Victor Davis Hanson at Hillsdale

I attended Victor Davis Hanson‘s lecture at Hillsdale College yesterday evening. The topic: “How a Border War in Europe Led to World War II”. Excellent. Dr. Hanson has an amazing command of history.

The good news is, you can watch it here. Well worth it.

You can also visit Dr. Hanson’s blog with that link, or by using the left hand menu on TOC.

The Moral Foundations of Society

Rest in Peace, Mrs. Thatcher.

I can think of no better tribute than the email I received today from Hillsdale College.

A Message from Hillsdale College President Larry P. Arnn:

Lady Thatcher, born Margaret Roberts in 1925, was one of the most important and beneficial statesmen of the twentieth century. When she came to power in 1979, her nation was held in the grip of unions that had command of the largest political party in the state. They used that power to shut down industries and even sections of the country at will to make employment demands. Rather than resist, the government would collude in crippling strikes. Margaret Thatcher was elected with a promise to stop these practices, and in a series of dramatic confrontations in her first year she was successful. She did not seek, she said, to adjust the power from labor to capital, but rather to return the government to serving the whole people and the public interest.

In 1982, she sent British forces to war against the junta in Argentina, which had invaded the Falkland Islands, a British protectorate. Britain won that war with the help of the United States and its president, her friend, Ronald Reagan. The Falklands are in dispute between Britain and Argentina today, and the current administration in Washington is less friendly to Britain. The people of the Falklands, whenever they are asked, still indicate in overwhelming numbers that they wish to remain as they are.

The only statue of Lady Thatcher in North America stands on the Hillsdale College campus. She visited the campus in 1994 and spoke at college events on several occasions. We are proud to have known her. At our spring convocation on Thursday we will say prayers of thanksgiving for her life and service.

Here is the text of a speech Mrs. Thatcher gave at Hilsdale, and from which this post takes its title.

The Parliament of Mad


Mark Steyn spoke at Hillsdale College last night and I was lucky enough to be there.

Hillsdale was the first American college to prohibit in its charter all discrimination based on race, religion, or sex, but is probably most well known for its refusal of government funding. Steyn is a regular speaker at Hillsdale.

Steyn’s “text” as Mark Twain would say, arose from the poem Locksley Hall, by Alfred, Lord Tennyson. Tennyson wrote the poem when he was 26, in 1835. In it, he describes a utopian vision.

For I dipt into the future, far as human eye could see,
Saw the Vision of the world, and all the wonder that would be;

Saw the heavens fill with commerce, argosies of magic sails,
Pilots of the purple twilight dropping down with costly bales;

Heard the heavens fill with shouting, and there rain’d a ghastly dew
From the nations’ airy navies grappling in the central blue;

Far along the world-wide whisper of the south-wind rushing warm,
With the standards of the peoples plunging thro’ the thunder-storm;

Till the war-drum throbb’d no longer, and the battle-flags were furl’d
In the Parliament of man, the Federation of the world.

There the common sense of most shall hold a fretful realm in awe,
And the kindly earth shall slumber, lapped in universal law.

Last night, Steyn spoke eloquently and humorously about the threat of such a “world federation of universal law based on the common sense of most.” Warning that pursuing Tennyson’s vision is the road to totalitarianism, he gave examples of the IAEA, the IPCC, the UN; and, paradoxically, Western democratic governments: “Watching China, India and Russia save the world from the economic disaster western nations intended to foist upon themselves at the recent Copenhagen conference, one can only be grateful.” (I paraphrase.)

Another example, Steyn says, is that it is no surprise that after 2 generations of Americans have marinated in educational institutions designed to emphasize cultural relativism that the Army Chief of Staff could say, “It would be a shame — as great a tragedy as this was — it would be a shame if our diversity became a casualty as well,” after 14 Americans died in the Fort Hood massacre: “When the Chief of Staff of your Army sounds like a San Francisco school superintendent, you’re in trouble.”

Steyn’s remarks will appear in Imprimis. Look for it.

In writing this I looked for a site to allow copy and paste of that portion of Tennyson’s poem Steyn quoted yesterday. As a result, I became aware that Tennyson revisited Locksley Hall in 1886 with the poem Locksley Hall Sixty Years After (1886).

There is a pessimism and disappointment evident in this poem; and what amounts to an extended rebuke to the young, perhaps even to the young Tennyson. The utopian longing remains, but it seems that lack of progress toward this goal has taken a toll on the older Tennyson.

Chaos, Cosmos! Cosmos, Chaos! once again the sickening game;
Freedom, free to slay herself, and dying while they shout her
name.

Bring the old dark ages back without the faith, without the hope,
Break the State, the Church, the Throne, and roll their ruins down
the slope.

Given the dire consequences we experience today from the politically correct poppycock Tennyson foreshadowed in 1835, perhaps it is fair to read these excerpts as second thoughts.

I would be remiss here if I did not thank Mike for a tour of the campus. Impressive. Especially the Mossey Library Heritage Room.

P.S. I sometimes think of Mark Steyn as a fusion of H. L. Mencken and P. J. O’Rourke. If you don’t already know his stuff, you should really check it out.

America Alone is essential reading.

Passing Parade is certainly the best compendium of obituaries ever written. No, that’s wrong, it’s a compendium of the best obituaries ever written – with humor and affection. Highly recommended.

There’s lots more Steyn at the opening link.

Update 13-March 11:50AM: Welcome to visitors from SteynOnline. And here is a podcast of Mark talking to Elliot Gaiser at Hillsdale.

The terms Instalanche and Slashdotted come to mind. If there is such a term for SteynOnline I don’t know it. Steynstampede?

The Wall

TOC has mentioned Professor Paul Rahe before. Here is a must read analysis of President Obama’s gestures.

Yesterday, I mentioned the President’s midnight call to the Poles announcing his unilateral abandonment of the missile defense shield they, and the Czechs, had risked much to achieve. I forgot that insult was trebled because it came on the 70th anniversary of the Soviet Union’s invasion of Poland. This could not have been accidental. It was certainly petty.

Poland has 2,000 troops on the ground with us in Afghanistan. Unlike France and Germany, their mission is to fight. Poland has seen 15 of its soldiers killed in Afghanistan.

Professor Rahe’s point today is that President Obama’s refusal to go to Berlin on the anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall is a rejection of an achievement unequaled in the history of free men. Rahe’s list of American leaders who fought to bring down that Wall constitutes a lesson in bi-partisanship, and is a catalog of mistakes from which the West learned hard lessons. The Wall was a powerful symbol of totalitarian thuggery. Fallen, it is an even more powerful symbol of freedom.

In 1963, President John Kennedy speaking in Berlin at the Rathaus Schönebergand said, “Ich bin ein Berliner.”

In 1987, President Ronald Reagan, at the Brandenburg Gate, demanded of Mikhail Gorbachev, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!”

In 2008, then Presidential candidate Barack Obama spoke at the Tiergarten, a few kilometers from his preferred location (the Brandenburg Gate, but his presumption was blocked by German Chancellor Angela Merkel). As a mere candidate, the plan to speak at the Brandenburg Gate was widely regarded as unseemly overreach.

During that Tiergarten speech Presidential candidate Obama said this, “I know my country has not perfected itself. At times, we’ve struggled to keep the promise of liberty and equality for all of our people. We’ve made our share of mistakes, and there are times when our actions around the world have not lived up to our best intentions.” An uttering so bland and general that it need not have been said of any democracy, much less of one’s own on foreign soil.

Today is the 20th anniversary of the tearing down of the Berlin Wall, and President Barack Obama, who wanted to speak at the Brandenburg Gate in 2008 as a candidate, will not attend the ceremony.

This is the same President Barack Obama who found time late last month to take a day trip to Copenhagen to lobby for the 2016 Olympic games in Chicago. He had sent his close adviser, Valerie Jarrett, to lobby for a Chicago Olympics as early as June.

The contrast seems to say something about his priorities.

The fall of the Berlin Wall was the culmination of a decades long defense of liberty against tyranny. The fall of the Berlin Wall represented American leadership and determination in support of free nations’ insistence on the dignity of man in the face of totalitarian butchers. The anniversary is no small thing to us and it is no small thing to our allies in Germany or Europe. Especially Eastern Europe. It’s only a small thing to a small President.

All I can say is, “We’re sorry.”

Not just words

I highly recommend three posts at Powerline by Dr. Paul Rahe, Professor of History at Hillsdale College, where he holds the Charles O. Lee and Louise K. Lee Chair in the Western Heritage.

Dr. Rahe demonstrates that the discrepancy between our President’s words and actions is not confined to the obvious – broken promises, and claims that 180 degree rhetorical shifts form a “consistent policy.” Obama’s facile disconnecting from his own words, his happily invoked personal cognitive dissonance, goes to the man’s core. But that is only the most obvious level. The deeper signs are subtle, but highly revealing of his mind and character.

It is worth reading all of Rahe’s posts in full. I include some teasers to encourage you.

Dr. Paul Rahe:

Obama’s gestures

If we are to comprehend what is going on, we must pay close attention not only to what Obama says but to what he conveys in other ways. His tone is nearly always moderate but what he hints at and what he intimates by way of body language often convey the opposite.

…In the first of the autobiographies that he claims to have written, Barack Obama frequently speaks of himself as being in the grips of rage. We would do well to take him at his word.

Obama’s gestures, part 2

President Obama does not have to announce whose side he is on. He can convey by gestures that he is inclined to help America’s enemies and to harm our friends, and he has done so repeatedly with consummate skill.

Obama’s tyrannical ambition

President Obama has one distinguishing feature. He is a man of rigid self-discipline.

…It is, in fact, a sign of his astonishing self-discipline that we know next to nothing about his life apart from what he chose to impart in the two autobiographies he published. For a long time now, for longer than we can perhaps imagine, every move he has made has been carefully calculated, calibrated, and choreographed. In this regard, he is in the fullest sense what every politician aims to be: a self-made (one might even say a self-invented) man. It is easy to see why someone like Evan Thomas should think him a god.

Professor Rahe is the author of Soft Despotism, Democracy’s Drift: Montesquieu, Rousseau, Tocqueville, and the Modern Prospect