BEST I CAN TELL, Bob Tyrrell went too easy on the disloyal opposition when, in his new book, he confirmed "The Death of Liberalism." To be sure, he's dead right to insist that the current president will not win re-election this fall. He's said so from the start, at least since Mr. Obama's desultory inauguration, and he's kept at it in a line as straight as the one you see on a monitor when a patient's heart stops beating. Yet Bob, ever the purposeful optimist, also thinks that because liberals are politically dead, the worst might be over for America. I'm less confident. After all, wasn't it Bob who told us that the liberals' one abiding trait is a chronic need to disturb their neighbor? That could explain why even in death they seem totally unwilling to rest in peace.
About This Month
At the White House Correspondents' Dinner this year, Ben Stein's old sidekick Jimmy Kimmel did something others in his fraternity of brave comedians (cf. Saturday Night Live) would consider a hate crime: he told some jokes at President Obama's expense. The best one was when you weren't sure he was joking: "There's a term for President Obama. [Pause.] Probably not two terms." An earlier one played to the liberal audience: "The president wanted to move [the dinner] to the Kennedy Center, and the Republicans wanted to keep it at the Hilton. So, they compromised and here we are at the Hilton." And a third was downright mean, because it made fun of what might be considered a flaw in Mr. Obama's handsome looks—not that everyone didn't laugh, with Mrs. Obama leading the way, as if she were Phyllis Diller on Hollywood Squares: "[President Obama,] I know you won't be able to laugh at my jokes about the Secret Service. Please cover your ears, if that's physically possible."
It may no longer instruct (p. 68), but the liberal mind continues to amaze. Just in one sitting I come across two splendid examples, both intended to defend our president against his alleged enemies, none of them foreign, all of them domestic. In the first, the columnist Ms. Maureen Dowd heaps scorn on Justice Antonin Scalia yet has the cheek to call him "venomous." Justice Anthony Kennedy, as the "swing vote" on Obamacare, gets off easier. Suddenly Dowd turns silly, asking "Could the dream of expanded health care die at the hands of a Kennedy?" Teddy must be sitting up in his grave.
Yes, that's what they're saying, beginning with the pontifical George Will: Obama's a shoo-in this fall, all because he'll be running against a Republican no one wants to see in Washington let alone the White House. The president's a nice guy, after all-Mitt Romney says so himself. Meanwhile, the economy's less dead than it was, the debt crisis has vanished from sight, unemployment numbers are no longer being reported, Obamacare is a nonissue, Iran is just bluffing, and we're bound to withdraw from Afghanistan, one of these decades. There are more pressing matters to attend to, such as the Republicans' war on the bedroom and distrust of sexual nirvana, not to mention their distinct contempt for the financial, emotional, and medical needs of feminist law school activists and Democratic operatives. Plus the president has a killer new campaign slogan: Five More Years! After which he promises he'll buy himself a shiny new electric Chevy Volt.
By all accounts—meaning the New York Times’s and Washington Post’s, I suppose—our president had a terrific month of May, maybe because he nailed Osama bin Laden at its start, had a grand tour of Ireland, England, and a few countries of continental Europe toward month’s end, and this time, amazingly, he appeared happy to represent his country and not just himself. In between he revved up his permanent reelection campaign and then scored a big hit for his Mediscare strategy by engineering a special congressional election win in New York State. In a major speech he expressed belated solidarity with the Arab Spring—at Israel’s expense, of course, not that liberal circles cared one bit. It was their sense that their man had gotten his mojo back. November 2012 was starting to feel like a breeze.
Let's for a moment posit that patriotism is not the last refuge of a scoundrel. Sometimes it's merely the last refuge of a president determined to win reelection. So we heard Mr. Obama pouring it on in his State of the Union address, speaking of his country and its people with unabashed affection, and when on signing off he asked God to bless the United States of America he sounded as if he really meant it. Maybe he did, just as he meant it when he said America is "the light to the world" and "the best place in the world to do business."
But then he got carried away. It was one thing to channel Ronald Reagan and warn against government incompetence and inefficiency. His favorite example: "the Interior Department is in charge of salmon while they're in fresh water, but the Commerce Department handles them in when they're in saltwater. And I hear it gets even more complicated once they're smoked." Say what you will, but I loved that punch line (or at least I think that's what it was -- with government you never can tell).
"All rise for the Rehnquist court" was the headline to our cover story announced in October 1986. It's nice to have Justices Rehnquist and Scalia again on our cover -- and even nicer to have been proved right. Those two changed the direction of the high court, and with the addition of several younger conservative justices, including John Roberts, the late Rehnquist's successor as chief justice, the slight conservative majority has more than held its own, as our publisher and longtime Court watcher and quietly upbeat conservative Al Regnery observes in his reflections on the enduring Rehnquist-Scalia legacy (p. 14).
Perhaps nicest of all was that back in October 1986, in the wake of Rehnquist and Scalia's recent confirmations, we wrote in the kicker line to our cover story, "Liberals are right to worry." Indeed, for all their fulminating and dirty play, they ultimately couldn't prevent the emergence of a center-right Court in a center-right country.
Conservatives in Washington (oxymoronic as that may sound) greeted the Obama inauguration with mixed feelings, to put it mildly. Some were accepting, and even attended inauguration-related events. Others in these troubled economic times rented their homes to Obamaphiles willing to pay an arm and a leg just to be on hand for the hyped-up festivities. Finally, there were those who left their houses under lock and key and fled the area for the entire long weekend, in a complete boycott and blackout of anything having to do with the swearing-in of the 44th president of the United States. I don’t think they returned to Washington any wiser or happier.