Fast Food Journalism: The Great Depression in an Afternoon – Clinton is the god that failed; Obama the new planetary god king – McCain chooses the West.
By Bernie Quigley
- for The Hill on 10/18/08
Within moments of the first shock to Wall Street – just as Henry Paulson rushed into the room - the crisis was compared to the Great Depression. It is exactly like the invasion of Iraq. To crank up propaganda, apparatchiks, including McCain’s sycophant Lindsey Graham, were dispatched to the Stephanopoulos show to declare the bombing of the World Trade Centers and the Pentagon to Pearl Harbor; to compare the invasion of Iraq to the Normandy invasion and to imply that the capture of some random, bearded terrorist whose name and position has long been forgotten was as important as the Allied occupation of Paris.
It must be that little three-by-five card that all journalists today carry with them that says, “history repeats itself.” Actually, human misery repeats itself. The cycles of history and culture are far more complex and if they suggest anything in our time it is not the Great Depression and the Second World War but the division of American between red and blue and East and West in the first days of Andrew Jackson.
Most journalists today learned two things in college: John F. Kennedy and Franklin Roosevelt. And they learned Lincoln in high school. So when history “repeats itself” it defaults back to one of those three. In the coastal realms east and west – the blue states – Jackson was never mentioned. It threw them off entirely when Jim Webb, the senator from Virginia, first brought him up in 2004. They didn’t know who he was or why he was supposed to be important. FDR is important. Kennedy is important. So everything that happens today relates to those eras and whatever happens next in the new world will resonate from those periods.
Obama first suggested JFK and he even gave a speech in Germany to pretend to be like JFK. Then after the moving tribute by will.i.am he began to seem to some like Lincoln. But today Obama, endorsed by The Washington Post and the LA Times, is the new FDR.
We read now virtually everywhere that Obama is a slam dunk. The New Great Depression is under control because the New FDR has arrived. Possibly the most myopic analysis is from Harold Meyerson of The Washington Post. He writes that since the fiscal crisis overlaps both nation states and continents, we need now a New New Deal, as anyone can see. But what the really onward and upward types should be looking for today is “ . . . a new planetary level of governance.”
These are the priests who accompany the conquistadors. Clinton was the god that failed: Obama is the new planetary god king. We better get moving. A second opinion is only denial and delay.
But we might note that FDR did not come to power in 1929, a week after the infamous Wall Street crash. He came to power in 1933, four years later and was well prepared to act on patterns that had persisted for four years. Maybe before we start, we take a glance as that recidivist offender, The Wall Street Journal, which reports this Saturday that the Dow actually gained 5% this week.
There is panic in the streets. But in one way the panic in this presidential race is not about the fiscal crisis but is about that collective soup which was the participation mystique of 1968 and the two groups which are still stuck and swirling in its vortex, those of their generation who admire Bill Ayers – and Ayers is given “tantalizing offers” from Harvard and dines with Professor Fish because a vast part of his generation, many of whom took sanctuary at the university in 1968 and never left, admires him and still feels represented by him – and John McCain. The one who bombed the Pentagon and the other who executed the Pentagon’s will and suffered for years as a POW. Clearly this moment is unresolved. But sometimes these moments are never resolved. Time moves on, leaving generations unresolved and tangled in its web.
The vision of Obama as planetary god king is an extension of Clinton. The same group saw Clinton that way and he certainly saw himself that way. But the trouble with Clinton one-worldism or Obama one-worldism is that the world outside our borders sometimes likes us and sometimes it doesn’t. It comes more naturally to the world outside to not like us and the world outside sometimes comes to like us a lot when we have a president who is unpopular at home. Generally, the world outside our borders – Europe in particular – sees America as a kind of extended New York, which it was from 1865 to about the mid 1970s when the red states began to awaken. But like New York and its western colony, Los Angeles, Europe is in almost full denial of the very existence of the South, the Southwest and the Midwest.
And that is what is awakening here since the mid-1970s; the natural rise of heartland America to actual power due to shifts in economy and population, yielding to the red states the ability to leverage power in the culture at large and in the political agenda. That is what is creating a panic today on the coasts, east and west. History is seeing its moment forward at the beginning of the new century. And red America – the indigenous America, which attends NASCAR races, which goes to the Baptist Church and the Assembly of God, which doesn’t have a passport and has never been to Europe, has found a champion who wears lipstick and is moving toward its awakening moment.
John McCain looks strangely happy these days although he is way down in the polls. I’ve never seen him so happy before. It is odd – he is starting to look different; a little like Paul Simon he is so happy. Mitt Romney understands it correctly: McCain is not happy because he thinks he is going to win although he might. In all of his writing McCain looks back well beyond Khe Sanh, Quang Tri and Kent State; he looks to his father and his fathers before and finds himself acting and sustaining that centuries-old continuum.
And here near the end of his life’s journey he has made one decision which could well be his final decision and the only historically important decision of his life. And possibly he is the only person on earth who could have made it: It was always beween New York and his Eastern friends or the West and his ancesters. And he has chosen the West.