My favorite living historian, Victor Davis Hanson, gives us the grim details of the recent political malpractice of Donald Trump:
All of the above was doable and could have ensured Trump the election, despite the unethical and historically unprecedented entrance into the campaign of a contrite Barack Obama, the institutional prejudices of the media, the usual big-city voter fraud, and even the withdrawal of the Republican elite who could not countenance Trump’s innate vulgarity, swashbuckling style, and demagogic appeal to the white working classes. We are, after all, in a war between the National Enquirer and NPR, Marlboro Man against Pajama Boy, Clint Eastwood versus Tom Hanks, amateurish fantasies opposed to established, polished lying.
Instead, here we are with less than 90 days before the election, and Trump may be lucky if he finishes within 5 percentage points on Election Day.
To negate Trump’s advantages, the Democrats had a simple strategy: bring out the demonic Trump. Hillary Clinton would simply lie about her e-mail records ad nauseam. In possum style, she would snore about the economy. She would avert her eyes from the world order’s breaking apart. She would ignore the populist furor with a corrupt Washington and media establishment.. Against this stultifying backdrop, the ego-driven Trump would be allowed to grab the headlines, and the headlines would be petty and embarrassing.
Democrats would seed the summer and autumn election battlefields with new and updated models of politically correct IEDs. They used this technique very effectively in 2012 to render a decent Mitt Romney as a tax-cheating, greedy Wall Street vulture, who ignored his regular garbageman, beat up kids in prep school, and strapped his terrified dog to his car top. Four years earlier the Democrats had blown John McCain to smithereens and left him little more than a closet racist and an adulterous and senile coot, who could not remember how many estates he owned nor the shenanigans of his pill-popping spouse. To avoid the rain of shrapnel, Romney had to battle both the moderator and his opponent in a presidential debate while contextualizing his own personal success and fortune. McCain, meanwhile, swore off referring to the racist personal pastor of Barack Obama and to Obama’s own litany of “typical white person” and “get in their face.” We forget that long before the wild man Trump, the most un-Trumpian, sober and judicious McCain and Romney were flattened by bogus charges against their spouses and false claims, respectively, of adultery and tax-cheating — and were completely unable to defend themselves from such smears and slanders.
Instead of staying on a winning message and avoiding the subterranean traps, Trump on cue tramped right through this progressive minefield. The explosive result was predictable. He wasted precious hours rudely taking on a Mexican-American judge — who, to be fair, had foolishly joined a “La Raza” lawyers’ organization (imagine a white counterpart as a member of a local legal organization with “The Race” in its name) — or jousting with a Gold Star family, indifferent to the fact that the father was an immigration lawyer who logically would oppose Trump’s immigration moratoria.
So when all these mines went off, Trump in theory always had some sort of legitimate counter-argument: Yes, Megyn Kelly was not commensurate in her sexism questions, in that she did not ask Hillary Clinton to account for her own sexist past, whether laughing over aspects of a case involving a rapist client, or demonizing Bill’s victims of coerced sex. And, yes, it was also a fact that bombastically inviting Putin to find Hillary’s missing 30,000 e-mails could not be a breach of security if they were truly about yoga and Chelsea’s wedding.
But such legitimate counter-arguments against explosive devices do not matter. Words are not as loud as Semtex and C-4. As Trump blew himself up on these mines, campaign time was irrevocably lost.
No one was asking Trump to go mute when Obama or Clinton attacked him in unprecedented fashion. The key instead was circumspection. Strike back quickly and only at major targets, to create deterrence against future smears, and then after 30 seconds get back on topic — and never step on a Democratic landmine out of curiosity whether it would really blow up. Translated, that means ignore assorted journalists eager for five minutes of cable-news attention, political flunkies, private citizens — both heroes and scoundrels — grieving widows, the disabled, the underage, and the elderly — in other words, all the cover plates that supposedly moral progressives use to mask their explosives. Is it too late for Trump?
So far, what he has thrown away in the polls Hillary so often seems to give back.
My favorite living historian Victor Davis Hanson has some predictions about what is to come in the presidential election campaign this summer. As I do, he understands that the normal political rules simply do not apply this year:
Before summer is over, we may see things now scarcely imagined that will make Brexit seem anticlimactic.
Trump’s Attack Mode
I think the following is an accurate statement: No major public figure has ever before attacked the Clintons in the manner that Donald Trump did last week. The details and tone of his charges can be endlessly analyzed, but their central theme resonates: The Clinton couple, broke when they left the White House in 2001, leveraged Hillary Clinton’s planned political trajectories to amass a personal fortune of between $100 and $200 million — all in the form of quid pro quo investments by wealthy individuals and foreign governments in the likely continuance of Clinton political power. Government is not the jungle of Manhattan real estate, and should have demanded at least a veneer of honesty.
The scandals of the Clinton Foundation, Bill Clinton’s various get-rich and jet-set escapades, and much of Hillary Clinton’s paranoia over the audit of her e-mail communications all revolve around a Clinton circle that can never be squared even by liberal pieties: The wealthy do not make politicians fabulously rich — unless they assume that they will receive something of much greater value in return.
The Clintons are unique — like no other first couple in recent American history. Not the Carters, not the Reagans, not the two Bush couples, not any first family emeritus has so unapologetically charged banks, foreign governments, corporations, and universities so much money for overtly so little, but on the expectation of clandestinely offering so much.
The Clinton ethical miasma is emblemized by the Laureate International Universities scandal — the highbrow version of Trump University, but a public not a private debacle. Between 2010 and 2015 “Chancellor” Bill Clinton was paid $16.5 million by the for-profit Laureate — but for what services he was to become one of the highest-paid university officials in history is not clear. Mirabile dictu, an educational affiliate of Laureate saw its support from the State Department more than triple from a pre-Clinton $15.1 million.
True, Hillary Clinton, who deleted over 30,000 of her private-server e-mails, can demand hard proof of such payola, but she still cannot rationalize why her husband was paid so much for so little demonstrable work, while she, after stepping down as the nation’s top diplomatic official, followed his reprehensible cue in her retirement.
Trump will continue to expand these charges, no doubt in his characteristic nihilist, take-no-prisoners fashion. Hillary is already replying in like kind, rather than in exalted “Have you no shame?” stature. But the rounds of fire between the two candidates are not quite symmetrical. Trump is brash, crude, and a brawler. Hillary is a carefully scripted and choreographed establishmentarian. Recently, speech coaches seem to have had some success in sedating her screech-owl, nails-on-the-chalkboard rants. She has seemed calmer, quieter, more deliberate.
But in response to Trump’s charges, Hillary is starting to resort to her naturally unpleasant side, both in form and in content. She should learn from Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, and Ted Cruz. When Trump unloaded on them in turn, each eventually stooped to reply in like kind — and seemed suddenly unpresidential. Trump, of course, never claimed to be or perhaps could be completely presidential. But his establishment targets became less presidential once he scraped often their veneers and they climbed down into his muck.
My favorite living historian Victor Davis Hanson has a brilliant post on the rot that infects the West:
Sanctuary cities illustrate how progressive doctrine can by itself nullify the rule of law. In the new West, breaking statutes is backed or ignored by the state if it is branded with race, class, or gender advocacy. By that I mean that if a solitary U.S. citizen seeks to leave and then reenter America without a passport, he will likely be either arrested or turned back, whereas if an illegal alien manages to cross our border, he is unlikely to be sent back as long as he has claims on victimhood of the type that are sanctioned by the Western liberal state. Do we really enjoy free speech in the West any more? If you think we do, try to use vocabulary that is precise and not pejorative, but does not serve the current engine of social advocacy — terms such as “Islamic terrorist,” “illegal alien,” or “transvestite.” I doubt that a writer for a major newspaper or a politician could use those terms, which were common currency just four or five years ago, without incurring, privately or publicly, the sort of censure that we might associate with the thought police of the former Soviet Union.
It is becoming almost impossible in the West to navigate the contours of totalitarian mind control. Satirists can create cartoons mocking Christ, but not Mohammed. If a teen brings a suspicious-looking device of wires and gadgetry to school, he will be suspended — unless he can advance by his religious or ethnic background some claim on victimization.
My favorite living historian Victor Davis Hanson wonders if we are living in a world today where the orcs are winning.
Tolkien’s literary purpose with orcs was not to explore the many shades of evil or the struggle within oneself to avoid the dark side; he did that well enough in dozens of once good but weak characters who went bad such as the turncoat Saruman the wizard, his sidekick Wormtongue, a few of the hobbits who had ruined the Shire, and, best of all, the multifaceted Gollum. Orcs, on the other hand, are unredeemable. Orcs, goblins, and trolls exist as the tools of the even more sinister in proud towers to destroy civilization, and know nothing other than killing and destruction. Their reward is to feed on the crumbs of what they have ruined.
In the 21st century we are often lectured that such simplistic, one-dimensional evil is long gone. An ubiquitous civilization has so permeated the globe that even the worst sorts must absorb some mitigating popular culture from the Internet, Twitter, and Facebook, as if the sheer speed of transmitting thoughts ensures their moral improvement.
Even where democracy is absent, the “world community” and a “global consciousness” are such that billions supposedly won’t let Attila, Tamerlane, and Genghis Khan reappear in our postmodern lives. To deal with a Major Hasan, Americans cannot cite his environment as the cause, at least not poverty, racism, religious bigotry, nativism, xenophobia, or any of the more popular –isms and-ologies in our politically correct tool box that we customarily use to excuse and contextualize evil behavior. So exasperated, we shrug and call his murdering “workplace violence” — an apparent understandable psychological condition attributable to the boredom and monotony of the bleak, postmodern office.
Evil is ancient, unchanging, and with us always. The more postmodern the West becomes — affluent, leisured, nursed on moral equivalence, utopian pacifism, and multicultural relativism — the more premodern the evil among us seems to arise in nihilistic response, whether it is from the primordial Tsarnaev brothers or Jihadi John. We have invented dozens of new ways to explain away our indifference, our enemies hundreds of new ways of reminding us of our impotence. I suppose we who enjoy the good life don’t want to lose any of it for anything — and will understandably do any amount of appeasing, explaining, and contextualizing to avoid an existential war against the beheaders and mutilators, a fact well-known to our enemies.
The Europeans are shrugging that Ukraine is lost and will soon sigh that the Baltic states are a far-off place not worth risking the coffee shops of Amsterdam to defend. Westerners lament beheadings but then privately mutter that journalists know just what they are getting into when they visit the Middle East. Murdering and abusing a U.S. ambassador on video is not such a big deal anymore and is worth only a second or so mention on Google News.
So we wait behind our suburban Maginot Lines, arguing over our quarter- and half-measure responses, refighting Iraq and Afghanistan as if they were the Somme and Verdun, assured that we can distract ourselves from the horrors abroad with psychodramas about Ferguson, the president’s golfing, his lectures on fairness, and which naked celebrity photo was hacked on the Internet.
Meanwhile the orcs are busy and growing and nearing the ramparts…
Victor Davis Hanson, my favorite living historian, has long thought and written about the problem of illegal immigration into the US. Go here to read some of his earlier thoughts about the issue. He agrees that what is happening currently in the “children’s crusade” to effectively eliminate our southern border is a moral crisis:
In fine, I have written my work, not as an essay which is to win the applause of the moment, but as a possession for all time.
I recall as a boy the first day I made the magic acquaintance of Thucydides who unlocked for me an enduring love of ancient Greece. I then passed on to Herodotus and Plutarch, and next to Plato and Aristotle. As a boy and teenager in Paris, Illinois the great historians and philosophers of Greece, and then Rome, became my favorite instructors. Looking on the way in which most colleges and universities ignore this priceless heritage today is painful. My favorite living historian, Victor Davis Hanson describes the magnitude of the loss:
This year on Sunday October 13, 2013, Pope Francis will consecrate the world to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Go here to read all about it. My parish is gathering together at noon CST on October 13 to pray the rosary at the exact same time that the Pope consecrates the world to the Mother of God. What better preparation can we have for that wonderful day than to remember today another victory of the Rosary.
On October 7, 1571 the forces of the Holy League under Don Juan of Austria, illegitimate half brother of Philip II, in an ever-lasting tribute to Italian and Spanish courage and seamanship, smashed the Turkish fleet. This was the turning point in the centuries-long struggle between the Christian West and the forces of the Ottoman Empire over the Mediterranean. The Holy League had been the work of Pope Saint Pius V, who miraculously saw the victory in Rome on the day of the battle, and he proclaimed the feast day of Our Lady of Victory to whom he attributed the victory.
For a good overview of the battle of Lepanto read this review by Victor Davis Hanson here of The Victory of the West: The Great Christian-Muslim Clash at the Battle of Lepanto by Niccolò Capponi.
Before the battle Don John of Austria went about the ships of his fleet and said this to his crews: ‘My children, we are here to conquer or die. In death or in victory, you will win immortality.’ The chaplains of the fleet preached sermons on the theme: “No Heaven For Cowards”. Many of the men were clutching rosaries just before the battle. Admiral Andrea Doria went into the fight with an image of Our Lady of Guadalupe aboard his ship. Back in Europe countless Catholics were praying rosaries at the request of Saint Pope Pius V for the success of the Christian fleet.
The older I get, the more I comprehend that one of the ways of understanding how contemporary American politics works is the vast gulf that often exists between elite opinion and motivations in this country and the opinions of most Americans. Case in point, illegal immigration. At a time when the American economy is on the rocks and we have a federal debt that can never be repaid short of debt repudiation or ruinous inflation, which is another name for debt repudiation, the political class is focused on a Senate bill to give illegal immigrants a path to citizenship, amnesty. Leaving aside the merits of the bill, which I suspect is one with Nineveh and Tyre as far as the House is concerned, it is an odd priority until one looks at it as elite opinion does in this country. My favorite living historian, Victor Davis Hanson, does so in a recent column:
Horace Walpole once famously observed that the world is a comedy to those who think and a tragedy to those who feel. The times in which we live certainly gives support to the sometime accuracy of that maxim. My favorite living historian, Victor Davis Hanson, helps buttress the point:
Repeal the Second Amendment, the part about guns anyway. It’s badly written, confusing and more trouble than it’s worth. … Declare the NRA a terrorist organization and make membership illegal. Hey! We did it to the Communist Party, and the NRA has led to the deaths of more of us than American Commies ever did. …Then I would tie Mitch McConnell and John Boehner, our esteemed Republican leaders, to the back of a Chevy pickup truck and drag them around a parking lot until they saw the light on gun control.
Note the new ease with which the liberal mind calls for trashing the Constitution, outlawing those whom they don’t like (reminiscent of “punish our enemies”?), and killing those politicians with whom they don’t agree (we are back to Bush Derangement Syndrome, when novels, movies, and op-eds dreamed of the president’s assassination.)
What would be the Register’s reaction should a conservative opponent of abortion dare write, “Repeal the First Amendment; ban Planned Parenthood as a terrorist organization; and drag Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi from a truck”? If an idiot were to write that trash, I doubt the Washington Times or Wall Street Journal would print such sick calls for overturning the Constitution and committing violence against public officials.
Ah Yes, Still More Redistribution
Turning to a column in The New Republic, John Judis, in honest fashion, more or less puts all the progressive cards on the table in a column titled “Obama’s Tax Hikes Won’t Be Nearly Big Enough” — a candor about what the vast $5 trillion deficits of Obama’s first term were all about in the first place.
Here is the summation quote: “But to fund these programs, governments will have to extract a share of income from those who are able to afford them and use the revenues to make the services available for everyone.”
Note that Judis was not talking about the projected new taxes in the fiscal cliff talks, but something far greater to come. He understands well that the “gorge the beast” philosophy that resulted in these astronomical debts will require enormous new sources of revenue, funds “to extract” from “those who are able to afford them” in order to “make services available for everyone.”
That is about as neat a definition of coerced socialism as one can find. Implicit in Judas’s formulation is that only a very well-educated (and well-compensated) technocratic class will possess the wisdom, the proper schooling, and the morality to adjudicate who are to be the extracted ones and who the new “everyone.”
The Constitution — Who the Hell Needs It?
The third item in my year-end reading was the most disturbing. A law professor (could it be otherwise?) named Louis Michael Seidman enlightens us with “Let’s Give Up on the Constitution” — yet another vision of what the now triumphant liberal mind envisions for us all:
As the nation teeters at the edge of fiscal chaos, observers are reaching the conclusion that the American system of government is broken. But almost no one blames the culprit: our insistence on obedience to the Constitution, with all its archaic, idiosyncratic and downright evil provisions.
Did Madison force Obama to borrow a half-billion dollars to fund Solyndra and its multimillionaire con artists?
Note Seidman’s use of “evil,” which tips his hand that our great moralist is on an ethical crusade to change the lives of lesser folk, who had the misfortune of growing up in America — a place so much less prosperous, fair, and secure than, say, Russia, China, the Middle East, Africa, South America, Spain, Greece, Italy, or Japan and Germany (in the earlier 20th century history) . When I lived in Greece, traveled to Libya, and went into Mexico, I forgot to sigh, “My God, these utopias are possible for us too, if we just junked that evil Constitution.”
Tying in with my co-blogger Dave Hartline’s post, which may be read here, my favorite living historian Victor Davis Hanson has a brilliant column today on the cynicism towards government that has justifiably grrown like Topsy during the period of Obama’s presidency:
Do you believe any more that some of our Secret Service agents — once the most esteemed of all professionals — on presidential assignment will not get drunk and womanize in their evening spare time? Do you believe that the grandees at the GSA — once the stern penny-pinchers that frowned when bureaucrats wanted a new bookcase — won’t flaunt the waste that they incur? Do you believe that the government will never sell assault rifles to drug lords? Or do you believe what the president, the secretary of state, and the director of national intelligence will say to us when the next embassy is hit? And do you believe that there were “shovel-ready jobs” and “millions of green jobs” that arose from the “stimulus”? And what is a “stimulus” anyway, but borrowed money, in the manner likewise of “investments”? Did any of you believe that Solyndra was the wave of the future?
We don’t even believe that a commission on presidential debates will ensure us unbiasedmoderators, or that the candidates will have equal time in speaking, or that the supposedly quiet crowd won’t boo or clap to affect the tempo of the exchange. From now on, will debate moderators bring preselected transcripts to the forum, wait for a key moment, interrupt one of the speakers, and then wave a piece of paper to proffer authority to contradict him — eliciting applause from the supposedly neutral and silent audience, and affirmation from the president? Do you believe First Lady Michelle Obama — of “never been proud/downright mean country” infamy — when she accuses Republicans on talking down the country?
Do you believe that the Department of Labor always assesses its data and offers disinterested conclusions? I don’t. I suspect partisan grandees, perhaps in California, will massage the data on the principle of the ends justifying the means. The same is true of Libya: the noble idea of a reset Middle East, appreciative of the unique heritage and ideology of Barack Obama and his bold attempt to reformulate America, was simply too precious to be imperiled by al-Qaedist thugs who hate us as much as ever and will kill until stopped.
I also never believed in a “war on the women” simply because mostly upper-class, liberal, highly educated white women seemed to be angry that Catholic institutions d0 not wish to include free abortion and contraceptive pills among their generous benefits packages. Did I miss something? Who were supposed to be oppressed, and how and why? Could Ms. Fluke — who addressed an audience of ten in Nevada this weekend — and her partner not split the cost of a pack of ten-dollar prophylactics? Are not more women graduating with BAs than are men? To the degree there is a gender crisis, I think it may be more young working-class men without college degrees who simply cannot find jobs in the muscular industries and for whom society apparently has little need. Is the “war on women” what the long road from suffrage to equal pay has come down to — a psychodrama of the most privileged generation in civilization’s history? So I simply do not believe that there is a war on anyone, much less women. To the degree there is a war, it is on fiscal responsibility, a war on paying bills and keeping solvent — something lost last week in more of binders, Big Bird, the war “in Iran,” Joe Biden’s continued gesticulations, and “Romnesia.”
Last week Gore Vidal and John Keegan died. I recalled John Keegan in a post which may be read here. Gore Vidal I did not recall. Although I enjoyed two of Vidal’s novels, Julian and Creation, I could not write a post about him without violating the maxim De mortuis nihil nisi bonum. Fortunately my favorite living historian, Victor Davis Hanson, does not share that inhibition:
Among those guests in 1964 was Gore Vidal, who was not yet 40. I was about eleven and remember him as a stylishly dressed non-stop hair-toucher. He was also vain and condescending — and a big hit at his lecture with the conservative rural crowd. In those days he acted what was known as “witty.” I recall asking my dad whether he was “English,” given that his nose was angled upward and his accent did not sound American (and that he did not seem to like the U.S.). My dad, in the Swedish fashion of honoring work for work’s sake, answered that I should respect any man who could crisscross the country, giving 30 lectures in 30 days.
Vidal certainly had an instinct for saying outrageous things with such erudite authority that we yokels found him fascinating rather than repulsive. As I remember (it has been 48 years since that evening), Vidal spoke for about 30 minutes, but then he wowed the crowd to a standing ovation in the question-and-answer period (his forte), as he advocated the legalization of drugs and prostitution and went on rants about “small town” values.
My favorite living historian Victor Davis Hanson puts his finger on one of the most important developments of the past few years which has received little press coverage:
There is a revolution going on America. But it is not part of the tea party movement or the loud Occupy Wall Street protests.
Instead, massive new reserves of gas, oil and coal are being discovered almost everywhere in the United States, due to revolutionary methods of exploration and exploitation such as fracking and horizontal drilling. Current prices of over $100 a barrel make even complex efforts at recovery enormously profitable.
There were always known to be additional untapped reserves of oil and gas in the petroleum-rich Gulf of Mexico, off America’s shores, and in the American West and Alaska. But even the top energy experts never imagined just how vast was the energy there — or beneath far more unlikely places like South Dakota, Pennsylvania, Ohio and New York. Some studies suggest the United States has now expanded its known potential gas and oil reserves tenfold.
The strategic and economic repercussions of these new finds are staggering, and remind us how a once energy-independent and thereby confident American economy soared to world dominance in the early 20th century.
America will soon again be able to supply all of its own domestic natural gas needs — and perhaps for the next 90 years at present rates of consumption. We have recently become a net exporter of refined gas and diesel fuel, and already have cut imported oil from OPEC countries by 1 million barrels per day.
I was inclined to cut the Obama administration some slack initially in regard to the crisis in Egypt. It is a tough situation and it was difficult to see anything that the US could or should do. Mubarak has been a friend to the US during his 30 years in power, faithfully kept the peace with Israel, and worked with our intelligence agencies against Islamic terrorism. However, there is no doubt that he is a dictator, albeit one of the best of a very bad lot in the Middle East where dictatorship is the norm outside of Israel, Turkey and Iraq, and no American can weep for his fall. However, what replaces him could be far worse. A tough situation and not a whole lot the US can do to influence events. Therefore I was initially sympathetic to Obama’s dilemma.
However, the utter cluelessness of his administration throughout this mess has ended my sympathy. Endless, feckless posturing, combined with impotence, is not a foreign policy but rather a vaudeville act. This was on full display yesterday when Leon Panetta, CIA director, stated publicly that he had reports that indicated Mubarak would be stepping down yesterday. This was completely erroneous as events proved, but it made worldwide headlines. It then turned out that Panetta was not basing his prediction on intelligence gathered by his spooks, but rather on media reports. I can think of few better illustrations of the level of amateurish bungling that has been the hallmark of the Obama administration in regard to everything they have touched. The Obama Doctrine consists of the following elements:
1. Speak loudly and carry no stick.
2. Watch a lot of tv to find out what is going on in the world.
3. Make endless statements to the press and, never, ever, have a plan as to what to do if you actually have to back up the statements.
4. Always remember to never let a crisis go to waste and attempt to get maximum positive press coverage out of it, because that is what all crises are truly about.
5. Obama needs another Nobel Peace Prize to keep his first one company.
My favorite living historian, Victor Davis Hanson, hails the brilliance of Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, the man behind the “Cordoba Initiative”, the group seeking to build the Ground Zero Mosque.
1. First the name of the group takes advantage of the historical illiteracy among the chattering class elites of our society:
Start with the notion of a “Cordoba Initiative.” In the elite modern Western mind, Cordoba has been transmogrified into a mythical Lala Land of interfaith tolerance. To invoke the city is to prove one’s ecumenical credentials. Just ask our president, who, in his June 2009 Cairo speech, fantastically claimed that the Muslim city taught us tolerance while Christians were launching the Inquisition (1478) — quite a feat two and a half centuries after most of the Muslims of Cordoba had fled, converted, or been cleansed during the city’s fall (1236) to the Christian forces of the Reconquista. But no matter, we got the president’s drift about who was supposedly tolerant and who was not.