Then and Now

by Jay Nordlinger

At the beginning of Impromptus today, I mention a couple of items from the distant past: the Guantanamo Bay prison and the Patriot Act. Remember them? They were huge issues during the dark age of George W. Bush. Obama and the rest of the Left said they undermined civil liberties and human rights. Betrayed our ideals. We Americans weren’t being “true to ourselves,” they said.

Then they were elected, and, oops, never mind. Guantanamo had to remain open, because — gee, whaddya know? — it is an admirable, appropriate, and apparently indispensable facility. And the Patriot Act had to be extended, because — gee, whaddya know? — it is a sensible law that aids in the War on Terror.

Speaking of Memory Lane: Do you remember when Obama & Co. jettisoned “War on Terror” — so war-like, you know — for “overseas contingency operations”? And “terrorism” for “man-made disaster”? (That word “man-made” was terribly sexist of them.)

I’m glad when people change their minds for the better. That is virtually the sum of a life’s project: to change one’s mind for the better. But you might acknowledge that you have done so. If I were Obama, and had trashed Gitmo and the Patriot Act for years, and then kept open the one and extended the other, I would have to say something about it. I would have to explain why I was wrong in the first place, or how circumstances had changed, to warrant different positions.

But no, they just glide on, without a glance back, and the media — and people in general — let them do it. I think George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, and the rest of the boys should be apologized to. But, as I say in my column, they shouldn’t wait up nights.

In the last stage of the Cold War, the Democratic party fought Ronald Reagan every step of the way. This was the post-Humphrey party, the party captured by the New Left — the party with no use for Henry Jackson. You remember their arguments: The Soviet Union is forever. Co-existence is the name of the game. The idea of upending the Soviet Union, or even challenging them, is folly — more than folly, criminal, putting the whole world in danger.

And when it was all over, almost no one said, “Gee, where did we go wrong? What were the errors in our thinking?” It was just, “We won the Cold War.” Reagan said at the 1992 Republican convention, “Whaddya mean, ‘we’?”

Anyway, I’m glad Obama and his team did some sobering up, where the War on Terror was concerned. Their more sober condition will be especially important if the American people go and give them a second term. And if Romney and Ryan are elected — the anti-war movement, the movement to hamstring the War on Terror, will return.

So will homelessness, probably. The media will discover that there’s poverty. “Dissent is the highest form of patriotism” will once more be heard in the land.

You get the picture. I hope you’re having a less cynical day than I am!