Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Mark Warner Steps Up

By Bernie Quigley

- for The Hill on 6/30/09

It is interesting that as America leaves Iraq this week on President Obama’s order, two thoughtful and intelligent op-eds appear in the papers by Virginia’s new senator, Mark Warner. One of them in the Sunday Washington Post declares that expanding the Fed’s powers is a mistake because the Federal Reserve “ . . . has proved itself incapable of managing and preventing systemic risk.” We haven’t been hearing this from other Democrats possibly because no other Democrat is anywhere near as smart and as capable as Warner.

What began when George W. Bush invaded the Middle East ends today as American troups leave Iraq. What else happens in Afghanistan and Pakistan is not important to us. We are satisfied. 9/11 has been vindicated. One thing you have to say about Bush. He may not be that brainy about policy but he does know how to satisfy the gut. And that is a legitimate and necessary objective in warfare.

What happens now in Iraq is anybody’s guess. You are on your own.

“The withdrawal of American troops is completed now from all cities after everything they sacrificed for the sake of security,” Sadiq al-Rikabi, a senior advisor to Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, told the Associated Press. “We are now celebrating the restoration of sovereignty.”

But it looks to be as it was in the beginning with the embedded reporters, most of whom have gone on to prestigious think tanks by now, when they claimed that the Iraqis were raising a finger to them in joy and celebration when the invading American force approached Baghdad, as the baseball players do in Boston when they hit a home run. But it turned out that they were just throwing them the finger.

“All of us are happy – Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds on this day,” said a celebrant in the streets of Baghdad. “The Americans harmed and insulted us too much.”

Warner, who was considered one of the best managers and governors in Virginia’s history, was a clear favorite to get the Democratic nomination in the last cycle if we judged by the record. And when the Democrats chose to “whistle past Dixie . . .” with Obama and Clinton, a strategy which threatens now actual division in America between urban and agricultural states, they had on hand with Warner a New England-reared, Harvard-educated Governor who had the Stanley Brothers playing for him at campaign rallies and NASCAR stock cars with his name on the side.

But who are you going to trust, the historical record or Oprah? The Democrats panicked. They may even have self-destructed. Or more accurately, the Democratic Party may have actually been destroyed by the Clintons.

The New York Times Magazine had a cover story on Warner early on and he came up here to New Hampshire to talk to folk in rest homes, then he quickly pulled out of the 2008 race. It was easy to see where the money was going. Bill Clinton, he of the 50 gold watches, was raising money from every corner even going into 2006 when Iraq war veterans running for local offices couldn’t raise a nickel. But the fault was within the Democrats themselves. As I was told by one major fundraiser in the South: “I guess Bill and Hillary are the closest thing we will every get to a king and queen.”

In actuality, they found something even better, Barack Obama, the boy king. The Democrats response to the Republican onslaught that carried for eight years was much like that of the Tibetans when the Red Chinese invaded in the 1950s. They retreated in the mind. There was an overwhelming push to abandon their regents and governors and give all governing power to the boy king, the 14-year-old Dalai Lama who knew nothing of governance.

The Democrats’ boy king took the day, first, as editorial cartoonist Jules Feiffer said, because he was not Hillary Clinton. Second, because like the Iraqis in the streets of Baghdad today, Americans were tired of war.

It is hard to say if the Democrats can recover. Obama could conceivably bow out in 2012. The boy king seems overwhelmed and dominated by his regents and doesn’t really seem to understand the finances any better than Timothy Geithner does. (Jim “The Legend” Rogers: “They don’t know what they’re doing.”) The default to nostalgico strategies of the 1970s, the 1930s and the 1840s could bring us to ruin in no time. But the Democrats are still trapped in their escapist tendency which leads them to boy kings, politicians that look like Elvis, their wives and aunties, professional wrestlers, stand-up comedians and just anybody.

It may be too late. New things are happening in the heartland and the Democratic Party is in the hands of the northeastern leisure class. Obama has left the red states behind. His Homeland Security chief clearly hates and is afraid of Iraq war veterans, most all of whom live in red states. They are still swooning over Clinton and, as Karl Rove said, Joe Biden is a dork. If Obama retired in 2012 they would likely wheel out Hillary again.

But if inflation goes to 20%, as the investor analyst Marc Faber of Gloom, Boom & Doom Report says it soon will (“Because the government has no political will . . .”) and the dollar breaks, it is possibly that the Democrats will finally leave the undergraduate coffee shop behind and turn to Warner for leadership.

In every war cycle there is a pause – like the Obama pause – and then the victor gets back to power and the power cycle restarts. It was that way with Eisenhower, Churchill and it was that way with Nixon and Reagan. This augurs well for Mitt Romney but it could be different this time because what ends today in Baghdad started in 1979 and we are at the end of a full cultural and political cycle.

But the party which advanced the push always has the advantage. As Ulysses S. Grant said, “Experience proves that the man who obstructs a war in which his nation is engaged, no matter whether right or wrong, occupies no enviable place in life or history.”

People don’t remember retreat. They remember victory.