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[Music clip: From Haydn's Derbyshire Marches, organ version]
01 — Intro Radio Derb on the air once again, ladies and gentlemen. This is your genial host John Derbyshire with all the news of the hour.
First I must apologize for the technical problems that disfigured last week's broadcast. Heads have rolled, pink slips have been handed out, and I can assure you that this week's broadcast will be [strange garbled sounds] …
02 — Politics for ever. There's no discharge in the war, says one of Kipling's soldiers, and there is no respite in politics. I'm already reading news stories about political campaigns for 2010.
Here is one of them, quote: "Their majority of gubernatorial seats larger by one, Democrats are taking aim at key states in 2010, including California, Minnesota and Connecticut. Republicans, who successfully re-elected four incumbents on an election night of big GOP losses elsewhere, want to win back Kansas, Ohio and Pennsylvania, among others."
Did your heart sink as you heard that, gentle listener, as mine did when reading it? Weren't you looking forward to a break from politics, after all the obsessing of the past year and a half? Don't you sometimes get the feeling that politics is completely out of control, taking up far more space in citizens' minds than it really ought?
I can see what's in it for the pols — money, power, fame — that's not hard to understand. But what's in it for us? Beats me.
Well, here, just to soothe you, is a different quote, from historian Paul Johnson. He's writing about that great American president, and great conservative, Warren Gamaliel Harding. Sit back, relax, take a deep breath, and be ready for a pure fresh waft of real American air and good American horse sense. Quote from P.J.:
Harding won the election on his fifty-fifth birthday, which, characteristically, he celebrated by playing a round of golf. He did not believe that politics were very important or that people should get excited about them or allow them to penetrate too far into their everyday lives.
End quote. Now that's my kind of conservative. What time does the next train leave for 1920?
The accursed power which stands on Privilege
It's always good to remember Hilaire Belloc's lines at a time like this, when the air is filled with talk of "change." There will be change, of course, and most of it for the worse, in my opinion.
The next presidency is going to be a severely constrained one, though, with not much freedom for action on big things. With 13-digit deficits, boomer entitlements kicking in (and boomer income taxes drying up), and foreigners looking twice before they buy the sovereign bonds of a nation in deep financial doo-doo, our next president is going to have his work cut out just staying in the saddle. Grand new entitlements programs are not going to happen.
That rules out national health care. The next president's being a Democrat also rules out any real reduction in the outrageous cost of health care, since one of the biggest forces driving that cost is malpractice litigation, and no Democrat politician is going to tick off the Trial Lawyers Association, because TLA is the Dems' biggest donor group and most effective lobbyist.
So one thing you can be sure of: four years from now, medical costs will be eating a much bigger hole in your family budget than they are now. In fact, if you're an ordinary working person, you'll probably have joined the ranks of the uninsured, to line up at your hospital's emergency room behind all the illegal immigrants when medical disaster strikes.
04 — Change 2 — PC. What else will change? Well, you can look for a full-court press on Political Correctness and "diversity." Since they won't have any money to spend, our new administration will busy themselves with stuff that doesn't cost them anything.
That would include things like pumping up Title IX enforcement in colleges — demanding equal numbers of women in math and science departments, for example; re-imposing the fairness doctrine to shut down talk radio; a card-check bill forcing firms to recognize a union if a majority of workers want one; hate-crime laws extended to speech and internet postings; funding cutoffs for touchy areas of human genetics research; shoring-up of affirmative action programs everywhere; the extension of sanctuary cities policy to make us a sanctuary nation, with illegal immigrants officially declared a protected class; possibly a cabinet-level Secretary for Diversity.
Don't laugh, over in Britain they already have a Government Equalities Office headed by a cabinet-level Minister for Women and Equalities — I am not making this up.
The Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice will become a mighty force in the land, relentlessly hunting down violations of civil rights in thought, word, and deed. If you still have that Confederate flag decal on the bumper of your truck, or that other bumper sticker that says PRENSA DOS PARA BESA MI CULO, you better get scraping, pal, unless you want to see the inside of a federal pen.
05 — Change 3 — Abroad. In foreign policy, we'll be back in Warren Christopher, Cyrus Vance territory. The rule will be that we use our military as diversity enforcers, stepping in to stop gross violations of political correctness in lands less enlightened than our own.
If some tribe in some African country you never heard of starts taking machetes to some other tribe they accuse of stealing their goats; or if some old European nation objects to having to give up part of its historic territory to alien settlers — well, you can be sure the U.S. Marines will be there in no time to put a stop to it.
After the leathernecks have gotten through teaching everyone to sing "Kumbaya" and handing out copies of Dreams from My Father and Heather Has Two Mommies, they will climb back into the choppers glowing with pride and satisfaction at having brought light and hope into another patch of darkness. Mission accomplished!
How will our national interests be served by any of that? Good heavens, you're not still stuck in that stale old national-interest paradigm, are you? Liberalism doesn't concern itself with discredited concepts like that. We love the whole world, and if we just show them our fathomless goodness and virtue, they'll love us right back. Then there'll be no more war, hunger, or poverty. Don't you get it? [Clip: "We Are the World."]
You still don't get it? Guards! One here for the re-education camp. Don't forget to take your toothbrush.
06 — Eight wasted years. Meanwhile, let's look back on the George W. Bush presidency.
All right, all right, I supported the guy in 2000. He was running against Al Gore, for heavens' sake. And then in 2004 — what was I supposed to do?
Eight years of George W. Bush killed off my party loyalty, though. We have a decently healthy Conservative Party here in New York State, and I'm going to change my registration to it when I can face doing anything political again.
What's the point of being a Republican? You elect a Republican president for 8 years, give him a Republican congress for 6 of those years, and whaddya get? Two pointless wars, huge new entitlements, trillion-dollar deficits, ten million illegal immigrants, Harriet Miers, Sarbanes-Oxley, No Child Left Behind, a push to increase minority home ownership by debauching bank-lending standards, and Republican congresscritters staggering around the halls of congress under the weight of backpacks loaded up with lobbyist money.
If conservatives — and yes, I'm going to include myself here as not having been outspoken enough — if conservatives had divorced themselves from Bush after the 2006 elections, when it was clear how much the country hated him and his stupid policies, there might have been the chance of a better result this week. Why was Obama's talk about "change" so popular? Nobody wanted "change" in 1988, after Reagan. This year people were fed up with incompetence, mismanagement, and corruption, that's why.
Listen to a conservative friend of mine, old Washington DC veteran and National Review contributor Bruce Bartlett, quote:
These last eight years will eventually be viewed by conservatives as the greatest wasted opportunity in history — now eclipsing Eisenhower's first two years when there was an opportunity to repeal much of the New Deal, an opportunity that Eisenhower nixed. No wonder Republicans were thrown out in 1954. Why bother electing them if they are just going to maintain the status quo?
End quote. I'm not quite ready to declare conservatism stone dead in the U.S.A.; but it's in the intensive care facility, and George W. Bush put it there.
07 — Blackness. Meanwhile, our President-Elect. There is a great deal to say about the man, but I'm going to have four years to say it in, so let's just take it one bite-size piece at a time. Here, mainly just to get it out of the way, I'm going to pass some remarks on the fact of his being our first black President — specifically, on the role that Obama's blackness played in getting him elected.
The main thing to be said here is that being black was a big help to him. For sheer starting advantages in life, there is nothing in the world better than being a smart, self-disciplined black person in America today. Every company, every department of every university, every government office fron the federal to the municipal, every sports team, every labor union, every political party, is desperate, is frantic, to assert its "diversity" credentials.
Political parties especially. While Obama was running for the U.S. Senate in 2004, he was invited to speak at the Democratic National Convention. That's what put Obama on the national stage. Now, what are the chances for an undistinguished state legislator from a middling state — no offense there to the good people of Illinois — who is running for the U.S. Senate, being asked to speak at a presidential convention?
I don't think I'm being controversial if I say that for a black person, the chances are very good; for a white woman, much less good, and for a white man, close to zero.
I'm not passing any judgment here, that's just the way things are. Not just for Democrats, either: the thing I just said would in fact be even truer at a GOP convention.
Let's face it, we are a race-obsessed nation. In the past, black Americans who were smart and capable were held back because of their race. Now, having recognized the injustice of that, we seek out capable black Americans and give them every possible assist. By acting like this we suppose that we are asserting our nation's ideals of justice, equality, human dignity, and individual worth. The supposition is mistaken in my opinion. Those ideals would be better asserted by treating everyone the same, without preference.
I also think there is dishonesty in our actions. By practicing this kind of favoritism, white Americans get the gift of cheap grace. That is, we get ourselves a license to avoid thinking about the really tricky race issues, like black criminality and academic achievement gaps.
Here's a statistic from the DoJ website: Of black males in the U.S.A., one in 22 was in federal or state prisons at the end of June '07; for white males, it was one in 130.
The "official" reason for that six-to-one disparity is "racism." But, excuse me, we just elected a black President. Yet we're still so racist we incarcerate black men at six times the rate of white men?
But hey, why think about this difficult stuff? It makes our heads hurt. It makes us feel uncomfortable, and anyway no-one has a clue what to do about it, so what's the point? Voting a black guy into political office is so much easier! You just have to pull a lever! Cheap grace, you see?
There is no denying the U.S.A. has made great progress in the matter of race, as President Elect Obama illustrates. For all the favoritism, we are closer to being a meritocracy now than we were a hundred years ago.
In the matter of honesty about race, though, I don't think we have much to boast about. It may even be that we have bought our progress at the cost of some honesty. I dunno, ask your grandpa.
08 — First Family. Along with a new President-Elect, we have a new First Family.
I'm treading on eggshells here, having once written a satirical piece about Chelsea Clinton — though the lady was twenty years old at the time, and her Dad was out of office. I promise you I will have nothing to say about the Obama girls, at least not until they have reached majority and their Dad's out of office. They look like very nice kids, and I wish them joy of the great adventure they are about to have.
To Michelle Obama, something similar. Look, nobody runs for the office of First Lady. It's just something that happens to you, like lower back pain, or being caught drunk on your front lawn by Google Street View.
From what we've heard so far, and with due allowance for it all having been carefully filtered by the handlers, Michelle's going to stick to basic First Lady duties — making mild speeches on family issues, hosting state dinners, running the Easter Egg Roll, all that good stuff. My guess is she'll be pretty good at it — better than Hillary Clinton was, anyway; and who knows? perhaps after a couple of years in the world's best government housing, driving around in motorcades, and dishing the dirt with folk like Carla Bruni, the thought will occur to Michelle that perhaps she's not any kind of victim, after all.
I wish her well, anyway, with just, if I may, one small note of negativity: That dress you wore to the acceptance speech, Michelle? There's a proper place for everything in this universe, and the proper place for that dress is a place called The Thrift Store.
Finally, the First Dog. Barack Obama told us he's going to get a pooch for the kids when they move into the White House. If he won't mind me offering a recommendation, our Jack Russell terrier has worked out just fine — with us four months now, and seems perfectly satisfied with us, once he'd won the fight over sofa privileges.
So I'd say go for a Jack Russell, and don't worry too much about their bladder control issues. Heck, it's government property. You could hold on to that dress and use it for mopping up.
09 — Miscellany. A miscellany of short items.
Item: What else? Sorry to say goodbye to Sarah Palin, at least until 2012. Anyone the intellectuals, both right and left, hated as much as they hated Sarah, must have something going for them.
Having just unmasked myself as an admirer of Warren Harding, I guess my taste in Presidents is a bit eccentric, but I think Sarah will make a fine one, and I look forward to having the chance to vote for her again.
Item: The antimatter equivalent of Governor Palin is the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, who has been let out of the sealed bunker they've been keeping him in this past seven months so that he can prepare to give the blessing at the Inauguration in January.
He's going to need a little coaching to get rid of some of his mannerisms. I mean, it would be a little embarrassing if he reverted to type and called down the Lord's blessings on the new president of AmeriK-K-Ka, wouldn't it? And imagine how embarrassed the new President would be — gosh, he never heard the Rev say anything like that before in all the 20 years he sat in Wright's pews.
Item: Still on the clerical beat: Down in Atlanta, Georgia, the Roman Catholic Archbishop of that see, a chap named Wilton Gregory has urged his church — technically, I guess, the Holy Spirit — to elect a black pope next time the opportunity arises.
I'm fine with it. I'd be fine with a black Archbishop of Canterbury, a black Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, and a black Dalai Lama too, though I think we might run into some snags getting a black Chief Rabbi.
Item: America's least funny man, Al Franken, seems to have lost his election to the U.S. Senate from Minnesota, though they're going into recounts, Al's throwing temper tantrums, and I suppose anything might yet happen — anything except this bilious bully making me laugh. That's never going to happen, not unless the loudmouth oaf falls into a concrete mixer.
Item: Room for just one teeny non-election item: In the land of my birth, the new fashion in political correctness is for municipal governments to ban the use of Latin expressions like "vice versa," "pro rata," and "quid pro quo." This gives me an excuse to tell a lawyer joke.
Back in the days of British rule in Ireland, a circuit court was sitting in a remote country district there. At a certain point in one case, the presiding judge brushed the snuff from his surtout, leaned over his bench, and said to the defendant's council: "Mr. O'Shaughnessy, has your client never heard the expression sic utere tuo ut alienum non laedas?"
Counsel turned to the bench, pulled himself up to his full height, gripped his lapels, and replied: "M'Lud, in the remote fishing village in County Kilkenny where my client lives, they speak of little else."
10 — Signoff. Well, there we are, folks. We've got ourselves a new President. He's not one I would have chosen; but the way it works is, we only get one President at a time, so let's reconcile ourselves to this one, and do what we can to help the Republic survive another four years.
That's going to mean opposing everything Obama stands for, and repeatedly pointing out that everything he believes is false. That'll be our job, here on the right side of the blogosphere.
In the spirit of the late Bill Buckley, though, we'll be doing it in a thoughtful and charitable manner, with a dash of humor and the stirring example of the great Warren Harding always at the front of our minds. It's only politics, for crying out loud. For the sake of the country, at least, I wish our new President well.
[Music clip: More Haydn.]