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Victor Davis Hanson on American domestic and foreign policy, 14 months into Obama

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HH: Third hour is a conversation with Victor Davis Hanson, notable historian, classicist. You can read all of Victor’s work at And occasionally, he publishes over at Professor Hanson, welcome back, good to talk to you.

VDH: Thank you for having me again, Hugh.

HH: About a year ago, before President Obama took office, we talked about the campaign and what was ahead, and you warned that hubris would bring him down. What do you think about that warning fourteen months later?

VDH: Well, I think it’s pretty accurate, but it wasn’t original. It’s something that’s been with us for 2,500 years. The Greeks said that arrogance brings, and hubris brings nemesis, and that’s what’s happened. Just a year ago, you remember people were fainting at the inauguration, and we were told that he was some god by a Newsweek editor, and that he had a supermajority in the Congress. And we’ve got to remember one thing, Hugh, that this implosion of Obama down below 50% was not the result of some right wing conspiracy. It was his own people in his party could not get his legislation through, because they felt they had gone out on a limb, and they were going to be sawed off in the upcoming November election. And that was because the people did not want state run health care. They didn’t want cap and trade. They don’t want comprehensive immigration reform. They don’t want any more deficits, bailouts, et cetera. And that’s the difference.

HH: Do you think that the president is evidencing any awareness of the mood in the country, or any understanding or wisdom concerning what has happened in the last fourteen months?

VDH: Yeah, I do, but I think that he’s misinterpreted it. I think he’s aware that, obviously he’s aware that he’s below 50% and there’s a real anger out there. And more importantly than being below 50%, he keeps going down. And as you see from those charts in the polls, it’s progressive and insidious. And I think, but he’s reacting to it much differently than Bill Clinton. Bill Clinton just basically sat down with Dick Morris in 1994 in December, and said what do I have to do to get reelected and become a centrist politician? And suddenly, we had welfare reform, we had school uniforms, we went after Milosevic, et cetera. But I think Obama’s, what he’s basically saying is what lip service do I have to say to convince the Americans that I’m a centrist? So I’m going to flip on Wall Street fat cat bankers, I’m going to flip on nuclear power. I’m going to have renditions and tribunals. I’ll keep killing people through Predators. But on the substantive issues of whether we want to be an open market, free market society or a statist-run, I don’t think he’s changed at all. I think he thinks he can ‘always hope and change’ and finesse it, and not have to give up this hard core statist ideology. So I think he’s much more like Jimmy Carter than Bill Clinton.

HH: I want to go back in this year of review show, and ask you specifically about each of these policies. But I want to begin with what you think America is right now. Is it the same as it was in 2007? Is it different after the panic? Is it different from before 9/11? Or is it the same basic country?

VDH: I think the danger has passed. I think, I was very worried, because we had a perfect storm in late 2008. We had the first African-American, charismatic, serious presidential contender, made people feel good for a variety of reasons, we had the financial meltdown in September, 2008, we had a lackluster McCain campaign, we were tired of eight years of Republicans, we had a culture of corruption in 2006 mid-term elections. So we had all of that, and then Obama came in and misinterpreted, or deliberately interpreted that as a referendum on a statist, hard-core, leftist agenda. And then the media, the academics, the liberal community in Hollywood, all of them got energized and said you know what? This is the messiah. He can carry this agenda through in a way that nobody else could. We know the American people don’t want it, but his personal magnetism is such, and the planets have lined up, we’ve finally got it. And I was really worried a year ago. I thought that he would be arrogant and he would implode, but I couldn’t be sure of that. But now, when you start to see what’s happening in Greece and Spain and Portugal, and you start to see the reaction of the Iranians, and you start to see Chavez and Putin, and we have a perfect storm, and it’s basically telling us human nature is constant across the centuries. And this therapeutic, unnatural approach to the economy and foreign policy is not working. The people know it’s not working, and we’re in a holding pattern right now.

HH: Now I want to go back to something you said at the very beginning. I don’t want it to be misunderstood by people who will cut and paste our transcript, Victor, which is you said he’s an African-American. I think you were saying, and that was a good thing, and the Americans were excited about that.

VDH: Absolutely. Absolutely. Everybody felt that the election of an African-American centrist president, who had transcended race as he promised, made us all feel good not only about the country, but about our own liberality. And I think that was a good thing. And that helped Obama’s candidacy. We had been told there was going to be residual racism that would hurt him, but in fact, if race was a factor, it worked in favor of Obama. And I think everybody felt good about that.

HH: Now do you believe that there will be, as his numbers continue to crumble as the political backlash continues to form and gather strength, that there will be arguments advanced by respectable sources, not fringe sources, that this is because of this race as opposed to his policies?

VDH: Yeah, I do. We’ve already seen that a little bit, the exegesis explaining what happened. Remember that just a year ago, the American people were redefined as intelligent, aware, sensitive, tired of the right wing agenda, the Congress now was functioning, we had supermajorities, government was back in capable hands. And then suddenly, almost exactly in direct proportion to the fall in the polls, we’ve heard the mainstream narrative that the American people are gullible, they’ve been fooled, the Bill Mahers’ ‘they’re stupid’, that Congress doesn’t work, there’s functional, systematic corruption, Evan Bayh’s critique. We’ve been told the filibuster’s archaic. All of that, and that’s having no traction. And that’s the first explanation on the part of the left why this agenda did not take root. And the second way, but a second generation I’m sure is going to be well, there’s an insidious, unspoken racism that is hurting Obama. And the problem with that is just as you’re seeing the reaction to this left wing critique, it doesn’t work. If you call the American people gullible and stupid, and you call their beautiful Constitution inadequate, that’s not going to appeal to people. And if you call them racially insensitive, that’s going to be even worse. And the only real explanation is that Obama can succeed with a center-moderate position in a way that many Democrats, including Harry Truman has succeeded, or he can go the Jimmy Carter-George McGovern route, and that’s not going to work.

HH: I’m talking with Victor Davis Hanson, classicist, historian. His website is Professor, you and I have both seen the left on display in faculty meetings. We’ve seen them on display in the cable channels. We’ve seen them, we’ve read their books. You and I both know about the left. Is this surprising to you how the left is reacting to rejection? They’re angry, they’re projecting their anger, they’re projecting their intellectual insecurity?

VDH: No, it’s not, you see, because all of the great philosophers, back to Aristotle and Plato, have understood that there is this communitarian statist idea that the, I guess we could say the means are justified by the noble ends. So their end is an equality by result, a paternity, a goodness, as they see it. They’re the anointed people. So they can lash out, they can get angry, they can say that, they can write novels with Bush, as we saw with the Alfred Knopf novel that he’s a Nazi, we can have the Toronto Film Festival portraying the assassination of George Bush. We can have brown shirt jokes about George Bush. But if anybody were to do that with Obama or anybody on the left, and that’s taboo, you see, because their aims are so much more noble, because they’re for brotherhood rather than the individual, and for selfishness. And once you go down that way of thinking, you can rationalize almost any tactic, or almost any methodology, because it’s in pursuit of something glorious and noble. Whereas the conservative position is well, let’s have liberty and freedom, and that’s sort of socialist, so you know, we have to stop that by any means necessary. I think that’s pretty much true over the ages.

HH: Is the left aware of, in your opinion, of what they are doing and how they sound, and most importantly, how they appear to sort of ordinary, apolitical people, or to conservatives, Victor Hanson?

VDH: Yeah, I think so. I think that they are aware of that, but they also believe that because most people in Hollywood that are in drama, who write in the academic world, and the foundations and journalism and the media, their stock and trade is words, and written and spoken. They’re not people who gravitate by character or by inclination to mining, oil production or farming business. So they feel that they can always present an argument in such an effective, rhetorical manner that the people will buy it, no matter what they say. I mean, when I start reading these columns by New York Times and Washington Post columnists, the filibuster is archaic, and I just, my first reaction is that 2004, people were praising the filibuster to the skies. Doesn’t anybody see this? And the answer, of course, is I think the people who are writing this think well, I can make such a nuanced, clever argument of something that is preposterous, that people will buy it.

– – – –

HH: Professor, I want to play for you and the audience Bill Maher from a couple of nights ago on Larry King Live. Here is the unfunny one.

BM: Democrats never understand is that Americans don’t really care what position you take. Just stick with one. Just be strong. They’re not bright enough to really understand the issues. But like an animal, they can sort of sense strength or weakness. They can smell it on you. So when you back off a situation like that, you just look weak.

HH: Now Victor Hanson, I believe it’s possible to refer to some people as not bright, and perhaps even a few people as animalistic. But to make a sweeping generalization like that, what’s it reveal to you about Bill Maher?

VDH: Well, there’s an irony there for two reasons. One is, who made that argument in almost the exact same terms, only with different vocabulary? It was bin Laden when he said people are always attracted to the strong horse rather than the weak horse. He wasn’t talking about the glories of Islam. He just said if we are strong, people will gravitate to it. It’s this old Hitlerian argument that people are stupid, they have no ideology, really, they just want, are attracted to a winner. So that was sort of surprising from a man on the left who professes brotherhood and egalitarianism, et cetera. And the other thing is that he does reflect, though, a certain sincerity that people around this administration, they are drawing people from an Ivy League technocracy. And they really do believe in sort of, that they are Platonic guardians, they’re so much smarter than everybody else. I mean, think about it. The rules are not supposed to apply to them. Timothy Geithner doesn’t really believe that he’s given money to pay his FICA taxes, that he should have to pay them. Charles Rangel doesn’t believe that even though he’s the nation’s top lawmaker as far as taxation policy, he doesn’t really believe he has to meet those requirements himself. And that’s an old mindset that certain highly educated, very astute people know what’s best for us. And just think about, every debate, there’s been an element of that in the President himself, that he said you may not like health care, but once it comes down, I can assure you that you’ll come to appreciate it. And most of these arguments about cap and trade that the, think about that, that most of the arguments the scientists are promoting, that it’s sort of, this is esoteric research. You may think that it’s snowing, you may think it’s cold, but let us assure you that you really don’t know what you’re talking about. Same thing on the economy. Europe looks like it’s melting down, but we know what is best for you. We know what’s best on cars, we know what’s best on taxes. And the whole presumption of this administration is sort of what, much more refined and sophisticated manner than the crudity of Bill Maher, is that we are Platonic guardians, and we know best, and we are exempt from the everyday laws and regulations that you lesser people have to function on.

HH: And I wonder if you agree that the Tea Party movement is really a manifestation of anger with arrogance of elites. For example, I was in the Central Valley, which is your stomping grounds. I was up in Fresno a few months ago where the water has been cut off because of an argument that the Delta Smelt is suffering in the pumps, and that the salmon is suffering in the pumps. And most of the farmers who live very close to the earth and produce real jobs and real product just think this is insane. And they intuit that it’s just stupid and crazy environmentalist extremism. And they’re angry. And I have been thinking since that trip, that’s really what’s driving the Tea Parties. It’s not anger at a particular person or the president, but at elitism and obvious disconnect.

VDH: Absolutely. It’s an anger at a particular government-media-academic elite who feels that A) they’re not subject to the same worries and constraints as the average person, and we see it manifested with pensioners, for example, state employees that make 30-40% more than the private sector, and they’re entitled to even more generous pensions. And there’s something else to it, the people, and in connection to the Delta Smelt, who is promoting the idea that you have to idle a million acres so that a particular miniscule fish might have fresh water, might have greater longevity? It’s usually people who are either academics who are tenured, or state employees for state bureaucracies that don’t worry about being laid off. And so you have sort of an existential fight between farmers and farm workers who never know where their next paycheck is coming. They either succeed or fail on the degree of their own muscular strength, canniness, astuteness, chance, luck versus an entrenched bureaucracy that always depends on the wealth creators to give them a salary. And it’s just classic that we have people who finesse and regulate and talk versus people who produce.

HH: Were you surprised, and I don’t know why this came to mind except that it evidences distance between that gap you’re talking about. When the President at the National Day of Prayer mispronounced corpsman not once, not twice but three times, and says corpseman instead, kind of a fundamental error…

VDH: Yeah, I mean, I’m not one to say gotcha with things, but the problem with Obama when he says corpseman, or when he says cinco de Quattro, or when he thinks Austrian speaker are two things, the first is that he shows you that he doesn’t really use, he doesn’t really know much about Austria. He really doesn’t say Cinco De Mayo. He really doesn’t refer to corpsman in the military very often. And second, it really shows you that this whole left wing narrative about what constitutes wisdom is really flawed that we heard. All of these arguments, had they been used against Sarah Palin would have made her a dunce, and they did. It was very unfairly used. But because he has a certificate from Harvard Law School, and from Columbia, where we’re supposed to assume that means wisdom and it doesn’t, you can see very clearly that Obama, for all of his natural brilliance and rhetorical skills, was not broadly educated. And you see that when he mentions the Holocaust and Auschwitz and his grandfather references World War II. He doesn’t really have a broad grasp of world history. He doesn’t have a broad grasp of geography. He doesn’t have a broad grasp of the way that Europe interacts with the other world. He doesn’t have a broad grasp of the history of the United States. And yet that seems so odd to most people, because he’s from Harvard and Columbia. If anybody’s been inside elite academia knows, though, that would be expected given the radical changes in the curriculum over the last thirty years.

HH: And do you think it’s just the piece of paper that is asbestos to this? Because if Sarah Palin had made the similar mistake, if she had said corpseman once, once on a major stage, it would have been in an endless loop on our, she would have been…

VDH: You know, you’re absolutely right. Dianne Feinstein can be in a debate where the years a few years ago clearly stated do not bring any written materials, and she writes on her hand, and everybody laughed about it. Sarah Palin’s just simply in an informal talk and interview, and she does that, and they go hysterical. But with Palin, of course, the other problem is that she is a very attractive, conservative woman with children, happily married to a 19th Century type of husband, very conservative, has a Midwestern twang to her, and she pushes every button among a D.C.-New York privileged elite. And the hypocrisy is just overwhelming, because this woman didn’t have anything going for her. I mean, my God, she came from a lower middle class, middle class, she was out in Wasilla, Alaska. By sheer grit, she came into national prominence. But all of the people who are criticizing her, the columnists, the anchorwomen, if you start to do their own pedigrees and family trees, you see they either married into or they were born into money and influence. And so they’re, she’s the true egalitarian, and they’re the elitists. And yet because they are people of the left, they feel de facto they must be liberal.

– – – –

HH: Professor, today, two things happened. One, a lone airman flew his plane into the IRS building in Austin, Texas. I’ve now read his manifesto, his suicide note. He denounces Patrick Moynihan, he denounced George W. Bush, he denounces the insurance companies and big medicine and big PhRMA, and just about everyone else. I will draw no conclusions from this about who he is or what he was, because it’s not a political agenda like Hasan’s agenda was when he cried Allah akbar and gunned down American military. But what do you think these things tell us, if anything, and ought we to ever read manifestos like this for signs of a particular ideological bent?

VDH: I really don’t, because it seems to me Miss Bishop, the professor who killed people, seems to be infatuated with Obama, and she seems to have been sort of a Harvard elite that was angry over various things. I don’t like to channel these things into larger political statements. I mean, there’s people who are unstable, and for all different reasons, they try to find cosmic relevance by attaching their own miserable conditions to some cosmic cause. But I think if we get into it, and I think the left does quite a lot, then I think it’s a mistake. People can be mad at the IRS. You’re mad at the IRS on occasion, I’m mad at the IRS. But people who are seriously unhinged do what he did. And I think de facto, they say well, the IRS did it.

HH: Well, I guarantee you that Arianna Huffington read this manifesto looking for a reference to Glenn Beck, because she’s been pedaling this theory that the paranoid, you know, the Hofstetter theory, that there’s a paranoid side to American politics, and Glenn Beck is feeding it. And I debated her about that on CNN a couple of weeks ago. It’s just a silly thing to make…

VDH: No, absolutely. They did this with Rush Limbaugh, you remember, in the Oklahoma City bombing.

HH: Yes.

VDH: And Clinton himself tried to make the parallel. And I was talking to a person not long ago who was telling me all about the right wing history of assassinations, and I tried to politely explain that Lee Harvey Oswald was a leftist, and Sirhan Sirhan was a leftist, and there was as many leftists and right wing people, and there was no significance in one’s political beliefs. But this is something the left has a certain narrative that there’s all these unstable, armed people who have to be watched.

HH: Well, the left has a narrative, because the left has a megaphone in the MSM. And I think it’s…how do you gauge the MSM’s allegiance to Team Obama a year in, Victor Davis Hanson? As strong as it was?

VDH: Well, it is true that obviously, in their way of thinking, these are people who live between, most of the part, from New York, Washington, D.C., they’re highly educated, they’re mostly affluent in their way of noblesse oblige. They feel that first of all, that most of the propositions, most of the changes, most of the transformations that they embrace won’t apply to themselves. They always have a way to get their kids into an elite school, they always have enough money not to be hurt by a tax increase, they always have somebody that can see a nephew or an uncle or cousin, so they’re not really subject to the rules of affirmative action. But that said, and they’re left wing, but ultimately, they don’t have any ideology, and that’s what Obama failed to appreciate. He felt that because they idealized him, and indeed they deified him, he felt that they were in, he treated them with contempt. As, remember, Anita Dunn said, that they took them for granted and tried to mislead them. But the mainstream media, this is the same mainstream media when the Taliban fell in six weeks, you had people like Andrew Sullivan suggesting that I think Bush might be Nobel Prize material. So I could, we could spend all day today just talking about all the mainstream pundits that praised Bush to the skies. When the statue fell, they thought it was wonderful. And then they turned on him. And that’s the same thing…Obama, although he has greater support for the reasons we just talked about, he’s not immune from that law. The mainstream media has no ideology, ultimately, except its own survival. And when he gets down to 40% approval, and I think that’s very possible, you will see all sorts of columns written that he blew it, that he wasn’t up to the job, that he let people down, and in the same way that people turned on Bush after the insurgency in Iraq.

HH: Yeah, I don’t know if you’ve seen it yet, but I saw last night The Most Dangerous Man In America, which is a documentary about Daniel Ellsberg. And it is hilarious, actually, the vanity of the left, about what they did and why they acted in their high principles. Do you think that vanity of the left is going to be obliged to eat away at Obama? I think that’s what you just said.

VDH: Yeah, I think so. I think that people are going to be severely disappointed, they’re going to say that you know what? He wasn’t up to it. They’re not going to, they’re neer going to say it was us, us, we in the hyper left, the liberal, the hard, liberal left who have a particular agenda that most Americans being Americans, and being exceptional and not like Europeans and most other people in the world, just don’t like it. It’s antithetical to our traditions. It’s antithetical to our national character, our constitution. We don’t want state-run anything or collectivism. And they have never gotten that message, and they thought that this man was the messiah, the avatar that would bring it all in, and then he failed to do it. And they’re going to blame him rather than the message, because if they blame the message, they may have to look in the mirror and say you know what? We have something people don’t want. And they’re not mature enough to admit that.

– – – –

HH: Victor Hanson, in terms of looking abroad today, the International Atomic Energy Agency announced shockingly that there’s gambling going on inside of Iran. It was like right out of Casablanca, and they’ve said there’s a warhead underway in the new IAEA. We ought to go strip the Nobel Prize from Baradi as a result of his misleading us all these years. But will the world respond? Do you think anything will change?

VDH: I don’t think so. I think that any sane person knows that for about the last eight years, the Iranians have been trying to get a bomb, and they’re going to get a bomb unless somebody stops them. The Russians, the Chinese are amused by this, because they feel it always will be pointed Westward at us and our allies, and will cause us problems, won’t be pointed at them. They also feel that the Iranians, look at Pakistan and see the increased stature that it won. It’s a win-win situation. Our point of view is that there’s no India to deter it in the case of Pakistan. It’s an illiberal regime, and it may be messianic and want to use it in a suicidal, Armageddon fashion. So it’s intolerable. But that was always the issue. 2006 National Intelligence Estimate, we know was politicized and flawed. We know the whole Obama narrative that George Bush polarized the Iranians, even though we’ve been trying to talk to them and have diplomatic outreach under bipartisan Congresses and presidents for twenty years, but that narrative was that he was so charismatic, and his name would resonate, and his background would wow these guys, and we were finally…that has completely failed. The gambit of trying to have, sell out the Poles and the Czechs on anti-ballistic missile systems, so that Russia would appreciate that and help, that has failed. And we’re left with what we always were left with, and that is we have a bad choice of stopping them, and a worse choice of letting them get it. And I don’t think this government and this president is up to the bad choice.

HH: Victor Hanson, when the appeasers of the 30s attempted to make nice with Hitler, their response to his continued rejection and additional aggressiveness was to double down on the niceness, and double down on the cravenness. Do you expect the same out of Team Obama?

VDH: Yeah, absolutely. But there was one other element. Remember that the appeaser always does, because in the short term, he’s always the humanitarian, the person who believes in deterrence. And toughness is always the monster who wants blood. They turned on Churchill, they said he wanted to bring back Verdun and the Somme, he wanted to bring back the massacring of the trenches, that’s what would happen. And here, Churchill was trying to make the sane argument, you know what? That’s the only thing that will stop another Somme, is to stop Hitler before he becomes powerful. So they’re going to start evoking the neocons, and all these rabble-rousers who want violence. And it’s tragic, because we know where this all leads. This leads in about a year or two to an Iranian bomb, and then we’re going to hear serial threats that they are crazy, that they are the real inheritors of Islam, that the Persian Shia will overshadow the Arab Sunnis. They want to go to Paradise, and they understand that lunacy in the game of nuclear poker is an advantage, and they’re going to profess this, and we’re never going to be 99.9% sure they’re not going to use it. And we can talk about classical deterrence, and that they can be deterred, but I don’t think so. I think this is a very new type of regime, much more capable than North Korea, much more strategically located, and that we have no good choices. We never did. But we have a choice right now, if we want to galvanize the world. But why would the Europeans want to join us in sanctions when Obama’s basically told them, undercut them as Sarkozy pointed out in New York? They don’t want to be undercut again. They feel if we take, cut off trade during a recession, if we line up with the United States, this guy might cut a private deal with them, or go over to Tehran. So they don’t trust us anymore. And the Russians don’t fear us, the Chinese don’t fear us. So I don’t see any global cooperation on stopping gas importation or blockades or embargoes. I really don’t.

HH: Have you had a chance to read, yet, Lee Smith’s new book, The Strong Horse?

VDH: Yes, I have.

HH: What do you think of his assessment that these regimes, this Arab character, this world in which we live, is inevitable that we are where we are, and we’ve got to stop fooling ourselves about the nature of this conflict?

VDH: Yeah, I agree. I think that what he’s getting at is there is this humanitarian, liberal, utopian motive that we all have within us that’s noble, that we think that we can appeal to the better angels in everybody’s nature. And the enlightenment teaches us with more education, more money, people will be rational. But that’s not the way human nature over 2,500 has worked, unfortunately. And so this idea that Ahmadinejad is no different than the law school dean that Obama has dealt with, or that he’s a Columbia professor, it’s just absurd. This is a thug who’s the kind of guy on the street what walks up to you and takes your lunch money when you’re a kid, unless you fight back.

HH: Lee Smith will be my guest a week from today as we talk about his very important book, The Strong Horse. But let me go back and ask a couple more things. What do you think Cheney is doing? The former Vice President is serially engaged with the administration via the Sunday talk shows. He made an appearance today at CPAC, obviously, where he said Obama will be a one-term president. What do you think he’s doing? Does he see himself as Churchill?

VDH: Yeah, I think he’s got two aims or motivations. I think one is that he understands that he has no more political objective. His career is distinguished, it’s over in the political sense, and he can go into the arena and take the fray in a way that former President Bush cannot, or members of Congress cannot, or people in the media are not quite suited for. So he’s an elder statesman, and it doesn’t really matter what people say about him. He wants to get that argument made. And the second is I think there’s an emotional response. I think that for a variety of reasons, he felt that when he was vice president, he should not speak out, or he did not want to speak out. And he understood now in retrospect that between 2006 and 2008, he was absolutely demonized, the administration was demonized, and they’re all the things that Obama embraced – tribunals, Predators, renditions, intercepts, wiretaps, the status of force agreement in Iraq. Obama and people like him had demonized when it was really critical not to do that, and he’s angry about that. He’s thinking wait a minute, you ran on all of these things as shredding the Constitution. Then you got elected, and you flipped right around and you embraced them all. And you’re guilty of abject hypocrisy. And he’s trying to make a variety of arguments, and it’s based on, I think, you know, logic and also emotion.

– – – –

HH: Professor Hanson, I said it before I went to break. Does the GOP mount an effective opposition, in your view? Are they going to blow this? Can they maintain this momentum? Is the country simply not going to listen to Obama? What do you think is ahead?

VDH: I think it depends on how well they embrace the spirit of the Tea Parties, and how well they’re able to monitor themselves. The reason Obama is in there is because of Jack Abramoff, Duke Cunningham, Mark Foley, Larry Craig, Tom Delay. In other words, classic conservatives have to have a higher bar of behavior, and they didn’t meet that standard. And the second is that a liberal, we expect to have deficits. So Obama, $2 trillion doesn’t surprise anybody. But we have no margin of error with conservatives, so when Bush was running $160 or $200 billion, that was a felony for a conservative. And so this new Tea Party movement, and the Republican renaissance, it’s not going to go anywhere unless there’s some kind of updated compact with America. And that contract with America, it’s got to be something like we’re not going to talk about deficits in terms of GDP. We’re going to talk about balanced budgets in real dollars. And we’re going to not just balance the budget, we’re going to create surpluses and pay down this debt for our children. We’re going to have zero tolerance for Congressional corruption, and when we’re going to get in wars, we’re going to win them. We’re not going to go into Fallujah then pull back, and then go back again, things like that. I think they really need to enunciate that, and delineate it, and put it in writing. And then, people will trust them again. But after 2005 and 2004, there was no difference in the behavior of the Republican Congress as far as personal ethics than the Democratic Congress. They were spending for prescription drugs, No Child Left Behind, all of those things were not conducive to a conservative movement.

HH: So they must actually be virtuous?

VDH: They have to be virtuous, and they have to say that conservatism means traditional values. But it also means that we are immune from the enticements and the corruption in Washington. And that will get these people who are in the Tea Party to join them. But if they go back to wow, we’re the in party now, it’s not going to work.

HH: Do you really believe that the Tea Party is about a demand for a virtue? I think there’s a lot to this.

VDH: Yeah, I do. I really do. I think that a lot of these people maybe a bit, sometimes it’s poorly expressed, but it’s a cry of the heart, and they’re angry about the sin, if I could use that term, of taking money you don’t have and spreading it around to people, and then taking it from other people who are careful and productive, and giving it to some people who are not.

HH: 30 seconds, Victor. It’s not about being Christian sin or…

VDH: No.

HH: It’s about the civic religion.

VDH: It’s classical virtue. It’s classical virtue. It’s not specific to any particular religion, but it’s common sense natural law, if you will, that we don’t spend things we don’t have. We don’t speak, we don’t say A is something when we know B is true, just because we can get away with it. We want the media to be honest. We don’t believe the New York Times anymore. It’s a very holistic movement, and you’re right. It’s about classical, middle class values, and it’s aimed at elites.

HH: And it’s powerful. Victor Hanson, a great pleasure as always,

End of interview.


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Friends and Allies of Rome