11 June 2008

Thomas Paine Reloaded

With reference to the continuing political crisis in the Bookshelf Community:

Comment the First:

Good discussion -
"Rags, you are wrong because . . ."

Bad discussion -
“Just shut the fuck up, Rags . . you’re an embarassment “

In the marketplace of ideas, we place different values on the products, but we don’t ban any of them. No one banned Coca-Cola from selling the New Coke - there were simply no buyers, so it vanished.

Comment the Second:

At any given time, there are at least hundreds of people genuinely qualified to serve as president. How do we pick which one of them actually serves? Not by any rational qualitative method. Rather, the selection is made by influence, personality traits unconnected to performance, corruption which goes undetected or which is excused/ignored, random chance (“luck”), cynicism, manipulation (of the candidate, of the electorate), intelligence (of the political operatives), the generous application of green poultices and other factors which are, at the very best, unrelated to how a particular person will discharge the duties of the office. Each person who has served as president has been the beneficiary of these things, to-wit:

Bush II - Son of Bush I, absent which he wouldn’t have been elected mayor of Crawford, Texas, which is a good thing, since a municipality cannot afford to run a $4 trillion debt.

Clinton - A good-hearted yet cynical political operative with flaws as deep as LBJ, just not as noticable. Brilliant guy who hides it well.

Bush I - Purely a “staff” guy, serving leaders competently until he was kicked upstairs. (That’s not a criticism - really good staff people are rare. Bush I bailed out the CIA and the RNC when each was in chaos.)

Reagan - An actor, i.e., “The Great Communicator.” Even rabid Reaganites talk about the Reagan conservatism coming from his mind with tongue firmly in cheek.

Carter - Nice fellow, and not Nixon. Very smart, but not so much so in government.

Ford - Nixon’s bud.

Nixon - Rode the Red Scare and knew when to get off. Then he was as nasty as LBJ, only sneakier.

LBJ - Hardest working of all the presidents, DEEPLY flawed and the stars aligned to cause those flaws to maximally damage the nation. He was elected to the Senate by blatant vote-fraud and stayed there by blatant intimidation.

Kennedy - Started out rich (family resources gained largely illegally) which was a strong base from which to use his personal courage and effort.

Eisenhower - Elected mostly on merit (although the undeserved lackluster perception of Adlai Stevenson helped), and his presidency was a disappointment.

Truman - An ideal person in office. Wouldn’t have been elected as a county judge in Missouri but for his connection with and loyalty to a Tammany-Hall-like organization.

Even my two heroes:

Lincoln - Very intelligent and effective speaker on an issue (slavery) which caused a 4-way contest in which he won a narrow plurality – in other words, he was in the right place at the right time. (Yes, the Civil War WAS about slavery.)

Theodore Roosevelt - Started rich (family resources), so he had the luxury of time to write, politic and ranch. His personality was very strong, prompting the national Republican leadership to kick him upstairs to the meaningless post of vice president, from which he became president by the happenstance of an assassin and primitive medicine. In other words, he was in the right place at the right time. He then held power by means as powerful as LBJ’s, only above-board.

The current candidates and near-candidate:

McCain - A naval aviator, which is a thing of great effort and honor, but is unconnected with the presidency. A POW which is an experience for which he should also be honored, but which is likewise a non-starter functionally. However, absent those things, he wouldn’t be running for president.

Obama - A good looking black guy, super intelligent, the nearest of the three to be in the race on merit alone.

Clinton - Brilliant lawyer, unlikely to have risen above the Merited Mass without having been married to Bill Clinton, the political operative.

ALL of these people were and are QUALIFIED to be president. But don’t get the idea that our system magically produces the best of the best for the job.

Sometimes, we get someone who is not among the qualified hundreds:

Warren Gameliel Harding

People right off the top of my head who could have done the job, too:

Sen. Edward Brooke: Moderate, brilliant, but black when black wasn’t cool.

Sen. Margaret Chase Smith - Moderate, brilliant, but a woman when femininity wasn’t cool.

Herman Kahn - Greatest & smartest social thinker of the 20th Century, but he spouted unpopular ideas bluntly, he was fat and he was ugly.

George Romney - Super effective, but wouldn’t act like enough of an extremist.

Ann Richards

Mario Cuomo

Jay Rockefeller - Probably kicking himself for not being the white guy from a small state who ran in 1992.

John W. Davis

Albert Gore, Sr.

Tom Dewey

How many can YOU name?

Pippa passes.



Anonymous said...

The person who told me to fuck off frequently responds to people she disagrees with by telling them to "fuck off." It shows a general lack of tolerance - a trait of a real liberal, and also a lack of depth that she can't think of anything more clever to say than that.

sheila222 said...

I remain a fan of Jeane Kirkpatrick. Ditto on MCS. Naturally I am too young to have been alive in the Truman administration and other matters occupied me during the Eisenhower one, so I don't have your perspective :). Hey, I ran up the road to Athens this week and sitting up on the hill on the western side of 77 at exit 132 was a big ol' semi with SPIKE MAYNARD for Supreme Court.

Beysshoes said...

Strong write.