The 2014 midterm races are heating up. It seems to me everyone is uneasy. The Republicans have not raised enough money. The Democrats are mindful that the President is immensely unpopular, and their candidates are struggling. Some Republicans are gleeful. Will they win the six additional Senate seats to control that chamber? Could they win even more? It is beginning to look like 2014 will be almost as welcome an election for the Republicans as 2010.
The Current Crisis
Being a sports impresario—in this case an NFL commissioner—has never been easy. I know, such magnificoes oversee the most prosperous sport in the country. They just put the logo of the NFL on a product line and watch the money flow in. Do they have a line of formal wear or of gardening equipment? It is only a matter of time, and sports fans will be drawn to them with wallets open. Does the NFL have a line of women’s lingerie? Apparently Mr. Roger Goodell, the present commissioner of the NFL, is contemplating it. Why else would he be so apprehensive about a handful of women critics out there squalling in the audience along with his millions of admirers, both men and women, both wearers of lingerie and opponents.
Goodell has just appointed four women to some sort of policy positions in the NFL to appease this angry minority. As I say, being a sports impresario has never been as easy as it looks.
There is a mystery about Congressman Paul Ryan’s new and very good book, The Way Forward: Renewing the American Dream. Perhaps there are several mysteries.
Ryan, the chairman of the House Budget Committee and Mitt Romney’s vice presidential running mate, begins by writing at length about the place he has lived all his life, Janesville, a town of 60,000 in southern Wisconsin. It is rural, but it also has industry. Moreover it has Ryans. Sixty-seven of his cousins live nearby. The Ryans have lived there for generations along with other Catholics, Protestants, and presumably citizens utterly oblivious to religion’s call. But the point is that most of the citizens of Janesville are decent, law-abiding, can-do citizens. Ryan describes it as an ideal community to grow up in and to discover the American Idea. It is his idea of how we live as Americans. It is also the Founding Fathers’ idea, and the basic idea of modern conservatism of which Ryan is a leading member.
When I read the other day about those “cross-hatched” engravings found by archaeologists in Gorham’s Cave in Gibraltar being “the first known examples of Neanderthal rock art,” I, of course, thought immediately of Rolling Stone magazine. Rolling Stone, the magazine for modern aesthetes, covers “rock art” ceaselessly. That a Rolling Stone writer might have found modern rock’s roots among Neanderthal man came as no surprise to me. What about Punk Rock? What about Grunge? I believe the word is Grunge.
Yet I had leapt to a hasty conclusion. The report I was reading about in London’s Daily Mail was not drawn from Rolling Stone but rather from the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. And it was not about the artistic aspirations of rock singers but about artists who really were scribbling on ancient rocks over 39,000 years ago, artists drawn from the species Homo neanderthalensis, a species of human much like us only less intellectual.
Immediately after his telephone call consoling the Foley family on their son’s grisly murder at the hands of Islamofascists, President Barack Obama took a powder. He headed for the golf course. Yes, the golf course! He had golfed eight times in eleven days, as the world was in tumult the likes of which we have not experienced since the late 1930s. There is something very odd about this man. He seems to think he can duck his obligations by lolling on the golf course. Does he believe no one is looking?
In his brief life, my guess is, he has been posing all along. He had no role model as a father. He had no lasting role model as an adult. Now he has to produce. No one else can serve as his hidden adviser. He has to lead and he has not a clue as to what to do. Thus, to the golf course he goes, no matter how his critics complain or how a growing number of journalists express their dismay.
Turning once again to what the sociologists call “coping mechanisms”: there is marijuana and then there is alcohol. They are increasingly the civilized options.
Consider alcohol. Consider a suave scotch and soda. One does not sit down to a scotch and soda to get blitzed, unless one is a veritable drunk. One sits down and sips a scotch and soda while conversing with friends. Perhaps one reads a book. One enjoys the scotch for the taste. With scotch there are scores of different tastes. One drinks a single malt. One drinks a blend. The same is true with bourbon and all manner of alcoholic drinks. One imbibes for the taste, then for the refreshment, finally for the relaxed feeling it imparts. Very very finally, some drinkers drink a scotch and soda to get blitzed and drop out. Maybe the pathetico drinks to pass out or to throw up. A true alcoholic is a sad spectacle. A drunk is a person who has ruined many a good drink.
Is it not a thing of wonderment that the two leading families of the Party of the Poor and Down-and-Out are ending the summer in Martha’s Vineyard? Both the Obamas and the Clintons are renting spacious mansions, probably from Wall Streeters, on that enchanted isle and playing golf and tennis, and—who knows—croquet, just like the Rockefellers or Vanderbilts. Yet do not expect them to be dining together in the moonlight. In fact, relations between them have turned downright hostile.
Hillary this week has made it all but final. She is a neoconservative, a genuine, twenty-four carat, neoconservative! She has all the credentials. Back in the 1970s Irving Kristol, the official godfather of neoconservatism, defined a neoconservative as a liberal who has been mugged by reality. By that definition a mere believer in muscular foreign policy pronouncements is no neoconservative. Perhaps he or she is a hawk but not a neoconservative. To be a true neocon one has to have once been a liberal—preferably a Trotskyite—and to have come to one’s conversion in fits and starts. Well, Hillary certainly fills the bill complete with fits and starts.
One would never guess who attended Dick Scaife’s memorial service on the Pennsylvania countryside last week. Scaife has been referred to as the “father of modern conservatism.” In his lifetime he donated a fortune across a whole range of philanthropic endeavors, from the arts to medical research to politics—conservative politics. His conservative causes were very elevated—sophisticated thinks tanks, professorial chairs, intellectual reviews—but also at times they were very partisan. In the 1990s Scaife was a leading opponent of Bill Clinton, and he frequently drew blood. When Hillary Rodham Clinton spoke of the “vast right-wing conspiracy” she doubtless had him in mind.
In dipping into Daniel Halper’s interesting new book about the Clintons’ return from the grave that they had dug for themselves during their White House years (from an approval rating of 66 percent after his impeachment he plummeted to 39 percent upon leaving the White House to a chorus of pardon-induced Bronx cheers), a thought occurs: We have been reading these exposés about the malfeasance of the most corrupt presidential family in American history for over two decades! For some reason the scandals that these books reveal never sinks into the American mind. Today, despite Bill Clinton’s public record of shoddy financial deals, brutal politics, and endless abuse of women, he is the most beloved of recent presidents.
It did not take all that long, when you think about it, for America’s Nobel Prize-winning statesman to bring the world to a boil. Perhaps our Nobel Prize-wining president was only a community organizer all along. He has brought the world to a boil not by his use of force but by his inattentiveness. He has been playing golf or lecturing the world from a higher plain. He has been picking fights with the Republicans or devising new ways to thwart the Constitution. He has not reacted to provocations around the world that threaten peace and our allies. The allies are beginning to worry.
The President has simply failed to respond to an outburst of violence around the world. It is an outburst that has not been seen since the 1970s. His only reaction is mere rhetoric, sometimes no rhetoric at all. Sometimes he changes the subject. Whether it be mobs of Central American children at our southern border or armed rebels in Ukraine shooting commercial aircraft out of the skies there is only emollient talk from Washington. There is no alternative policy. Things are getting worse.