Someone get Daniel Henninger a chair. He is swooning so much over Mr. Bush’s recent speech in Wheeling, West Virginia that he might faint (I was passing through Wheeling last week at just the same time that Mr. Bush was there, but managed not to swoon). This is a speech where Mr. Bush refers to himself as Educator-in-Chief (quick, someone call Lynne Cheney and tell her that the President wants to federalise education!…oh, that’s right, never mind). This is supposed to be real a barn-burner of a speech. All I can say is that I have to assume Mr. Henninger’s enthusiasm for it comes from the way it was delivered and not what Mr. Bush actually said.
Thus spake the Educator-in-Chief:
And it’s fine that people forget the lessons [of 9/11]. But one of my jobs is to constantly remind people of the lessons.
So as chief Educator, he thinks it is a good thing for his students (known in free countries as citizens) to forget the lessons of experience…so he can re-teach them to the students? I suppose that’s a sort of job security for the Educator-in-Chief, and the short memories and short attention span of the American public guarantee that the Educator-in-Chief will have something to do.
Here he says something true:
In other words, you want your President out there making sure that his words are credible.
Indeed we do. Yet Mr. Bush keeps talking just as he always has.
Then he says something silly:
I believe liberty is a universal thought. It’s not an American thought, it is a universal thought. And if you believe that, then you ought to take great comfort and joy in helping others realize the benefits of liberty. The way I put it is, there is an Almighty God. One of the greatest gifts of that Almighty God is the desire for people to be free, is freedom. And therefore — (applause) — and therefore, this country and the world ought to say, how can we help you remain free? What can we do to help you realize the blessings of liberty?
Liberty can mean one of a few things: it can be the state of dispassion and freedom from attachment that a virtuous man realises; it can be deliverance from the rule of the passions and demons through the grace of God; it can be a legal guarantee that you will not be arbitrarily detained, your property seized or your home searched without just cause, and that you will be left unmolested by the authorities in the way prescribed by law. It is fundamentally a state, not a “thought.” In the first two senses of moral or spiritual freedom, it is potentially available to all, but in the third sense it is limited to those societies that have developed the habits, institutions and laws that must exist for this state to exist. Many people can imagine or think of an idea of liberty, and many have, which does not mean that the experience of liberty is or will ever be available to all. There is every reason to believe that the idea of liberty on offer from Mr. Bush, which seems to differ scarcely from self-will and indulgence, directly contradicts the moral and spiritual kinds of liberty that should take precedence in any event, and which often directly undermine the restraint and discipline required for the practice of ordered liberty. The desire to be free in the sense that Mr. Bush means likely does not come from God, but from the other alternative source. For a more elaborate explanation, see The Possessed.
Then he tells a little fib:
They were enforcing a no-fly zone, United Nations no-fly zone, the world had spoken, and he had taken shots at British and U.S. pilots.
The U.N. never authorised the no-fly zones. The world had not “spoken.” Washington, London and Paris (yes, Paris) did what they wanted, and no one could stop them, and that was that. For 12 years the U.S. and U.K. waged an undeclared air war against Iraq that was, by any reasonable standard, illegal under the U.N. Charter and certainly had no authorisation from their respective national legislatures. If that did not constitute as gross a breach of the cease-fire agreement of 1991 as anything Hussein did, I don’t know what would have.
Then there’s a bit of irony:
Freedom represents life and the chance for people to realize their dreams; their philosophy says, you do it my way or else.
Someone might point out that Mr. Bush’s entire approach to government and foreign policy has been “you do it my way or else.” But why quibble over such things? He supports freedom, not despair, so we know he’s all right.
Then the Educator-in-Chief gives us a quick history refresher:
By the way, if you look at our own history, it was a little bumpy on our road, too. You might remember the Articles of Confederation. They didn’t work too well.
Wow. Powerful analysis there. Why didn’t I see that? “They didn’t work too well.” Yes, that was why the Convention met in secret and invented an entire new form of government against their own instructions. Because there was such a clamour to replace those dastardly Articles that…guaranteed the independence and sovereignty of the thirteen states. Lousy Articles! We sure showed them! And don’t you remember all those Anti-Federalists blowing up marketplaces? That was the worst.
Then he reverts to being silly:
I said, freedom is universal; history has proven democracies do not fight each other, democracies can yield peace we want, so let’s advance freedom.
Like, totally! “History” hasn’t “proven” any such thing (history does not prove things, people do), and people who say that “history has proven” this or that should not be allowed to make important decisions…about anything.
Then there is this old stand-by:
Democracies don’t war.
This from the man who ordered the invasion Iraq. The invasion for democracy. I suppose this could be an admission that he is not a democratic leader, but I doubt it.
On the contradiction of supporting the Indian nuclear program and opposing the Iranian nuclear program:
They [the Iranians] have joined the IAEA, and yet we caught them cheating.
I think what Mr. Bush must have meant was that they joined the NPT (those acronyms do get so confusing, don’t they, George?), since various member states can belong to the IAEA, such as India, without committing to nuclear nonproliferation. India, however, was never so stupid as to join the NPT and has been rewarded for operating entirely outside the law. Given his views on immigration reform, Mr. Bush does seem to have a pattern on rewarding the biggest scofflaws, so this makes sense. The Iranians just weren’t blatant enough. They should have rejected the NPT all along, and everything would have been fine.
Then he flogs the dead horse of mythical isolationism:
My attitude is, as I said in the State of the Union, we cannot become an isolationist nation. But you’ll be confronted with making that decision. If we’re an isolationist nation, it means we’ll just say, let them — don’t worry about them over there, let them deal with it themselves. If it’s an isolationist nation, we won’t worry about HIV/AIDS on the continent of Africa, which we should worry about.
Yes, I’m sure the burning concern of every internationalist is whether or not we will be able to do something about AIDS in Africa. If Mr. Bush wants to frame the isolationist/internationalist debate over whether we should be bothering with AIDS in Africa, he is welcome to do so. He might be surprised what his own voters have to say about that.