Well, not really a test of the emergency blogcast system, but I am certain this is a Power Line first: I’m flying for the first time ever on a United plane with in-flight high-speed Internet. So far it is working smoothly. But if it breaks down, I’m going to say loudly, “Well this sucks!” (Maybe you know the comedy reference to perhaps Louis C.K.’s best bit ever. If you haven’t seen it, do.)
I have mixed feelings about this; there goes the last refuge for uninterrupted contemplation, etc. I just hope they don’t start cell phone service on airplanes, too, or it will complete the misery of today’s flying experience.
So, hey, I can blog on plane flights now. Great; another excuse to avoid my real job. So what’s on my mind this afternoon? Well, how about Michael Kazin’s article in The New Republic with the new line on why it’s not Obama’s fault. All presidents—or nearly all presidents—end up unpopular:
Since Theodore Roosevelt turned the office into the cynosure of governmental power and media attention just over a century ago, only a handful of his 17 successors have left the White House without leaving their main goals unfulfilled, losing the support of most voters, or both. As the presidency grew more “imperial” in its reach, the presidents themselves increasingly fell prey to the arrogance of power. They might have paid heed to Lincoln’s famous caution, uttered near the end of the Civil War, “I claim not to have controlled events, but confess plainly that events have controlled me.”
Well, okay, I’ll go along with that some of the way. This is better than the “dysfunctional political system” argument that the left tried last year when health care was bogged down. But whose fault is this in the end of the day? Which ideology is most responsible for the inflated expectations for presidents, and government generally? And shouldn’t we perhaps embrace a candidate who wants to diminish the presence of Washington DC in our lives? Seems to me that Kazin should sign up with the Perry campaign.
But no: Kazin is a liberal. He’s a nice chap; I’ve met him a couple times over at Georgetown, and he writes good and sometimes interesting prose. He has a book coming out this week that will surely be wrongheaded but probably worth reading, American Dreamers: How the Left Changed a Nation. And he doesn’t mean that in a bad way. I look forward to reading it actually, if only to see the best case for going wrong.
So here’s the self-refuting graph from Kazin’s article:
Just four post-TR chief executives retired from the job with their popularity and reputations either intact or enhanced: Coolidge, Franklin Roosevelt, Eisenhower, and Reagan. Silent Cal governed during an economic boom and did nothing to surpass his own decidedly modest expectations. The coming of World War II saved FDR from having to govern during a long recession that may well have defeated him in his bid for a third term in 1940. Prosperity and a tiny unemployment rate beamed on Eisenhower, who was also boosted by a spirit of bipartisanship during the early cold war. And Reagan could thank Mikhail Gorbachev for taking the initiative to wind down that same global conflict.
So, excluding FDR as a wartime outlier, what do the other three have in common? They were conservative Republicans who brought a Lite Beer philosophy to the office: everything you ever wanted in a president, and less. Kazin is all wrong about all three Republicans here, of course, even Harding. The real reason liberals hate Harding is that he said things like this in his Inaugural Address: “Our most dangerous tendency is to expect too much of government. “ As I wrote here once before, we could use a man like Harding again.
Now, back to our regularly scheduled blogging. If this had been an actual blogging emergency, a shrieking Andrew Sullivan would have appeared on your screen. . .
JOHN adds: Steve, Steve, Steve…I hate to correct you, but I have done a number of PL posts on airplanes. This one, from May 2010, would have been among the first. I believe that Delta was on to in-flight wi-fi ahead of United, and here in Minnesota, if we fly pretty much anywhere, it’s on Delta. So last year I was buying one monthly Delta wi-fi package after another. Not so much this year, as I’ve been staying home considerably more. So if I can leave the in-flight posting to you for a while, it’s a good thing!
STEVE rebuts: Ah, musta missed those. One thing to note: United’s in-flight internet is free (for now at least; maybe, like drug dealers, they want to get us hooked). Didn’t have to buy anything.