Conceit of Government - Peggy Noonan
Why are our politicians so full of themselves?
Wednesday, June 29, 2005 12:01 a.m. EDT
What's wrong with them? That's what I'm thinking more and more as I watch the news from Washington.
A few weeks ago it was the senators who announced the judicial compromise. There is nothing wrong with compromise and nothing wrong with announcements, but the senators who spoke referred to themselves with such flights of vanity and conceit--we're so brave, so farsighted, so high-minded--that it was embarrassing. They patted themselves on the back so hard they looked like a bevy of big breasted pigeons in a mass wing-flap. Little grey feathers and bits of corn came through my TV screen, and I had to sweep up when they were done.
There is nothing wrong with Barack Obama's resume, but it is a log-cabin-free zone. So far it also is a greatness-free zone. If he keeps talking about himself like this it always will be.
Mr. Obama said he keeps a photographic portrait of Lincoln on the wall of his office, and that "it asks me questions."
I'm sure it does. I'm sure it says, "Barack, why are you such an egomaniac?" Or perhaps, "Is it no longer possible in American politics to speak of another's greatness without suggesting your own?"
I admire Bill Frist, but can you imagine George Washington referring in public, or in private for that matter, to his many virtues? In normal America if you have a high character you don't wrestle people to the ground until they acknowledge it. You certainly don't announce it. If you are compassionate, you are compassionate; if others see it, fine. If you hold to principle it will become clear. You don't proclaim these things. You can't, for the same reason that to brag about your modesty is to undercut the truth of the claim.
And there are the Clintons. There are always the Clintons........... It was embarrassing to see America's two most famous political grifters plop themselves in the first row dressed in telegenic silk and allow themselves to become the focus of sweet words they knew would come.
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?
The Supreme Court this week and last issued many rulings, and though they were on different issues the decisions themselves had at least one thing in common: They seemed to reflect a lack of basic human modesty on the part of many of the justices. Many are famously very old, and they have been together as a court for a very long time. One wonders if they have lost all understanding of how privileged they are to have lifetime sinecures of power and authority. Do they have any sense anymore of common human wisdom, of the normal human arrangements by which Americans live?
What are they doing? All this hair splitting, this dithering, this cutting and pasting--all this lack of serious and defining principle. All this vanity.
Perhaps Justice Ginsburg or Justice Stevens will retire soon and write a memoir: Like Jefferson I held to principle, and like Lincoln I often lacked air conditioning. But in my intellectual gifts I've always found myself to be more like Oliver Wendell Holmes . . .
What is in the air there in Washington, what is in the water?
What is wrong with them? This is not a rhetorical question. I think it is unspoken question No. 1 as Americans look at so many of the individuals in our government. What is wrong with them?
JB here: A) You really should open the link and read ALL of Ms. Noonan's excellent article.
B) I think American society has come to this; and this is really ugly. It is ALL ABOUT ME!
I believe the new Ugly American is a result of 4 decades of Rogerian psychotherapy poured down our eagerly accepting gullets by schools, professors, media, sports heroes, checkers at our local discount mall, auto salesmen, T.V. accountants and preachers.
Heaven help us. Somebody needs to apply a swift kick to our overly large posteriors and scream at us; "Get a Grip! It is NOT about YOU!"
But NOOOooo. We continue to drown in the stories of weeping stars, starlets and politicians who wish to be admired for overcoming never before seen adversity; plus desiring our empathetic understanding as they bravely face their penny ante addiction scenarios.
And we, the common people, have adopted their scripts.
Gag Me With A Spoon People. It is TIME to grow up! SHEESH.