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Stepping back from the brink

Peggy Noonan, former Reagan speechwriter and current Wall Street Journal columnist, often serves in my mind of an example of how even East Coast conservatives share a mindset that is parochial, elitist, insular, and irredeemably statist. However, in today’s column she steps back from the Bos-Wash bubble to marvel at the bloviating egomaniacs that populate Washington.

What’s wrong with them? That’s what I’m thinking more and more as I watch the news from Washington.

Welcome to the club, Peggy. Too bad it took you so many decades to join up.

How exactly does it work? How does legitimate self-confidence become wildly inflated self-regard? How does self respect become unblinking conceit? How exactly does one’s character become destabilized in Washington?

And, bless her, she even takes on the fair-haired boy of the elites, Barack Obama. Barack is widely heralded because he is young, a Democrat, reasonably articulate, and, of course, because he is black. He has also revealed himself to be a first-rate egomaniac. Although in the Senate he doesn’t even make the A team for self-importance, what with such colossi as Roberty Byrd and John McCain to contend with, he is certainly putting himself forward as a bloviator to be reckoned with.

This week comes the previously careful Sen. Barack Obama, flapping his wings in Time magazine and explaining that he’s a lot like Abraham Lincoln, only sort of better. “In Lincoln’s rise from poverty, his ultimate mastery of language and law, his capacity to overcome personal loss and remain determined in the face of repeated defeat–in all this he reminded me not just of my own struggles.”

Because this kind of inflated self-regard is part of the molecular make-up of politicians, there is no such thing as “good” government, instituted through any kind of ethical or institutional means. There is only “limited” government.

12 comments to Stepping back from the brink

  • Before any other principle of political thought, I have long subscribed to the notion that anyone who puts himself forward for elected office should be automatically disqualified from holding it.

    It seems to me that the people you want holding office are the people who really, really don’t want to have power. It’s the ones who cannot do enough for us, who want to ‘make a difference’ (that is, make themselves feel better) that we should steer clear of.

  • Bernie

    Edward I don’t have anything against those who want to “make a difference”. It isn’t the motivation that is the problem but the use of force as the tool. The vast majority of people who are not part of the state machinery really do make a difference. Just think what life would be like without bakers baking or drivers driving, etc.

    But those wonderful politicians or pressure group spokesmen who appear on Radio4 who answer critics with “you are entitled to your opinion” really should be given prizes for irony. The truth would be closer to, “You are entitled to your opinion but I can force you to live by mine.”

  • JuliaM

    “You are entitled to your opinion but I can force you to live by mine.”

    More like “You are entitled to your opinion, but pretty soon, I’ll make sure you can’t express it”….

  • toolkien

    Before any other principle of political thought, I have long subscribed to the notion that anyone who puts himself forward for elected office should be automatically disqualified from holding it.

    It isn’t the motivation that is the problem but the use of force as the tool.

    But the two go together. The concept that one executive (in the US) holds so much power over 290 million people and $2.4 trillion budgets is both nonsensical to me and ulitmately requires massive force to bring it off. Granted such a person only has so much time in a day like everyone else, so it is the added element that so many people THINK one person can control so many peoples’ fate and so many resources. It is they who are more than willing to be forced in the first place.

    Obviously it takes a particular type of person to think they really can make a difference from such heights. I just believe that they are just boderline grandiose schizophrenics (with a few full fledged ones tossed in).

  • What’s wrong with them? They’re stupid. They literally do not – I dare say cannot – think. They merely react. And nobody dares tell them when they’re making fools of themselves. The only good aspect of this is, that if a real Lincoln ever came along, he would shine by comparison. And nobody can say we deserve it for electing them. Who asked me whether Bill Frist should give up his practice and run for office, or whether Ted Kennedy should get one free murder and remain in the Senate? And how much difference would my one vote have made if they had?

  • What’s wrong with them? OK, one more time: Power corrupts. Absolute power … oh, to hell with it.

    The urge to power is bred in the bone, for reasons I trust need not be explicated here. All we can do is fight those who have a surfeit of the urge, one battle at a time. It is exhausting, but the alternative is unthinkable.

  • John J. Coupal

    One of the consoling facts for the US public is the status of the Senate.

    Senator Ted Kennedy – for all his bluster and nonsense – is restricted to one vote on an issue. There are 99 other prima donnas there with the same privilege, so Kennedy’s contribution to the total votes is 1%.

    The Founders intended that fact to be a humbling experience. The American people have learned to ignore bluster, when they feel it deserves to be ignored.

  • And, bless her, she even takes on the fair-haired boy of the elites, Barack Obama.

    Damn, but this place is caucasian-normative. Don’t you know you can get in trouble for saying something like that?

    If you’ll pardon me, I need to go wash my hands after typing that.

  • rosignol

    The concept that one executive (in the US) holds so much power over 290 million people and $2.4 trillion budgets is both nonsensical to me and ulitmately requires massive force to bring it off.

    Eh?

    That executive has a great deal of discretion with regards to foreign affairs and the use of the military outside of the US, which may give people abroad a rather skewed impresson of how much power he has, but the President is rather limited in what he can do with regards to domestic affairs- control over most of those matters either requires the consent of Congress- twice- or is delegated to some 50 state governments.

    The powers of the office of President in the US is rather different than those of (for example) a British Prime Minister.

  • What I find amazing is that Illinois is full of vets and reservists, but Durbin chose to ignore that and prove himself an utter ass. Then Obama chose to ignore the fact that dissing Lincoln in the “Land of Lincoln” is utter political suicide.

    They have completely lost touch with their constituency. How DO they expect to get reelected if they keep on this self-destructive path?

  • Wild Pegasus

    …there is no such thing as “good” government, instituted through any kind of ethical or institutional means. There is only “limited” government.

    Worse yet, there isn’t even that.

    - Josh

  • Oh, Obama will get re-elected. He will carry the black vote and the guilty liberal vote by virtue of his race, and the uninformed vote by virtue of the fact that he is a media darling. That is more than enough, in Illinois, to get into the Senate.