President Bush and the Mandate of Heaven

Last Friday, after a week in which the combat deaths in Iraq reached 2,000, the Harriet Miers nomination collapsed, and Vice—President Cheney's chief of staff was indicted, could anyone have doubted that the Bush administration lost the Mandate of Heaven?

Well, it depends whose side you are on. And how eager you are to jump to conclusions.

Back in the good old days when China was ruled by the Son of Heaven, the falterings and disasters of an aging dynasty were interpreted by the Chinese to mean that the emperor had lost the Mandate of Heaven.

In modern America our professional journalists have a much better system of divining the Mandate of Heaven.  They look at a scientific opinion poll of the president's popularity and divine from that whether he should now be considered a 'lame duck.'

In The Wall Street Journal last Friday, a Rorschach blot graph of the President's approve/disapprove rating tagged 'Reversed Fortune' was prominently displayed in the middle of a front—page article about the administration's troubles proclaiming that 'Bush Has Little Margin of Error.' Peggy Noonan added her grumbling that 'the wheels have gone off the trolley."

Probably the biggest problem the Bush administration faces is the weather. 
It certainly figured in the history of the Chinese.  But for the weather, Americans would probably be subjects of the global Chinese Empire.  Back in
1421: The Year that China Discovered Americaaccording to retired submarine officer Gavin Menzies, the Ming emperor Zhu Di sent out at enormous expense a vast fleet of thousands of ships to explore the world.  It was a bold stroke that might have changed the world.

But two months after the fleet set sail, lightning struck an imperial palace and started a fire that burned most of the newly—built Forbidden City to the ground.  The disaster triggered insubordination in the imperial bureaucracy and rebellions on the frontiers.  When the ships straggled back years later after sailing around the world, Emperor Zhu Di was dead. Under his frightened successor China turned inward and rejected the risk of imperialism and adventure.

Just as the emperor Zhu Di seemed helpless to prevent the destruction of the imperial palace, George W. Bush seems unable to prevent the current plague of hurricanes.  In the disaster of Hurricane Katrina Democratic politicians were shocked that the federal government hesitated for days before rushing in to save the people of New Orleans from the incompetence of their state and local governments. Abbots of prestigious environmental monasteries recited from their global warming testaments and preached that hurricanes were the wages of sin, the consequence of overconsumption of nonrenewable resources.  (Needless to say, global experts agree that the notion that the hurricanes were God's punishment for the moral decline in modern society is extreme right—wing religious bigotry.)

President Bush is also in trouble because he has seemed helpless to prevent other, less natural, disasters.  He has seemed helpless to prevent gasoline prices from doubling over the past year, never mind that his political opponents work tirelessly to prevent the development of hydrocarbon energy resources and infrastructure.  He is also seems helpless to prevent uncontrolled immigration, never mind that his political opponents work tirelessly to prevent enforcement of existing laws to identify and deport illegal immigrants.

These failures would be devastating were it not for the president's remarkable achievements.  In the face of a dangerous collapse in the capital markets he dodged a depression with vigorous tax rate cuts and low interest rates.  In the face of a bold attack on the nation's financial center he launched a military expedition that has freed 50 million people from brutal tyranny.  In reckless disregard of global educated opinion he has planted and watered seedlings of consensual politics in a region that knew only the arid desert of political terror.

No empire—or political movement—loses the Mandate of Heaven until its leaders and supporters start to lose faith in their sacred mission.  The Democratic Party lost its New Deal mandate in the long decade of the Sixties, when it lost interest in containing communism and lost its faith in expert—led social and economic policymaking in the twin debacles of the Great Society and the Carter inflation.  The Democratic Party of FDR and 'Happy Days are Here Again' would never have surrendered the presidency in 1980 to a Hollywood 'B' movie actor.

After a quarter—century of triumphs, from Reagan tax rate cuts to welfare reform to Bush tax rate cuts, from victory in the Cold War to freedom for 50 million in the heart of the tyrannical Middle East, President Bush's supporters feel confirmed in their conservative faith.

Yesterday morning, Heaven seemed to be changing its mind about that Mandate. Democrats and their media acolytes stumbled over themselves, darkly noting that Catholics would control a majority on the Supreme Court should the President's new nominee be confirmed, using gutter language to the White House Press Secretary, and slurring an Italian—American nominee with innuendo about the Mafia.

Perhaps it isn't a matter of Heaven withdrawing its mandate, but rather of the heavens being darkest before the dawn.

Christopher Chantrill (mailto:chrischantrill@msn.com) blogs here.  His Road to the Middle Class is forthcoming.

Last Friday, after a week in which the combat deaths in Iraq reached 2,000, the Harriet Miers nomination collapsed, and Vice—President Cheney's chief of staff was indicted, could anyone have doubted that the Bush administration lost the Mandate of Heaven?

Well, it depends whose side you are on. And how eager you are to jump to conclusions.

Back in the good old days when China was ruled by the Son of Heaven, the falterings and disasters of an aging dynasty were interpreted by the Chinese to mean that the emperor had lost the Mandate of Heaven.

In modern America our professional journalists have a much better system of divining the Mandate of Heaven.  They look at a scientific opinion poll of the president's popularity and divine from that whether he should now be considered a 'lame duck.'

In The Wall Street Journal last Friday, a Rorschach blot graph of the President's approve/disapprove rating tagged 'Reversed Fortune' was prominently displayed in the middle of a front—page article about the administration's troubles proclaiming that 'Bush Has Little Margin of Error.' Peggy Noonan added her grumbling that 'the wheels have gone off the trolley."

Probably the biggest problem the Bush administration faces is the weather. 
It certainly figured in the history of the Chinese.  But for the weather, Americans would probably be subjects of the global Chinese Empire.  Back in
1421: The Year that China Discovered Americaaccording to retired submarine officer Gavin Menzies, the Ming emperor Zhu Di sent out at enormous expense a vast fleet of thousands of ships to explore the world.  It was a bold stroke that might have changed the world.

But two months after the fleet set sail, lightning struck an imperial palace and started a fire that burned most of the newly—built Forbidden City to the ground.  The disaster triggered insubordination in the imperial bureaucracy and rebellions on the frontiers.  When the ships straggled back years later after sailing around the world, Emperor Zhu Di was dead. Under his frightened successor China turned inward and rejected the risk of imperialism and adventure.

Just as the emperor Zhu Di seemed helpless to prevent the destruction of the imperial palace, George W. Bush seems unable to prevent the current plague of hurricanes.  In the disaster of Hurricane Katrina Democratic politicians were shocked that the federal government hesitated for days before rushing in to save the people of New Orleans from the incompetence of their state and local governments. Abbots of prestigious environmental monasteries recited from their global warming testaments and preached that hurricanes were the wages of sin, the consequence of overconsumption of nonrenewable resources.  (Needless to say, global experts agree that the notion that the hurricanes were God's punishment for the moral decline in modern society is extreme right—wing religious bigotry.)

President Bush is also in trouble because he has seemed helpless to prevent other, less natural, disasters.  He has seemed helpless to prevent gasoline prices from doubling over the past year, never mind that his political opponents work tirelessly to prevent the development of hydrocarbon energy resources and infrastructure.  He is also seems helpless to prevent uncontrolled immigration, never mind that his political opponents work tirelessly to prevent enforcement of existing laws to identify and deport illegal immigrants.

These failures would be devastating were it not for the president's remarkable achievements.  In the face of a dangerous collapse in the capital markets he dodged a depression with vigorous tax rate cuts and low interest rates.  In the face of a bold attack on the nation's financial center he launched a military expedition that has freed 50 million people from brutal tyranny.  In reckless disregard of global educated opinion he has planted and watered seedlings of consensual politics in a region that knew only the arid desert of political terror.

No empire—or political movement—loses the Mandate of Heaven until its leaders and supporters start to lose faith in their sacred mission.  The Democratic Party lost its New Deal mandate in the long decade of the Sixties, when it lost interest in containing communism and lost its faith in expert—led social and economic policymaking in the twin debacles of the Great Society and the Carter inflation.  The Democratic Party of FDR and 'Happy Days are Here Again' would never have surrendered the presidency in 1980 to a Hollywood 'B' movie actor.

After a quarter—century of triumphs, from Reagan tax rate cuts to welfare reform to Bush tax rate cuts, from victory in the Cold War to freedom for 50 million in the heart of the tyrannical Middle East, President Bush's supporters feel confirmed in their conservative faith.

Yesterday morning, Heaven seemed to be changing its mind about that Mandate. Democrats and their media acolytes stumbled over themselves, darkly noting that Catholics would control a majority on the Supreme Court should the President's new nominee be confirmed, using gutter language to the White House Press Secretary, and slurring an Italian—American nominee with innuendo about the Mafia.

Perhaps it isn't a matter of Heaven withdrawing its mandate, but rather of the heavens being darkest before the dawn.

Christopher Chantrill (mailto:chrischantrill@msn.com) blogs here.  His Road to the Middle Class is forthcoming.