Dear Reader (and the hatemongers who’ve spent the last two years inciting me to write this column),
Well, I’m going to be writing elsewhere on Obama’s uplifting, noble speech to what appeared to be the homecoming rally of the Arizona Wildcats.
I take it that a lot of readers out there hated the speech for one or more of several reasons. They include:
1. They don’t have any faith in Obama’s sincerity. This is part of his race to the center, and it amounts to saying “nice doggie” until he can find a rock.
2. The audience. Cheering at the name of a murdered 9-year-old girl like she was the starting running back creeps a lot of people out.
3. Obama deserves some blame for the audience, because the White House advance people seemed to want it that way – prepping the place with T-shirts and whatnot.
4. Obama took his sweet time clamping down on the climate his surrogates helped create. It’s pretty easy to parachute in only after your side’s campaign of vilification hasn’t worked – and your side got in what shots they could – before yelling time out.
5. The false equivalence between what the Left was doing this week and what the Right was doing. The Right’s self-defense may have been contributing to the poisonous atmosphere this week. But that’s like saying resisting an assault from a mugger is contributing to the atmosphere of violence.
I think all of these things have merit, some more than others. But it seems to me you have to take events as they come. The speech was a good speech, probably the best of his presidency (somewhat surprisingly, that’s not as high praise as it might sound). The president, who campaigned as a post-partisan, spent two years in office as a rank and intellectually disingenuous partisan. For two years, conservatives have been decrying and denouncing Obama for failing to live up to his own standards.
Last night Obama took our advice. He gave what may have been the least self-involved speech he has ever given – and the most presidential. It was high-minded and empathetic, open-hearted and civil. It was inspiring without belittling those not on his side. Unlike, say, his secretary of state, never mind the majority of his biggest defenders in the press, he didn’t pretend to know what drove Jared Loughner beyond the demons of his own dementia, and he subtly chastised those who claim they do.
Would it have been nice if he had come out earlier to tamp down the acrimony? Yes. Would it have been appropriate for him to ask the audience to stop cheering for a minute? Absolutely. Would it have been better if he’d thrown sharper elbows to his left? Maybe. But barring dropping to his knees like Henry in the snows of Canossa and begging for forgiveness, I suspect that some of his detractors simply can’t give him credit. I can understand that. President Obama deserves his share of blame for the climate in this country.
But this speech seemed as much as anything to be a good-faith effort to mend things.
Will he hold to the spirit of his speech? Who knows? Bill Clinton’s Oklahoma City remarks were more high-minded than people remember. It was his comments the day after that were so horrendous and shameful.
Like the man said, trust but verify.
One last point. It is amazing how moving to the center amounts to taking the high road. Obama wants to be president again. That requires being a better one than he has been. The press will launch its usual lick-bath fawning, but I doubt they’ll acknowledge the subtle rebuke they’ve received.
The Low-Hanging Fruit
Prior to last night, the Left, the liberal establishment, the mainstream media, Hollywood – I know, I know: This strikes some as a redundant list, like a rabbi talking about how you can’t eat ham, or pork, or bacon, or swine – were determined to push a palpably false storyline.
As I mentioned in the Corner, I was on Fox yesterday debating some woman named Nancy Skinner who couldn’t get her brain around the idea that if there is no evidence confirming her position and ample evidence disproving her position, then her position must be untenable.
This was of course just one minor example. No doubt everyone reading this “News”letter knows what I’m talking about. We say, “Two plus two is four,” and they respond, “Yes, but a vest has no sleeves.”
It’s all so incredibly exhausting, like trying to explain trigonometry to a fern. No, scratch that. Trigonometry is hard to explain to anybody. It’s like trying to tell a fern it shouldn’t buy the premium cable package, with Cinemax and Showtime and all that, since it doesn’t really watch much TV. Okay, maybe that doesn’t work perfectly either, because the point I’m getting at here is that it’s impossible to explain anything to a fern once it’s decided that it isn’t going to change its status as a non-sentient vascular plant.
Likewise, it is impossible to have a serious conversation with people who have locked onto an interpretation of reality that isn’t dependent on facts.
But at the same time, if you don’t push back, a false conventional wisdom concretizes. Not only does this completely ruin an already ludicrous extended arguing-with-a-fern analogy, but it also does massive damage to the country. The idea that Kennedy was killed by a “climate of hate” survives to this day, despite the fact that it’s a complete lie. The early success of that lie made the Great Society possible. If left unopposed, the lie pushed by the asshat chorus this week could easily have dealt a mortal wound to the new GOP House, conservatism, never mind the whole country.
That’s one reason why conservatives should be very reluctant to buy the “discourse” discourse. Yes, it’s absolutely true that folks on our side – and every other side – say things they shouldn’t say from time to time. It happens. And it’s worth criticizing, condemning, or excusing, depending on the substance and the context. But often what the Left calls hate speech is really simply unwelcome honesty.
Before the age of the Internet, talk radio, and cable TV, the establishment could have gotten away with turning Loughner into a tea partier, just as it turned Goldwater into a psychopath, Father Coughlin into a right-winger, and the Soviet genocide into an accounting error.
They still try, but there’s room to push back now.
‘A’ for Effort
Here’s one small example. Robert F. Kennedy Jr. – a man I’ve long considered to lack the intellectual candlepower to cook toast – wrote a lengthy piece in the Huffington Post decrying the “climate of hate” that killed his uncle. It covers all of the clichés about the right-wing atmosphere, the insults, the mood, etc. And some of that stuff was no doubt truly awful. But none of that stuff killed Kennedy.
Lee Harvey Oswald, the actual person who killed JFK, who isn’t even mentioned by name in RFK Jr.’s essay, was a Communist. It’s the little details the Left finds so annoying.
What’s That Now?
Yesterday, Spike Lee said the following on The Today Show:
Here’s my, my take in it. I think that, as film makers, as politicians, as artists, we have to understand that all, whatever we do goes out in the universe. And you should be aware of what you’re doing. And you cannot just say “Well I just did this and, and my – had nothing to do with what happened.” That’s, that’s not, that’s not the case. Also, the United States of America is the most violent country in the history of civilization. And this NRA thing. We gotta turn this around. You know these, these guns are out of hand. And I know they have a very powerful lobby but something has to be done about the gun control in this country. That’s my opinion.
Where to begin? First there’s the fact that this is the guy who lent support to Louis Farrakhan’s theory that George W. Bush deliberately blew up the levees to flood New Orleans. Or perhaps we should ponder the fact that he made his career by making a movie called Do the Right Thing, which ambiguously defended a massive race riot. Please, no lectures from Spike Lee about civil discourse.
Oh, wait. Jeez. I forgot. Then there’s this thing about America being the most violent country in the history of civilization. If he’d said America is the most violent country in the world today, he would simply be a Joy Behar-level idiot. But he said America is the most violent country . . . ever! Mother of pearl. Rather than run through the whole litany – what about the Aztecs? The Nazis? Mao and the 65 million lives he took? Pol Pot? Etc. – instead I would like to quote from Billy Madison:
“Mr. Madison, what you’ve just said . . . is one of the most insanely idiotic things I have ever heard. At no point in your rambling, incoherent response were you even close to anything that could be considered a rational thought. Everyone in this room is now dumber for having listened to it. I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul.”
Announcements & Whatnot
I will be on the panel tonight on Special Report.
For those who missed it, here’s a lengthy response to a lot of queries about Mein Kampf.
In case you missed last week’s Ricochet podcast, featuring yours truly and Mark Steyn, here it is.
Also, NR has launched its own podcast called The Balcony. Why “The Balcony”? Why not? I’ll be on it again tomorrow.
I will be going to Hawaii at the end of January. I won’t be taking any of you with me. My wife’s family is having a little reunion of sorts. It’s a command attendance kind of thing. I fought it tooth and nail. But I had to relent. Poor me, I know. We will be on (in?) Kona. If anyone’s got restaurant recommendations or other cool suggestions, let me know. I’ve been there before, but it never hurts to ask.
That’s it for this week.