Jewish World Review Nov. 26, 2002 / 21 Kislev, 5763

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Bartley's enemies have been routed | NEW YORK CITY I do not know what you were doing the other night, but I was listening to the finest public address that I have heard on history in my adult life. It was the valedictory address of Robert L. Bartley, for 30 years the Napoleon Bonaparte of The Wall Street Journal's editorial page.

Like Napoleon's armies the Journal's editorial page has marched across enemy terrain, conquering. Thirty years after Bartley's war began, some of the enemy's structures remain standing, but within them -- within the media, the universities, the bureaucracies -- there is either acceptance of the Bartley line or chill knee-knocking doubt and, occasionally, denial. Generally, however, Bartley's enemies have been routed.

His credo -- and that of the Journal -- "free markets and free people," presides where once the welfare state, the "mixed economy" and post-World War II appeasement dominated. For a certitude, there are reactionary holdouts in the editorial sanctum sanctorum of such fussy old organs as The New York Times and in various faculty clubs, where the young left-wing profs ride in on skate boards, their baseball caps turned backward, as the aging profs from the 1960s and 1970s roost in reveries of the Vietnam War and conjure with visions of Saddam Hussein clothed in the pajamas of Ho Chi Minh.

Yet from the American electorate to the halls of power in government and in business, people pretty much think the way Bob Bartley does -- cut taxes, emphasize economic growth, send the best military on earth against the warlike. Or did Bartley's critics miss this month's historic midterm elections?

The other night, Bartley packed more intelligent insight and historic awareness of the last third of the 20th century into a 20-minute address than I would have thought possible. I know of no historian or philosopher who could have done as well -- but then, as the historian John Lukacs has written, "All human knowledge is inevitably personal and participatory." Bartley had participated in many of the events he was discussing, from what he called "the military balance and competition with the Soviet Union in the 1970s, (to) the economic dilemma in the 1980s, (to) the 1990s moral and ethical issues in government." The first two of these three momentous issues went almost precisely the way Bartley wanted them to go, the last -- the Clintons' abuse of power -- will go Bartley's way or our democracy will go the way of the banana republic.

Titling his address "Thirty Years of Progress -- Mostly," Bartley cited a plenitude of serious problems this nation has faced over the decades and explained their resolution, usually their peaceful and prospering resolution. He seems himself to be amazed by something we Americans rarely note in our history -- to wit, the recuperative power of America.

Henry Kissinger, who introduced Bartley (two others preceded Kissinger -- supply-side economic advocate Jack Kemp and that stalwart defender of the rule of law even during the corrupt 1990s, Solicitor General Ted Olson), explained why Bartley can only be amazed by the extent of the country's recuperation, not by its actual recuperation. Said Kissinger, Bartley places his faith in the American people.

I cannot do justice in this small space to the enormous intellectual triumph of Bartley's exposition of the past 30 years. He excavated the most significant public problems the country has faced, explained their interrelatedness and their resolution. His address appeared in published form on the Nov. 20 op-ed page of the Journal. Every serious citizen will want to read it. I shall, however, quote its concluding lines, for those who want to know how America gets through and will get through the present travail.

Starting in 1972, "we did overcome communism, stagflation, Watergate and Vietnam. For all our momentary problems, at the turn of the century the Soviet empire had collapsed, democracy was spreading to unlikely places, and the American free-enterprise model was established as the route to development. Even with today's problems, the United States has no serious rival. In the sweep of this history, today's problems loom as another set of momentary nuisances. What I think I've learned over 30 years is that in this society, rationality wins out, progress happens, and problems have solutions." That is the consequence of a free society based, of course, on the rule of law.

This may have been Bartley's valedictory address, but he is not going away. He will continue to influence the Journal as editor emeritus and with his Monday column that appears weekly on its op-ed page. The editorial page itself is populated with like-minded journalists and will remain the strongest in the country.

Bartley will continue his regular appearances on the best television panel show aired nationally, CNBC's "WSJ Editorial Board with Stuart Varney," and from the brilliant historical excursus he delivered the other night it is clear he has the ideas and energy for a series of important books. And one other thing: He will continue to cover the world from America's cultural and financial capital, New York. His connections will remain unsurpassed.

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JWR contributor Bob Tyrrell is editor in chief of The American Spectator. Comment by clicking here.

11/14/02: Clarence Thomas and the segregationist Mississippi sheriff
11/07/02: I muffed up
10/31/02: Is the American university turning its back on change, on progress?
10/24/02: So why aren't the Dems buoyant?
10/17/02: Mourning the loss of the "yellow-belly"
10/10/02: American politics at its most ignominious
10/03/02: A man above the law, a bully
09/26/02: Is Bob Greene a victim of an anti-Clinton backlash?
09/19/02: I knew Mafiosi and
09/12/02: Chickens and poseurs
09/05/02: Sympathizing with the Europols
08/29/02: 9-11 did not change us forever
08/22/02: Public persons frivoling with serious matters
08/15/02: Beachcombing among the fat of the land
08/08/02: They pave the way for corruption, not personal responsibility
08/01/02: Believing the unbelievable
07/25/02: The congressional posse comitatus
07/18/02: Cosmopolitan Arab fashion
07/11/02: What the prez actually knows
07/04/02: The vindication of a truly original thinker
06/27/02: The perfect book for Hillary
06/20/02: To say that they were ordinary is not to slight them
06/13/02: Daschle must begin to act like an adult
06/06/02: Lack of "intelligence" --- and sheer stupidity
05/30/02: Revealing a carefully guarded media secret
05/23/02: In these times, thank Heaven for Clinton!
05/16/02: Fast Times at the Church of the Nativity
05/09/02: "Name the Prettiest Suicide Bomber"
05/02/02: Vindication for the Boy Scouts
04/25/02: A topic almost no other columnist will touch
04/18/02: 'Conventional Wisdom' --- and those who defy it
04/11/02: Let the Sun shine in
04/05/02: Hooded men of color in sheets
04/01/02: A McCain-Feingold Act for Hollywood
03/21/02: Yakkin' on Yates
03/15/02: No role for Paul Volcker in Enron: the movie
03/07/02: My membership in the Communist Party U.S.A.
02/27/02: This award is bestowed by 'contrarians'
02/21/02: Mike Tyson: Made for Washington?
02/14/02: Enron as underdog?
02/07/02: Freed from the presence of money -- hard or soft -- most politicians would be just as bad
01/31/02: Needed: Bush to make a preemptive strike against his enemies . Ones who'd like to see him fail even during war
01/24/02: Hucksters will move on to make their next marks
01/17/02: Debonair prez should begin to do the High Life
01/10/02: Move over Twinkies --- "the acne medicine made him do it!"
01/03/02: Leaving the Nazis looking comparatively humane
12/27/01: A "self-made journalist"
12/20/01: Calamities and unanticipated benefits
12/13/01: America's grief ought not to give comfort to those who caused it
12/06/01: Leahy, the strict civil libertarian!? A short-term exploiter of the Constitution is more like it
11/29/01: Welcome to Afghan, Maryland?
11/26/01: So, why don't more folks hate us?
11/15/01: America's quagmire and other certainties
11/09/01: No longer the smug statists, the prodigal Keynesians?
11/01/01: The New Seriousness
10/25/01: Bright lights and the Taliban
10/18/01: Is bin-Laden propaganda from Western intelligence?
10/12/01: No yellow ribbons
10/05/01: Bubba's back --- again!
09/28/01: Exposing peacetime's frauds
09/21/01: So protected, we're vulnerable
09/14/01: At Barbara Olson's home
09/11/01: Duh! All conservatives are racists
08/31/01: Arafat's terrorists have created their own hell
08/24/01: Time for some political prophecy
08/16/01: They claim to be doing so much good
08/10/01: Visiting the source of the White House braintrust
08/03/01: Morality and reality
07/31/01: Blinded by success?
07/24/01: The latest Kennedy capitulation in Massachusetts
07/13/01: Talk about tawdry
07/06/01: Delighting in the Dictator
06/29/01: The Godphobes
06/21/01: Fashionable Washington is sempiternally in a stew
06/15/01: The limits of hypocrisy
06/08/01: Flagging our general apathy

© 2001, Creators Syndicate