Defeatism
Jude Wanniski
October 21, 1996

 

Memo To: George Will
From: Jude Wanniski
Re: Defeatism

For a man who so loves the game of baseball, where it ainít over ítil itís over, your announcements recently that everyone knew that Bob Dole lost the race months ago are oddly incongruous. I remember a Dodger-Cardinal game in 1947 at Ebbets Field where the Cards were on top 8-1 with two out in the ninth and the Bums pulled it out 9-8, helped by three errors by Whitey Kurowski, the Cardís 3rd baseman. I may be wrong about the exact numbers, but Iíll never forget how I truly fell in love with the Dodgers and the game of baseball that afternoon, listening to Red Barber announce the game on the ancient Zenith radio in the living room of my familyís Brooklyn apartment. In the political realm, this is the meaning of Winston Churchillís dictum that you never give up, never, never. The point of the Star Wars epic, as well as the Independence Day thriller of this summerís movie season, is that one man can overcome odds of a billion-to-one if he has truth and light on his side against the forces of darkness. This is where Bob Dole and Jack Kemp find themselves today.

It has been your contention recently, as well as the argument of Beltway Bill Kristol and my old Wall Street Journal editor, Bob Bartley, that Luke Skywalker (Jack Kemp), should have been spending all his time these last months pointing out to the American people that the Forces of Darkness are dark. When you finally hammered Bob Dole into trying your method, in his last debate with Clinton, he went from 9 points down in the CNN poll to 23 points down. Of course, your argument is that he was not mean enough. The only way to blow up the Death Star, the Malthusian embodiment of pessimism, is to deliver the missiles at its single most vulnerable point -- its betrayal of the people at the bottom of the economic pile by resigning us to stagnation. Wouldnít you say?

On the Brinkley show yesterday, George, I heard you say such incredibly stupid things that I forgot for a moment that you have the highest IQ in the GOP, with only Dick Darman and John Sununu for competition. You actually said that it is always easy to know the end of something long before it ends, as in World War I, among other titanic struggles of history. With the benefit of hindsight, we of course know now, George, that certain wars were lost before the actual date of defeat, but has it ever occurred to you that the losers were playing for the terms of truce, as in our own Civil War? There is no parallel with this presidential race. Bob Dole is not going to be tried for war crimes if he loses on Nov. 5. He and Jack are struggling mightily because they have been trying to please you and your fellow defeatists -- the same fellows who egged Newt into closing down the government and threatening to default on the national debt, in order to make plain to the unwashed masses that you will no longer stand for them eating school lunches at your expense.

If you caught Jack on "Late Edition" yesterday, you heard him answer your defeatist calls with his quote from Douglas MacArthur -- Councils of War breed timidity and defeatism. Because you do not believe the Forces of Light can win unless they follow your strategy of preaching hellfire and damnation, you announce to the universe that it cannot be done, so everyone go home. Your dark influence has captured others, like Kristol and Bartley. It was instructive to watch Cokie Roberts practically accuse you of perfidy, for preaching defeat -- although she was nice enough to have Tommy Thompson of Wisconsin stand in as your proxy.

You have in the past said you wished you were as sure about one thing as I am about everything. You know, George, since we met first almost 30 years ago, in 1967 I believe, I have been all over the lot in my opinions about everything. Iíve tried practically every idea available to political man, always looking for something better, which is what political man is supposed to be all about. That means you do not give up on an idea until you are absolutely persuaded it does not work -- that you have done the due diligence. One of the reasons I have so admired Bob Dole and Jack Kemp over this span of time is that they did not give up on Richard Nixon, when the defeatist wolves were baying for his hide. Your comments on Brinkley today reminded me, for the first time in all these years, that you were the very first ďopinion leaderĒ to give up on Nixon, to demand his resignation, and to plead with his supporters to abandon him as well. You were young and inexperienced then in the ways of the world, George, so I forgave you for being the first man to pick up a rope and lead that particular lynch mob. You are older and presumably wiser now, which is why I find it harder to see your behavior any differently than Cokie does. In baseball and in politics, it is always easier to predict your teamís defeat if you go over to the other side.