Random thoughts on the passing scene.
Many people may have voted for Barack Obama in 2008 because of his charisma. But anyone familiar with the disastrous track record of charismatic political leaders around the world in the 20th century should have run for the hills when they encountered a politician with charisma.
What is scarier than any particular political policy or issue is the widespread tendency to treat political issues as personal contests in talking points — competitive skill in fencing with words — rather than making serious attempts to find out what the facts are and what the options are.
People who are wondering what to get as a graduation present this year should consider The Passage of Power by Robert Caro, the recently published fourth volume in his monumental biography of Lyndon Johnson. Its revelations of the cynical, fraudulent, and vicious politics in Washington should counter the pious graduation speeches that young people hear concerning the nobility of “public service.”
The new French president, a socialist, says frankly that he does not like rich people, that “my real enemy is the world of finance,” and, apparently, he has plans for much higher tax rates on high incomes. Has he not noticed how easy it is for the rich to move to some other country where the tax rates are lower — or to send their money there?
For a long time, Democrats have gone to Washington to win at all costs, while too many Republicans went to Washington to compromise with Democrats. The rise of the Tea Party may change that.
Increasing numbers of people seem to have convinced themselves that they are entitled to a “fair share” of what someone else has earned. Whole nations now seem to think that they should be bailed out from the consequences of their own reckless spending by nations that lived within their means.
Those who favor huge cuts in military spending seem not to understand that our military exists not simply to win wars, but to present such overwhelming superiority to potential enemies as to prevent having to fight a war in the first place.
Some people who are belatedly seeing what Obama is really like are saying that he has changed. This is probably easier to say than admitting that you were blind to the man’s whole history before and were taken in by his rhetoric and geniality.