News and Events
Victor Davis Hanson Explores Presidential Rhetoric, Policy Changes, and the Media
On March 4, Victor Davis Hanson gave his first lecture at Pepperdine University in his capacity as the Spring 2009 William E. Simon Distinguished Visiting Professor at the School of Public Policy. In a lecture titled "Political Challenges Facing the Obama Administration," he argued the reasons why he believes Obama, despite Utopian rhetoric, will learn that many of the decisions he faces offer only bad and worse choices.
"While his presidential predecessor, George W. Bush, was easily caricatured as a reactionary extremist, Obama will quickly learn as President that many of Bush's policies were moderate and centrist - and should not be so quickly dismissed," Hanson says. "He may be required to modify some of his past positions, to the dismay of some of his supporters."
Some of the Bush-era policies and institutions Hanson believes should not be rashly discarded include the Patriot Act, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and the war in Iraq. With the economy as an unavoidable political hot-button topic he also explored, in his words, "the nature of the economy juxtaposed to Obama's characterization of it as near Great Depression levels."
"Depression-era" rhetoric is persuasive enough to the general public for the Obama Administration to achieve other goals, Hanson argued, such as restructuring government in areas of domestic policy - such as tax hikes and socialized healthcare - that might not be so welcomed in times of prosperity. Such measures, he said, are counterintuitive to the idea of self-advancement and promote the ideology that the government is better able to make wise decisions about how to spend your money than you can.
After speaking about the policy changes wrought by the new administration, Hanson went on to say that the perception of Obama as a "moralist" might make it difficult for the media to criticize the President, citing attacks in the media against the outspoken conservative Obama critic Rush Limbaugh. As a "conservative" columnist, Hanson is all too aware of the problems in expressing any criticism of President Obama, saying, "It makes for difficult discourse."
"Victor Davis Hanson is well prepared to place in perspective how the realities of governing are emerging in dramatic contrast to many of the aspirations expressed by President Obama in his inspiring campaign rhetoric," says James Wilburn, dean at the School of Public Policy. "Hanson's style is to engage complex issues crisply and directly with a depth of historic perspective that is at the same time both engaging and instructive with its scholarly substance."
A nationally syndicated columnist for Tribune Media Services, as well as a frequent contributor to the political National Review magazine and its corresponding Web site, Hanson is the author of hundreds of articles, book reviews, scholarly papers, and newspaper editorials on matters ranging from ancient Greek, agrarian, and military history to foreign affairs, domestic politics, and contemporary culture.
He is the Martin and Illie Anderson Senior Fellow in Residence in Classics and Military History at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University; Professor Emeritus of Classics Emeritus at California State University, Fresno; and the Wayne and Marcia Buske Distinguished Fellow in History at Hillsdale College. Among numerous awards, honors, and fellowships, he was awarded the National Humanities Medal in 2007 and the Bradley Prize in 2008.
Hanson's lecture was introduced by William Simon, Jr. - the son of the benefactor of the William E. Simon Distinguished Visiting Professorship - which gives the School of Public Policy the opportunity to invite a series of nationally recognized and highly respected individuals to be in residence each year. Simon, Jr., is a businessman and politician who ran for governor of California in 2002 with the influential support of Rudy Giuliani, the former mayor of New York.