force of personality and charisma, when initially all the hierarchy and political machinery were against him. The latter by sheer force of will, stubbornness, and a certain courage, never gave up when most had written him off, and simply out toughed his opponents.

There is a certain irony here. In a year that for historical and contemporary reasons should be a Democratic shoo-in, the Democrats have nominated about the only candidate who can lose in November, the Republicans the only one of their own who can still win it.

Obama

The Chicago Past

Obama either out of misplaced loyalty or because of 20 years of Chicago racial politics, simply cannot deal with the continuing embarrassments of Wright, Pfleiger, Trinity, et al. He either gets defensive and blames the messenger of the latest embarrassment, or makes silly announcements of support. They are followed by qualifiers, followed by eventual “disowning”—but always with a twist of pique. Wright’s madness was mischaracterized by unfair video “loops” and “snippets”—before he refuted Obama’s apologia by sickening America with the entire racist rant at the National Press Club.

But by now all of America fathoms the truth: Obama made a devil’s bargain with a number of racists to establish his own street credentials in the rough and tumble world of Chicago politics. He now finds that what started his career could well end it. Bottom line: the voters will have to decide whether these skeletons are the usual embarrassments that all candidates deal with as they evolve beyond their diehard bases, or instead disturbing proof that Obama himself got a certain psychological high from hearing ministers and congregation members routinely trash whites and the so-called establishment, as attested by his attendance at and subsidies to the Wright ministry.

Rule One for Obama’s campaign: Don’t let Obama rush to the defense of any dubious character in his past, since he inevitably will have to disown him sooner or later. The impression that Obama inevitably changes his storyline (while a Wright or Pfleger remains absolutely predictable and consistent) is beginning to tire the American people.

Gaffes Galore

Anyone who lived his first 18 years out of the continental United States, and then attended politically-correct Ivy League schools before jumping into Chicago politics might not have a broad view of American demography and indeed, U.S. history—much less the sociology of the United States.

But the number of Obama’s slips are staggering. They range from geographical ignorance (Kentucky is not contiguous with Arkansas, but it is with Illinois), to US history (there are 50 states in the Union; the US army did not liberate Auschwitz) to foreign affairs (the election of Hugo Chavez predated George Bush) to simple political ignorance (you don’t trash the lower white middle class to San Francisco elites) and common decency (you don’t put your own grandmother on the same moral plane as the racist Wright, or a U.S senator in the same category as the terrorist Ayers.)

Rule Two: Get Obama back on a script. He may sound catchy and smug in repartee and ex tempore give and take; but he has already made candidate George Bush’s much caricatured inability to identify a Pakistani president seem like a very tiny Dan Quayle proverbial potato.

Michelle

Michelle, as America learned, cannot give a speech without either (1) claiming that her husband is a saint and a genius, and we are all lucky to have him; (2) whining about the unexpected “raise the bar” pressures on the young urban yuppie careerist couple; (3) trashing the United States; or (4) defining world or national problems in terms of herself or her kids.

Rule Three: Do not confuse her ability to wade boldly out into audience in the manner of Phil Donahue with either savvy, wit, humor, or enlightenment. One or two more performances of the tired Princeton-Harvard-Reverend-Wright take on contemporary America—and the campaign is over. All the talk about whether she is a “legitimate” target will be about as relevant as whether a woman who joins the military will sometimes be in harm’s way in wartime.

The Agenda

Obama’s team must not confuse Republican problems of the economy, war, fuel, and 8 years of an unpopular candidate with voter lust for a liberal agenda. Who wants vast increases in payroll, income, and inheritance taxes—not to pay down the debt but to fund billions in new entitlements that will only create greater dependency and stifle initiative? Or who wishes to throw away all that was won in Iraq by quitting now, when a slow withdrawal won by victory is within our grasp? And who wishes hyper-liberal judges and appointees, more “oppression studies” in our schools, or the same old, same old on’t drill, mine, or use nuclear power, while enriching our enemies and singing sonnets to wind and solar?

Rule Four: Keep talking about Lord Hope and Saint Change and Holy Possibility—and don’t get into specifics. Jimmy Carter didn’t and it worked in 1976 for him. The problem is not that Obama simply talks in platitudes, but rather that he must—given the most leftwing agenda in modern memory.

McCain.

The Base and the Extra twist

John McCain can hold his base—if he resists the extra twist of the dagger. The rumors of his flirtation in 2000 with independents were probably based in fact. His Ace in the Hole is the Democratic attack machine that calls him hypocritical in moving right, and serially trashes his moderate views as reactionary.

Rule One. Resist the temptation to show outrage at some right-winger he finds too gung-ho. Silence is golden. Go on Limbaugh sometime in October. Find a way to appeal to the middle by not gratuitously slandering the base as protectionists, nativists, or religious zealots.

Energy

I don’t see how opposing ANWR helps anyone other than empowering those in the Middle East who intend us no good. If McCain won’t drill here at home, then he should push nuclear power and coal as transitions to the next generation of clean, renewable fuels. So far, the energy issue is wide-open since the voter doesn’t have a candidate who is clearly pro-production.

Rule Two. Find a way to branch off from Obama on the energy. Americans will support drilling off our coasts, in Alaska, burning clean coal, using nuclear, and developing hydro—if all that is balanced by calls for more conservation, and support for alternative fuels.

Age

How a 71-year old cancer survivor makes it through 20 hr. campaign days 24/7, I don’t know. I am returning from two weeks in Europe, co-leading a tour of 65. And the 18-hour days, jet lag, occasional kidney stones (McCain has them, no doubt to a worse degree) at 54 is a real task. I don’t plan to be doing this if I make it to 71. No wonder McCain shows the wear and tear—and he will have five more months of this.

Rule Three: Each time Obama hits him with the age issue, McCain must remind us that he at least knows how many states there are in the Union or the difference between Memorial and Veterans Day. And McCain should learn from Reagan—smile, relax and take two days a week off.

The War

So far the reminders of his support for the surge are salutary, especially as things continue to improve and may soon devolve into a Kosovo sort of policing. At this point there is no loner a need to demonize Rumsfeld for the 2003-6 troubles, or all the old generals like Franks, Sanchez, and Casey who played McClellan and Hooker to Petraeus’ Grant and Sherman. Talk of the future, not the past.

Rule Four. Keep reminding Americans that this is 2008, not 2003, and Obama’s claim the surge won’t work or Iraq is lost or we must get out now is simply not based on fact—and by October will blow up in his face.

Bush

It is hard for any incumbent party to continue a regnum for three terms. George Bush, Sr. did it, but even he sort of distanced himself from Reagan (“kinder, gentler nation”), or at least for a while. McCain has an advantage should he seek such distance, since Bush has for now far fewer defenders than did Reagan, despite coming off Iran-Contra. But McCain must be careful: should the economy continue to avoid recession, should gas prices fall, and the war seem won, then we may see Bush’s numbers go up a bit. For now he has about the right distance, any more and he will seem small and petty, especially if he must backtrack a bit by October. On the key issue of our times—Iraq—McCain has fashioned an interesting position: for the war, and so much so that his theories about the surge won over George Bush himself.
Bottom line?

If things continue as they are Obama will come close perhaps in the popular vote, but lose the electoral vote by a wide margin. Why? I just don’t see how such an inexperienced candidate can rein in his wife, curb his own slips, monitor all of his past dubious role models, and avoid the growing divide between utopian rhetoric and pretty down-to-earth tactics and embarrassing past associations. And I don’t think he has yet to figure out that unhappiness with Bush’s spending, appointments, and inability to articulate a message, and defend himself does not really equate to a desire for billions in new taxes and unworkable new programs.

Note:

I thank readers for offering the corrections; I have been traveling the last two-and-a- half weeks overseas, and posted this too soon from the Paris airport. I just landed in the US (and won’t try to post again while leading a tour of 65 around Europe). These posts go right on the site without editing, and I will have to do a much better job in eliminating typos and other sorts of error. And one reader is correct: in the past I haven’t been as generous as I should have been to all the readers who have spotted them. But I deeply appreciate that scrutiny, and am always impressed by the erudition of the readers, and their uncanny good sense. Another note: some have complained that I have written too many critical things about Obama. In fact, I don’t think any of us know much of anything about OBama the candidate–and the more we can discuss this possible next President, the better off we will all be. The Carter experience should guide us here.