Conrad Black: America’s Prospects After the Election Debacle

Roundup: Historians' Take

Conrad Black is the author of Franklin Delano Roosevelt: Champion of Freedom, Richard M. Nixon: A Life in Full, and, just released, A Matter of Principle. He can be reached at

The United States has endured a dumbed-down, hideously expensive election that retained gridlock and showcased the modern enfeeblement of its political process. The only previous time the U.S. had three consecutive two-term presidents, they were the principal authors of the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Monroe Doctrine. Now, 192 years later, a less accomplished trio has taken America’s current-account deficits from $80 billion to over $400 billion under Bill Clinton, on to $800 billion under George W. Bush, where it has generally held under Barack Obama. Accumulated federal gross debt had accumulated to $6 trillion in the 216 years of American history prior to Bill Clinton, moved up to $10 trillion after George W. Bush, and has burst out like the Incredible Hulk under Barack Obama, to $16 trillion just four years later.

When George Washington handed over command of the Continental Army in 1783, and when he convened the Constitutional Convention in 1787, and again when he retired as president in 1797, he enjoined the legislators and statesmen of the future to create and preserve an indissoluble Union, ensure that it was adequately defended militarily, and give it a strong currency issued by a reliable treasury. The conservation of the Union appears to have been determined in Lincoln’s time. And the U.S. now spends 44 percent of the world’s entire military outlays but the wars that it has engaged in since Korea haven’t accomplished much. (The pseudo-wars against poverty, crime, and drugs have been lost.) President George H. W. Bush very efficiently evicted Saddam Hussein from Kuwait, but President George W. Bush returned a decade later to remove him from Iraq. In the interim, President Clinton underreacted to the Khobar Towers, East African embassy, and USS Cole attacks, which helped incite the terrorist onslaughts on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon in 2001....

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