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The Great Madness of 2004-10

Diagnosis, Treatment, Prognosis

What caused the American madness from 2004 to 2009? Fury arose over Iraq in part. In part, the profile of George Bush as Texan, Christian, strutting, twangy "dead or alive" stereotype was an easy target. The long years of liberal wilderness, out of power, had turned into a shrillness. The expanding economy had made life good and gave one the leisure to listen to the unhinged like Code Pink, Cindy Sheehan, or Michael Moore.

Obama was right out of upper-middle-class, liberal white guilt central casting: charismatic, young, half-African, an exotic name, hard-left credentials to the left of the hackish Hillary and Bill, full of platitudinous mush about "hope and change" and "millions of green jobs," all directly imported from the faculty lounge, where gassing the car or changing light bulbs become complex endeavors.

And so we got an inexperienced, hard-left, messianic president whose job apparently was to enjoy life, politick, play golf, hang out at Martha’s Vineyard, pick up prizes and awards, and turn the economy and foreign policy over to the Ivy League professoriate.

As I said, the madness abated in November 2010, and once again money is real and has to be paid back, debts are not stimulus, and the world abroad is not hopey-changy mush, but back again as a scary place.

I’ll end with an anecdote about these years of madness. Out of the blue, an irate reader called me at my office this past Tuesday, feigning that he wished to talk about a strategic problem, but using the occasion to rant. After 20 seconds, I interrupted him and said the following:

Wait, wait, I have changed and now see how wrong I was in opposing your Obama. You see, he proved to us why Guantanamo was needed. That third war in Libya was necessary and I hope he goes into Yemen and the Sudan. Finally we got rid of the War Powers Act and the dreadful public campaign financing of presidential elections. Who else could have gotten gas up to $4 a gallon where it should be? Next he’ll get rid of those awful coal plants as we evolve to an 8-hour power day, saving us from global warming. Then look how well the economy recovered from Bush’s. We finally have a president who accepted the sophisticated European model so we can enjoy life as it should be lived, as in Athens or Rome. The new $5 trillion in borrowing will make those fat cats pay higher taxes and that will mean more jobs for everyone. Airbus is better than Boeing anyway so why build planes in union-hating South Carolina? We can all buy Chryslers and GM now to support the workers and shun those awful Volvos and Mercedeses. And without any more oil or gas leasing we will soon have to use solar and wind. Most people don’t need power anyway but waste it watching Oprah or grinding designer coffee beans.

I went on with:

Let us just hope Obama gets reelected. We could get food stamp usage from 50 up to 80 million where it belongs, expand home defaults and allow people just to “live” in “their” homes without foreclosures from the “greedy” banks. We all need time anyway to “be creative” and “leave your work.” Thirty million more could be given the chance to emigrate from Mexico without worry over a Gestapo-like border patrol. We could have ten Rose Bowl crowds booing an awful U.S. per week.

I thought he was still on the line, so I ended with, “And I didn’t even mention Obamacare with its 400,000 new jobs and lower health care costs for all of us! Who could be against Obama after that?”

But he had hung up and thought I was crazy.


A few notes:

Our annual "show up" Sierra Nevada hike this year was delayed because of snow in the high mountains. We have decided to go at 7 AM PST, on Saturday, August 6th, to Twin Lakes (ca. 8,550 feet), a moderate two-hour-in / two-hour-out hike, far less arduous than last year's Kaiser Peak killer climb. All welcomed for conversation about the state of the nation as we huff over to the lakes (quite beautiful, especially this year). Bruce Thornton will join as last year, and perhaps Raymond Ibrahim. We should arrive at the lower and upper Twin Lakes between 9 and 9:30 AM, stay for an hour, and be back at the parking lot at noon. More info to come. We depart from the Kaiser Pass road (make a right off 168 right before entering Huntington Lake); the trailhead is located near the Badger Flat campground (8,300 feet) 4.6 miles above Huntington Lake/168 road, parking in camping area lot across the street. There are facilities (water and bathroom there). The trailhead is about a 1 hr, 45 minute drive from Fresno, and the hike deemed "easy to moderate" (last year's Kaiser Peak hike was judged "extreme").

The End of Sparta comes out on September 27. It is a fictionalized account of the great Theban march of Epaminondas in 369 B.C. and his effort to destroy Sparta and free the helots-part history of ancient Greece, part novel, part philosophy of democracy, part story of the mind of farmers of all ages.