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The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Memory Hole

One more reason why contemporary history seems to start in late 2000 is that it allows President Bush's call for the liberation of Iraq from Saddam Hussein to seem like something out of the blue and wildly partisan, when, in fact, it flows from rhetoric from the Clinton administration -- and even Hollywood -- in the 1990s:

Of course, the left-wing shell game that Jonah describes in Liberal Fascism works on even more recent history. "Obama on Solyndra loan: 'Understand, this was not our program per se.'" No, of course not. it's an expensive progressive corporatist eco-failure, so the buck must be passed yet again:

Buck-passing fun via Andrew Stiles and the Washington Free Beacon.

OBAMA: We are doing the all of the above strategy right. Obviously, we wish Solyndra hadn’t gone bankrupt. Part of the reason they did was because the Chinese were subsidizing their solar industry and flooding the market in ways that Solyndra couldn’t compete. But understand, this was not our program per se.

Congress–Democrats and Republicans–put together a loan guarantee program because they understood historically that when you get new industries–it’s easy to raise money for start-ups, but if you want to take them to scale sometimes there’s a lot of risk involved, and what the loan guarantee program was designed to do was to help start-up companies get to scale. And the understanding is that some companies are not going to succeed, some companies are going to do very well, but the portfolio as a whole ends up supporting the kind of innovation that helps make America successful in this innovative 21st century economy. Do I wish that Solyndra had gone bankrupt? Absolutely not. And obviously it’s heartbreaking it happened for the workers who were there.

If not for Congress, there never would have been any half-billion dollars to blow on Solyndra. So when you think about it, it’s really America’s fault, isn’t it? I wonder if that reasoning would work for a bank manager forced to explain why he made a terrible loan to a fledgling company with bad prospects whose board of directors just happened to include a buddy of his. It’s really kinda sorta the bank’s fault for offering loans in the first place, isn’t it? Never mind that the previous “bank manager” had enough sense not to throw money into this sinkhole the first time it applied for cash.

Finally, in a related item in the American Spectator, Peter Hannaford asks, "Who's Progressive?"

During the Reagan years the term "liberal" was discredited, having been widely equated with high taxes and spending. Gradually, liberal Democrats stopped using the word to describe themselves. Yet, old habits die slowly. In the days of FDR and LBJ when most of the goals of the liberals had been achieved liberals thought the word was tantamount to "good." With changing public perceptions, however, nearly all liberals searched for a new word to help them once again seize the political high ground.

They think they have found it in the word "progressive." In the House of Representatives they have something they call the "Progressive Caucus." One of its members, Rep. Jan Schakowsky (IL), in a television interview this week, claimed this caucus has a federal budget plan to counter the Republican one introduced by Rep. Paul Ryan. After first denouncing Ryan's plan by claiming it would do many bad things, she said the "Progressive Caucus" plan would lower the federal deficit and balance the budget in 20 years! In the face of galloping new deficits of $1 trillion a year for three years now, how does this "plan" amount to progress?

"Progress," as defined by Webster's New World Dictionary, is "1. a moving forward or onward. 2. forward course; development. 3. advance toward perfection or to a better state; improvement." It's no wonder the liberals are using it more and more, for it is freighted with positive notions.

Their actions belie the definition of the term: the Democrat-controlled Senate's failure to pass a budget in over 1,000 days; refusal to reform the heading-toward-bankruptcy Medicare and Medicaid programs; the no-questions-asked loans aggregating $3 billion in loans to dicey "green" companies such as Solyndra.

But "progressive" also means something -- which brings us back to where we started, and the eternal shell game of the left and history:

On the night Barack Obama won the "Chesapeake primary," he held a victory rally at the University of Wisconsin in Madison, at which he declared: "And where better to affirm our ideals than here in Wisconsin, where a century ago the progressive movement was born?"

Now some readers may be aware that I recently wrote a book arguing that American progressives shared emotional, philosophical, and political affinities with European fascists. But put that aside. Let us instead ask: What did the progressives at the University of Wisconsin believe in?

The president of the university during its heyday as the laboratory of progressivism was Charles Van Hise. A devoted eugenicist, he explained that "he who thinks not of himself primarily, but of his race, and of its future, is the new patriot." Additionally, "we know enough about eugenics so that if the knowledge were applied, the defective classes would disappear within a generation."

The most famous intellectual at the University of Wisconsin was arguably E. A. Ross, coiner of the phrase "race suicide" and one of America's leading "raceologists." "The theory that races are virtually equal in capacity," quoth Ross, "leads to such monumental follies as lining the valleys of the South with the bones of half a million picked whites in order to improve the condition of four million unpicked blacks."

Ross was hardly alone. Virtually all of the economic policies Obama favors today can be traced back to the efforts of academics at the University of Wisconsin, who helped create the modern welfare state, but did so in the hope of weeding out the dark, the dusky, and the otherwise unfit from the white man's genetic garden. The politics of these progressive intellectuals conformed perfectly to the worst caricatures of George W. Bush. They instituted loyalty oaths, accused opponents of World War I of treason, and saw in militarism the best hope for organizing society.

Hence, "progressives" decided to call themselves "liberals," during the era of FDR. And 'round and 'round, the shell games go.

Update: An email from Michael Barone to Glenn Reynolds in 2002 sums up this entire post perfectly. I'd quote from it, but I don't want to spoil it for you.

(Thumbnail on PJM homepage by Shutterstock.com.)