The future as pre-written past; or the Left’s peculiar relationship to “history” *UPDATED*

John F Kennedy before assassination

To me, history is what was.  It’s the past that’s been and gone forever.

To people on the Left, however, history is the future that they shape, which they presume their Leftist scholars will later enshrine in propagandistic history books.  I thought of that peculiar viewpoint last night when watching a PBS special about the JFK assassination, an event that doesn’t interest me at all. The most interesting thing about it is a conspiracy theorist’s kerfuffle in its wake.  As for me, I believe in a single gunman acting out a Communist fantasy because, today’s Leftist belief to the contrary, Kennedy was a fierce anti-Communist.

The PBS show wasn’t a bad show, and did lay to rest some of the conspiracy theories, but mostly I struggled to stay awake.  What did catch my attention was Jim Lehrer’s statement that the assassination “changed history forever.”

Thing about that statement for a minute and marvel at its incoherence.  An ordinary person would say that the assassination changed the trajectory America was on as of November 22, 1963.  But it didn’t change what happened before November 22, 1963 which was actual history.  Moroever, at the moment the assassination happened, what was left was the future, not “future history.”

It was with Lehrer’s nonsensical words ringing in my mind that I read Daniel Greenfield’s “The Left Side of History,” which explains the Obama’s leftist habit of seeing history, not as a look back to the past, but as a forcibly created future:

“As frustrating as HealthCare.gov may be sometimes,” Obama told ObamaCare navigators and volunteers. “We’re on the right side of history.”

It wasn’t the first time that Obama had invoked the right side of history to rally the troops. During the Arab Spring, as Mubarak resigned on his orders, he said, “History will end up recording that at every juncture in the situation in Egypt, that we were on the right side of history.”

It’s hard to be on the right side of history at every juncture. But Obama believed that he had achieved the feat by backing Mubarak, then backing his overthrow and then backing the Muslim Brotherhood.

Read the rest here, and see if you can get a handle on the way the Left views the future as the pre-written past.

UPDATE: Like me, Joseph Epstein doesn’t get the “Kennedy wallow” either.  It’s especially silly when one considers that the Left is fetishizing a tax-cutting, communist-hating, Catholic-worshipping, and black-disliking president.  And thinking about the facts versus the fantasy, I guess we’re just getting another insight into the Left’s idea of reality versus those actual stubborn facts.

Barack Obama’a America: Keynesian economics on steroids

When I was in junior high school, high school, and college, my American history classes always preached the same message:  Franklin Roosevelt saved America by “priming the pump.”  That is, he took money away from the rich, filtered it through the government, and then used the brain-power built into government to decide upon the infrastructure projects we know and love today, everything from Hoover Dam, to the Tennessee Valley Authority, to the cool art deco post offices dotted around the nation.  It was only when I was in college that the teachers put a name to this wondrous system:  Keynesian economics.

Keynes wasn’t a communist.  He just wasn’t a believer in marketplace efficiency.  He advocated a privately-owned economy, with the government making the important decisions.  (The Nazis, incidentally, used this economic approach, which they called “National Socialism.”)  More than that, Keynes and his acolytes believed that, when times were tough, the only entity that could respond rationally and effectively to market chaos was the government.  Keynesians therefore believed that economic downturns should be met with higher taxes from the rich and more government spending directed at the poor.  The theory was that the poor would take this money and pour it back into the economy, thereby priming the pump.

Apparently Keynes and his friends had never read Frédéric Bastiat’s “broken window parable” or, if they had, they dismissed it as a foolishly simplistic parable that wouldn’t meet the demands of the Ivory Tower and elite governance:

A broken window is not an economic upswing

Have you ever witnessed the anger of the good shopkeeper, James Goodfellow, when his careless son has happened to break a pane of glass? If you have been present at such a scene, you will most assuredly bear witness to the fact that every one of the spectators, were there even thirty of them, by common consent apparently, offered the unfortunate owner this invariable consolation—”It is an ill wind that blows nobody good. Everybody must live, and what would become of the glaziers if panes of glass were never broken?”

Now, this form of condolence contains an entire theory, which it will be well to show up in this simple case, seeing that it is precisely the same as that which, unhappily, regulates the greater part of our economical institutions.

Suppose it cost six francs to repair the damage, and you say that the accident brings six francs to the glazier’s trade—that it encourages that trade to the amount of six francs—I grant it; I have not a word to say against it; you reason justly. The glazier comes, performs his task, receives his six francs, rubs his hands, and, in his heart, blesses the careless child. All this is that which is seen.

But if, on the other hand, you come to the conclusion, as is too often the case, that it is a good thing to break windows, that it causes money to circulate, and that the encouragement of industry in general will be the result of it, you will oblige me to call out, “Stop there! Your theory is confined to that which is seen; it takes no account of that which is not seen.”

It is not seen that as our shopkeeper has spent six francs upon one thing, he cannot spend them upon another. It is not seen that if he had not had a window to replace, he would, perhaps, have replaced his old shoes, or added another book to his library. In short, he would have employed his six francs in some way, which this accident has prevented.

But back to history as I learned it.

Factory girls during world war ii

After their almost rote teaching about Roosevelt’s brilliant Keynesian save of the economy, my instructors would always add, sort of as an addendum that wasn’t really important, that WWII finally broke the Depression’s back.

War does represent the perfect Keynesian paradigm, with the government directing the whole private-sector economy towards a single martial goal.  Putting aside the twenty million dead, war was good for the Soviets too.  And right up until D-Day, the Germans weren’t doing so badly with a war economy either.

British rationing coupon from 1950

As the British discovered, though, once war is over, continuing a war-time economy (complete with government rationing) doesn’t work.  The government may be good when everyone’s efforts are directed to national survival, but it’s a lousy wealth creator during peace time.  Only when rationing ended in the 1960s did the British economy start to recover, and its real boom happened after Maggie Thatcher de-nationalized major industries.

In America, the post-War period was the anti-Keynesian period, and that — not Roosevelt’s taxing and spending — is what really broke the Depression’s back.  The late 40s and the 1950s celebrated American individualism, innovation, capitalism, and freedom.  With Communism as a foil, America was almost aggressively free.  And when it periodically tried to put the brakes on that freedom by raising taxes, the market foundered.  John F. Kennedy got it:

John F. Kennedy

“In today’s economy, fiscal prudence and responsibility call for tax reduction even if it temporarily enlarges the federal deficit – why reducing taxes is the best way open to us to increase revenues.” — John F. Kennedy, Jan. 21, 1963, annual message to the Congress: “The Economic Report Of The President”

Although Kennedy did get his lower taxes, pressure from the Left resulted in another Keynesian experiment in the 1970s.  The economy cratered.  Reagan released the economy from tax pressure and it was revitalized.  Bush Sr. (“Read my lips:  no new taxes”) raised taxes again, and down the economy went.  Clinton, under pressure from Republicans, decreased spending, which helped the economy grow again.  Bush Jr. went one step further and lowered taxes, and the economy roared again — and that was true despite 9/11 and a long war.

Meanwhile, though, the Democrat controlled Congress that Bush got in 2006, while it didn’t address taxes, starting putting the government thumb on the scale again.  Rather than backing off of banks (as McCain and Bush suggested), it increasingly limited what they could and couldn’t do.  This government pressure resulted in banks being forced to give loans to people with no equity.  The banks got creative to avoid risk, packaged, and resold these loans.  It looked good for a while, and then, in 2008, the bubble burst.

Bankrupt Solyndra

Enter Barack Obama.  Obama spent the first half of his presidency doing classic Keynesian pump priming by pouring massive amounts of government money into his pal’s pet projects.  Many of those projects went bankrupt, others ran over cost, others never got off the ground.  Obama also laid the foundation for an ostensibly private, but still government-controlled medical sector (1/6 of the American economy).  The economy alternately stagnated or sagged.  Romney fully understood the problem, but was never able to articulate the solution.  Since he couldn’t sell the public on the free market (not to mention that he was trying to push back against the appalling character attacks leveled against him), the public in 2012 chose the devil it knew:  Obama.

Obama has now begun the second half of his presidency by doing Keynes on steroids:  on New Year’s Day, he got significant tax increases on producers, without in any way stopping his spending.  Obama, though, has done something Keynes never imagined.   Obama has not used the pump priming money to put shovels (or even spoons) in the hands of those who are supposed to reinvigorate the economy.  Doing that at least gives those receiving government money a job (which is good for the resume and a sense of self-worth) and it gives them an ownership interest by allowing them to create a lasting benefit to society.  What Obama is doing is just handing out money in the form of pure welfare.  He’s not creating a working class; he’s creating a parasite class.

Food shortages Great Depression

Classic Keynesian economics has never worked.  Obama is now trying the un-classic version.  If I were a betting woman, I’d say that, not only will Obama’s experiment fail, it will fail on a much vaster level even than Roosevelt’s Keynesian debacle.  (And if you want to know just how bad Roosevelt’s failure was — and how grossly misleading my public school history education was — you must read Amity Shlaes’ The Forgotten Man: A New History of the Great Depression. Roosevelt’s economic experiments were a disaster, and it was only through the aggressive propaganda flowing out of Hollywood, media, and educational institutions, propaganda that escalated after WWII, that we remember his presidency as an economic success.)

The true death of John F. Kennedy

As long as our ideas live on, in some way so do we.

Here’s is one of John F. Kennedy’s most famous statements:  “Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.”

Obama won the 2012 election by turning that idea upside down.  Rather than appealing to the greater good of all Americans, he won by promising select coalitions (minorities, women, gays, unions) government goodies, ostensibly at no cost to them.

The party of John F. Kennedy just killed him dead.

Senate candidate Scott Brown (R) reminds us how far Democrats have drifted from JFK *UPDATED*

Good ad:

Massachusetts has drowned itself in the Kool-Aid since 1972, but maybe a strong Republican candidate, a strong message, and an insane Democratic party can make the difference.

UPDATE:  If you’d like to contribute to Brown’s campaign, here’s his website.  As Kate said in the comments when she provided the link, the Dems are pouring money into his opponent, while the GOP has abandoned Brown.  Once again, it’s up to “we, the people” to rescue the government.

The Kennedy myth

I was not a rebellious youngster.  I accepted my parents’ values and their rules, and pretty much toed the line.  My one area of rebellion was, looking back, a rather bizarre one:  I refused to buy into the Kennedy mythology.  Perhaps because I was a child of the Watergate era, I simply refused to accept that Kennedy was the epic hero the intelligentsia of my youth claimed.  By the late 70s, I already knew about the Bay of Pigs debacle, the pathetic face-offs with Kruschev, the mafia involvement and mistresses.  There wasn’t anything I knew about him that sounded good other than those East Coast accented speeches, and I, despite being a word person, was unimpressed.

I was therefore pleased to read Jason Maoz’s neat summary of the myriad failures of the Kennedy administration, some so bad that even its staunchest admirers, when forced to be honest, had to conceded that their idol had feet of clay:

John F. Kennedy was a president of questionable character and relatively meager accomplishments, but his untimely and violent death, followed by decades of unceasing image control by the Kennedys and their media groupies, has helped sustain the popular standing of a president who almost certainly would have been impeached or forced to resign the presidency had even a fraction of what we now know been made public while he was still alive and in office.

The left-wing journalist Seymour Hersh, after spending years wading through the muck of pumped-up war stories, doctored medical records (contrary to the image of “vigor” he liked to project, Kennedy suffered from a variety of ailments and consumed a prodigious daily cocktail of pharmaceuticals), compulsive extramarital activity, Mafia ties and electoral shenanigans, was forced to reevaluate the man he once admired.

“Kennedy,” he said in an Atlantic Monthly web interview shortly after the publication of his 1997 expose The Dark Side of Camelot, “was much more corrupt than other postwar presidents, by a major factor. Much more manipulative, though Nixon was a close second. There’s nothing wonderful about Nixon — Watergate proved that — but I think that Nixon was an amateur compared to Kennedy….”

You can read the rest here.

The Kennedy myth is especially instructive in the Obama era.  His admirers are claiming him as the second coming of Kennedy, right down to the pretty young wife and cute (and they are cute) children.  What they’ll refuse to admit is that Obama is probably Kennedy’s equal too in corruption, manipulation and dishonesty.  And those of us who are conservatives will have to face the fact that, just as Kennedy’s image has been hagiographied to the point that even his followers’ disillusionment cannot destroy the myth, so too will the Obama myth almost certainly become impregnable to time and truth.

Convincing people with ideas

I carpooled to a soccer game today.  The driver, who is someone I don’t know very well, is a very charming man who is quite obviously a potential Obama voter.  He wasn’t quite sure about me and, since he was a very civil individual, he never came out and either insulted McCain or lauded Obama.  He did say, though, that he thought it was the government’s responsibility to provide medical care.  He also characterized Vietnam as a complete disaster.  That gave me an interesting opportunity to explain to him a few historic facts he didn’t know — because very few people know them.

I started out by reminding him of something that most people forget:  the Vietnam War was a Democratic War.  Kennedy started it and Johnson expanded it.  (Nixon, the Republican, ended it.)  I didn’t say this in the spirit of accusation, because I wasn’t being partisan.  I said it to give historical context to a larger discussion about freedom versus statism.

I noted that, in the 1930s — and, again, most people have forgotten this — the major battle in Europe was between two Leftist ideologies:  Communism and Fascism.  When he looked a little blank, I pointed out that the Nazis were a socialist party, a fact he readily conceded.   I also reminded him that, in the 1930s, given that Stalin was killing millions of his countrymen, and that Hitler hadn’t yet started his killing spree, Fascism actually looked like the better deal.  World War II demonstrated that both ideologies — both of which vested all power in the State — were equally murderous.

Men of the Kennedy/Johnson generation, I said, saw their role in WWII as freeing Europe from the Nazi version of socialism.  When that job ended, they saw themselves in a continuing war to bring an end to the Communist version of socialism.  Again, they were reacting to overwhelming statism.

Thus, to them, it was all a single battle with America upholding the banner, not of freedom, but of individualism. They knew that America couldn’t necessarily make people free or bring them a democratic form of government, but that it could try to protect people from an all-powerful state.  That’s always been an integral part of American identity.  He agreed with everything I said.

I then moved to the issue of socialized medicine, which I pointed out, again, gives the state all the power.  The state, I said, has no conscience, and it will start doling out medical care based on its determining of which classes of individual are valuable, and which are less valuable, to the state. My friend didn’t know, for example, that Baroness Warnock of Britain, who is considered one of Britain’s leading moralists, announced that demented old people have a “duty to die” because they are a burden on the state.

A few more examples like that, and we agreed that the problem wasn’t too little government when it comes to medicine, but too much. Health insurer companies operating in California are constrained by something like 1,600 state and federal regulations.  I suggested that, rather than give the government more control over the medical bureaucracy, we take most of it away.  He conceded that this was probably a good idea.

Lastly, I reminded him what happens when government steps in as the <span style=”font-style: italic;”>pater familias</span>.  He didn’t know that, up until Johnson’s Great Society, African-Americans were ever so slowly “making it.”  As a result of the Civil Rights movement, opportunities were opening for Northern Blacks, and they — meaning the men — were beginning to make more money.  The African-American family was nuclear and starting to thrive.

This upward economic trend collapsed in the mid-1960s, and its collapse coincided absolutely to the minute with government social workers fanning out to black communities and telling them that the government would henceforth provide.  Since it seemed stupid to work when you could get paid not to work, black men stopped working.  They also stopped caring about their families, or even getting married, since unmarried mothers did even better under welfare than intact families.  In a few short years, not only did African-Americans as a group collapse economically, their family structure collapsed too.  Men were redundant.  The state would provide.  Again, my friend nodded his head in agreement.

The ride ended at that point but, as he was dropping me off, my friend told me (and I think he was speaking from his heart), that it was an incredibly interesting ride.  And I bet it was, because I gave him real food for thought in the form of facts and ideas that fall outside of the orthodoxy that characterizes our ultra-liberal community.

Cross-posted at Right Wing News and McCain-Palin 2008.

Hooking into the Kennedy mystique

Obama has been doing his darndest to tie himself to the Kennedy’s, right down to hiring Caroline Kennedy Schlossberg for his Vice President investigation committee.  Hillary, inartfully, also made the Kennedy-Obama link with her references to June assassinations.  (What was the woman thinking?  She was historically accurate, but she must have known how it would play in the media?)

Now, CDR Salamander discovers that Obama has taken the matter even further, to subliminal levels.

A liberal view of the Clinton-Obama faceoff

I was speaking with a liberal this weekend who opined that McCain will win, something he found inconceivable in a match between Obama and McCain.

“Why,” I asked?

“Because McCain’s never done anything,” he replied. Rather than defend McCain’s record, I asked a different question:

“What’s Obama done?”

A millisecond went by, and then I got this answer:

“Obama is so much smarter than McCain.”

Yup, that’s what Obama’s done: He’s been smarter. If that’s your criterion, of course, I’ve got a very bright 9 year old who would love to have the run of the White House, not to mention control over the nation’s nuclear weapons.

By the way, this same liberal is a huge fan of JFK, so I began looking at JFK, McCain and Obama. Working off the top of my head, I came up with the following:

Kennedy McCain Obama
Military Service Yes Yes No
House of Reps 6 yrs 4 yrs 0 yrs
Senate 8 yrs 22 yrs 3 yrs
Foreign policy hawk Yes Yes No
Large gov. foe So-So So-So No
Book author Yes Yes Yes

Feel free to add to this. I’ve never been much of a Kennedy fan, since I came of age when all the unsavory allegations about him (the womanizing, the mafia connections, etc.) hit the news, and that permanently colored my emotional reaction to the man. I know all of you will have more useful comparison facts than I do.

You’re not JFK and you’re not funny

William Katz has his own, very interesting, blog at Urgent Agenda.  However, he saves his long posts for Power Line and this time he has a doozy about the many ways in which Obama is not JFK.  Since Katz lived a life that was front and center at many historical events in the second half of the 20th Century, what he says has the resonance, not just of scholarship, but of personal knowledge.  I particularly liked these thoughts about the great chasm between JFK and BHO:

Kennedy had a wry, ironic sense of humor. I’ve never heard Obama say anything even vaguely humorous, and that worries me. Lincoln was known for cracking jokes. So was FDR. Reagan was famous for it. I wonder about a man like Obama who seems to take himself so very, very seriously, and to regard every word as golden.

Kennedy, when he ran in 1960, was widely seen as too inexperienced for the presidency, especially by Eleanor Roosevelt, who questioned his record publicly. Yet, Kennedy’s experience towers over Obama’s. Kennedy had served in Congress for 13 years. He’d been elected twice to the Senate. True, his record had not been outstanding, and he hadn’t been considered a Senate leader. True, he’d had a dalliance with McCarthyism. But he’d also seemed to grow in stature, had a decent war record, and had watched history firsthand as the son of the American ambassador to Britain in the years leading up to World War II.

Obama was elected to the Senate in 2004, and has been running for president ever since. His record is thin. In the one national office he has held, he has been decidedly undistinguished. He clearly lacks Kennedy’s sophistication on foreign policy and knowledge of history. I don’t recall Kennedy having to fire one adviser after another, or having to explain statement after statement. I do recall that Kennedy had a catastrophic first year in office, despite his background. He blundered at the Bay of Pigs. He was rolled by Khrushchev at the Vienna Conference only months later. I shudder to think of a President Obama sitting down with the dictators he seems so eager to engage. What will he tell them? “I’m the change you’ve been waiting for”?

Finally, there is an issue of personal quality. Kennedy, with all his failings, with his scandalous private habits, with the arrogance of privilege that sometimes touched him, had an ability to look at himself. He knew he’d failed in that first year. He said so. And he had the dignity and understanding of power to acknowledge publicly what had happened. He was asked at a press conference to assess blame for the Bay of Pigs. Whose fault was it? He replied, “I am the responsible officer of the government.”

When something goes wrong in the Obama Crusade, Obama normally attributes it to staff problems. History, if he becomes president, will read his blunders differently.

That bit about the sense of humor struck me particularly strongly.  Two of the greatest presidents ever — Lincoln and Reagan — were also two of the funniest, in large part because they could be self-deprecating.  While they had the necessary ego to believe they could lead a great nation, neither took himself too seriously.

Obama, however, believes his own hype and is utterly humorless in defense of his own wonderfulness.  As you recall, he threw Wright off the train, not because Wright is a wacko, anti-American nutjob, but because Wright “disrespected” Obama — a sentiment that made the Harvard educated, elitist Obama sound no different from the average Compton gangbanger who blows away the kid next door for “disrespecting” him.  It strikes me that the only people who have a problem with this type of “disrespect” are those who (a) don’t respect themselves, (b) are pretty sure that they are not worthy of actual respect and (c) have no sense of humor!