Sometimes I think I’m living in England and it’s 1938.
In 1938, every Brit knew there was a war coming, and had known it since 1936 when Hitler re-militarized the Rhineland, against the Versailles Treaty, and neither Britain nor France raised a finger to stop him. We only learned after the war that had Britain and France made any gesture to stop Hitler, the German army would have deposed him. But after the Rhineland bluff, Hitler had become untouchable among the people.
England was under a Labor government at the time, Stanley Baldwin, who was replaced by a Tory, Neville Chamberlain, who was supposed to stiffen Britain’s military response to the war clouds on the Continent. But both missed the real measure of Hitler’s ambition or the German war plans. So, Chamberlain humored the Fuehrer by giving him Czechoslovakia with his enduring by-word for appeasement, “peace in our time.”
So much for bi-partisanship, where the Labor-Tory quibbling was over money instead of rearming, partly under the belief that the coming war would be on the Continent, as had been WWI in 1914. This miscalculation would come home to roost in England with the London Blitz of 1940.
“The Wahr”, as it was called in Mobile, began in September, 1939, but was assured in 1936, and all the English people knew it. Only they could do nothing about it. Nor did they have any idea how it would show up on their doorstep.
This history should seem uneasily familiar, which is why I sometimes think it’s 1938 all over again..
But sometimes, I also think this is America during the election of 1860.
And there’s the rub. America is under attack from without and within, and whether we like it or not, we will have to deal with both realities simultaneously. Only will our next president be able to do that? Will he or she even know to do that?
I know the prospects of a conservative takeover of both the Congress and the White House is an appetizing thought, even though we’ve already seen the true colors of our congressional Republican leadership. I know we believe a true conservative president will whip them into shape. Only will he (or she)? Or will they just go with the flow the media establishes, politics as usual? A true conservative should go in knowing he will be paddling upstream the entire time….virtually alone
But we believe, together they can perform miracles, for they will have the combined power to actually execute the platitudes they’ve been spouting. Only do they really want to? Do they really intend to go to the mat to make these things happen?
And do they know in advance what’s coming if they try?
You see, we need to be grading our candidates on the integrity behind their rhetoric, plus an unbending Churchill-like resolve to carry them out, much more than we grade them on their positions about ethanol subsidies for Iowa farmers.
Let me set up a likely scenario if a true conservative wins in 2016, and the GOP holds the House and Senate (both likely):
1) Regardless of the conservative platform the next president ran on, he will be confronted with foreign enemies coming at us from all sides, just to test him, from China and Russia to ISIS and Al Qaeda, and yes, a newly-emboldened Iran. The next American president will not have the power and prestige of the Office and the Flag to rest on in order to combat these threats. He will have to restore all that, just as Ronald Reagan did in the 1980s. His Reykjavik is still out there, actually two-three of them. And other foreign enemies will come at him in all manner of disguises, in places you likely already know, but in others we may not. They will attack in groups from of two’s to two-hundred, and will eventually breach that “impenetrable wall” Jeh Johnson has erected around the country. Seriously, how quickly do you think a Republican president will be able to secure the borders when the Democrat Party and every Hispanic NGO in the hemisphere, plus the UN, will be working overtime to block it?
2) And this will all likely occur amidst a wave of bureaucratic wrecking in several key agencies. Why? Because this new president promised he would cut government spending, the size of government, and the reach of government, and even the most stupid of bureaucrats, especially the least senior, knows what that means. It will only require them to see that the new president actually meant that pledge, which will occur even before the honeymoon is over. Will the new president know that he will likely have to exercise executive power to fire all those people at the VA, EPA, IRS and others, since the bureaucracies rules won’t allow it. Does he know he will have set into motion a covert operation to reduce the power of the bureaucracy even as little as 2% instead of the needed 20%.
3) The president will likely know that a hard-left cadre will be heading to their basement bomb-making cells, just like the 60’s, only it will be in the thousands this time. But do they know they will be supported by an urban mob-release of tens of thousands of inner city, gang-led armies being groomed and fed raw meat as we speak? They are waiting in queue for the go-signal, while training moves apace. And they will try to turn hundreds of suburban neighborhoods into mini-Alamos, especially in gun-free states and cities, and where urban policemen will be ordered to continue their sitzkreig inside a blue Maginot Line created by the Department of Justice. Or will the new president not know that Stephanie Rawlings-Blake will still be Baltimore’s mayor, and Marilyn Mosby still its top cop when he or she are inaugurated?
4) And then there is the Republican Party itself. Can a genuinely conservative president co-exists with the likes of Mitch McConnell, John McCain, Orrin Hatch, or the Coppertone Tanning Team in the House? McConnell & Co and Boehner & Co have alliances with the federal bureaucracy every bit as strong as do the Democrats. After all, they are Congress’ principal constituency, and have been for over forty years.
This is why these prospects makes me think of Abraham Lincoln and the tragic weight he carried, more than Churchill, who had the advantage of seeing his war coming for years. Like the deer-in-the-headlights vision most presidential candidates have when they campaign, Lincoln ran on a platform to end slavery never seeing a war as its result. Many of his financial backers thought he was an amiable but easy-to-manipulate politician, who, with that one issue in his right hand, would leave the rest of government to them. Lincoln had to fight that entire war with the other hand.
Instead of that one platform issue of slavery in 1860, Lincoln spent his entire presidency fighting day and night to achieve one single thing, and that was to preserve the Union. Had America been looking for a war president, he wouldn’t even have thrown his hat in the ring. So, to persevere, and to win, Lincoln had to draw on inner strengths that didn’t even appear on his resume as a candidate.
During the war, he was never popular in the sense that Obama or Reagan were popular, yet people sensed an inner strength in “Mr Lincoln,” that he was one who would not allow his knees to buckle and would never look right or left until he had finished the war. No man ever had more prayers going up for him every day than Abraham Lincoln. (I’d like to see a Pew poll on that.)
The Next President
These are the qualities I think we need in the next president, for I doubt they’ll get much chance to carry out most of their original platforms…even if they do mean it. In many respects this will be an election of platitudes versus policy, and we must all look for candidates with platitudes they really mean to back up with all those Lincoln-esque intangibles; strength of courage, an ability to turn on a dime, foresight, a search for what the opposition (both domestic and foreign) are planning, and the ability to adapt to it, and the fortitude not to give a damn what the New York Times or polls are saying. Both Reagan and GW Bush had that quality, only the new president will have to do much better than either, in seeing true Evil for what it is in America, and to be less loyal to friends when they fail.
For unbending loyalty to principle, I place Ted Cruz and Rand Paul atop the field, and while I think Sen Paul is otherwise not the best choice to be president, that one quality would put him ahead of the most of the rest. Ted Cruz, spokesman for the Tea Parties and social conservatives, Rick Perry and Scott Walker, both spokesmen for can-do executive governance, and Rick Santorum, the spokesman of the common man – each will find himself lined up against the establishment wing of their own party, just to carry out any part of their promise to reduce the size of government even as the rest of the government will be in near-open revolt. They will all have to possess special courage.
Call it instinct, but without assigning any special voter attraction to Carly Fiorina, Dr Ben Carson, and Bobby Jindal yet, I think they also contain those Lincoln-esque characteristics to be able to rise to the challenges that aren’t printed on the original presidential program. Time will tell.
Jeb Bush seems to me to have all the character qualities of Lincoln, only he lives in the same forest as did Mitt Romney when it comes to recognizing true Evil. Too damned congenial. Like his brother and his father, he does not seem to be able to (want to) see what evil lurks in the hearts of other men…across the aisle, and I am afraid America cannot afford to wait until the first pipe-bomb is thrown in a crowded mall in Minneapolis to find out.
(Oh, you may be wondering why some luminous names are missing. You can think what you want, but I always have an “Already Been Rolled” list, which is a deal-breaker to me in choosing in the primaries. (In the general, well I voted for McCain in 2008, so you know my hypocrisy knows no bounds.) But my Already Been Rolled list consists of Marco Rubio, Christ Christie, Mike Huckabee, and Lindsay Graham, who was first rolled in 5th grade.)