No one could be further from the octogenarian Franz Josef than our young emperor, but even hip courtiers draw the line at lèse majesté, and so rodeo clowns who disrespect the sovereign are banned for life. On the distant horizon, the contours of the post-American world begin to rise, but the preoccupations of our ruling class grow ever more myopic. One of the world’s richest women flies all the way to Switzerland in order to confuse a Zurich boutique selling $38,000 handbags with an Alabama lunch counter 60 years ago, to the consternation of the poor shopgirl who knows nothing of America’s peculiar parochial obsessions, has never heard of Trayvon Martin, and lives in a city where pretty much the only black women around are the more fashion-conscious African dictators’ consorts in town to visit their safe-deposit boxes. But, as at the Hofbau, the ancient social rituals of our own court permit no diversion from the program: If it’s Tuesday, it must be racism.
Alas, in the world beyond the penthouse of the Waldorf Towers, it’s harder to tell whom the A-list invites should go to: From Afghanistan to Egypt, a debt-ridden America bankrolls its own eclipse, betraying friends, promoting enemies, despised by both. In the dog days of summer, the new national-security adviser tweets it in from her pad in the Hamptons or wherever, even as the hyperpower readies for its next unwon war: After America’s slo-mo defeat in the Hindu Kush, and its ineffectual leading-from-behind in Libya, and its thwarted Muslim Brotherhood outreach in Cairo, Obama is confidently dispatching the gunboats to Syria. If you’re Bashar Assad, you must be as befuddled as that Zurich handbag clerk: Hillary hailed you as a “reformer”; no senatorial frequent flyer courted you more assiduously than John Kerry; the guys trying to depose you hate the Great Satan far more than you do, and are the local branch office of the fellows who turned lower Manhattan into a big smoking hole. Yet Washington is readying to take you out — or at any rate, in George W. Bush’s unimprovable summation of desultory Clinton-style warmongering, readying to fire a $2 million cruise missile through a tent and hit a camel in the butt. The only novelty with this latest of ineptly rattled sabers is whether Tsar Putin will stand by and let Obama knock off a Russian client.