It’s a scary movie, but the plot is old

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics - Opin­ion by Wes­ley Pru­den

Woe is def­i­nitely us, woe laced with trou­ble, nur­tured by tribu­la­tion and swathed in sor­row. Surely soon there will be a boom­ing back-al­ley mar­ket in hem­lock.

The bro­kers on Wall Street are el­bow­ing each other out of the way in the fran­tic search for the stairs to the base­ment. Detroit is try­ing to fig­ure out how to give its cars away. The in­vest­ment bankers are just try­ing to stay out of jail.

The Repub­li­can Party is dead — you can read about it ev­ery­where — and beginning to throw off a dis­tinc­tive fra­grance, more pun­gent than the aroma of the ele­phant house at the Zoo. Con­ser­va­tive pun­dits are chat­ter­ing among them­selves over which hymns are ap­pro­pri­ate for the fu­neral. The con­sen­sus is that it should be some­thing in the hip-hop line. Repub­li­cans are told they must be­come more like Democrats, not that Repub­li­cans en­cour­age­ment for that.

The pru­dent who saved their Con­fed­er­ate money may be the wis­est of all: the dean of Rus­sia’s school for diplo­mats says Pres­i­dent Obama will call out the troops and im­pose mar­tial law by the end of this year when the United States breaks up into six sov­er­eign states. Hm­mmm. “Dixie” will be a na­tional an­them yet.

But I’ve seen this movie, and it’s a clunker, even if brought back by pop­u­lar de­mand. Alas, we live in a time when there is no in­sti­tu­tional mem­ory, when the present is quickly dis­pos­able and the past and its lessons has been thrown into the Sea of Am­ne­sia. We no longer elect a pres­i­dent, but choose a celebrity-in-chief. We for­get that the pol­i­tics of the na­tion, like events in the life of the in­di­vid­ual, move in cy­cles, reg­u­lated as if by the tides that move the waves, presided over with an iron hand by Mr. Yin and his part­ner Mr. Yang.

His­tory, as usual, in­structs. FDR de­stroyed the Repub­li­cans in 1932. You could look it up. Dwight Eisen­hower was elected af­ter two un­in­ter­rupted decades of Demo­cratic rule in 1952, promis­ing to “throw the ras­cals out.” Lyn­don B. John­son de­stroyed the Repub­li­cans again in 1964, bring­ing in the Great So­ci­ety and send­ing Barry Gold­wa­ter back to the desert and all the con­ser­va­tives with him, never to be seen or heard from again. You could look that up, too.

Four years later Richard Nixon arose from a Cal­i­for­nia grave to pre- side over a Repub­li­can ex­pan­sion of Lyn­don John­son’s Demo­cratic war, and four years af­ter that the Repub­li­cans de­stroyed Ge­orge McGovern and the Democrats. But the body politic burped and out popped a peanut farmer from Plains. Right on sched­ule, Ron­ald Rea­gan ar­rived on the next cy­cle with “the per­ma­nent Repub­li­can ma­jor­ity.” An­other burp pro­duced Bill Clin­ton — “sex be­tween the Bushes” — and now Barack Obama sits en­throned as the lat­est party-killer. Some­times you don’t have to be a psy­chic to read how the fu­ture re­turns from the past.

Nei­ther do you have to be a par­ti­cle­beam physi­cist to un­der­stand that for ev­ery action there’s a re­ac­tion, nor a Har­vard po­lit­i­cal sci­ence pro­fes­sor (it helps if you’re not) to see a pat­tern in pres­i­den­tial cy­cles. Throw­ing the ras­cals out is great fun, but a wise man un­der­stands that with ev­ery new cy­cle we get a new set of ras­cals. Not yet two months into Barack Obama’s pres­i­dency and al­ready we see the first faint symp­toms of ras­cal­ism, and worse, Carter-like in­com­pe­tence.

Barack Obama con­tin­ues to blame Ge­orge W. Bush for ev­ery hic and headache — the econ­omy, stub­born ter­ror­ism, wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and ev­ery­thing else that dis­pleases. The celebrity-in-chief is en­ti­tled to time to find the dog that will even­tu­ally be his only friend. No one ap­plied a mea­sur­ing stick to Jimmy Carter for a full year; al­ready crit­ics are ready­ing their mea­sur­ing sticks for Mr. Obama.

Peggy Noo­nan, writ­ing in the Wall Street Jour­nal, re­calls an old Ital­ian woman in her neigh­bor­hood who told her how to tell when the spaghetti is done. “You take a strand and fling it against the wall. If it’s done, it sticks. If it’s not done, it falls down the side of the stove. You keep fling­ing till one sticks. That is Obama’s re­cov­ery plan. Cash in­fu­sions for the banks, fling. Tax in­creases, thwack! Pork — ex­cuse me, pub­lic in­vest­ment, splat! When we look back years from now, we’ll see what stuck.”

The pres­i­dent con­tin­ues to sail with the wind be­hind his back, rid­ing high in the polls. Only knock­ers, churls, racists, rus­tics, big­ots and knaves dare mea­sure him, yet. But reck­on­ing is com­ing; it al­ways does. Noth­ing re­cedes like suc­cess. It’s writ­ten in the stars.

Wes­ley Pru­den is ed­i­tor emer­i­tus of The Wash­ing­ton Times.

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