Late Night: I Love Everything about America, Except for Charles Krauthammer, Who Is Kind of a Dick
Seriously, Charles Krauthammer: Dick.
I realize that this is not a particularly polite thing to say, and is certainly not Civil Discourse. But what the hell? What the hell is one supposed to say in response to this class of thing, except, you’re a dick?
Among these crosscurrents, my thesis is simple: The question of whether America is in decline cannot be answered yes or no. There is no yes or no. Both answers are wrong, because the assumption that somehow there exists some predetermined inevitable trajectory, the result of uncontrollable external forces, is wrong. Nothing is inevitable. Nothing is written. For America today, decline is not a condition. Decline is a choice. Two decades into the unipolar world that came about with the fall of the Soviet Union, America is in the position of deciding whether to abdicate or retain its dominance. Decline–or continued ascendancy–is in our hands.
If this were Sports! Commentary, Krauthammer here could be roughly translated as saying You Need to Give 110% and Put Some Points on the Board, and so forth. Or, this is the rhetoric of an International Conference of Super-Villains, with a plenary session by, oh, who knows, some creepy-ass bald dude in a stupid jumpsuit with tinfoil epaulets, petting a cat, giggling “bwah-ha-ha soon we will CONTROL THE WORLD!” Which is I suppose what we’ll be seeing Glenn Beck doing all next week.
Krauthammer sees the world in preposterous pulp comic-book terms. Why does the United States need to be “dominant”? And why does a lack of “dominance” necessarily mean “decline”? Why does the world even need a hegemon, anyhow? Is Oasis better than Blur? Could God roll a joint so tight, even He couldn’t smoke it? Who played the Cisco Kid? Why is Paula Abdul famous? Who wrote the Book of Love? If you could trap time in a bottle, what’s the one thing you’d like to do?
But even on his own terms and pretending his premises aren’t silly, Krauthammer achieves fail:
The current liberal ascendancy in the United States–controlling the executive and both houses of Congress, dominating the media and elite culture–has set us on a course for decline. And this is true for both foreign and domestic policies. Indeed, they work synergistically to ensure that outcome.
But the liberal internationalism of today is different. It is not center-left, but left-liberal. And the new left-liberal internationalism goes far beyond its earlier Clintonian incarnation in its distrust of and distaste for American dominance. For what might be called the New Liberalism, the renunciation of power is rooted not in the fear that we are essentially good but subject to the corruptions of power–the old Clintonian view–but rooted in the conviction that America is so intrinsically flawed, so inherently and congenitally sinful that it cannot be trusted with, and does not merit, the possession of overarching world power.
For the New Liberalism, it is not just that power corrupts. It is that America itself is corrupt–in the sense of being deeply flawed, and with the history to prove it. An imperfect union, the theme of Obama’s famous Philadelphia race speech, has been carried to and amplified in his every major foreign-policy address, particularly those delivered on foreign soil. (Not surprisingly, since it earns greater applause over there.)
And because we remain so imperfect a nation, we are in no position to dictate our professed values to others around the world. Demonstrators are shot in the streets of Tehran seeking nothing but freedom, but our president holds his tongue because, he says openly, of our own alleged transgressions towards Iran (presumably involvement in the 1953 coup). Our shortcomings are so grave, and our offenses both domestic and international so serious, that we lack the moral ground on which to justify hegemony.
Is “America” corrupt? Only to the degree that the people in charge of its policies are. And the people who ran America for eight years were so sublimely corrupt they thought they were, well, qualified to run the world, when they were in truth delusional incompetents. If you start a war based on hooey, and then botch it, this, you know, has dire consequences for whether or not people think you’re Morally Serious and Fit for Global Command.
If Krauthammer is bothered about how pretty much everyone on the planet thinks the people who think as he does are utterly unfit to rule the world, well, he and his pals had their chance to prove their thesis, and they whizzed it pretty spectacularly.
The “problem” with America is, precisely, Charles Krauthammer, or, even worse, the notion that he and his are not frightening clowns.