It Was the Power, Stupid!
I. Power—Always Was and Always Will Be
In my dumber days, between 2001-2008, I used to wonder why the Left relentlessly hammered the war on terror (e.g., renditions, tribunals, predators, preventative detention, Patriot Act, intercepts, wiretaps, Guantanamo Bay) when these measures had not only proven quite useful in preventing another 9/11-like attack, but had been sanctioned by both the Congress and the courts. In those ancient times, I was not as cynical as I am now. So I assumed that Harold Koh and MoveOn.org, though mistaken, were worried about civil liberties, or measures that they felt were both illegal and without utility.
But, of course, the Obama (who attacked each and every element of the war on terror as a legislator and senator) Left never had any principled objection at all. Instead, whatever Bush was for, they were in Pavlovian fashion against. I can say that without a charge of cynicism, because after January 2009, Obama embraced or expanded every Bush-Cheney protocol that he inherited. In response, the anti-war Left simply kept silent, or indeed vanished, or went to work extending the anti-terrorism agenda. Guantanamo Bay, in other words, was a national sin until the mid-morning of January 20, 2009.
II. The Year 4
We are in the year four of our lord, when darkness was made light, the seas gently receded, and the planet cooled. In the space of 24 hours in January 2009 the world was turned upside down: massive deficits were no longer “unpatriotic”; 5% (heck, even 9%) unemployment was no longer to be seen as a “jobless recovery”; $4 plus gasoline no longer would become “intolerable.” Filibusters suddenly became ossified obstructionism. Recess appointments were now quite legitimate; lecturing the media about the myth of objective fairness was salutary. Pay-for-play time with the president was consulting; attacking the “unelected” courts was progressive. Voter fraud was not thugs eyeing polling monitors with clubs, but officials asking voters to present a picture ID—and mentioning any of these inconsistencies or writing about the Trostkyzation of American life was either racism or Palinism.
Around March 2008, the Ministry of Truth had issued new edicts about campaign financing, big Wall Street money, and the supposedly pernicious role of contributions: all bad if Bush trumped Kerry, all now good if Obama trumped McCain. So when Obama became the first candidate in the history of the law to renounce public campaign financing in order to shake down $1 billion, there was silence. The Left never really worried about Big Money, but only if more Big Money went to conservatives than to themselves. (Consider the current shameless money grubbing of Jon Corzine to raise cash for Obama after Corzine’s looting of thousands of individuals’ lifetime investments, or the shrillness over Mitt Romney’s supposed mansion in La Jolla juxtaposed to the prior silence about the Kerry mansions, the multiple Gore residences, or “John’s room,” as in the huge and crass Edwards estate.) What was interesting about Hilary Rosen was not her stupid thoughts on Ann Romney, but her cursus honorum that led to hired-gun riches by parlaying political contacts into commerce.
III. Tongue-tied Presidents
We can play this Orwellian game with almost everything these days. Take presidential cosmopolitanism and the Bush-as-oaf trope. The disdain was not for an inept president, but rather a simple means to destroy an ideological opponent. Why again the cynicism? Because the Left cares little that Barack Obama has no clue where particular islands in the news are and cannot even do political correctness right when he wishes to ingratiate himself to his South American hosts by wanting to trill the “Maldives.” We have a president who can say Talêban, drop the g’s in a black patois, and trill his Spanish words in front of Latin American hosts, but is off 8,000 miles in his geography.
Ditto "corpse-man," the Austrian language, 57 states, and all the other parochialism and gaffes that remind us not only that it is hard being a president without making gaffes, but that it is especially hard as a conservative president when each gaffe is cited as proof of ignorance.
IV. So What?
What is going on? Two things, really. One, the media believes that the noble ends justify the tawdry means. So if it is a choice between emphasizing the latest Obama embarrassment by digging into the scary Fast and Furious, the “millions of green jobs” Solyndra insider giveaways, the Secret Service decadence, the GSA buffoonery, and the work while getting food stamps con in Washington OR endangering Obamacare and by extension “the children,” or the war to eliminate autism, or the right to breath clean air--well, why would one ever wish to derail all that by weakening a landmark progressive and his enlightened agenda?
Or for you more cynical readers, why would you wish to enervate the present comfortable culture in Washington in which the press and politics are at last one? Or why undermine the first African-American president, who is a constant reminder of our progressive advancement? Or why weaken our only chance some day to have open borders or gay marriage?
Two, the Left has always operated on the theory of medieval penance. We surely must assume that Warren Buffett has never had problems with the ethics of Berkshire Hathaway, Inc. or had a company he controls sued by the IRS for back taxes. Why? Because he has confessed his sins, and accepted the faith and paid his tithe to the Church. Ditto a Bill Gates or a rich celebrity like Sean Penn or Oprah. In the relativism of the left, if the one-percenters will simply confess that their class is greedy and needs to pay their fair share—even if they are entirely cynical in the manner of GE’s Jeffrey Immelt and penance is written off as the cost of doing business—then they become exempt from the wages of them/us warfare and the "you want to kill the children" rhetoric.