Jonah Goldberg cannot find meaning

Jonah Goldberg, in an editorial published in the editorial pages of the various newspapers which published it, and on the National Review website, penned an article on the intellectual exercise craze of the day — attempting to sort out the items of popular culture which define the Bush Era.  Or, this Bush Decade, kind of, which is about to end, kind of.

The generic “Cult of the Presidency” is at work with these definitions, as well a bit of …

Likewise, the 1980s and 1990s felt like real decades, whether you hated them or not. Reagan and Bill Clinton, through force of personality alone, helped give the ’80s and ’90s a coherence.
But it doesn’t feel like we can say the same thing about George W. Bush’s oughts, in no small part because Bush showed neither the interest nor the ability to dominate the culture.

Funny thing, though, is that if you go back to 1995 and 1996 and 1997, you’ll find published opinions stating that Bill Clinton has not forced his dominance on the decade as have such figures as Ronald Reagan, that there is no “Clinton Decade”.  Maybe the Clinton Decade didn’t begin until the Monica Lewinsky Scandal, and it ended soon thereafter.  It appears we have granted Clinton the Seinfeld “Presidency about Nothing” honor, extolling the trifles and tribulations of the turbulent world.  And Darrell Hammond has defeated Phil Hartman for the SNL impersonation of Clinton.  The policies of the president himself?  I don’t know — he did some good things, he did some bad things, he sought to privatize Social Security but we like to pretend he didn’t, the dot-com bubble burst at the beginning of Bush’s administration and was sort of immediately floated into a housing boom — none of this matters or it all matters very little in assessing the “Clinton Decade” and the “Force of Personality” “Clinton imposed” on the “1990s Clinton Decade”.

Bush?  The entire nation has been trying to forget about for the past two years.  Which leads the pop culture equation to this line a little off:

Neither the pro-Bush nor anti-Bush segments of society seemed to control the commanding heights of the popular culture. After 9/11, the Bushian forces seemed to dominate — freedom fries, 24, the Dixie Chicks’ implosion — but that didn’t last long. And, with the exception of a brief counter-Bush surge led by the lefty blogosphere, Jon Stewart and the re-imagined coffeehouse rock version of the Dixie Chicks, the battle for decade dominance has been between a fizzle and a deadlock.The war on terrorism doesn’t define young peoples’ lives, but neither does Bush-hatred. Virtually all of the antiwar or anti-Bush screeds put out by Hollywood over the last year, including Oliver Stone’s latest doggerel, have bombed.

Few people want to watch a movie about George W Bush.  The anti-Bush screeds peeter out because we are all anti-Bush to the point where we are all post-Bush — there is no culture and (quasi)counter culture to be pushing up against.  And he forgot Green Day’s “American Idiot”.  Or, for that matter, to list something besides 24 as pro-Bush pop culture emphemia.

 Goldberg ends with an existential question.:

The interesting question is whether Obama can — with the aid of his accomplices — impose a meaning on our age, or whether the age of meaning itself is over.

Only by requiring all federal buildings to carry that one piece of iconography (you know what I’m referring to), banners hanging over every bridge and every building — Dear Leader Kim Jong Il style.  Otherwise, we’ll just have to shift meaning out of a pile of a series of Economic Stimulus bills in order to fill our empty little lives.

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