Work and Days

Life At New Animal Farm Won’t Be All That Bad

By July, we will come to feel that 2009 will be one of the most upbeat years in our history, as what used to be the news media∗ begins to get behind America and report on all the mysteriously wonderful things that are suddenly taking place.

All the campaign talk of the Great Depression, a Vietnam-like war, and our shredded Constitution will now thankfully subside as the Obama administration assumes office and solves problems with conciliation, dialogue, and multilateral wisdom, rather than shrillness, unilateralism, preemption, and my-way-or-the-highway dogmatism. We will hear that, by historical levels, unemployment is still not that bad, that GDP growth is not historically all that low, and that deficits, inflation, interest rates, and housing starts are all within manageable parameters. “Depression” will transmogrify into “recession” which in turn by July will be a “downturn” and by year next an “upswing” on its way to boom times.

Indeed, almost supernaturally crises will be solved with the departure of the hated Bush: no more flooding streets from cracked water mains that were a result of a President’s neglect of infrastructure, and no more spontaneous crashes of Mississippi River bridges due to diversions of critical federal aid from cash-strapped states to Iraq. And when the temperatures rise or drop, the wind howls, the clouds burst forth or go away, the snow melts or piles up, it will be, well, nature that caused the havoc, not the current occupant of the White House who failed to sign Kyoto.

As we watch the innocent die from natural mayhem, it will be due to the breakdown of local responders who now suddenly kill people, not federal inaction—except perhaps for an occasional few Bush federal holdovers that have not yet been rooted out. Human nature, of course, now will be seen more culpable, more selfish, as in needlessly resisting wise and caring federal interventions, rather than being inherently noble but shunned by an uncaring Washington. Yes, when dikes collapse and planes collide on crowed runways, it will be due to a cruel and unpredictable nature, or intrinsic design flaws, or improper local use and maintenance, or the past President’s nefarious legacy, not current government policies. (But if you still must bash the government, it will be wise to do it in 1950s style of inattentive state and local officials, prone to regional and tribal prejudices, blocking the infinite wisdom of a caring federal government.)

Some military action abroad could be necessary—and necessarily reported on as measured and reluctant, rather than cowboyish and gratuitous. European whining will be a result of miscommunications or the Euros’ unfair caricatures of Americans, not Bush’s alienation of allies. If radical Islam strikes, it will be, well, radical again and sometimes even dangerous, not a figment of neocon pipe dreams. If an administration official quits, goes on 60 Minutes, and writes a nasty tell-all book about Obama’s insensitivity and his government’s directionless ennui, he will be a heretic, a whiner, a turncoat, not a truth teller or brave maverick who blew the whistle in need of a bestseller hyped from NPR to the New York Times. We will come again to hate the filibuster, obstructionist Congressional policies, and the occasional loud-mouthed Senator who voices slurs against our nation in unpatriotic fashion.

Those around Barack Obama understand that precisely those measures most derided during the campaign—wiretaps, the interrogation of prisoners in Guantanamo, the decimation of al Qaida members in Iraq and Afghanistan, overseas detentions—probably account likewise most for the absence of another 9/11-like attack. In other words, as the Obamians privately ignore the media hype about flushed Korans and hundreds of innocents caught in the cauldron of war and unfairly detained, and instead examine the sort of killers who are presently in Guantanamo, the type of intelligence gathering that led to prevention of dozens of planned attacks since 9/11, and those who turned up and were killed or arrested in Iraq and Afghanistan, they will realize how dicey it will be to follow through with campaign rhetoric about Bush, Inc. torching the Bill of Rights, fighting made-up enemies abroad, and generally alienating our allies.

So all that will change for now will be the sudden absence of shrill complaints that we live in an America without a Constitution. Static, same-old, same-old government policy will, of course, be said to have altered radically (“hoped and changed”), but it will also be refashioned in the media as “sober” and “judicious”, as the administration moves “in circumspect fashion” to probe and explore “complex” and often “paradoxical” matters of national security that “indeed at the end of the day have no easy answers”.

Expect much of the same on the economic front. For all the campaign hysteria about greedy Bushites who destroyed the economy, Obama realizes that in fact the seeds of the current financial weeds were sown years ago, and watered and fertilized by an array of both Democratic and Republican facilitators in Congress and hacks in government-affiliated mortgage sinecures. So expect the bailouts to continue. We will see Wall Street in about 24 hours after January 20 transmogrified from Gordon Gecko’s habitat into a sort of the old Robert Rubin/Warren Buffet-like necessary institution about which a Sen. Schumer or Chris Dodd can offer invaluable advice and consultation.

Socially, we will get a mix of Maya Angelou, Oprah, and Rick Warren, a rich diversity of therapeutics that appeals to everyone’s popular feel-my-pain tastes. Rev. Wrights and Father Pflegers are “that was then, this is now” has-beens (not that they and their Blago-ilk with a memoir or weird disclosure won’t try to crash the party from time to time), replaced by the bromides of the Purpose-Driven Life. The Left will once again see the U.S. as the last, best hope for mankind, a flawed, often errant nation that nevertheless in its heart always showed the world what was right in the end. “Diversity” and “progressive” themes will replace Bush’s hokey old-time patriotism, as we return to a more nuanced and sophisticated love of country that at last “came home.”

In other words, one can also at last enjoy that nice wood-floored study, tastefully granite-countered kitchen, with plenty of stainless steel appliances, in a mostly un-diverse neighborhood, still send your kids to a mostly predetermined racially-appropriate school, and still make a pretty good salary, drive a comfortably large car (though please—preferably a Volvo or Mercedes SUV rather than a Tahoe or Yukon), and feel like you are out there on the barricades of radical environmental, cultural, and political change (and hope too!).

Al Gore will be courted, get an occasional photo-op head-pat—but when he gets too loud quietly sent back upstairs to the closet. Ditto the uncouth Sharpton and Jackson, snapping pit bulls muzzled and dispatched to the kennels. Jimmy Carter will once again be weird old jet-setting Jimmy Carter, a meddler, a spoiler, a PR junkie on the verge of senility rather than the principled Nobel laureate of the Carter Center.

Those inside the big house change, the commandments on the barn wall subtly are crossed out and updated, but the farm for us animals stays about the same.


∗ I say used to be the news media, since when they report good news about the Divine Obama we have no idea whether it’s encomium or fact; and if they are ever slightly negative, we don’t know whether the complaint derives from His real error or merely that they are stung by past criticism and ostensibly trying to be periodically balanced. In short, the age of Murrow is over—and the divine era of Augustus with his Livy and Dio is upon us.