Over the past year, we’ve discussed a variety of prior-Presidential prototypes that Barack Obama seems to be following – by intent or outcome.
Jimmy Carter is prominently mentioned – as is LBJ.
But recent events prompt me to give you another one – of a presidency that never even happened.
Barack Obama is Walter Mondale. And he insists on running – 25 years later – a silly philosophy that was soundly rejected at the polls in 1984 (and, within a few short years, by history itself).
More below the fold.
This thought has been percolating in my mind for some time, but last week’s jaw-dropping announcement seemed to clinch it – and indeed the deep-in-the-night announcement of the surrender to Russia on missile defense in eastern Europe is a cataclysm.
Last fall when I was in Estonia, Estonians were still very rattled by the Russian moves against Georgia – since it was an eerie replay of their own history and seemed even to possibly provide a ghastly prototype of what they themselves might be facing in the not-too-distant future.
While I realize that Senator McCain has long driven us nuts over the past many years, this sort of thing was one reason why I was fully willing to put up with him as our Presidential candidate – regardless of his domestic transgressions, he has always taken a very hard line against our foreign adversaries and enemies. My main fear with Mr. Obama has been his spineless, ahistorical touchy-feely worldview – one that harsher men will be happy to exploit.
But three points to share in here:
As noted we’ve discussed numerous metaphors for Mr. Obama, but I keep getting stuck now on one in particular – that he’s trying to run the 1984 Walter Mondale presidency that we never got (not even close).
Anyone who was around then (I was) can recount for you the intellectual irritation of leftists back then – that THEY knew how to handle the world situation better than we knuckledraggers. They never got the chance to try – see the results of the 1984 presidential election. Many of them have nursed that grievance for a quarter-century – and Mr. Obama (as his contemporaneous writings make clear) is one of them. So they have dusted off their playbook from back then and are giving it a whirl – even though the world of 2009 and the world of 1984 are vastly different.
Back then, the problem wasn’t Soviet belligerence, aggression, and oppression. No, it was all our doing that the bear was cantankerous. You see, “Russia” had been invaded so many times, such as by Napoleon in 1812 and Hitler in 1941 – and we had to understand that “root cause” of the psychological trauma (what psycho-babble that all was!!). If we were nice to the bear, and would stop talking about things like “human rights” and “economic growth” and robustly defending our freedoms…. and instead started acting nice, and talking about acknowledging the bear’s past trauma, and grant it recognition of a “sphere of influence” over the empire it possessed (against the will of the subjects)…. well, then the bear would purr like a kitten, curl up beside the nice warm woodstove, and fall placidly asleep.
And, oh, in central America, all those burning communist power-grabbing squads certainly weren’t due to outside influence. They were uprisings against the awful (American-sponsored, of course) oligarchs! We should just get with the plan, acknowledge our past sins and required present penance, and turns our allies over to the communists as a offering.
Then, of course, we could next gut all military budgets…. and “invest” (sic) all that money in the reaching of the ultimate endpoint of human social evolution – the western European welfare state.
Does any of this sound familiar of late?
It’s almost bizarre to remember – particularly as events were to unfold just a few years later – that supposedly serious people believed these sorts of things. The loathing and snobbishness of the left back then is identical to that of today. And they were indeed aggrieved that despite their obvious correctness and intellectual superiority, they were laughed off the stage (49 states) in 1984.
Remember El Salvador? Well, with El Salvador no longer around to be given over to the communists, today apparently Honduras will serve as a contemporary substitute.
But perhaps the ultimate incarnation of leftist loathing of President Reagan centered around missile defense.
When President Reagan announced the Strategic Defense Initiative in a 1983 speech, the entire lefto-sphere went completely – hysterically – bananas.
The following years were filled with “study” after “study” – “proving” that it couldn’t work…. or that if it did work it would be expensive…. and even if it did work somehow we shouldn’t do it because it might offend the bear….
It was all very silly – and the silliness got stomped in November 1984 by 49 states to 1.
Since then, it’s never mattered to the rabid left whether or not missile defense could work and even be cost-effective – or that it could be more useful when arrayed against small-scale adversaries.
It was just OFFENSIVE to them back then – and for more than a quarter century they have seethed at every continuation and every success that anti-missile technology has scored.
So now we are seeing a reactionary obsession with running the Mondale presidency of the 1980s that never was.
o Defense is icky – cut military budgets and be “strong” in things non-military.
o No missile defense – it’s aesthetically offensive.
o Coddle our enemies and adversaries, and betray our friends and allies.
Of course, we regarded all this as settled history. Communism collapsed, the Iron Curtain crumbled, and the old evil empire opened up. And as some of us can testify based on a great deal of on-the-ground experience, those stranded inside the communist world absolutely loathed that system, were absolutely delighted to see it go, and have never wanted it back.
Today, all the old statues of that old rat Lenin are gone. Instead, statues and place names commemorate Ronald Reagan – and Pope John Paul II.
This was supposed to all be left in the past now. It’s bizarre to see this reactionary insistence on running Walter Mondale’s rejected (and ultimately demonstrably incorrect) worldview.
In my many long chats with my many eastern European friends (especially in Estonia – where, due to some coincidences, I actually know a fair number of people in governmental circles), I long ago noted how they regarded their memberships in organizations such as the EU and NATO as being important for symbolism as much as anything else – that in the now-cemented new-order, they were permanently linked to what had been the “free” part of Europe (via the EU) and also the United States (via NATO and other security arrangements).
Given my understanding of “old” European spinelessness – and the obvious reptilian impulses that were clearly made visible by the Chiracs and Schroeders – I cautioned them that they might be reading too much into the idea that they had “friends” in the EU now and were equals; that as “equals” they would be protected by an “all for one, one for all” standing out of Brussels.
My caution was that to the contrary, the reptiles in places like Paris, Berlin, and Brussels could see them less as equals and more as cattle – being available for “free,” they could be easily acquired but then perhaps traded back to the Russian sphere for considerations of various sorts. (The notion here is simple – if you can pick up something for nothing that might eventually have tangible “sales” value for you not too far down the road, why not?)
This scenario, sadly, appears to be kicking into motion, as the frightening condominium of Russia and Germany (an old source of endless trouble for eastern Europe – but now featuring a foolish Germany being increasingly Finlandized due its stupid insistence on throwing away nuclear energy, a gap that can only be battened with Russian natural gas) begins to gain traction.
Sadly, Mr. Obama now appears to be entering the same game – regarding our eastern European allies as mere trifles that can be handed back to the Russian Empire; in this case, the return seems to be nothing more than some sort of demented goodwill gesture.
One of my strange senses regarding a McCain presidency was that a key “victory” would be that another four years of containment and the Putin/Kremlin notion of a Russian revival (along the lines of Mr. Putin’s idol, Peter the Great) would collapse under the weight of Russia’s poverty, weakness, and demographic/social problems.
I had thought that an Obama presidency could be a magic elixir to revive Russian ambitions.
The problem inherent in those two sentences is something I’ve said in these pages already – that in my view, Putin et al. are becoming belligerent and expansion-minded not in spite of the domestic social problems – but because of them.
In their view, Russia’s social problems exist because Russia is weak – and that if Russia can be made strong and great again, Russia’s social problems will melt away.
As I’ve said before, the issue isn’t whether this view is correct or not – it’s a matter of what the Kremlin believes, since it will act on those beliefs.
At this point, that worldview inside the Kremlin seems to be gaining confirmation – that basically “It’s working!!” Russian belligerence is paying off, and Russia’s “containers” are conceding ground regarding Russia’s revival of its old tsarist “sphere of influence.”
I do not know how these will play out.
But I do know that the world is a much more dangerous and unstable place than it was even a week ago.