Should Have Known?
The average American may wonder, after the failure of the immigration bill in the United States Senate last week, how such a gigantic blunder is possible. We look at our own lives, at our jobs, our families, and say: How is it possible to get anything so screwed up?
Surely President Bush and the Republicans senators who worked with Senator Kennedy to craft the deal should have known that it would blow up in their faces. Surely they should have known that the Republican base was heavily invested in securing the border before amnestying the illegals.
But let us be careful of this “should have known” approach to political analysis. Here is the judgment of a best-selling author on what we “should have known” about the great issues of our time.
“[We] as Americans should have “known then what we know now”–not only about the invasion of Iraq but also about the climate crisis, and what would happen if the levees failed to protect New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina, and about many other fateful choices that have been made on the cases of flawed and even outright false information.”
When best-selling author Al Gore in his Assault on Reason argues the great issues of the time from the 20-20 hindsight of the ambitious politician, then men and women of good will are bound to hesitate before passing judgment on President Bush and the Senate Republicans.
Let us taste a few words of Charles Murray to cleanse our palates from the bitter taste of what Disraeli called the “high game” of politics. Politicians may live or die by the cheap put-down, but the rest of us must resolve to do better.
In Human Accomplishment, Murray talks about what it takes to become a “significant figure” in science and the arts and produce work of excellence in human accomplishment. It is easy, he writes, to overlook how much work it takes to produce excellence. And not just work, but wasted work.
“Nor is all of this work productive. What we see of the significant figures’ work is typically shadowed by an immense amount of wasted effort-most successful creators produce clunkers, sometimes far more clunkers than gems.”
It was Thomas Edison who said that his work was one percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration.
Should-have-known is the first resort of the shallow mind. Of more interest is the point at which the should-have-known becomes a question of throwing good money after bad. In the week after Majority Leader Harry Reid withdrew the immigration bill from the Senate floor we are in exactly such a situation.
Let us stipulate that President Bush and the Republican Senators in on the immigration deal “should have known” that the Republican base would upchuck the Senate’s immigration bill. But let us rise above the level of Vice-President Gore’s analytical method. Anyway, it is water under the bridge. This week’s question is: What should they do next?
Should they try, try, and try again, following the advice of Winston Churchill:
“Never give in – never, never, never, never, in nothing great or small, large or petty.”
That is what he told the boys of his old school, Harrow, in 1941. And very good advice it was too.
But then he continued:
“[N]ever give in except to convictions of honour and good sense.”
So the question for President Bush, as he returns to the United States from a triumphant visit to Albania, is whether to go on with his immigration bill, or whether to give in to “convictions of honor and good sense.”
Based on our experience of President Bush over the last six years, we can expect that he will continue trying to negotiate a bill that will pass the Congress.
But enough about President Bush. What about us?
In the last week Michael Barone has noticed that if you listen to the presidential candidates you would assume “that the Republican and Democratic primary electorates are living in two different nations.” Republicans are worried about global Islamism; Democrats are worried about global warming.
Both party electorates are serious about their major concerns. They believe that the question is closed. Republicans believe that we must fight the long war against Islamic terrorism through to victory, whatever the cost. Democrats believe we must save the planet from global warming, whatever the cost.
In another ten years, the moral equivalent of Al Gore will be writing a best-seller arguing with flat-footed humor that back in the ‘oughts people “ought to have known.” But whether he will declare that we should have known that global Islamism or global warming-or even illegal immigration-was a chimera we will have to wait to find out.
Human survival is not built upon “should have known.” It is based on faith, hope, and love-and hard work.
Christopher Chantrill is a frequent contributor to American Thinker. See roadtothemiddleclass.com and usgovernmentspending.com. His Road to the Middle Class is forthcoming