I apologize for the absence of posts these past few days but I have been locked in a titanic struggle with a nasty bug that has sought to lay me low. I was able to perform limited duties at PJM and AT but never found the strength to address some of the more interesting stories that have popped up during the last 10 days or so on my own blog.
A pity, that. There is much I wanted to say about the administration’s approach to the…whatever we’re calling what used to be known as “The War on Terror” these days. While their attitude and strategy may be intellectually satisfying - downplaying the nature of the threat while frantically trying to bolster our counterterror capabilities at home and abroad - I think it is wrong on a psychological and political level.
Obama failed in appreciating the nature of the attack on Christmas day. He miscalculated the mood of the American people and came off looking weak and disengaged when he strolled to the podium more than 48 hours after the attack and read a rote statement that could have been delivered by a press flunkie. He compounded the error the next day by issuing a stronger, more realistic statement while idiotically backing his DHS Secretary’s nonsense about the “system” working, parsing her words like a Clinton.
This is old news now - water under the bridge so I won’t belabor the point. But in their eagerness to show that they are not “chest thumping” and “fear mongering” the administration and the president failed in their primary duty of simply reassuring the American people that someone was in charge and doing something about the problem.
Not their finest hour.
The other story that piqued my interest was Rush Limbaugh’s health scare and his weird, out of touch contention that the health care system is working just fine.
I am glad that Rush is OK and will continue to entertain us on the radio. But if there was ever an example of why conservatism has become irrelevant it was Limbaugh’s monumentally stupid remarks about the American health care system:
“The treatment I received here was the best that the world has to offer,” Limbaugh said. “Based on what happened here to me, I don’t think there’s one thing wrong with the American health care system. It is working just fine, just dandy.”
Limbaugh said that despite his celebrity he received the same treatment as anyone else who would have called 911 and been taken to the hospital in his condition.
“I got no special treatment,” he said, adding that the care he received was nonetheless “confidence inspiring.”
“I just feel very grateful and thankful be an American and have this happen to me,” he said.
Anyone who isn’t worth $100 million and becomes seriously ill in this country probably looked at Limbaugh as if he was from another planet. The American people may hate many aspects of Obamacare, but they aren’t stupid. They fully realize there are severe problems with our health care system and just because rich jamokes like Limbaugh and rich foreigners can get the best care in the world doesn’t mean that the average - or even above average - American gets the same treatment as the radio star.
Put simply, Limbaugh and many of his listeners are out of touch. The alternate universe they inhabit posits an America inhabited by crusty individualists, self-reliant citizens, a Darwinian free market, and a culture informed by “Judeo-Christian” morals and principles. That’s a pretty good description of America, alright - 19th century America. Today, we no longer have to build our own house, or shoot our own meat, or churn our own butter, or even make our own clothes unless we choose to do so. America in the 21st century is a great, big, raucous, tumbling, jumbling place that has moved far beyond what these self-described conservatives believe her to be - or think she should be. In their America, the health care system is “just fine” and there’s nothing wrong with the economy that a few hundred billion in tax cuts couldn’t fix.
The clashing interests of 300 million people coupled with the enormous complexity of governing such a diverse, multi-racial, mutli-cultural society makes the kind of simple minded conservatism promoted by Limbaugh and his admirers a shadow reality, existing outside of time and out of sync with the cares and concerns of ordinary people. They are for regression, not conserving anything. And their failure to accept America as it is rather than how they wish it to be makes them worse than irrelevant in promoting conservatism; they are a hindrance.
I believe these two currents of history - the coming primal thrust of jihad and the battle to wrest conservatism from fakirs like Limbaugh, Hannity, Palin, and others will test us in ways not experienced since the late 1970’s when there was the perception that the world was closing in around us and the Soviets were on the road to victory. That time also saw the final ascendancy of “movement” conservatism as a revolutionary political force.
It will not be a year of decision. But the potential is there for global jihad to wreak havoc on the US and the west as the clock approaches midnight in Tel Aviv and the countdown for an Israeli strike on Iran approaches its final stages.
I have blown hot and cold over the years about whether Israel would attack Iran without US permission or support. But with Obama in office, I think the Israelis believe they have little choice. Our relations with the Jewish state are in shambles - the worst since Eisenhower. Quite simply, Israel does not trust the Obama administration. And with the rise of the J-Street crowd in power and influence in Washington, the prospects for US support of Israel in any strike on Iranian nuclear facilities are very bad.
A year ago I would have bet that the Israelis would have deferred to Washington on the question of attacking Iran. Now, I’m not so sure. The only question left for the Israelis is are they prepared for the consequences? The scenarios of the aftermath of such an attack are all bad. And they all include the certainty that terrorism would be unleashed against Israel, the US, and the west on a scale never before seen. There are Hezbollah cells all over the world, and it is generally believed that they can be activated by Iran. What they could accomplish as far as death and destruction can only be guessed at.
In addition, al-Qaeda is showing it’s not dead yet and may keep up its efforts to attack us. Odds are in their favor that they will breakthrough and succeed. Whether they have the capability for mass casualty attacks isn’t known but many experts believe it to be just a matter of time before WMD is used in a terror attack. What then? Where does that leave the Obama administration’s downplaying the terrorist threat? It’s not necessarily a bad policy but a couple of thousand dead Americans would make it seem faintly ridiculous. Al-Qaeda, Hezbollah and their imitators may not represent an existential threat to America but I daresay the American people will have problems with the nuanced view that we shouldn’t get all bent out of shape over terrorism.
Of conservatism’s test I will say this; the farther conservatism retreats into the past, eschewing reason for emotionalism while welcoming groups like the John Birch Society back into the fold, the more irrelevant conservatism will become as a political force. Electoral gains in 2010 may indeed come to Republicans but it won’t be because of anything conservatism is offering but because the Democrats have royally screwed up. Until the voices of reason and pragmatism emerge to espouse a philosophy that resonates with ordinary people and addresses their real life concerns and problems, the right will continue to wander in the wilderness of political ideas wondering why no one takes their 19th century worldview seriously.
It should be an interesting year.