An Old Newness
By Thomas Sowell
Tuesday, April 29, 2008
Many years ago, a great hitter named Paul Waner was nearing the end of his long career. He entered a ballgame with 2,999 hits -- one hit away from the landmark total of 3,000, which so many hitters want to reach, but which relatively few actually do reach.
Waner hit a ball that the fielder did not handle cleanly but the official scorer called it a hit, making it Waner's 3,000th. Paul Waner then sent word to the official scorer that he did not want that questionable hit to be the one that put him over the top. The official scorer reversed himself and called it an error. Later Paul Waner got a clean hit for number 3,000.
What reminded me of this is the great fervor that many seem to feel over the prospect of the first black President of the United States.
No doubt it is only a matter of time before there is a black president, just as it was only a matter of time before Paul Waner got his 3,000th hit. The issue is whether we want to reach that landmark so badly that we are willing to overlook how questionably that landmark is reached.
Paul Waner had too much pride to accept a scratch hit. Choosing a President of the United States is a lot more momentous than a baseball record. We the voters need to have far more concern about who we put in that office that holds the destiny of a nation and of generations yet unborn.
There is no reason why someone as arrogant, foolishly clever and ultimately dangerous as Barack Obama should become president -- especially not at a time when the threat of international terrorists with nuclear weapons looms over 300 million Americans.
Many people seem to regard elections as occasions for venting emotions, like cheering for your favorite team or choosing a Homecoming Queen.
The three leading candidates for their party's nomination are being discussed in terms of their demographics -- race, sex and age -- as if that is what the job is about.
One of the painful aspects of studying great catastrophes of the past is discovering how many times people were preoccupied with trivialities when they were teetering on the edge of doom. The demographics of the presidency are far less important than the momentous weight of responsibility that office carries.
Just the power to nominate federal judges to trial courts and appellate courts across the country, including the Supreme Court, can have an enormous impact for decades to come. There is no point feeling outraged by things done by federal judges, if you vote on the basis of emotion for those who appoint them.
Barack Obama has already indicated that he wants judges who make social policy instead of just applying the law. He has already tried to stop young violent criminals from being tried as adults.
Although Senator Obama has presented himself as the candidate of new things -- using the mantra of 'change' endlessly -- the cold fact is that virtually everything he has said about domestic policy is straight out of the 1960s and virtually everything he says about foreign policy is straight out of the 1930s.
Protecting criminals, attacking business, increasing government spending, promoting a sense of envy and grievance, raising taxes on people who are productive and subsidizing those who are not -- all this is a re-run of the 1960s.
We paid a terrible price for such 1960s notions in the years that followed, in the form of soaring crime rates, double-digit inflation and double-digit unemployment. During the 1960s, ghettoes across the countries were ravaged by riots from which many have not fully recovered to this day.
The violence and destruction were concentrated not where there was the greatest poverty or injustice but where there were the most liberal politicians, promoting grievances and hamstringing the police.
Internationally, the approach that Senator Obama proposes -- including the media magic of meetings between heads of state -- was tried during the 1930s. That approach, in the name of peace, is what led to the most catastrophic war in human history.
Everything seems new to those too young to remember the old and too ignorant of history to have heard about it.
Thomas Sowell is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institute and author of Basic Economics: A Citizen's Guide to the Economy.