But there was one small difficulty: This hawk was no Truman or Reagan, but rather a reality-television mountebank whose real attitude toward China policy was, basically, whatever gets me re-elected works.
Who has heard recently, or ever, the word “mountebank”? Ross Douthat uses it twice, and it’s not just a literate belch, it’s an exquisite choice for his context, stemming from 16th-century Italian “monta in banco!” — climb on the bench! — alluding to the tactic of attention-seeking charlatans.
… The odds of success [for Chinese goals] look better now than in the further future… But if we find a way to contain China for a decade, the Chinese century could be permanently postponed.
“Permanently postponed” is deft license, as apt for nuance and context as “further future.” Well played, Douthat. You have lofted me to a concluding ending:
We are ghosted by many tomorrows permanently postponed; it’s always just further now. The future is like a particle of cosmo-physics that can only be observed by where it was, not where it is. Or like my childhood fancy that there was a face watching me from the corner, and it hid from me as soon as I looked there.
(Ross Douthat, “The Chinese Decade,” NYTimes, 7-11-20)
(c) 2020 JMN