I know Reason magazine gets its fair share of abuse around here, but this gem from Tim Cavanaugh is my early frontrunner for comment of the year:
- I think it says more about how contemporary liberals view themselves than about our “debased political terminology” that anybody at The New York Times believes a neocon “revision” of American history would even be possible, or that it would differ in any substantive way from the way that history would be written by The New York Times itself.
The genius of neoconservatism is that it’s exactly in step with the progressivist, middle-of-the-road, big state view of American history they teach in school: The Articles of Confederation resulted in a disaster that taught the founders the value of a strong central state; the Whiskey rebels were dangerous kooks, not unlike the Branch Davidians of our own time; “States’ Rights” has always been a code word for slavery; President Woodrow Wilson was a man of vision but sadly was unable to achieve his goals for an international order; the America Firsters were even kookier and more marginal than the Whiskey rebels, and the best way to deal with one is to sock him in the jaw like in The Best Years of Our Lives; many well intentioned folks on the left underestimated the danger of the Soviet Union, but the anti-communist witch hunts of the fifties were a regrettable overreaction (the Left didn’t become dangerous until the late sixties and early seventies, when it embraced separatist and militant views that undermined the politics of consensus that made this country great); real civil rights progress only came when the federal government asserted its power over the refractory states; September 11 shocked America out of its isolationism and freed President George W. Bush (an excellent man, but distressingly shortsighted in some matters) from his naive opposition to nation-building. And so on.
Leave aside how much of it you agree or disagree with. What would the neocons add to the official version of American history? That Winston Churchill should have been made King of the United States as well as Prime Minister of Great Britain? That we missed a great opportunity by not jumping into the Franco-Prussian War? That we should have intervened on Sylvania’s side against Freedonia? The folks at The Times may have a narcissistic interest in highlighting small differences, but you can’t misuse language forever. When liberals look at the neocons, they see themselves.