With a lighter touch than we have brought to them, Michael Barone touches on many of the themes that have preoccupied John, Paul and me here over the past month: “Stuck in the ’70s.” Barone characterizes the seventies as a “slum of a decade, which gave us the worst popular music, the ugliest hairstyles and clothes, and the most disastrous public policies of the 20th century.” Here’s Barone’s quick tour of “The Way We Were” (number 1, 1974) :
The decade in which a Republican president imposed wage and price controls, the decade when we managed to have inflation and recession — stagflation — at the same time. The decade when crime and welfare dependency zoomed upward. A decade when Americans saw our diplomats seized — an act of war — and no effective force used to free them. A decade when a president was forced to resign in disgrace and when America lost its first war.
In the 1970s, when Americans seemed to accept defeat in Vietnam and detente with China and the Soviet Union, many of us thought there was no greater threat to our rights than our own government. That was wrong then, and Sept. 11 convinced most Americans that it is wrong now. But many people in the mainstream media and many Democratic politicians seem stuck in the ’70s.
Barone finds the New York Times retailing of the NSA surveillance story a failed rerun of the FBI scandals exposed in the seventies (“no serious person doubts that the president can order surveillance of enemy communications in time of war”) and the attack on Judge Alito a tired rerun of the attacks first tried out on Judge Haynsworth (“we have the absurd spectacle of Sen. John Kerry calling for a filibuster against Judge Samuel Alito from the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland”). Here’s his conclusion:
We can learn from history, and each decade has something to teach us. But we can’t repeat history, because so many things change. Not many Americans, if they could vote for a decade to go back to, would vote for the 1970s. But for many in the mainstream press and for many Democratic politicians, it’s always sometime between 1970 and 1980, and they’re forever young.
The public isn’t buying it. Enough with the bellbottom pants and the disco music, most Americans seem to be saying.
In a powerful column for the Wall Street Journal, Debra Burlingame recalls recent history to outline the threat raised by the crowd stuck in the seventies: “Our right to security.”