Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Dubya as a Tory

It's possible to be over-alert to the shenanigans of the Vast Rightwing Conspiracy and therefore to see a coordinated campaign where there is none. But given the oft-expressed Anglophilia of the VRC, we couldn't help but notice three articles in today's Wall Street Journal with possible sub-texts in praise of Washington's Exalted One. There's nothing that the VRC, already planning for Dubya's head on Mount Rushmore, loves better than analogies of him with leaders past, especially British ones.

Now we've argued before that the right comparison is with Joe Chamberlain, but of course the prized comparison is with Winston Churchill. Or rather, the WWII vintage of Winston, because his lifetime record would create more questions. For instance, Brad DeLong puts one uncomfortable reference here, and if Jonah Goldberg is looking for a suggestion on what should be the first book he reads about Iraq, we'd recommend Winston's Folly by Christopher Catherwood.

But nonetheless undeterred, do Dubya's boosters read this review of a new Churchill museum in London and wallow equally in imagined similarities to Dubya and visions of their own such museum for him in Washington?

Then there's Niall Ferguson, who perhaps is being quite savvy by sucking VRC members in early on with hymns in praise of Dubya ("At least someone in the nation's capital -- and happily it's the man in charge -- seems to be learning some lessons from history ... Mr. Bush is the world's first idealist-realist ... American presidents have a professional obligation to indulge in highfalutin rhetoric").

But then comes the sting, as Fergie pursues a comparison of Bush with Woodrow Wilson, for whom of course messianic internationalism didn't end so well. As a side note, we predict that the Wilsonian comparison will draw Andrew Sullivan once again out of his half-hearted blog slumber, to claim that he thought of it first.

And finally, the WSJ has a seemingly inoccuous review of a biography of William Pitt the Younger by William Hague (subs. req'd). [It was Hague's job to lose the last UK election to Tony Blair.] As with the Churchill piece, too much of it seems like text candy for the VRC:

Taking the Lead in Times of Trouble ... Aided by advice from Adam Smith, he sorted out British finances (in a shambles after the American war), rebuilt the Navy and dominated politics for a decade, before being unwillingly sucked into war with Revolutionary France ... As a war leader Pitt took time to learn the job and made some mistakes, but by his death in 1806 (at age 46) he had become good at it, sending Nelson to victory at Trafalgar and drafting a postwar settlement that became the basis for the 1815 Congress of Vienna

So: inexperienced leader, confronted with financial chaos, forced to choose war, learnt on the job, great victories at the end. Who could they have in mind? Our interest was further piqued by the reviewer, Martin Hutchinson, whose bio lists him as the author of "Great Conservatives," and for whom a Google search quickly leads to output on the weird nativist website vdare, a link which opens up a line of thought way too extended for this already too long post. Go to Rittenhouse Review for a quick primer on another of vdare's contributors.

But perhaps, like Ferguson, Hutchinson is just being sly and drops the bad news just as the "Bush is really like Pitt the Younger" piece was being assembled for National Review Online:

Less successfully, he [Pitt] repressed the Irish rebellion of 1798 and instituted the 1801 Act of Union between Ireland and Britain -- not one of history's more successful experiments. As a war financier in 1798, alas, he invented the income tax.

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