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Victor Davis Hanson on the growing anger at Democrats on the national and state level

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

HH: Joined now by Victor Davis Hanson, eminent classicist, historian and welcome guest on the Hugh Hewitt Show. You can read all of Victor’s pieces at Professor Hanson, welcome back, always a pleasure to have you.

VDH: Thank you for having me, Hugh.

HH: What do you make of the unraveling of the government plan/private option that President Obama has been selling as the centerpiece of his health care?

VDH: Well, he didn’t know what it was himself, and he wasn’t able to articulate it in a concise manner. And most people felt that it had just as much to do with growing government and creating permanent constituencies who dole out entitlements and who receive them than it did with health care. And there was 70 or 80 Congressmen that simply went to him and said we can’t run on this, not with cap and trade, and $2 trillion dollar deficits, and all the other stuff. So we’re not going to vote for it. And that’s what happened to him, I guess.

HH: What is the significance of what appears to be a defeat, and we’ll come back and talk about the appearance versus the reality of a defeat in a second…

VDH: Yeah, I think two things. I think that all of his proposals are not what he outlined in the campaign, so that the public support for cap and trade is very little, the public wants to drill off-shore, they want to explore energy, they don’t want deficits, they don’t want higher taxes, they don’t want socialized medicine, they don’t want these serial apologies, they do like to be close to Israel and Britain. And they’re negative on all of those, the poll ratings, and yet his poll rating had been up to 60-65%, so that was okay. And now when he gets down to 50-48%, then all of those issues that he’s trying to force down the gullet of the American people, it’s not going to happen. And he’s faced with a 1994 moment. He can either be like Bill Clinton and triangulate, and flip and save his presidency, or he can go the Jimmy Carter route, and he’ll implode like Carter did. It’s up to him now.

HH: What do you make of a couple of things, other controversies? It’s been such a bad week for the White House. They had to take down the hey, report your neighbor and the fishy stuff they’re spreading website, and now David Axelrod was sending out spam from the White House that have got people upset, and some people questioning the legality of that.

VDH: Yeah, you know, I think it’s part of the larger part where these radical egalitarians are just so convinced that their utopian ends are so humane that the means to get there are excusable. So we have these Orwellian things that we’re going to…anybody who’s supposedly fishy we’re going to keep tabs on them, we change the names of terrorism and the war on terror, we all of a sudden tribunals and renditions are good when they used to be shredding the Constitution, Guantanamo’s no longer a stalag, Iraq is off the front pages. I think the American people are starting to think you know what, this is a little creepy that the media is calling him a god, and we don’t like all of this. We don’t like this at all, this idea that they don’t have to play by the rules because they think that they are so humane, that it’s very Orwellian. And remember, Orwell was a man of the left, and said that the threat to freedom would come from a smiling egalitarian, not some guy goose-stepping in jackboots.

HH: Now the other development here is that the seniors of America have risen up and said we know what this means. It means cutting off our access to health care, and we don’t like it, and we are going to be activist over this. Do you think they will accept the jettisoning of the public plan/government option as sufficient?

VDH: Yeah, I think that was important, because that didn’t seem to be partisan, that seemed to be more of an age cohort, that people who are quite happy they’ve made arrangements for their elderly years, they had private health care, a lot of them, they have Medicare that works for them, they made their arrangements and they’re basically saying don’t take this from us. And they’re a little scared, too, because if you start to do a little bit of investigation about Dr. Emmanuel, the things that Barack Obama has said in the past about his grandmother, he seems to have this idea that when a person gets to a certain age, they become less valuable to society in an arbitrary fashion, and yet we all know that people write great novels, they write books, there are great lawyers in their 80s and 90s, and there’s people 22 who shoot and kill and maim people in gangs. So this idea that we’re going to concentrate on the older people, and focus on them to ration health care, doesn’t make any sense.

HH: Now Victor Davis Hanson, there’s also the question of whether or not it’s for real. Obviously, you know about the work of Saul Alinsky, Rules for Radicals.

VDH: Yes.

HH: And that President Obama was raised on that theory. It would not be even eyebrow-lifting if an Alinskyite were to say hey, I’m going to stop pushing this idea, you don’t like it, and turn around and push that idea and try and jam it down under different camouflage.

VDH: Yeah, I think they will do that, but I talked to my local Congressman, and he’s a blue dog, and I can just tell you that there’s a lot of people that don’t think next year that they can run on this agenda, because they look at eight or nine issues, and they look at the polls, and they’re all well below 50%. And they were willing to go along with it as long as their president was at 60%. But when he’s down below 50, they’re thinking you know what, I’m not going to do this. I’m not going to run on these things that are going to lose my House seat. And they’re just a little uneasy about it. I think the American people are starting…it’s not one thing. I don’t think it’s just health care. It’s everything. I mean, all these Cabinet appointments, Timothy Geithner, and all these guys that they tried to ram down everybody’s throat that had tax problems, and then this…there’s sort of an uncouth element about these people. I mean, Hillary blowing up in the Congo, Geithner using profanities against bank regulators, the Bidenisms that come on, Obama calling the police stupidly. I think the American people are sort of saying you know, these guys are really uncouth. They’re not very nice people. They play hard, and this is not what we wanted.

HH: Now I want to give you a different example from our home state of California. You taught in the California State University system for a long time. Yesterday, I met a young man who showed me the letter he just received from California State University of Pomona, great engineering school, that the state university revoked his admission on a technicality. They said oh, you didn’t send in your transcripts from your senior year, they were due on July 15th, and we’ve had to do this to 600 people because of the budget deficit. Now I think that kind of stuff, Victor Davis Hanson, enrages Californians.

VDH: Yeah, you’ve got to remember, though, what the mentality, and I can tell you as somebody who was in that system for 21 years, whenever there’s a budget cut or a crisis, they don’t take off the assistant vice provost, or they don’t lay off the associate personal assistant to the president, because everybody knows that those are superfluous positions. But what they do is they take the part-time teacher who’s teaching 70 kids for a very small amount of money, they start to cut the English class, they cut the engineering course, and they don’t touch other things that the public, if they knew about it, would be outraged. And you know this as a California resident, that’s true of the public employees unions as well. Any time there’s a budget shortfall, we don’t get the office of self-esteem cut. We always are told we will have no fire, no police, no water, no sewer. And Cal State does the same thing to protect their budget. And they have a vast administrative class that could be slashed, and a lot of full professors could be slashed. But they’re not going to do that. They’re going to take high profile classes, and limit enrollments, and then tell the public see, this is what happens. And the public doesn’t know what to do, because they’re already paying 10% income tax, 9% sales tax, highest in the nation, and they’re saying wow, the University of Texas, the University of Minnesota, they have lower tax rates than we do, what’s going on here?

HH: The Ohio State University, Michigan…

VDH: Yeah.

HH: They can’t play football, but they can teach. My question is, though, do you think that that national angst we’ve seen over health care is going to crystallize in the Golden State in a throw the bums out movement here? Because also, I haven’t even talked to you yet, you’re a Central Valley farmer. The delta smelt has devastated the Central Valley, and it’s environmental extremism come home to destroy our food supplies.

VDH: Yeah, I think there’s going to be, I can feel it in California that again, people are saying we pay 9% sales tax, we pay 10% income tax. Our schools are bad. These unions are way over-payed. There are people in county government who are making $200,000 dollars a year. There are professors who are retiring after 30 years with $80,000 dollars a year for life. This is not sustainable. And they are laying off, excuse me, they’re idling hundreds of thousands of acres on the west side of California because of a small fish that needs more oxygen in the delta. And everybody here says well, wait a minute, these communities like Berkeley and Richmond, they’re putting in treated sewage water in these Bay Area communities. If they really want this smelt, then why don’t they clean up their own mess rather than have us flush it out with ag water? So that’s a big fight that’s going on, and it’s a larger issue in California. We have this postmodern idea that we don’t have to drill off Santa Barbara, we don’t have to have all of this agricultural farmland that’s very productive, we don’t have to go after timber. But because we’re Californians, and somebody else is going to give us natural gas, somebody’s going to give us food, and we’re so brilliant and we’re so creative and we’re so innovative that we’re just Californians. And you know, reality is now saying you know what? We don’t care whether you’re Californians or not. You’re broke, you spend too much money, you don’t use the resources in your rich state, and now you’re going to have to change or you’re going to face oblivion.

HH: And so do you think that that is a sustainable counter-reaction at the national and the state level from now until November of 2010, which is you know, it’s still fifteen months away.

VDH: Yeah, you know, I’ve been writing this, and I’ve had a lot of criticism, but I really do believe that because Obama’s a messianic figure, and people were so invested in him, and were so ridiculous last year, that he has the potential to take a lot of people down with him, because I think a lot of people are getting very, very angry on just every issue. You take, he was supposed to be the post-racial president. And yet he’s not acting in a way that Condoleezza Rice or Colin Powell did. You look at the stupidly comment, Eric Holder’s cowards comment, Sotomayor’s wise Latina comment, and you start to add them up and you see wow, this guy is a careerist, identity politics person.

HH: Victor Davis Hanson, always a pleasure,

End of interview.

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