Thoughts from the Later Republic

Meanwhile, in that general media silence, the lunatic leftwing blogosphere trafficked in rumors that Palin faked her pregnancy; and today it has turned huckster and Playgirl pin-up Levi Johnson into some sort of unimpeachable Nostradamus, dispensing inside truth about the intimacies of the Palin family. How odd that the National Enquirer got the story right on Edwards, while the left turned into a poor imitation of the Enquirer on Palin’s pregnancy.

Silence about crudity?

This week both President Obama (according to sources from his pep talks to congressional leaders) and Bill Clinton (publicly) invoked the slur “tea-bagger” to deprecate the Town-haller/tea-party protestors. But given that the smear started on liberal cable television to conflate a graphic sex practice with a legitimate protest, why would a President and ex-President keep playing along with the crude pun. (I know—the same reason a President would make fun of the Special Olympics, or do a ‘yell out’ (confusing the Medal of Honor with the Medal of Freedom) as a prelude to “serious” initial statement on Fort Hood.) My question is this—does Obama inadvertently conflate tea-party and tea-bagger, or is this slur a reminder of his past sort of stealthy middle finger rub on his nose, to the cheers of the crowd?

Cato vs. Nero

I visited the Reagan ranch yesterday—for the first time.  In my 20s and 30s I remember the media mantra about the ex-governor’s getaway: Reagan’s wealthy cronies had supposedly secretly bought him in a sweet-heart-deal a Hearst Castle-like estate where he looked down at hoi polloi below and did photo-ops chopping wood. I half expected "the ranch" to be comparable to Oprah’s nearby estate.

But I was struck by the array of simple farm tools in the garage, the do-it-yourself trails and fences, the unadorned home of about 1700 sq. ft of rustic simplicity and ad-ons with basic old GE appliances, no insulation, wiring conduited onto the whitewashed walls, low ceilings, basic, unevenly settled tile floors. In terms of comfort or frills, the Western White House “ranch” was probably not comparable to “John’s room” inside the Edwards’ “Two Americas” estate, or the garage at one of John Kerry’s mansions, or Al Gore’s boathouse.

How odd that the supposed plutocratic Reagan lived like the proverbial Philemon and Baucis, while today’s populists—Gore, Kerry, Kennedy, Edwards, Rev. Wright, etc., fill in the blanks—seek to emulate Nero’s Golden House.

The Great Disconnect

One of the oddest things is President Obama’s continuing surprise at the rising unemployment rate. Indeed, we now have a new Orwellianism of “jobs saved”: as jobs are lost, we are told that some of those who do have them were “saved” by President Obama (note the logic: you ignore the stats that quantify reality, but hype fantasy).

If you were a contractor, a car dealer, a dentist, or an accountant, and if you heard that we may/will/sorta raise federal income taxes, lift the tax caps off FICA, think about a VAT tax, impose a health care surcharge on the "wealthy," have new mandatory fees for forced medical plans and green energy, and had you just got hit with new raised sales and state income taxes, why would you feel secure about the future and gamble on it by hiring more employees?

And if you were to read daily that gold is rising, the dollar crashing, the debt and deficit exploding, the trade imbalance surging, and if you collated all that depression with cheap slurs about doctors, the Chamber of Commerce, the insurance industry, etc. as grasping and greedy, and if you were caricatured as a Nazi, astro-turfer, tea-bagger, or racist if you protested, and if you saw the federal government taking over banks and car companies, and shutting down some dealerships, but mysteriously not others, and if you heard of vast new entitlements and programs to come, from a take-over of the student loan program to cap and trade,  would you then conclude—“Wow, we have a serious sober President who supports the business climate, and will lead us out of recession, so by golly, I am going to go out and hire 2-3 more people to ride the coming wave of increased business!”?

Or would you instead conclude, “Hmm, our commander in chief likes neither me nor what I represent. He will take much of my profits and divert them to his own favored constituencies. So I better slow down, retrench, cut back, squirrel away some money to pay for new fees on power and health insurance, and find a smart accountant to advise on curbing my income so I don’t end up giving 70% to the state and federal governments”?

At some point, Obama may conclude that the vast presidential jet, the opulence of the Presidency, the power and influence at his fingertips, all that national wealth and more were not created by Acorn, community organizing, Michelle’s legal brilliance, Axelrod’s savvy advice, or Emanuel’s crassness, or by claiming that doctors needlessly take out tonsils and amputate limbs, or in general by sonorous tones promising to give someone vast amounts of someone else’s money, but rather through preserving a climate of freedom, respect for continuity and tradition, and government non-intrusion into the market place that encourage  people to try to go into business and retain some of their profits—as recompense for getting up on Saturday morning at 6AM to get down to open the dry cleaning store, or borrowing one’s net worth to open a new stationary outlet, or staying late till 7PM to do a crown, or gambling that the new $500,000 crane will pay for itself in 5 years, or going under someone’s house on a Sunday to unclog the toilet when the employee doesn’t show up.

I expect him soon either to continue as is and face a historic rebuke in 2010, or to begin scrambling to talk about the debt, fiscal sobriety, and American exceptionalism—his Carter or Clinton call.

These are the most interesting of times: we are witnessing nothing less than an attempt in just 10 months to reinvent the United States at home and abroad into something it never was, led by someone who, the more soothing, comforting, and melodic his speech-making, the more bruising, cut-throat, and ruthless the act that follows.

So it's like we're living  in the late Roman Republic…