One conservative writer who feared Obama as a danger to America long before the election now delivers his post-election views. As he says, I thought I was right then and I feel the same way now. He has 20 points to make. He prays he will be wrong, as we all do. But we must be alert to the signs he will do the damage we feared.
November 13, 2008, 5:00 a.m.
By Jay Nordlinger
My reaction to last week’s election is one of the least important things in the world. But some readers have asked for it, so I thought I’d scribble a lil’ column. I’m hesitant, though, for two reasons.
First, I wrote about the election for months and even years. I particularly wrote about the consequences — bad — of an Obama victory. What am I supposed to do now? Say, “Just kidding”? “It won’t be as bad as all that”? “Never mind”? I’m afraid I can’t be as blasé, or chipper, as some other conservatives. I have an anxious feeling, and long have.
Which leads me to Reason No. 2 for being hesitant — for hesitating to talk: One comes off as Sore-Loserman. And now’s the time for graciousness, optimism, and all that jazz.
Well, enough prefatory typing — I will offer 20 quick points. I am bad to indulge in a bitterfest. But here I go:
1) Have the oceans shrunk to puddles? Have people stopped being sick? Or does that come after Inauguration Day?
2) Seriously, I’m afraid that the Middle East will rock — that Obama will withdraw from Iraq before the country is secured, creating havoc. He promised as much, didn’t he? (I mean the withdrawal, not the havoc.) In April ’75, the United States cut off South Vietnam, resulting in a Communist victory and what we would call today a “humanitarian disaster.” If we abandon the Iraqis to the wolves, will anyone care? (Outside of Iraq, that is.) And what about the Middle East at large?
I quote our ambassador in Baghdad, Ryan Crocker, who told a group of us last month,
Iraq is really, really important. How things go here will transform the region and America’s role in the region, one way or the other. If Iraq is successful in establishing itself as a democracy, where the rule of law is paramount, that will be something remarkable . . . People are tired of Iraq. They say, “Let’s get it over and done with. We don’t want to watch the Iraq movie anymore.” But the Iraq movie will go on for many more reels, with or without us. And it will have a big effect on us, whether we like it or not.
And then there’s the matter of whether Iran will acquire nuclear weapons . . .
3) President-elect Obama and his supporters want America to be liked: by Le Monde, the Quai d’Orsay, Der Spiegel — you get the idea. But America can’t necessarily be liked by those elements and stand up for its interests. When the going gets tough, which will Obama choose — Le Monde or American interests? Won’t they ever collide? Don’t they usually?
4) I worry that the Obama years, like the Carter years, will be a field day of adventurism for the worst regimes. Some presidents are willing to stand up to bullies; some presidents are not. And we should all know what weakness invites: aggression.
5) How does Obama regard the War on Terror? Does he think we’re in something worthy of that name — another cold war, a “twilight struggle,” in the words of JFK? Or does he think that dealing with jihadists is just a matter of a little law enforcement, and intelligence-gathering, and police work? Recall the World Trade Center bombing in 1993. We took ’em to court. (One of the perpetrators skedaddled off to Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, but suggest that there was a connection between Iraq and terror, and you’re dismissed as a boob.)
6) At home, do Americans want to be something like a European social democracy — or is the old American republic still viable? What about abroad? Sarah Palin put the question in terms of “American exceptionalism”: Do we want it or not? And I like to borrow the words of the first Bush, spoken in 1988, when American “decline” was in fashion, and happily anticipated: Are we to be a “unique nation with a special role in the world”? Or are we to be “another pleasant country on the U.N. roll call, somewhere between Albania and Zimbabwe”?
7) As a rule, I say that people in a democracy get what they deserve. Sometimes minorities don’t deserve what ensues, but such is life. I’m not so sure about the 2008 election. Why? Because the Barack Obama of the general election was so very, very different from the Barack Obama of the Democratic primaries and before. All candidates shift — that’s politics. But Obama, it seems to me, abused the privilege. And he was very good at it.
He campaigned — certainly debated — as a moderate. Not just a moderate Democrat, but practically a moderate Republican. Even citing Richard Lugar! (“Nixon’s favorite mayor,” long ago.) In one of the debates, Obama said he was for missile defense! And he said that America was the greatest nation in the history of man.
Why did Obama’s friends at Columbia and Harvard and so on stand for it? Why did Bill Ayers stand for it? Well, they were holding their noses, of course, knowing that these words were just campaign grist — something for the yokels to ingest.
In brief, I’m not sure that Americans knew what they were voting for.
8) Those interested in stopping or curbing abortion have to be disappointed. The courts will be Obama-oriented for how many years?
9) Amazing — just amazing — that the Republican party took the rap for the financial meltdown. Consider Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Consider Barney Frank and Christopher Dodd. They came out of this smelling like a rose. And GOP-ers — who never wanted the social-financial shakedown that Fannie and Freddie represented — come out the bums. As I said, amazing.
10) John McCain ran a poor campaign. I’m not sure he was capable of better. I do think Obama was beatable — he has been lucky in his opposition. He has been lucky both in Illinois and on the national level. The conventional argument is that McCain was the best possible Republican nominee, even the only possible Republican nominee with a chance of winning. I don’t believe that, for a second. There was a case to be made against Obama, and for McCain: and McCain was poor at both.
11) They say that he conducted an exceptionally mean campaign — I don’t see it. Take the case (the easy case, granted) of Jeremiah Wright. This was Obama’s pastor and “spiritual mentor”: a man who preaches that the AIDS virus was concocted in a government laboratory for the purpose of harming dark-skinned people. And this cost Obama not a thing.
Imagine if Sarah Palin’s preacher disseminated a similar doctrine — a similar lie. She would not be able to participate in public life, would she?
12) I’m sorry, but the treatment of Bush — the demonization of Bush — is appalling. Absolutely appalling. And it says something rotten about our political culture. Think for a second about Katrina — the hurricane. I have no doubt that the federal government made mistakes, and no doubt that Bush fumbled the PR aspect. But this was a huge natural disaster — and people acted as though Bush had caused it.
Crazy, crazy. Even some of my fellow conservatives have bought into the Katrina myth. I wish Bush would do more to defend himself, but he apparently thinks it’s not worth the bother. And don’t get me started on the treatment of Governor Palin after she debuted in Dayton . . .
13) In a way, it’s amazing that conservatives ever win. Conservatives will tell you the following: The Left controls education, K through graduate school. (Maybe pre-K through graduate school — I don’t know.) They control the movies, popular television, the mainstream media, etc., etc. And then conservatives get surprised, often, when liberals triumph at the polls. Well, when all the shaping institutions shape one way . . .
14) I learned something in this election — maybe you learned the same thing about yourself. I learned that I’m a knuckle-dragging moron, because I admire Governor Palin. Used to be, people considered me rather sophisticated — what with the languages, the larnin’, the music, and all. Vincent Persichetti wrote me about a piece of mine when I was eleven, I think! But come to find out, in the fall of 2008, I’m just a drooling hayseed. Funny old world.
15) There may be some positive outcomes to Obama’s election victory. It could be, now, that the Left will help us in the War on Terror. Some people said, for years, that they would never be onboard until they were in charge. Until now, they have done everything possible to thwart Bush. The New York Times delights in exposing clandestine programs, designed to keep the innocent safe. Will all that end now?
Also, maybe the Left will feel better about the country itself. Some of my neighbors (Manhattan) have gloated with me about November 4. And I’ve said, “Yes, America is a good country, isn’t it? Good constitution, good system, don’t you agree?” That leaves them a little nonplussed or annoyed.
And then there is race — about which I have written as much as I have any subject in my journalism career. (For a biggish piece on race and the ’08 election, go here.) I don’t believe that a presidential election was necessary to validate racial progress. But other people do. And it will be an even better day when skin is not an issue: when what matters is what a person thinks, and what a person is.
Besides which, if Obama fails, making bad or even disastrous decisions, will that reflect badly on black Americans as a whole? Of course not: It will reflect badly on Obama, and possibly Joe Biden, and others. (Incidentally, Biden was wrong on everything having to do with the Cold War. He fought everything that worked, tooth and nail. Will lights finally go off in his brain now?)
16) Let’s talk about Obama’s press coverage: During the campaign, he was practically immune from criticism. His coverage was almost 100 percent positive. Will President Obama be immune from criticism — or will he be treated normally? I have a feeling that the “MSM” will be so eager for him to succeed, they will treat politics as though the campaign were still on: with D’s in white hats and R’s in black hats.
17) I had a bitter thought (surprise!) after Obama’s little shot at Nancy Reagan — the one he took the day after the election, or whenever it was. You know, in the fall campaign, everyone kept telling us about Obama’s “first-class temperament.” If nothing else, the tall, collected senator had a “first-class temperament.”
Oh, really? Say what you will about Palin’s familiarity with Frantz Fanon, at least she’s not a jerk.
18) It seems to me that, after the election — after their electoral loss — Republicans and conservatives were gracious, dignified, and public-minded. Classy, even. Of course, we could have expected nothing less had Republicans won and Democrats lost . . .
19) Just possibly, the assumption of the office will concentrate Obama’s mind — will sober him up, where foreign policy and the world are concerned. He will get the same threat assessments that President Bush does, every morning. He will have to figure out how to keep the country safe. There’s a famous, somewhat annoying old saying: You may not like war, but war likes you — it has a way of finding you.
Another cliché says that we have to fight them there or fight them here. I hope that President Obama chooses, as President Bush has, to fight them there.
Furthermore, there has not been an attack like 9/11 in seven years — something most people thought was impossible. I have a suspicion that Bush and his people are doing something right. Will Obama and his people continue that something right?
20) Finally, I said, for many months, that an Obama presidency would be harmful — harmful to the country, but perhaps even more to the world, which counts so heavily on American leadership. I hope very much that I’m wrong. I have been before, believe it or not!
All right, end of bitterfest. (Twenty points wasn’t all that many, was it?)