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Out with hysterics.


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Jonah Goldberg

Chinese President Jiang Zemin says, “The U.S. side should apologize to the Chinese people.”

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Well, I will be in favor of apologizing the moment they apologize for all of those menus they keep leaving outside my front door.

According to the Xinhua News Agency, Chinese Foreign Minister Tang Jiaxuan says that America has “displayed an arrogant air, used lame arguments, called black white, and made groundless accusations against China.”

I’ve given up scouring the relevant transcripts for the precise moment when George Bush called black white, but I take the Chinese at their word. In fact, I’ve got considerable sympathy for the Red Chinese — despite the fact that if my dog were a member of the American crew Jiang Zemin would have eaten him by now.

After all, if the reverse had happened to us, we’d probably hold onto their plane for a while too. Though what we’d have to learn from a plane we sold them in the first place I have no idea. In fact, it’s no wonder they want to keep this plane because it’s the first piece of U.S. weaponry they’ve been able to get their hands on without writing a huge check to the DNC.

Meanwhile, back here at home, it turns out the good news is the old news was right: George Bush did win Florida.

Actually, we always knew he won Florida, because the state’s electors went to Bush, the only official and meaningful measure of victory. What’s news is that he would still have gotten those electors according to every recount scenario demanded or pined for by the Democrats — statewide recounts, loose interpretations of dimples, whatever we might divine from the exposed entrails of freshly killed goats, etc. Indeed, under only one scheme — that Republicans alone had asked for — could Gore have won, by three votes. And, a three-vote lead is surely within the margin of error. (For a fuller accounting of the “If Ifs and Buts Were Candy and Nuts” school of psephology, see Mickey Kaus’s analysis.)

Regardless, the fact is that in the world of the possible, the probable, or the real, Al Gore lost. Yes, there’s still a count of “overvotes” going on, but that’s far less relevant because even if every one of Gore’s demands were met, those votes would never have been counted (and rightly so). Moreover, none of the incessant allegations of fraud, intimidation, and corruption to which Democratic hissy-fitters keep alluding have ever panned out. Those stories began as urban legends and they’ve remained urban legends.

The simple fact is that if maturity and realism reigned in the world of embittered Democrats, they would realize this and give up.

Alas, that won’t happen.

Which gets me to the only thing that these two totally separate news events have in common. They are symptoms of the new era of normal politics. Until genetics changes everything, everything is going to be fairly normal. By normal, I mean a little less interesting ideologically and more consistent with the long line of human history.

Take this China mess. China has a bad government. They do bad things to their people. They cause mischief abroad. They put MSG in everything. But they are not the Soviet Union, despite what some of my friends at The Weekly Standard sometimes suggest.

What they are is a big authoritarian country with a bunch of geezers clinging to power. Nationalism drives their politics a hell of a lot more than Marxism-Leninism. The technology may be newer and the physical distances greater, but the issues at stake — prestige, honor, sovereignty, etc. — are precisely the same sorts of issues that Thucydides wrote about 2,500 years ago in his account of the Peloponnesian War (he’s a lot less intimidating to read if you pronounce it Thooo•See•Dyeds). The Chinese are testing George W. Bush and flexing some nationalist muscles; it’s a very old story.

I’m not saying that this isn’t a big deal and of course I’m rooting for the U.S. of A., but you could scour this dispute down to the bone and you wouldn’t find a profound and relevant ideological argument. This is simply how big countries behave in a world of realpolitik.

Which gets us back to why the Left will never accept this recount stuff. In a world where things are normal and relatively non-ideological, ideologues will have a really hard time. Which means that many of them will make up issues where they don’t actually exist. This is why, for example, the cottage industry for hate-crime hoaxes on college campuses has been thriving for a decade. Left-wingers need to complain about racism or sexism or homophobia so much that they are perfectly content to stage fictional instances of it. Nothing disappoints a revolutionary more than the persistent lack of injustice.

Indeed, it’s difficult to find an example of leftist enthusiasm that is not top heavy with lies, myths, or exaggerations: Witness the church burnings, the fictional pasts of Edward Said and Rigoberta Menchu, the allegedly fictional data of Alfred Kinsey, and Margaret Mead, the hysteria over our environment (which is vastly better today than it was at any time this century), the phantasmagoric exaggerations about genetically modified food and global warming etc., etc.

Florida will fit nicely into this scheme. Since you read NRO, you may have missed the near constant drumbeat in the Leftist press about the “stolen election” engineered by the “criminal Supreme Court.” Some of this writing has become so hysterical that it reads more like the mutterings of some outpatient living at the train station.

The best example comes — surprise! — from The Nation . A couple weeks ago, it ran a roughly 7,500-word cover story arguing that because conservatives have trouble with deconstructionist philosophers like Jacques Derrida and Michel Foucault, James Baker was an immoral hypocrite for fighting hand recounts in four Gore-picked Democratic counties. I’m not kidding. See for yourself.

Because of Baker’s hypocritical refusal to eschew the epistemological assumptions of Derrida, “the intellectual and moral pretensions of contemporary American conservatism lie in tatters, like so many discarded chads on the floor of a county canvassing board meeting room.”

Needless to say, if James Baker ever heard the name Michel Foucault, he would simply have assumed he was the new chef at his golf club. More to the point, if the flagship journal of the Left can proudly boast such whiplash-inducing asininity on its cover, then it’s a sure bet it isn’t going to suddenly accept that George Bush won the election. While it’s sacrilege to invoke “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence” and the Left in the same sentence, it’s fair to say that they have decided that the legend has become fact, and they’re going to stick with the legend.

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