R. Emmett Tyrrell Jr.

R. Emmett Tyrrell Jr.'s picture
Syndicated Columnist


Latest from R. Emmett Tyrrell Jr.

The House Speaker, the honorable Paul Ryan, recently expressed his hope for a more "confident America." He went on to say "we don't shut people down. If someone has a bad idea, we tell them why our idea is better. We don't insult them into agreeing with us." He spoke of the superiority of persuasion to execration. 



If I were among the conservatives who have been throwing names like Hitler and Stalin at Trump, I would just start to practice enunciating the words "President Donald Trump" -- the sooner, the better.



As the race for the presidential nomination enters the pandemonium stage, I take solace in the soothing wisdom of my friend the British historian, Paul Johnson. He writes: "America is a big country, with vast regions and endless opportunities for polycentrism." Another way of putting it is that America is a federalist system with endless opportunities for variation



I wrote a book in 2011 with the felicitous title The Death of Liberalism. The book's title pretty much said it all. By 2011, the ideology of Adlai Stevenson, of Hubert Humphrey, of Daniel Patrick Moynihan had expired. In the book I explained why liberalism was dead. Today the evidence is even more abundant. A socialist and a liberal naysayer as the sole candidates for the Democratic nomination? Liberalism is history. 



I am certainly glad that The Washington Post reported on a controversy at Georgetown University last week, which was created by the sad death of Justice Antonin Scalia. Thanks to that informative report, I am canceling my million-dollar bequest to old Georgetown and channeling it elsewhere, probably to Donald Trump's super PAC, if I can find his super PAC.



Recall if you will those unforgettable royal figures from yesteryear with their peculiar cognomens. Some of my favorites are Ethelred the Unready, a famously tardy English king from the Middle Ages. Or how about Charles the Bald, the Holy Roman Emperor whose glabrous head was widely remarked in his time and still is to this very day? And who can forget Pepin the Short? Even standing on his tiptoes he was the diminutive King of the Franks. Now, early in the 21st century, we have another epic curiosity, Hillary the Inevitable.



Well, well, the stock market has, of a sudden, caught up with the Obama economy. The spectacle is not pretty. 



In the many decades I have had the pleasure of covering the Clintons, I have developed several themes about them that have, over the years, been validated by fact. One theme is that there is a Clinton curse. 



 The question is after all these years, will the American electorate put an end to the Clintons' business? If Clinton ever makes it to the White House her corruption could be fatal to our Republic.



"A couple of weeks ago, [Donald Trump] was scrambling within a tight pack of Republican also-rans. Now, thanks to the media's almost ceaseless coverage, he is near the top of the Republican heap. In some polls, he is atop the heap. The fact that the media were endeavoring to ambush his candidacy should tell you quite a lot about the media's own ineptitude in politics and about Trump's cunning."



Mirabile dictu! Fully 28 profs and former profs from the Harvard Law School have taken a stand for freedom and for the rule of law. They are on the side of the Constitution and simple fairness. As Ivy Leaguers go, their stand took courage.



Immediately after his telephone call consoling the Foley family on their son's grisly murder at the hands of Islamofascists, President Barack Obama took a powder. He headed for the golf course. Yes, the golf course! He had golfed eight times in 11 days, as the world was in tumult the likes of which we have not experienced since the late 1930s. There is something very odd about this man. He seems to think he can duck his obligations by lolling on the golf course. Does he believe no one is looking?

In his brief life, my guess is, he has been posing all along. He had no role model as a father. He had no lasting role model as an adult. Now he has to produce. No one else can serve as his hidden advisor. He has to lead and he has not a clue as to what to do. Thus, to the golf course he goes, no matter how his critics complain or how a growing number of journalists express their dismay.



WASHINGTON — I have been vindicated! For years I have been comparing the Clinton family to the family of Warren Gamaliel Harding, our 29th president and a president of dark memory at least to most liberal historians. For me, Warren was sheer slapstick, as to some degree his modern-day equivalent was, Bill Clinton. And forget not their gruesome wives.

I began my historical comparisons in the 1996 bestselling book, "Boy Clinton: The Political Biography." For years, I punctuated my syndicated column with references to the two families. Then in my 2007 book, "The Clinton Crack-Up," I clinched the comparison in a reminder of how that Little Rock monstrosity, the Clinton Library, compared so favorably with the Harding Memorial in Warren's hometown, Marion, Ohio. But now, you ask, how am I vindicated? Well, America's historical memory is not very strong. Comparing Bill with a 1920s president to a modern American audience was not easy. Yet, by month's end it will be much easier. In fact, the comparison will be inescapable.



When asked on left-leaning MSNBC why President Barack Obama refrained from describing the Boston bombings as a "terrorist attack" David Axelrod, Obama's longtime political advisor, readily saw a political opportunity. The blood had not yet been washed away from the streets. We had yet to count up the casualties. Yet Axelrod saw a political opening, an opportunity to advance one or another of his pet political issues. So he said, "I'm sure what was going through the president's mind is — we really don't know who did this — it was tax day." Yes, tax day!

This is not the response of a normal mind. A normal mind would not, given the promiscuity of public bombings in the Middle East and now another bombing here in America, think it was provoked by "tax day." Conceivably the bombs in Boston were the work of small-government libertarians or of Tea Partiers. They could even be the work of vegetarians, but that was not the question. Axelrod was asked why the president was not describing the bombings as a terrorist attack. It certainly looked more like the work of terrorists — either left-wing lunatics or right-wing lunatics — than tax protesters.



I have long contended that public policy issues are as complicated as they appear because the giants of Capitol Hill like it that way, particularly the giants of the left. Bills can be written more simply. Decisions can be phrased with a certain lucidity. Yet, if they were, the electorate would mull them over and, after a cup of coffee, make a decision on them. As things stand today, with talk of budget imbalance and of esoteric matters such as "sequestration," voters scratch their heads, blink their eyes and walk away. Who gives a hoot? It is time for my morning nap, perhaps, two naps.

This is another anti-democratic way that Washington politicians have bootlegged our legislative process. Make policy so confusing to normal people that they will take little or no interest in it. It is all a game reserved exclusively for the political class. Al Gore in his new book, prosaically titled "The Future: Six Drivers of Global Change," bangs on about the power of lobbyists and giant corporations in shaping legislation — do you know anyone who sits on more corporate boards than Gore? Has he considered the unwieldy nature of the legislation in the first place? Debt piled atop debt that even Warren Buffett cannot conceptualize. Sequestration, indeed — why not segregation or constipation? It is a geek to me.



I am indebted to Amity Shlaes for gently correcting a joke of mine that dates back to July 8, 1972. On that date in the New York Times, I joshed that President Calvin Coolidge "probably spent more time napping than any president in the nation's history" and therefore was a successful president. My joke was a play on an earlier joke by H. L. Mencken, and now Shlaes has corrected both of us. She has written a very impressive biography titled simply "Coolidge," wherein she never mentions Cal's naps but rather what made him the most successful president of the 1920s. He reversed the economic insolvency of President Woodrow Wilson, and set the economy on the road to growth, a road made rocky by Cal's successor, President Herbert Hoover, and rockier still by Hoover's successor, Franklin Roosevelt.

Though one would not know it today, Coolidge was the most successful president of the 1920s. Vice President Coolidge came to the presidency on the death of President Warren G. Harding in August 1923 and won the presidency outright in 1924 with 54 percent of the vote over the Democrat, John W. Davis, who had 28.8 percent of the vote, and the Progressive, Robert M. La Follette, who won just 16.6 percent of the vote. Moreover, Coolidge had won every race he ever contested from his first run for city councilman in 1898 to the governorship of Massachusetts in 1918, usually by astoundingly large margins. His combination of civility, effectiveness, standing by the law and, as president, tax cuts, budget balancing, and growth, was wildly popular with American voters, as was his singular asset, taciturnity.



Former senator Chuck Hagel is a suave, energetic, spirited fellow. He is intelligent, and from his early youth apparently patriotic and undoubtedly courageous. He showed that in Vietnam. Hagel has been a Republican senator and an accomplished businessman. Now he is President Barack Obama's nominee for secretary of defense. Because he is President Obama's nominee for secretary of defense he is attracting dutiful scrutiny, and that is all to the good. This is not your ordinary presidency. In domestic policy and foreign policy President Obama is showing every indication of attempting to be an epochal president (with four million fewer votes for his second term than for his first).

That is to say, he poses a distinct break from Ronald Reagan's model of government and even from Franklin Roosevelt's. In the economy he seems to be resurrecting the welfare state on the model of France or perhaps Spain. In foreign policy he famously promises to "lead from behind," as illogical as that sounds. In both areas his exemplars are sure losers, but his party and his partisans seem not to have noticed.



I wonder, as we begin 2013 and look forward to four more years of this insufferable poseur in the White House, where Sandra Fluke might be. Miss Fluke is the lady who made birth control a matter of national security, in particular her own personal supply of pills and God knows what else. Prior to her appearance on the national scene I always thought it was a male?s responsibility to supply condoms, as the occasion warranted. Yet Miss Fluke enlightened me. Actually she never told us what she used these items for. I suppose I am jumping to conclusions. She might be an artiste, and they may be part of her palette. There are all sorts of things birth control devices can be used for. At any rate, she brought birth control to the fore in American presidential elections at least four decades after they became a fixture in America. In that respect she made history.

Prior to Miss Fluke's public campaign for birth control, those who follow national politics had believed that elections revolved around the economy. But in 2012 we had an economy in a feeble condition. After four years in the White House, President Barack Obama presided over the weakest recovery from a recession on record. He had given Keynesian economics a bad name, even with many Keynesians. He had enlarged the federal government to almost 25 percent of GDP, from its traditional size of 18 or 19 percent. He was running deficits of a trillion dollars a year and promised them for years to come.



The year 2012 is about to expire. It was a blank in my judgment — poof and it is gone. We have the same sorry vacuity in the White House, bereft of knowing how to run the government. Just now he is off to Hawaii to loll in the sun, having left behind questions as to how to avoid our "fiscal cliff." Yes, he wants to raise taxes on the top two percent, but how do we reduce the deficit and finish off the tax bill? He has headed for the beach — and practically no one remarks on the amateurism of it. The president is a poseur.

Not much more can be said for the rest of the leadership in Washington, in Congress, in the media, strutting down the halls of government. As year chases year, I have come to the conclusion that this whole town is abundant with poseurs or worse. The blandness of the Washington and New York City scenes is maddening to anyone familiar with American history, a history filled with great figures.