- The Washington Times - Friday, March 6, 2009


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 preside 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 particle-beam 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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