IS DOOMSDAY UPON US? NOT JUST YET As we enter this, the 17th year of the Reagan Boom, and the second year of the round-the-clock Clinton Crotch-Watch, it is a good time to count our blessings and take stock. That is what the president was supposed to do last night. Instead, he offered a torrential, run-on sentence of policy wonkery and political bribery. Though it would have been cheaper just to give each juror, er… I mean, “trier of fact” a billion dollars, the president did himself good last night. He solidified the nullification caucus with initiatives his staff will probably never even bother to write down, let alone draft as bills or try to get passed into law. Each proposal was market-tested in focus groups and with massive polling. If it didn’t sound good to truck drivers in St. Paul, Minnesota, or waitresses in Portland, Oregon it didn’t make it into the speech. I’ve got nothing against normal people; in fact, I’m in favor of them, but I’m not sure they should determine what policies we explore because some words sound nice to them. They should be the final authority at the voting booth, not the drawing board.
Nevertheless, things are going quite well in America today. Bill Clinton thinks it’s because of him. No, seriously, he does. To his credit, on the macroeconomic level he hasn’t screwed up much, which really is the only job for a president. But mostly, despite the fact that he’s “been working so hard,” “doing the people’s business,” Clinton has essentially been a matador who pulls his cape aside and lets the bull keep running unobstructed. He’s left Greenspan and Rubin alone like kids quietly playing with their coloring books and crayons on the office floor while he gets on with the important work of ministering to the interns. The stock market boom is largely the result of global trends spurred on by an economic restructuring that took place over a decade ago. All of the media bleating about corporate downsizing in the 1980s has been hushed in the 1990s. Or maybe it hasn’t, we just can’t hear it over the din of their hot tubs and Bose stereos.
Cultural conservatives are in a difficult situation. We’ve been sounding the doomsday alarms for so long we don’t know how to recognize the all-clear signal. Following is some data supplied in the current issue of The American Enterprise, which should be uplifting.
Churchgoing among teens is up. Sex, pregnancy, and drinking are all down among teenagers since a decade ago (this can largely be explained by the fact that my friends are older now and throw fewer parties). Charity is up dramatically since 1970. The schools still suck but dropout rates have dropped nicely over the same period. Teen suicide is up (9.7 per 100,000 15 — 19 year olds) since 1970 (5.9), but it is down since 1990 (when it was 11.1). Crime is down massively, though the New York Times doesn’t understand why. Just two weeks ago the Times ran another story which expressed shock that crime is falling but prisons continue to be full. You see, when prisoners are in jail, they cannot commit crimes, except of the after-hours HBO variety. Abortion is down since the early 1980s but still up since 1970, but not as much as you’d think. Black poverty is down. Out of wedlock birth: down. Premarital sex: down. Divorce: down. Marriage: up. Home ownership: up.
But we’re just not happy, and not only because that festering groper in the White House is thumbing his nose at us. Why? There’s probably a good book in that question, but here are few possible reasons. First, conservatives don’t get any slaps on the back for the work they’ve done. Politically, Clinton has glommed all the credit for Republican initiatives on welfare and devolution. Does anyone really doubt that various Republicans, starting with Reagan, should be collecting the plaudits? On the cultural front, the chattering class is simply incapable of understanding that doing nothing is often the best answer. Pat Moynihan coined the phrase “benign neglect” and there’s wisdom there aplenty. After all, a conservative credo has long been “don’t just do something, stand there.”
Another reason why conservatives are so cranky may be that much like a college English department, the stakes these days are remarkably small. On public policy there really isn’t very much to argue about that’s any fun. Meanwhile our incredibly shrinking president continues to offer small ideas packaged as large ones and take credit for things he didn’t do. This can be very frustrating, believe me I know. But while we should not relent in following our principles in regards to the big Creep, we should also take a page from Reagan’s playbook. We need to know how to declare victory. I get dozens of e-mails from people decrying Henry Hyde’s or Trent Lott’s lack of conviction. Now, Lott may be a doofus, but c’mon. Bill Clinton has been impeached. His name is synonymous with “lying jerk.” His new paradigm feminist marriage has been exposed for the craven cynical political marriage of convenience it is. Sexual harassment has been simultaneously discredited and placed literally in the lap of the Democratic party. Republicans should be willing to fail on principle, dust themselves off, and declare victory. We’ve earned it. And as for Clinton, give the Devil his due.
COMING TOMORROW Really giving the Devil His Due: Goldberg Outs Self! Admits He is the Anti-Christ Falwell and Robertson are so worried about.