Who gets this? Not enough of us — which is exactly how Obama likes it. His only “big idea” — that it should be illegal (by national fiat) to drop out of school before your 18th birthday — betrays his core belief: that more is better, as long as it’s government-mandated, government-regulated, government-staffed — and funded by you, or Warren Buffett, or the Chinese Politburo, or whoever’s left out there.
What of his likely rivals this November? Those of us who have lived in once-great decaying polities recognize the types. Jim Callaghan, prime minister at 10 Downing Street in the Seventies, told a friend of mine that he saw his job as managing Britain’s decline as gracefully as possible. The United Kingdom certainly declined on his watch, though not terribly gracefully. In last Monday’s debate, Newt Gingrich revived the line and accused by implication Mitt Romney of having no higher ambition than to “manage the decline.” Running on platitudinous generalities, Mitt certainly betrays little sense that he grasps the scale of the crisis. After a fiery assault by Rick Santorum on Romney’s support for an individual mandate in health care, Mitt sneered back at Rick that “it wasn’t worth getting angry over.” Which may be a foretaste of the energy he would bring to any attempted course correction in Washington.
Newt, meanwhile, has committed himself to a lunar colony by the end of his second term, and, while pandering to an audience on Florida’s “Space Coast,” added that, as soon as there were 13,000 American settlers on the moon, they could apply for statehood. Ah, the old frontier spirit: I hear Laura Ingalls Wilder is already working on Little House in the Crater.
Maybe Newt’s on to something. Except for the statehood part. One day, when America gets the old foreclosure notice in the mail, wouldn’t it be nice to close up the entire joint, put the keys in an envelope, slide it under the door of the First National Bank of Shanghai, and jet off on Newt’s Starship Government-Sponsored Enterprise?
There are times for dreaming big dreams, and there are times to wake up. This country will not be going to the moon, any more than the British or French do. Because, in decline, the horizons shrivel. The only thing that’s going to be on the moon is the debt ceiling. Before we can make any more giant leaps for mankind, we have to make one small, dull, prosaic, earthbound step here at home — and stop. Stop the massive expansion of micro-regulatory government, and then reverse it. Obama has vowed to press on. If Romney and Gingrich can’t get serious about it, he’ll get his way.
— Mark Steyn, a National Review columnist, is the author of After America: Get Ready for Armageddon. © 2012 Mark Steyn