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Tuesday November 03 2009

Yesterday morning I did something I have never done before.  I listened to Rush Limbaugh for nearly half an hour.  I don’t know why, but I’ve just never got around to doing this, until yesterday.  I clicked on the video embedded in the page here, and I listened.  That’s him on Fox TV, putting the knife into Obama.  Thanks to Instapundit for the link.

I found it impressive, apart from the bit near the end where he talked about how he had been addicted to pain-killers but had now learned to be himself.  Very un-British.  But then, he is un-British.

I get the feeling the Americans are now experiencing the sort of national crisis that we in Britain went through in the late 1970s, and are now going through again with a consequent feeling of been-here-before-ness.  Oh shit, here go again.  Last week I heard, for the first time in decades, a serious equating of Britain (now) with Argentina (always), which is very late seventies.  Something to do with the level of public indebtedness.  Trouble is, once you get relaxed about national crises, they are liable to become permanent.

There are now many differences between things in the USA and here, the biggest one surely being that the USA has never been in this kind of mess ever before, or not in anything remotely like living memory.  Americans are now staring into the abyss for the first time.  Another difference is that when their crisis struck, the Americans didn’t elect Thatcher, they elected a much younger, slightly blacker version of Michael Foot.  Will Sarah Palin eventually do a Thatcher?  There is much discussion about that in this posting and its comment thread.

Today I watched another interesting snatch of video here, also linked to by Instapundit.  One of Guido’s constant memes is that that it is internet video that is really changing things.  Video quotes you in context.  It quotes, that is to say, both your words and how you said them.  You cannot, for instance, backdate into a mere joke something that, when you first said it, you clearly meant and believed in.

A big attack on Rush Limbaugh over the past couple of years has been his alleged addiction to painkillers. This is partly because he has advocated harsh sentences against “anyone” who took illegal drugs (which overusing prescription drugs is considered to be).

This might seem to have been a nasty thing for Democrats and allies to do, except that when in the mid-1990s Rush was reported to have called for all drug users to be executed, he was widely thought to be referring to the then President, Bill Clinton.

A meme which has come back to bite Rush in the ass, one might say.

Posted by Antoine Clarke on 04 November 2009

Trouble is, once you get relaxed about national crises, they are liable to become permanent..

This is the one thing one has to admire about Margaret Thatcher above all else, I think. She stood there and said “enough”. There were plenty of people around at the time who thought that it was time to “manage decline” and that this was going to be permanent and not a lot could be done about it. Britain could easily have permanently become Argentina (but with worse food and weather) but she would not allow it.

The thing which concerns me about the situation in the US the most is the combination of the US never being in this kind of mess before and the American idea of their own exceptionalism, which at its worst means a belief that no lessons anywhere else could possibly apply to us, so we will blunder around in the dark. (This way of dealing with a crisis is certainly not unique to the Americans, but they may well be especially prone to it). Hence, as every European election over the last couple of years has thrown out the left and elected the right (because although the right may not know much to do, Europeans actually do know from history that the left is worse in such times) the Americans are electing the most left wing government in memory.

Another issue is that the global economy (well, the OECD part of it, anyway) has been implicitly backed by the Bretton Woods institutions and the American financial structure for over 50 years. This may not have been a good thing and may be part of the cause of this crisis. However, the “call in the IMF” option roughly translates as “call in institutions with an implicit American backing. The American financial institutions backing all this are now ruined or gone, and even if they were not, the whole “Use implicit American backing to fight the crisis” can never have applied to the Americans themselves. That they would never have such a crisis themselves was always what held this together.

So, we are in a world where everyone is on their own. This is new.

Posted by Michael Jennings on 04 November 2009

Yes (Antoine), I wondered about.  I nearly put: what does Rush Limbaugh think about illegal drugs?  Now I know, a bit.  Thanks.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait on 04 November 2009

Another American perspective - From where I sit it’s hard to take all the “Crisis!” talk seriously. Yeah, I hear and read about some disturbing stuff in the news - big bank failures, high unemployment figures, home foreclosures, etc.  I know all of that is serious and really bad but my family is not experiencing any of that.  All the angst in the news does make me nervous but also tired. It’s just too drama. Washington DC and New York are not the whole of America. Out here we’re pretty good at weathering crises and frankly, all those rich folks on Wall Street just seem like a bunch of crybabies to us.

Posted by Lynn on 04 November 2009

Oops… meant to say “too much drama”. I don’t know how whole words disappear when I type.

Posted by Lynn on 04 November 2009

Sorry to have to ask, but why do you call his comments about pain-killer addiction ‘un-British’? Is it just in the way he wallows in his feelings, or something more?

Posted by Liberty on 04 November 2009

Liberty

The wallowing, definitely, and just generally how he described the episode.

Actually, I think part of it was that, although God wasn’t mentioned, it did sound very religious.  I was lost but now I am found, was the atmosphere.

But then again, I hear that evangelical Christianity is also doing very well in Britain.

So maybe Britain is become “un-British”, as in less stiff upper lipped.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait on 04 November 2009

It makes me very sad to think of Britain becoming less stiff upper lipped and “less British” in the way I think of British which is actually mostly Hollywood and probably not accurate but still…

Posted by Lynn on 05 November 2009

I thought that Britain lost their stiff upper lip in the Princess Diana years, especially when she died. It wasn’t Americans who put up that giant pile of teddy bears in front of Buckingham Palace and dissed the Queen for not crying in public over poor dead Di. But it’s nice to know that there are still some British hold-outs who disapprove of emotional wallowing.

I feel like I should add that you’ve listened to one half hour more of Rush Limbaugh than I have. I don’t listen to talk radio. All those people talking over themselves and chuckling, and then they get some caller on the phone with the world’s most grating voice. No thanks.

Posted by Andrea Harris on 05 November 2009
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