What is the matter with everybody?
If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you…
What, I ask you, is the matter with everybody? The Democrats claim we are in the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression. This is ridiculous, but what is even more ridiculous is that otherwise educated people seem to be letting it pass.
We are the freest, most dynamic economy on earth. We have a
problem because we allowed leftist demagogues to stick up bankers
and force them to let shiftless rabble become homeowners,
simultaneously (and not coincidentally) adopting a gimme-gimme
ethos that by definition was insatiable, anti-civic and selfish.
To the extent we allowed our own moral fiber to turn brittle, we
can say the fault is certainly not in our stars — after all, in
the rest of the world, the vast majority of honest hard-working
people consider themselves lucky if they have indoor plumbing and
would like nothing better than to trade their problems for ours
— but in ourselves.
Not only liberals but conservatives too are at fault for neglecting the fundamentals. Conservatives grew complacent and fat, thought the battle of ideas was over. It is never over, any more than the fight for freedom. However, differences between conservatives and liberals are huge. Conservatives are sickened by the related threats to our free market system and our national security. Liberals by all evidence are sick of America as we have known it, and fat as they may be, they are on a roll, seem to have the wind in their sails and a clear game plan.
So conservatives stand by and let the nonsense being spewed about the causes of our present difficulties pass. We form the best engineers, the best managers, the best research physicists, the most life-saving organ-repairing health-sustaining doctors and the proof is they all come here, not only those yearning to be free (who still come) but those yearning to be doctors, physicists, engineers. And we have a problem? That is what liberals say, and in this campaign season the conservatives seem unable to deliver the response. You get all manners of clever responses (on this page for example, or the Wall Street Journal’s legendary editorial page), but they apparently get no further. The Obama machine marches on. It is not impossible that self-described communists and America-haters will be in the highest circles of government in a few months.
How could this be?
We took things for granted. There was too much money. All kinds of reasons. Anyhow, it comes down to this: in 2008 we have the same problem Irving Kristol identified 20, 30 years ago — we don’t have a leadership class that reads Joseph Schumpeter, or for that matter that reads anything. They don’t defend themselves. They don’t fight back. They don’t fight.
They let everything pass.
John McCain is a fighter. That is why he is the best chance of a party that fought, but not enough, to defend its record. How many Washington-based wise guys ran for the tall grass as soon as the going got tough in Iraq? How many ran for their mothers’ aprons as soon as we ran ourselves, by our own inability to resist and fight back against creeping demagogic socialism, into a credit crunch? My gosh, credit crunch, savage war of peace — can’t we explain these things … and fight back? What happened to all those millions spent since the “conservative resurgence” to “fight the war of ideas”?
Although John McCain is a fighter, he is a nice man. I know: I’ve heard about his temper and his grudges. So what? I have a temper and I’ve known myself to hold grudges and I’ve even grudged myself for them. Don’t hold grudges, my teacher Saul Bellow used to say to me, watching me steam, they’ll get in the way. In the way of what? I asked with exasperation. What you’re good at. What you should do.
It seems to me that until he won the primaries and began coasting to the formal nomination, John McCain understood he had to do what he should do. Then instead of steaming up and converting that energy into leadership, he ran out of steam.
More exactly, he ran into Republican political operatives and clever as these men and women are, they seem reluctant to let McCain be himself and take the battle to the enemy.
EVEN AS HE SAID the American elites — the producers of wealth — must learn to defend themselves, Irving Kristol wryly noted, and this was not especially original, that they would simultaneously sell their enemies the rope with which said enemies would hang them (this actually comes from Lenin, and was used as the title in a quite good essay in Commentary by Carl Gershman, who a few years later went to Washington and went to sleep, a symptom of the problem we are staring at). The enemies in question might be their own offspring. Viz. Bill Ayers, the son of one of the richest men in Chicago, and indeed viz. most of the Weather Whatsis and the other '60s radicals, though they were not all in the same league, moneywise, as the Ayers family. For that matter, Obama himself is a child of American privilege, which is why it is so easy for him to rail against the machinery (free markets and free men) and the talent and the know-how that make privilege possible.
It is not just us — Dostoevsky saw it all very clearly, as Harold Rosenberg (for example) made you see in his seminars on the great Russian master. But we take this farther faster because we are the first modern country.
And the one on which the modern project — freedom — depends. If we fail, there goes the last, best hope on earth.
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.
It won’t take long for conservatives to scratch this presidential wannabe off their 2008 scorecard.
Was the President done in by the economy, or by the politics of the economy?