I have a theory that the Wall Street Journal editorial page exists to cruelly undermine the newspaper’s esteemed journalism.
It’s like a gypsy curse. This is one of the best newspapers on the planet – it has the widest circulation in the US and has won 33 Pulitzers – and yet its editorial page reads like some kind of fact-free inverse of the rest of the paper, where the respected, high quality reporting is completely undone by paranoid fantasies and outright lies.
Take today’s column by Daniel Henninger, “Would Harry Truman Blame Paris?” (link):
“The Europe of Charlemagne, Marco Polo and Churchill, after millennia of undoubted achievement, has finally spent itself to the verge of collapse and irrelevance. Witnessing this historic catastrophe, Barack Obama, the president of the United States, is complaining that it's bad for business in Pittsburgh.”
Feisty! And I see Henninger’s point: Europe is over. It’s been fun, but they’ll never survive this recession. And Obama – did you know he’s the president? – is concerned about the effect it will have on our economy. He’s so petty.
Before reading any further, I want to point out to Daniel Henninger that Winston Churchill was prime minister of the United Kingdom, which isn’t part of the Eurozone. The other writers in the Wall Street Journal probably know that. The journalists, I mean.
But let’s move on.
“Does anyone believe that JFK's Treasury secretary, Douglas Dillon, would, like Tim Geithner, wave toward Europe that the solution "is in their hands"? Or that former Secretary of State Dean Acheson, the architect of NATO, would have been as screamingly silent as Hillary Clinton is now? Or that Democratic President Harry Truman, who appointed George Marshall, would blame Madrid for tanking his re-election prospects in Milwaukee?”
I guess the EU’s crisis IS Timothy Geithner’s fault, for not drafting the Treasury Department into military service and taking over Europe, so that they can pass new austerity measures.
But the worst line is the one about Harry Truman (unlike Obama?) never blaming Madrid for tanking his re-election prospects in Milwaukee.
First of all, Obama’s re-election prospects in Milwaukee aren’t tanking. I know Henninger is just mentioning an American city at random to make Obama’s concern about our country’s economic future seem childish and insignificant, but he should at least pick a city where Obama is polling poorly. The president is up about 51% to Romney’s 45% in Milwaukee. The state that kept Scott Walker plans to keep Obama, too.
And why does Henninger mention George Marshall? It’s unlike reminding the reader that Obama is the president of the United States, or later using the word “schadenfreude” and then immediately explaining what it means. (It’s as if he assumes we’re stupid simply because we’re reading the WSJ editorial page.)
He seems to be making a point about the Marshall Plan and reconstruction of Europe after World War II, but that can’t be it. Why not? Because it consisted of a bailout that helped Europe start spending again. We gave them $13 billion (roughly $125 billion in today’s valuation) for reindustrialization.
So it’s weird, especially coming from a guy who warns, “Stop listening to the Obama spenders.” And really, in the context that the United States has recovered from the global financial crisis faster and more successfully than the other largest developed countries, it doesn’t sound like Europe should be spurning Obama’s advice.
None of this has anything to do with Henninger’s ultimate message.
“Before American public education fell into the anti-history hands of the teachers unions and politically corrected textbooks, Europe's heritage was routinely taught in the United States. Young Americans knew why Europe mattered in their lives. Music ed meant Mozart, Verdi, Bach and Beethoven. Art appreciation stretched from da Vinci to Picasso.”
Suddenly it all comes into focus.
Henninger isn’t advocating for a Truman-esque approach to the global recession. He doesn’t know the first thing about Harry Truman, or even George Marshall. He just wants it to be the 1940s again.
Our kids aren’t learning enough about Mozart?? Spain’s banks are collapsing and borrowing costs are soaring, but Henninger is concerned about “politically corrected textbooks?”
None of this would have happened if we kept Picasso in the classroom. And we’d have all the answers we need if we “learned virtue and self-discipline from the fables of Aesop or Fontaine.”
Forget the currency crisis, the austerity measures, and the unemployment. Leave all that to the other WSJ writers. The ones who know how to fact-check. The real problem is that today’s kids aren’t learning enough about deceased white people, and Hillary Clinton is too quiet.
Sorry, she’s too “screamingly silent.” (I swear to God, whichever copy editor is assigned to Daniel Henninger must drink herself to sleep.)
The rest of the paper does, in fact, report at length about the underlying causes and challenges of the Eurozone crisis, and how they affect our closely-tied economic growth in the United States. It’s worth reading.
If only to undo the damage inflicted by Daniel Henninger.