[Music clip: from Handel's Dead March.]
01 — Intro. I thought my usual intro was a bit too cheerful this somber week, as we watch American conservatism slip into its death throes. A funeral dirge seemed more appropriate, so there was a snippet from Handel's Dead March. Yes, folks, it's all over for conservatism once again. But then, when wasn't it? Well, dear old Ronnie Reagan did his best, to be sure, peace be upon him, but it was all over after that. Post-Reagan we got four years of affectless managerialism, eight years of sloppy liberalism, and then seven years of "compassionate conservatism," which is sloppy liberalism without the stained dresses. Foolish of us to hope, I suppose. Now it looks as though we'll be getting eight years of bigger and bigger government, bloated welfare, out of control entitlement spending, open borders, and a dwindling dollar. And that's if a Republican gets elected! Yes, this world is a vale of tears, all right. There's always the hereafter to hope for, I guess. Until we get there, here's Radio Derb to share the misery with you.
02 — Immigration in the campaign. Yes, conservatism took a sharp whack across the kneecaps with a two by four in the Florida primaries, when John McCain carried away the state's 57 delegates. The state's big pool of conservative Hispanics, with Senator Mel Martinez in the lead, were invited to choose between the conservative who wants to stop illegal immigration, and the non-conservative who wants to encourage it. They went for the latter. Surprise, surprise. This race is shaping up really badly for us immigration restrictionists. Lou Dobbs can rage and fume all he likes, Mark Kirkorian and Roy Beck can shower us with facts and figures, schools and prisons can go into lockdown over fighting between blacks and Hispanics, your property taxes can get jacked up once again to pay for more ESL classes, your wait in the hospital emergency room can go from three hours to four while illegals are treated ahead of you, Mexican drug lords can make another billion or two transporting boxcars full of dope across the open border (and border agents who try to stop them can get thrown in jail), Michelle Malkin can expose the Mexican government shill who runs the Hispanic-outreach side of McCain's campaign … None of that matters. What matters is, that Hispanic voters will flock to the open-borders candidates, while non-Hispanics will vote on other issues — mainly because the media have brainwashed us into believing that immigration law enforcement is unkind and un-American. The plan by our elites to elect a new people, the old one having proved so disappointing to them, is going along very nicely. In a California debate the day after Florida, Mitt Romney, to his great credit, spoke frankly about sending illegal immigrants back to their home countries, while John McCain told us, through clenched teeth, that he sure would do something about the border, since that is what those crazy racist Republican voters seem to want, Heaven only knows why, and by golly he knew how to do it, because he's Senator from a border state, and we better believe him because he is a man of honor who would never lie about a thing like that, and what kind of patriot was Romney anyway, making all that money in business when he should have been doing military service? When the topic of birthright citizenship came up, both McCain and Romney dodged it, Huckabee said the Supreme Court had settled the issue — which is a bare-faced lie — and Ron Paul, who has run TV ads against this stupendously stupid idea, couldn't get a word in. That's how it's going with the immigration issue, folks.
03 — Democrats struggle with race. Well, it could be worse. Since hardly any black Americans vote Republican, and not many Hispanics do either, apart from those Florida Cubans, at least the GOP is spared all the agonizing the Democrats are going through about whether, and when, and where, to direct their identity-group pandering to the one group or the other. Mrs. Clinton seems definitely to have decided to leave black voters standing at the bus stop while she speeds off in pursuit of Hispanics, women, and working-class whites. The problem with this Southern Strategy (or Estrategia Meridional) is that Barack Obama's pose as the post-racial candidate, the candidate who will lift us all above this stale, petty bickering, is selling well among non-Hispanic whites, especially young ones. Obama's perfect for that role — charming, witty, relaxed, self-controlled. It's hard not to like the guy. When his actual views about the actual issues peep out through the layers of marzipan and sprinkles, they are somewhere off to the left of Ho Chi Minh, but nobody much seems to care about that. In politics, an ounce of charisma is worth a pound of sense. It's not even clear to me that Obama is as post-racial as he claims. There's that wacky church he belongs to for example, and the far-left, white-hating, liberation-theology minister who runs it, and who Obama claims as his mentor and inspiration. If Obama's so free of racial resentment, what's he doing hanging out with people like that? Somebody should ask him, but of course nobody will. The passionate longing, among non-Hispanic white Americans, for a black politician they can like and trust, is a big factor in our national life right now. Does Obama really fit the bill, though? The longing is sufficiently deep and intense that huge numbers of non-Hispanic whites have convinced themselves that, yes, he does. I don't believe the actual evidence supports that conviction, and I don't want a socialist president anyway, but then, I'm not the U.S. electorate.
04 — Death of George Habash. Let's record the passing of George Habash, in his time — which was the 1960s and 1970s — one of the Middle East's best-known terrorist leaders. Habash was 80 at his death, which means that he came from that generation of Arabs who thought that Islam was a useless, dusty relic of the past, and that all hope for the future rested in a transformation of society along Marxist-Leninist lines. Habash had not, in fact, even been raised as a Muslim — his family were Greek Orthodox. He hated Jews of course, but he seems to have nursed almost as much hatred for any Arabs who were less extreme than himself — he regarded Yasser Arafat as a contemptible bourgeois compromiser. In these days when Middle East terrorism is yoked together in our minds with fundamentalist Islam, it's instructive to be reminded that its roots go much deeper than that. Arab intellectuals of Habash's generation sought a world of perfect justice and equality through socialism. When that didn't work out, the next generation turned back to Islam to create that dream world. When it's clear that that isn't working out either, they'll turn to something else. To constitutional bourgeois democracy, perhaps? Be nice to think so, but don't bet the farm on it.
05 — The Forever War. So are we going to draw down our forces in Iraq, or not? Back in September, the President gave us the impression that things were going so well, we could begin a drawdown. The Iraqi police and military were close to "stood up," as the saying goes, al-Qaeda and the Shi-ite militias had been sent reeling by the success of the surge, and Iraqi politicians would come out of their bunkers and take charge of their country any day now. Great stuff, just what we all wanted to hear. So sixteen months further on, when the next President takes office, there should be a smaller U.S. military footprint in Iraq, right? Well, not exactly. The post-surge numbers may in fact end up higher than the pre-surge ones. In his State of the Union speech, the President spoke of having brought home, or planning to bring home, 20,000 troops. Then he segued into stuff about how further drawdowns will be based on conditions in Iraq, and how General Petraeus is worried about the place falling apart. The bottom line here is pretty clear: We're in Iraq for good. The place will fall apart if we leave — today, next year, ten or twenty years from now — it will fall apart. John McCain spoke of staying for a hundred years if necessary. He wasn't kidding, and a hundred years is starting to sound like, if you'll pardon the expression, a conservative estimate. After all, we've been in Korea for getting on sixty years, in Germany for getting on seventy; and Europe and East Asia are a lot less flammable than the Middle East. The signs are, in fact, that America's political class is pretty much united on the need to keep a huge army in Iraq for pretty much ever. You can include Mrs. Clinton and Senator Obama in that, whatever they say on the campaign trail. So long as there are no spectacular attacks on our homeland, the electorate will probably be fine with it, as they have been with the European and East Asian occupations. The only people who may not be fine with it, are the Joint Chiefs, who worry that a huge new permanent army of occupation will break the military. There are already signs of cracks opening up between General Petraeus, whose assignment is to keep Iraq quiet, and General Casey, the Army chief, whose job is to stop fed-up military personnel leaving the service in droves. There are also, I should add as a footnote, a few cranks like Ron Paul who worry that our country can't afford the ten billion dollars a month the Iraq occupation is costing us. That's nonsense, of course. The U.S.A. is a great gushing fountain of wealth. We can afford absolutely anything — ten billion, ten trillion, whatever — with no negative impact on our national life at all. We all know that, don't we?
06 — Taliban surge. Meanwhile, Afghanistan is going belly up. The Taleban are having a surge of their own. They're taken over vast rural areas, and are probing into the cities now. The January 14 attack on Kabul's best — and best-protected — hotel was indicative of the kind of thing they can do, and they're going to be doing much more of it. (In fact they did, just as I was typing up the transcript for this broadcast — a suicide bomber attack against an Army bus in Kabul.) Eight people died in the hotel attack January 14. What also died was any sense of security among foreigners in Afghanistan, with bars and restaurants now out of business and everyone hunkered down in guarded compounds, Baghdad style. Afghanistan now is heading back to what it was twenty years ago during the Soviet effort there, with Islamists controlling the countryside and Westerners, with the Afghans who are friendly to them, holed up in the cities. Weapons are flowing in to the Taleban from Iran and Pakistan, and al-Qaeda is diverting resources from its Iraq operations to help keep the pot boiling. The British Ambassador to Kabul recently remarked that NATO will have to stay for, quote, "decades" if Afghanistan is ever to resemble a normal country. Decades, huh? Is that like, a hundred years? There have been a flurry of reports issued by think-tanks and the like, all exceedingly gloomy. The latest one, just this week, is from a Washington think tank effort co-chaired by retired Marine Corps general James Jones and former United Nations ambassador Thomas Pickering. This one is the gloomiest of the lot, telling us Afghanistan will fall apart if the West doesn't send more troops. Does that mean us Americans? No, says our Sec Def, it's up to the Europeans. European electorates, however, couldn't care less about Afghanistan, and think America should take care of it if it needs taking care of, which they don't really believe. So: if you were worried that we have a tiger by the tail in Iraq, worry some more; we have other tiger by the tail in Afghanistan. Kiss another trillion dollars goodbye. But hey, we can afford it. It's no problem, no problem at all. We have all the money in the world. Right? Right.
07 — Methodists heart illegals. I'm starting to build up an issues file with the Methodists. If you're a Methodist, please bear with me. I know that some very fine people are Methodists. Hillary Clinton, and many others. Anyway, first I get this news story that Southern Methodist University down there in Dallas is balking at being home to the George W. Bush presidential library. To add insult to injury, SMU is Laura Bush's alma mater. Quote here from the Associated Press story: "United Methodist law requires approval from the church's South Central Jurisdiction, whose 290 delegates meet in July. The opponents say at least one-third of the delegates are against the Bush institute because it will promote his administration's policies that they feel conflict with church teachings." End quote. Now, I guess I'm not the world's biggest George W. Bush fan, but they guy got elected President twice — with a vote from me the second time — and did his best for the country, according to his lights. He's entitled to a library, guys — come on. And then, from Chicago, here we go again with the Adalberto United Methodist Church giving sanctuary to an illegal immigrant propagandist. This was the church that sheltered open-borders activist Elvira Arellano for a year in defiance of a federal deportation order. Their new customer is 28-year-old Flor Crisostomo, like Ms. Arellano an unmarried mother. Her three kids are living back in Mexico with their granny. So as well as not holding the nation's immigration laws in very high esteem, or any esteem at all, this Methodist church apparently doesn't think much of the sanctity of marriage either. If I were a Methodist, I'd be hiding my head under the pillows after reading these stories. Don't Methodist bishops have any authority over shenanigans like this? On the other hand, if the Methodist bishops actually approve of this church promoting illegal immigration, then what's their problem with hosting the George W. Bush library? Ol' Dubya is the illegal immigrant's best friend, after all. Memo to future illegal immigrant single mothers: Instead of holing up in this poky, cold Chicago church, head for the Bush Presidential library. Seems to me you'll be just as welcome there, it's in a much better climate, and you won't be short of something to read while you wait the year or so it takes the immigration authorities to get their act together.
08 — China's New Year seize-up. One feature of life in mainland China is that you do not — not in any year — want to try traveling anywhere at Lunar New Year time. Lunar New Year, which is called "Spring Festival" in Red China, falls on a variable date between January 21st and February 20th. This year it's February 7. In China, where a lot of people work far from home, but want to celebrate New Year with their families, it's absolutely the worst time of year to travel. Trains, planes, buses, even river boats are all packed. Well, this year things are worse than usual. For reasons I'm sure Al Gore would be only too glad to explain to you, the global warming trend has caused record snowfalls over south China, which normally gets no snow at all. This has brought the transport system to a halt, just as a couple of hundred million people showed up at the airports and railroad stations. In Canton, way down in the far south next door to Hong Kong, two hundred thousand people got stuck at the main railroad station. That's a lot of people to be stuck in one place. As my wife said, watching the scenes on a news website: "Think what a state the bathrooms must be in." I'd rather not. In addition to trapping people in railroad stations, the big freeze has caused power problems. China runs mainly on coal, which has to be moved by rail from where the mines are, in the north and west, to where the big demand is, mostly in the south and east. With that not happening, there are blackouts. To pile on the misery even more, food production has been hit by the lousy weather, and that will worsen the inflation that is already a chronic problem. It would be nice to report that the corrupt, intolerant Leninist gangsters who run China are at risk from public discontent at all this disruption, but it's hard to see any signs. China's people have a high tolerance for discomfort, China's security police are extremely good at keeping the lid on, and Party leaders have been bustling around looking as though they care. The ChiComs will be around for a while yet. Happy New Year, China.
09 — Miscellany Here's our closing miscellany of short items.
Item: In the ever-active area of racial apologizing, Australia's government is going to make a formal apology to its Aborigines. The aborigines have had a rough time since Captain Cook showed up back in 1770. As a group, they are at the bottom of Australian society, with high rates of unemployment, crime, drug addiction, domestic violence, and so on. The government apology won't do anything to help any of that, but I guess it will make Australians feel better. That's what these apologies do — make everyone feel better. Isn't that what politics is all about?
Item: How could I have got through this broadcast with only a passing mention of the State of the Union speech? Well, I dutifully sat through the whole thing, and tried to take notes. Looking at my notes now, though, most of them say things like: "Pelosi looks older than usual," and "Couldn't he at least try to pronounce 'nuclear' like a person with a college degree?" I guess the speech didn't grab me. Bob Novak called it, quote, "probably Bush's least expensive State of the Union." I guess that's something, even though we know by now that in Bush-world — never mind Congress-world — "less expensive" means nineteen trillion devaluing dollars instead of twenty trillion. Oh well, let's be grateful for small mercies.
Item: Will America ever be free from the curse of racism? I have no idea; but I feel pretty sure America will never be free of the curse of Kennedyism. Further evidence of this dismal fact came up last week when Senator-for-life Teddy Kennedy threw his considerable bulk behind the Barack Obama campaign. This brought forth great gusts of hot air from the liberal media about how we shall have a new Camelot, how the torch has been passed to a new generation, blather blather blather blather … Hmm. When you actually look at the record of the Kennedy administration, though, I think it's clear that we should pay any price, bear any burden, to avoid letting the Boston mafiosi get that close to executive power again. The definitive remark on the whole business was made by my colleague John O'Sullivan. Kennedy, said John, was fond of posing as this great patron of high culture, going to concerts and having classical recitals in the White House, and so on; but it was Dick Nixon who actually knew how to play the piano. Exactly. No more Kennedy-esque poseurs in the Oval Office, please. And in any case, I get the definite impression that Michelle Obama had a firmer grip on the leash than Jacqueline Kennedy had.
Item: OK, quick now, what is the currency of Rwanda? No, no, it's not the "machete" — be nice, please. It is the Rwandan Franc, trading this morning at 538 to the dollar. You will need to know this when you start trading on the Rwanda Stock Exchange, which just opened this week in Rwanda's capital, Kigali. Hard not to raise a cheer for that, when you consider Rwanda's recent past. Perhaps the End of History really will arrive one day; perhaps even in Africa, the swords will be beaten into yellow suspenders, the bombs will be traded in for Bloomberg terminals, and tribalism will morph into capitalism. Or perhaps not: just across the lake in Kenya, things are going from bad to worse, with the death toll now over a thousand and hundreds of thousands ethnically cleansed in tribal fighting. And Kenya's had a stock exchange since 1954. I do my best to bring you good news out of Africa, but, boy, it isn't easy.
Item: You know the famous Carnival in Rio de Janeiro — you know, nearly-naked men and women dancing and drumming to samba music around gaudy floats? Well, one of those floats got itself banned this year. It featured a Holocaust theme, with a guy dressed as Adolf Hitler standing atop a big pile of emaciated corpses. The float was the brainchild of something called the Viradouro Samba School, and school officials are insisting that the float is, quote, "extremely respectful." To whom? Well, to Hitler, I guess.
10 — Signoff. That's it, guys and gals. I apologize for any slight slurring you may have noticed there. It's late Thursday evening, I sat through the entire Clinton-Obama debate, and I needed several refills of Old Crow to see me through the thing. I promise to be sober as a judge — what a strange expression that is, isn't it? — for next week's Radio Derb … unless I have to sit through another one of these debates.
[Music clip: More Haydn.]