Today brings another look at the royal trappings our government leaders enjoy giving themselves, as National Review writer Kevin Williamson shares a train ride with Vice President Biden — and Biden’s massive entourage with their massive demands on Amtrak personnel and on any proles who dare to be in Biden’s presence. This includes a dozen or more people in the train, and Secret Service agents guarding every single stop along the multi-state route, ensuring that he does not have to breathe the same air as the hoi polloi. Even as Biden rides the train to pretend to be just like us, as Williamson notes, his armed entourage serves to give the precise opposite message to plebians who dare wander too close to one of their lords and masters.
Now he laces his article with numerous insults directed at old Sharktooth, which is of course de rigueur for any NR writer who makes Bill O’Reilly look like a sissy RINO squish by comparison. And his admiration of Dick Cheney is understandable for the same reason. But if you are looking to Dick Cheney for repudiation of the in-your-face imperial theatrics of our leadership class, well, you may have to keep looking.
Once you get to the highest echelons of American society, in my opinion, strictly partisan differences start to appear less and less important. Red-meat issues like abortion or immigration that really fire up the writers and bloggers and talk show hosts and backbench House members of both sides, sort of fall away in the rarefied atmosphere at the top of the pile. The difference between Obama’s foreign policy and that of his predecessor seems to be one of mere degrees, for instance. And there appears to be precious little daylight in real policy between presumptive 2016 nominees, Jeb and Hillary. Precious little difference in their biographies either — both rode to elected office on a family member’s coattails; both got insanely rich off shady dealings purely because of their last names; neither will have had run for office for at least 10 years by the next Inauguration Day; both were selected in smoke-filled rooms by their fellow elites who share their immense disdain of America’s Great Unwashed; and neither seems to have any real qualifications for the nation’s highest office, especially none over the 50 sitting governors and 100 sitting senators in office right now.
Would anyone seriously argue that President Clinton the Second or President Bush the Third would in any way rein in the un-republican (small r) excesses of the executive office? Or would President (Chelsea) Clinton the Third or President (George P.) Bush the Fourth twenty years hence?
I’ve written before that if you want a look at the real divide in American politics, the Abash amendment vote of 2013 serves as no better illustration. The elites of both parties, including Obama, joined together to quash a bipartisan backbench revolt against the NSA’s excesses. Justin Amash may be a tea-party diehard, but about half of his backers were Democrats. Like the thunderous motorcades of the vice presidents and the “earpiece envy” of unelected senior Mandarins of the administration, the “No” votes on the Amash amendment give a clear picture of those who consider themselves your ruling class. And it is not a class overly concerned with the red vs. blue theatrics that distract us.
By comparison, check out Eisenhower’s motorcade. Just some motorcycle cops and… two cars. TWO regular-sized cars. Valerie Jarrett would laugh at the thought. A certain ill-fated 1963 Dallas motorcade, carrying both the president and the vice-president, along with various other VIPs, counted just four cars in its number along with the usual motorcycle cops. Both were from an era when emergent communications with the military, nuclear or otherwise, was a much more pronounced need than it is today.
Now it is understandable why open-air convertibles fell out of favor after that November 1963 motorcade trip, leading to the tinted-window black SUV of today. Nobody is disputing the need for that change. But on the other hand, I have yet to hear anyone justify with a straight face the small army for a vice-president’s routine train ride, or the twenty to thirty vehicle royal parade for any movement by the president on domestic soil. We have lost something important, and party politics has nothing to do with it.