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[Music clip: Dirge from Handel's Saul.]
01 — Intro. Don't expect much from the Derb this week, listeners. I'm so depressed I can hardly move. Aren't you? You know what week this was. But, I'm going to remind you anyway.
02 — Despair. This was the week when the prospect of an Obama presidency stared us in the face. I'll admit it, I'm in despair. With our national economy swirling away down the toilet bowl, we can take some small comfort in the fact that Obama won't be able to do as much harm as he might with big revenues coming in to the federal government for them to squander on pointless and destructive socialist extravaganzas, but he'll do as much as he can. He will fill up his administration with people like himself — charmed-life meritocrats whose pampered heads are filled with all the poisonous pap of 1980s college radicalism, the stuff Roger Kimball exposed so brilliantly in his book Tenured Radicals — now, by the way, just out in a new and expanded edition. Australians have an expression I like: they talk about the "cultural cringe." That's the posture adopted by a person like Obama when confronting foreigners, most especially foreigners who have some historical grudge against the U.S.A. Obama will make world cringing tours. He will cringe to the Middle Eastern despots, he will cringe to the Africans, he will cringe to the Chinese and the Russians, he will cringe to the mafiosi rulers of Latin America. This coming Obama presidency will be a cringe-a-thon. And you can forget about any kind of sane immigration policy. George W. Bush's policies have been lampooned as, quote, "Invade the world, invite the world." Well, we won't be invading anybody in an Obama presidency, except possibly some place where we can be totally and absolutely sure that our national interest isn't involved, so that the world can gasp in admiration at our idealistic selflessness. We'll sure be inviting, though. A nation like the U.S.A., which has a bloodstained criminal record stretching back through history, has to make amends somehow for its appalling crimes. What better way than to open up the border? Come one, come all. I can tell you one legacy of the Obama years right away: my grandchildren will live in a U.S.A. with a population of a billion, most of whom will be nursing some historical grievance against AmeriKKKa. What a fun, harmonious nation that will be!
03 — Debate 1. What else was this week? Well, it was the week we got exposed to the true clueless awfulness of John McCain. Did you stay awake through that whole wretched debate? No, me neither. I did catch McCain's glowing references to his good friend Russ Feingold, his dear friend Joe Lieberman, and his very dear friend Ted Kennedy. Doesn't the guy have any Republican friends? What's he even doing in the Republican Party? Why doesn't he just team up with his good friend Barack Obama to usher in the glorious new age of social justice and redemption? McCain could stay home running the welcome wagon for illegal immigrants while Obama goes off cringing round the world. Hey, that'd work. Yes, look, I know: John McCain honestly loves his country, and has served it with great and honorable distinction as a warrior. Dorothy Rabinowitz got it right in her Wall Street Journal column on Thursday: the choice here is between a man who has a bone-deep instinctive love for his country, and a man who … doesn't. That's true, and to John McCain's great credit. From the point of view of a conservative, though, what else is to his credit? Anything to lift up a conservative's spirits at the thought of a McCain administration? I can't think of a darn thing. How did we end up with this guy on the GOP ticket? I watched Mitt Romney on the telly the other night, talking calm good sense about the financial crisis. I can't say I ever cared for Romney — I was a Ron Paul voter. Listening to Romney though, I'd have to say, it seems like some cosmic tragedy that we ended up with McCain instead of him. Is God punishing us somehow, perhaps for all those historical crimes the Obamas can't wait to tell you about? If he is, four years of President Obama crawling around the world bleating out apologies while wearing a big KICK ME sign across his rear end should at least put everything right with the Supreme Being.
04 — Mortgage bailout. And what else was this week? It was the week of the sucker. Sucker number one: the fool who calculated carefully before taking out a loan, figuring how much he could sensibly borrow, based on his ability to service the loan. What a sucker! In case the poor sap didn't know how dumb he was, John McCain drove the point home by kneeing him forcefully in the groin at Tuesday's debate. The other guy, said John-John, the guy who had borrowed far above his ability to service the loan, that guy would receive the tender ministrations of the federal government under a McCain administration. They would buy his mortgage, scrub a couple of zeros off the loan amount, then sell it back to him for a nominal fee. The first guy, the sucker who'd behaved responsibly, would have his taxes jacked up to finance the government's loving favors to the second guy. See how it works? Play by the rules, live responsibly, and you get the old groin-cruncher from John-John. Act like a drunken sailor on shore leave, and the federal government will shine the glory of its countenance upon you, and shower down its bounty.
05 — 401(K) crunch. And here comes sucker number two: The guy who, lacking any great athletic or dramatic gifts, or any keen entrepreneurial skills, went for a middle-class job in the private sector, with one of those 401(K) plans the Human Resources lady assured him would see him safely through a long retirement. Well, guess what, sucker, it was all a con. Your carefully-saved retirement funds went to buy an estate in Hawaii for some investment bank CEO and a fleet of limos for some billionaire in the Chinese government. Now you'll have to work till you drop. Sorry about that. You just made a bad life choice there. Remember that old uncle who used to collar you at family functions and hiss in your ear with a blast of bourbon and cigarette fumes: "Get a government job, son!" Well, you should have listened to him. Government people didn't get suckered into the 401(K) scam. They made sure they got defined-benefit pension plans, with inflation escalator clauses and built-in Medicare supplements. While you work till you drop, they're heading for the golf course. If you're nice to them, the public-sector retirees might let you caddy for them a couple of rounds. The tips aren't bad — you could do worse. Face it, this is no country for old men who put their faith in the Human-Resources lady. Listener, I have two teenage kids. Neither of them shows any sign of enrepreneurial talent; neither of them is going to light up the silver screen or the basketball court. I intend to do my damnedest to make sure they both get government jobs, preferably in the imperial capital down there on the Potomac, where all the money and power concentrates. I don't know about "no country for old men," but this is sure no country for private-sector employees.
06 — Debate 2. And just going back to that stupid debate for a moment: Why was it so boring? For all their faults, neither McCain nor Obama is an intrinsically boring person. So why was this such an excruciating snoozer? Well, one reason, it seems to me, was the narrowness of the topics. One thing I've watched, unhappily, over my lifetime — which hasn't been that long — has been the narrowing of public discourse. There are whole huge areas you just can't talk about without being tagged a bad, mean, cruel-hearted person. Take homosexuality, for instance. In the Palin-Biden debate, when the topic of full marriage-style rights for homosexuals came up, Sarah Palin fell over herself to show her approval. This is the conservative side of the GOP ticket. Heaven only knows how John McCain would have responded: compulsory same-sex dating services in all federal institutions, probably. Sarah is a married lady with kids, from out in red-state America, fundamentalist Christian, and boy, she gets breathless just telling you how keen she is on gay rights. What about those of us who aren't keen on them? Who don't want their boys taken off on camping trips by homosexual scoutmasters, or seduced by homosexual college "residence advisors"? Who think homosexuals should keep quiet about their preferences and leave the rest of us, and our institutions, alone? Don't we get to say anything? Isn't any other opinion allowed, other than whole-hearted approval? No it isn't, and no we don't get to say anything, because we are bad, mean people. End of discussion. Another example: When I give political talks I sometimes, just for a little frisson of malicious pleasure, say the phrase "population policy." People gasp when I say that. "Population policy"! — it brings to people's minds ethnic cleansing, forced sterilization, concentration camps, the euthanizing of disabled people, and all the rest. Yet every country, including this one, has a population policy. It's not a question of having one or not having one, it's a question of having a good one or a bad one. Not having a population policy, not even being able to talk about population policy, is itself a population policy. It has consequences for your population, different consequences than you'd have with some other approach. It's a policy. "No policy" is a policy. The Census Bureau recently told us that the U.S.A. will have 440 million people in 2050, when my kids are middle-aged. That is the result of current population policy. Everybody happy with that, or not? Who knows? We're not allowed to talk about it. In 1950 the U.S. population was 150 million. People tell me the U.S.A. was a pretty nice place in 1950. When I came here first in the early 1970s, the population was two hundred million and change. It was still a great place to live. Will it still be, with 440 million? What do you think? Whatever you think, best keep it to yourself. This is something we're not allowed to talk about. Unless, of course, you whole-heartedly approve of current population policy. Which does not exist, because there is no such thing as population policy.
07 — Debate 3. That — that narrowing of the zone of permitted public discourse — is why there have been no questions about immigration in any of the debates. For all the populist pretense and phoney "town hall" formats and bogus informality, these debates are high-elite events run on high-elite rules, and our high elites, the media and political and academic panjandrums who decide these things, they don't want us talking about immigration. They especially don't want us talking about it with a black candidate in the race. Immigration is a topic faintly tinged with race, because most immigrants come from the Third World. Now to talk about race, even in the most indirect and peripheral way, is unacceptably low class, like chewing tobacco or having linoleum on your floors. Can't be done. This provides Barack Obama with a protective shield. It means there are whole swathes of public policy that can't be talked about in his presence: immigration, crime, subprime mortgages, education … all out of bounds. That's why these debates are so dull, so full of who-cares nitpicking wonkery about petty tax breaks, wind farms, and foreign aid — stuff that either nobody believes, or that nobody cares about. Does anybody in the United States really believe that either of these guys will cut taxes on the middle class? Find Osama bin Laden? Make health care or college more affordable? Eliminate our dependence on Middle East oil? Stop Iran getting nukes? Eliminate government programs that don't work? (That, by the way, was a thing both candidates promised to do in this week's debate. They were both lying through their teeth, of course.) Does anybody believe any of those things will be done, by either candidate? Anybody? [Crickets chirping] I thought not.
08 — Obama's shield. If you don't believe that the race taboo is a protective shield for the Democratic candidate, just listen to how his supporters pump up every innocuous remark by the McCain people into a racist outrage. Item: Sarah Palin said the following thing at a fundraiser in Colorado, quote: "Our opponent is someone who sees America … as being so imperfect, imperfect enough that he's palling around with terrorists who would target their own country. This is not a man who sees America like you and I see America," end quote. OK, here comes Representative Gregory Meeks, a Democrat from New York. Quote from Mr. Meeks, commenting on Sarah's remark: "He's 'not one of us?' That's racial. That's fear. They know they can't win on the issues, so the last resort they have is race and fear." End quote. Item: Representative Yvette Clarke, also Democrat, also from New York — I'm taking these from the New York Observer, so these idiots are all from New York. No doubt the same things are being said elsewhere — Rep. Clarke found a racial subtext in Sarah's repeated appeals to "Joe Six-Pack" and "hockey moms." Quote from Rep. Clarke: "Who exactly is Joe Six-Pack and who are these hockey moms? … Is that supposed to be terminology that is of common ground to all Americans? I don't find that. It leaves a lot of people out." Item: Here's New York State Senator Bill Perkins, quote: "They are obviously playing on people's fears and prejudices in a desperate way. While not explicitly relating to race, they are clearly creating the opportunity for those inclined to come to those conclusions. I think it is going to become more explicit as we move forward. It's subtle now, but not so subtle as to be mistaken." End quote. Item: Kevin Parker, another New York state senator said, quote, "If you have to remind people that Barack Obama is African-American, you have reached the bottom." The fundamental message here is that if you don't support Barack Obama, you are a racist. And that shuts people up. Which is what it's intended to do.
09 — Death of conservatism. If you were listening very carefully this week, behind all the shrieks and wails coming from citizens scrutinizing their 401(K) plans, and the gentle sobbing from the direction of Wall Street, and the dull, soporific drone of politicians pretending to debate each other in front of moderators pretending they are impartial, you might have heard a faint croaking sound. That, ladies and gentlemen, was the final death rattle of conservatism in America. Yep, it's over. 2008 is to the conservatism of Bill Buckley and Ronald Reagan as 1930 was to the conservatism of Bill McKinley, Irving Babbitt, and Calvin Coolidge. We're looking at a quarter century of increasing federal power, with nobody of any importance daring to resist. In the fulness of time, round about 2033, a new Bill Buckley will come up, and there will be a rebirth of conservatism in the United States — if there still is a United States, which there are strong grounds to doubt. I sometimes quietly wonder to myself, in the long dark watches of the night, if Bill foresaw this. His passing, at any rate, was timely. He died in February; his movement croaked out its last breath in October. It had of course been moribund for some time, and I do think Bill knew that. Apart from some vaguely patriotic platitudes from all the candidates, can you recall any conservative sentiments being uttered in this long presidential election campaign, other than from Ron Paul and Duncan Hunter? Neither can I. You won't be hearing any, either. Fiscal restraint? You must be kidding. Protection of our sovereignty? In your dreams. English only as the language of our federal government? Keep dreaming. Eliminate the Department of Education? For goodness' sake. Abolish race preferences? Yeah right. Free market in health care? Never happen. Privatize Social Security? [Laugh] Sorry, conservatism is dead, dead as mutton. Fuhgeddaboutit. It would be convenient to blame George W. Bush for killing off American conservatism, but it's nothing so neat. Bush of course is not a conservative, just a muddle-headed centrist with a nice line in Evangelical patter — Jeff Hart explained all that to us years ago, and Bruce Bartlett wrote a fine book about it the year before last. There are greater forces at work than just our president's blunderings, though — big, slow historical tides surging and pulling. I read David Frum's 1994 book Dead Right when it came out and thought it brilliant — I still quote from it. This year David brought out a new book with the title Comeback — Conservatism that Can Win Again, all filled with wretched little penny-ante stuff about pollution taxes and campaigns against obesity. It's on my shelf here. I never finished it. What would be the point?
10 — O.J. Hey look, I told you I was depressed. There's always some good news, though, if you go looking for it — not enough to lift the gloom, but enough to raise a brief, wan smile, at least. This week's good news was the conviction of O.J. Simpson on twelve counts of armed robbery and kidnapping in Las Vegas. In a creepy coincidence that everyone noticed, the conviction came thirteen years to the day since Simpson's acquittal for the murder of his wife and her friend, a double murder for which Simpson's guilt is, as they say in Ireland, known even to the dogs in the street. Sentencing isn't till December 5th, but it looks as though Simpson can't possibly get less than 15 years. He's 61 years old, so jail is likely going to take up the rest of his life. Any chance they could could manage to lose the key? Let's hope so.
11 — Iceland A weird little sidebar to this financial crisis story has been the financial collapse of Iceland. Yep, Iceland — up there in the far north Atlantic, hang a left at Greenland. National population 320,000 — that's about a quarter the population of my outer-suburban county. Iceland's one of those places you never hear about, where nothing happens, and on the rare occasions you think about the place, you guess that they probably have a pretty good thing going there — like New Zealand or Slovenia. Per capita GDP is 4th highest in the world, 64 thousand dollars. The U.S.A. is twelfth at 46 thousand. Iceland also has a very low Gini coefficient, the standard measure of income inequality — 0.25, the fourth lowest in the world. Well, there they were in Reykjavik and Hafnarfjöður, floating along smugly in their inconspicuous prosperity and equality, when suddenly their house fell down. Turns out the Icelandic banks were all grossly over-leveraged, to the tune of around twenty times Iceland's gross national product, so that as credit dried up, they couldn't service their obligations. Now the poor old Icelanders are running round nationalizing everything — very much like the Bush administration. You know what, though? Ten years from now I bet the Icelanders will be as comfortable, as quietly rich, and as smug as ever. Places like that always land on their feet. And if not, heck, the entire population could come migrate here to Suffolk County. We'd hardly notice them.
12 — Signoff. That's your Radio Derb for this sad week, ladies and gentlemen, as the last flickering twilight of conservatism fades into the dark night of community-organizer socialism. Get a copy of Roger Kimball's book, Tenured Radicals, to find out what's in our next president's head. This time next year I shall probably be in a re-education camp, so make the best of Radio Derb while we last. This is your sad host John Derbyshire, signing off despondently for Radio Derb.
[Music clip: More dirge.]