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It all happened very quickly. Reflecting just a tiny fraction of the national psyche, by the middle of 1965 the American left was well on its way to performing its seminal feat of prestidigitation, a lie for which we are still heavily paying the price.
Lyndon Johnson never knew what hit him. Much like Dorothy preoccupied with Toto while the tornado moves across the horizon, LBJ was operating off the “containment” playbook while a whirlwind of tactical, technological, moral, and spiritual dimensions was about to consume both him and the country. His projection of power that April became the first club with which the left began to fatally smash the national consensus of American goodness.
ITS LIE WAS AS simple as it was deft. Since World War II, the emerging national consensus had been that (a) we were the good guys and consequently (b) as good guys, we have the national strength and self-confidence to promote freedom at home as enthusiastically as abroad. While there was considerable debate as to the means to achieve this end, the idea that anti-Communism (freedom abroad) and civil rights (freedom at home) were of one piece was undisputed. The campus intellectuals, the folk singers, and the fringe union folk had another, altogether inverted analysis: they now said that (a) our lack of a utopian civil rights environment was the result of a pernicious American society and that (b) our interventions abroad were both evil in their own right and proof of our domestic venality.
In Boston, MIT professor Tom Lehrer sat behind a piano and, like Ochs, got traction from the Dominican episode:
What with President Johnson practicing escalatio on the Vietnamese and then the Dominican crisis on top of that, it has been a nervous year… And people have begun to feel like a Christian Scientist with appendicitis. Fortunately in times of crisis just like this America always has this number one instrument of diplomacy to fall back on. Here’s a song about it…
A Christian Scientist with appendicitis! On the live album, you hear the sexy, coed howling.
A Christian Scientist with appendicitis! In five words, Lehrer dead-on defined what happens (and who wins) when theology collides with empirical reality. Only a fool would literally die rather than accept a scientifically proven course of therapy, wouldn’t he?
FOUR DECADES LATER, CHRISTIAN Science is looking a lot better. Whether “He” has a role in it or not, everyone — even educated society — now generally accepts as a given that there is a mind/spirit connection to healing.
And what about those no-nonsense rational elitists, the ones who cooked up this inversion of American goodness then nursed two generations of students on this fetid drivel?
Down the Charles River, an open-ended inquisition charges the president of Harvard with heresy for discussing sex differences. Even his friends declare that for this sin, he must leave. (At least Galileo was still offered room and board.)
On social policy, these same people reject policy failure as a reason to change a policy. Reform of Social Security, Medicare, or government schools are off the table because these programs are, well, sacred.
In foreign affairs, the badness of American power remains the catechism. No amount of good news from Baghdad, Tripoli, or Kabul changes any minds.
In short, the American left, in forty years, has become what it once mocked: a faith-based, irrational heap of beliefs whose greatest institutional peril is to collide with reality.
Who’s got appendicitis now?
A man of faith in a godless age is hitting Americans where it hurts.
Mr. and Mrs. American Spectator Reader, let P.J. O’Rourke talk sense to your kids.
In Britain, defending your property can get you life.
The debacle of this president’s administration is both a cause and a symptom of the decline of American values. Unless Congress impeaches him, that decline will go on unchecked. An eminent jurist surveys the damage and assesses the chances for the recovery of our culture.
It won’t take long for conservatives to scratch this presidential wannabe off their 2008 scorecard.
The American Christmas, like the songs that celebrate it, makes room for everybody under the rainbow. Is that why so many people seem to be hostile to it?
Was the President done in by the economy, or by the politics of the economy?