Mark Steyn is in exceptional form this week.
For much of last year, a standard trope of President Obama’s speechwriters was that there were certain things only government could do. “That’s how we built this country — together,” he declared. “We constructed railroads and highways, the Hoover Dam and the Golden Gate Bridge. We did those things together.” As some of us pointed out, for the cost of Obama’s 2009 stimulus bill alone, you could have built 1,567 Golden Gate Bridges — or one mega–Golden Gate Bridge stretching from Boston to just off the coast of Ireland. Yet there isn’t a single bridge, or a single dam (“You will never see another federal dam,” his assistant secretary of the interior assured an audience of environmentalists). Across the land, there was not a thing for doting network correspondents in hard hats to stand in front of and say, “Obama built this.”
Until now, that is. Obamacare is as close to a Hoover Dam as latter-day Big Government gets. Which is why its catastrophic launch is sobering even for those of us who’ve been saying for five years it would be a disaster. It’s as if at the ribbon-cutting the Hoover Dam cracked open and washed away the dignitaries; as if the Golden Gate Bridge was opened to traffic with its central span missing; as if Apollo 11 had taken off for the moon but landed on Newfoundland. Obama didn’t have to build a dam or a bridge or a spaceship, just a database and a website. This is his world, the guys he hangs with, the zeitgeist he surfs so dazzlingly, Apple and Google, apps and downloads. But his website’s a sclerotic dump, and the database is a hacker’s heaven, and all that’s left is the remorseless snail mail of millions and millions of cancellation letters.
For the last half-century, Obama has simply had to be. Just being Obama was enough to waft him onwards and upwards: He was the Harvard Law Review president who never published a word, the community organizer who never organized a thing, the state legislator who voted present. And then one day came the day when it wasn’t enough simply to be. For the first time in his life, he had to do. And it turns out he can’t. He’s not Steve Jobs or Bill Gates or Jeff Bezos. And Healthcare.gov is about what you’d expect if you nationalized a sixth of the economy and gave it to the Assistant Deputy Commissar of the Department of Paperwork and the Under-Regulator-General of the Bureau of Compliance.
Politics, the late Christopher Hitchens used to say, is show business for ugly people. But it’s also ugly business for show people. Thatcherism is a political philosophy; Obamaism is a vibe, a groove, a pose, an aesthetic. When his speechwriters are cooking, he’ll get them to work up a little riff about how it’s not about Big Government vs. Small Government, it’s about “smarter” government. A few months ago, he even gave it a hashtag! #SmarterGov. How cool is that? “Smart” refers less to the product than to the guys pitching it. “He’s probably the smartest guy ever to become president,” said the historian Michael Beschloss the day after Obama’s election. In an embarrassing effusion even by his own standards, another smart guy, the New York Times’ house conservative David Brooks, noted the incoming administration’s narrow range of almae matres and cooed: “If a foreign enemy attacks the United States during the Harvard–Yale game anytime over the next four years, we’re screwed.” Obama and his courtiers were the smartest guys in town, so naturally their government would be smarter than all previous governments. A few weeks before Obamacare’s launch, one of the smart set, Dan Pfeiffer, promised it would be “a consumer experience unmatched by anything in government, but also in the private sector.” And he was right, kind of.
Read the whole thing.
Wikipedia article on the poet Tom Boggs:
Boggs and fellow student Robert Clairmont met in Pittsburgh and became literary friends. Clairmont, a poet who inherited $350,000 under strange circumstances in 1925, left for New York, where he became an extravagant character in the Greenwich Village Bohemian scene and invited Boggs to join him. Boggs recorded many of their wild escapades in a novelized biography called “Millionaire Playboy.” He also started a short-lived literary journal, bankrolled by Clairmont and launched on April Fools’ Day 1927, called “New Cow of Greenwich Village” (A Monthly Periodical Sold on the Seven Arts as Such).
“When did the world begin and how?”
I asked a lamb, a goat, a cow:
“What’s it all about and why?”
I asked a hog as he went by:
“Where will the whole thing end and when?”
I asked a duck, a goose, a hen:
And I copied all the answers too,
A quack, a honk, an oink, a moo.
Gazeta Krakowska has the story of the recent discovery of a medieval sword in southeastern Poland by a high school student.
(roughly translated by me)
During a Sunday walk with his dad and his Bernese dog along the banks of the Dunajec River, 17-year-old Piotr Warzała made a surprising discovery. He found in the river a very well preserved sword from the Middle Ages. The river was unusually shallow , and in a place where water once flowed, there was now a small beach. They went down to it during their walk.
Immediately, he caught sight of a round objerct projecting about 10 centimeters above the ground covered with mud. It proved to be the pommel of the handle of a sword 1.2 meters [3.9 feet] in length. The boy took the unusual discovery home and wrapped it in a sheet to bring to the city of Tarnow, to the local office of the National Service for the Protection of Monuments.
Peter’s rational and praiseworthy action made it possible to document and map the location where the sword was found as new archaelogical site, said Andrzej Cetera , Head of the Office for the Protection of Monuments.
The teenager’s behavior was exemplary and a proposal is being prepared requesting that the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage reward the boy with a diploma of commendation, and also with a financial reward, not exceeding 5% of the average salary, he said.
It is not only his opinion that finding this sword is worth a reward. There are in the collections of the department of archeology and museums about ten medieval swords, but this one is unique because of its unusually well-preserved handle and hilt, says Andrzej Szpunar from the District Museum.
On Friday, the sword was exhibited in Tarnow to researchers from Warsaw specializing in the period of the Hussite Wars, who were very impressed with our latest acquisition, reported Agnieszka Kukułka of the department of archeology .
After detailed documentation is completed, the sword will probably next week be taken to Glogau, where it will undergo conservation by specialists, which may take up to six months. It is possible that it will seen again in the Tarnów museum in all its glory later this year.
“I am glad that in this small way I could contribute to the preservation of such traces of the past. Just knowing this is a great reward for me.” said Piotr Warzała, day student of the first class at the Szczepanik school in Tarnow.
We learn that Peggy Noonan is at her heartfelt best, noting as she does — clearly, and not for the first time (though probably somewhere in the neighborhood of 4 or 5 times by now) — that this Obama fellow, despite his manufactured polish, his practiced speech, and his inflated credentials, may just prove ill-equipped to really lead effectively and handle the challenges facing the nation.
– Many of which wouldn’t be facing the nation in the first place had not ostentatiously cosmopolitan and “pragmatic” GOP pundits like the ubiquitous Peggy Noonan so disturbingly creamed over candidate Obama and his academic bona fides — which amounted to studies of critical race theory, race and law, the promotion of Marxism using the language of liberty as its camouflage, and mau-mauing the flak catchers, all of which requires nothing more than a willingness to parrot back leftist talking points to leftist professors looking to turn you into activist leftist foot soldiers and then, if you happen to have the right pedigree, perhaps even greater things.
Or, to put it another way, one of the women who helped guilt the American people into electing a transformative Marxist with a dubious background and no governing experience, a man who, after his drug-addled youth hung out with domestic terrorists, academic (and activist) anti-Semites, and got his religious counsel from a man steeped in hatred of Whites and Jews, as head of the free world — while simultaneously turning down her nose at figures like Sarah Palin, who has proven over the course of time to be every bit as prescient as Ms Noonan was bamboozed, hoodwinked, and gloriously conned — is now writing to tell us the President is not who he promised he’d be.
Read the whole thing. It’s a good one.
Oh, how things have changed. I can remember 2008 when Peggy Noonan was smitten by the man of Destiny.
Well, the bloom is off the rose now, and Peggy has Obama’s number this time.
It’s a leader’s job to be skeptical of grand schemes. Sorry, that’s a conservative leader’s job. It is a liberal leader’s job to be skeptical that grand schemes will work as intended. You have to guide and goad and be careful.
And this president wasn’t. I think part of the reason he wasn’t careful is because he sort of lives in words. That’s been his whole professional life—books, speeches. Say something and it magically exists as something said, and if it’s been said and publicized it must be real. He never had to push a lever, see the machine not respond, puzzle it out and fix it. It’s all been pretty abstract for him, not concrete. He never had to stock a store, run a sale and see lots of people come but the expenses turn out to be larger than you’d expected and the profits smaller, and you have to figure out what went wrong and do better next time.
People say Mr. Obama never had to run anything, but it may be more important that he never worked for the guy who had to run something, and things got fouled up along the way and he had to turn it around. He never had to meet a payroll, never knew that stress. He probably never had to buy insurance! And you know, his policies were probably gold-plated—at the law firm, through his wife’s considerable hospital job, in the Illinois Legislature, in the U.S. Senate. Those guys know how to take care of themselves! Maybe he felt guilty. Maybe that’s to his credit, knowing he was lucky. Too bad he didn’t know what he didn’t know, like how every part has to work for a complicated machine to work.
Here I will say something harsh, and it’s connected to the thing about words but also images.
From what I have seen the administration is full of young people who’ve seen the movie but not read the book. They act bright, they know the reference, they’re credentialed. But they’ve only seen the movie about, say, the Cuban missile crisis, and then they get into a foreign-policy question and they’re seeing movies in their heads. They haven’t read the histories, the texts, which carry more information, more texture, data and subtlety, and different points of view. They’ve only seen the movie—the Cubans had the missiles and Jack said “Not another war” and Bobby said “Pearl Harbor in reverse” and dreadful old Curtis LeMay chomped his cigar and said “We can fry a million of ‘em by this afternoon, Mr. President.” Grrr, grrr, good guys beat bad guys.
It’s as if history isn’t real to them. They run around tweeting, all of them, even those in substantial positions. “Darfur government inadequate. Genocide unacceptable.” They share their feelings – that happens to be one of the things they seem to think is real, what they feel. “Unjust treatment of women—scourge that hurts my heart.” This is the dialogue to the movies in their heads.
There’s a sense that they’re all freelancing, not really part of anything coherent.
For four years I have been told, by those who’ve worked in the administration and those who’ve visited it as volunteers or contractors, that the Obama White House isn’t organized. It’s just full of chatter. Meetings don’t begin on time, there’s no agenda, the list of those invited seems to expand and contract at somebody’s whim. There is a tendency to speak of how a problem will look and how its appearance should be handled, as opposed to what the problem is and should be done about it. People speak airily, without point. They scroll down, see a call that has to be returned, pop out and then in again.
It does not sound like a professional operation. And this is both typical of White Houses and yet on some level extreme. People have always had meetings to arrange meetings, but the lack of focus, the lack of point, the sense that they are operating within accepted levels of incoherence—this all sounds, actually, peculiar.
And when you apply this to the ObamaCare debacle, suddenly it seems to make sense. The White House is so unformed and chaotic that they probably didn’t ignore the problem, they probably held a million meetings on it. People probably said things like, “We’re experiencing some technological challenges but we’re sure we’ll be up by October,” and other people said, “Yes, it’s important we launch strong,” and others said, “The Republicans will have a field day if we’re not.” And then everyone went to their next meeting. And no one did anything. And the president went off and made speeches.
Because the doing isn’t that important, the talking is.
Read the whole, devastating thing.
Hat tip to Madame Scherzo.