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You can do it, South Carolina — strike a blow for the political class

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The New York Times opinion page is chock full of benignant thinkers. It’s a roster of such great intellectual depth that, to be honest, I always feel like I’m missing something every time I read them. The lineup is so impressive that it’s difficult to decide exactly which one of them is the most special, but David Brooks recently made a strong case for himself when he made the following important observation about politics and the government:

Sunshinism is a destructive ideology. Forcing people to financially undress in public is just one of those incursions that repels decent people from running for office.

It also destroys people’s faith in government. Have you noticed that as democracy has become more open, cynicism has skyrocketed and the effectiveness of government has gone down the toilet? Bill Galston of the Brookings Institution has the best observation on this — that parts of government should be hidden for the same reason middle-aged people should wear clothes.

This is a genuinely fascinating insight. The government is what keeps you safe. It makes important decisions for you. It helps people. If there is no faith in the institutions of government, then fear and chaos will spread.

The politicians that we elect run that government. If we don’t have faith in our leaders, then we cannot have faith in the government itself. There is no serious person who wants to live in a world in which we don’t have faith in our leaders to lead us. We will not follow them, if we do not trust them. And, as Mr. Brooks so eloquently points out, as people learn more about their leaders, the less likely they are to place their faith in the government.

It is the brave politician that puts himself up for election in this destructive climate of openness.

This is something that another important modern thinker, CNN’s Wolf Blitzer, recently discussed in a post on the CNN website. The New York Times opinion page is arguably the most essential assemblage of thinkers of the modern era, but Mr. Blitzer makes a strong case for inclusion in that group, with his own examination of the tribulations faced by the political class that is trying desperately to lead us:

I know it will probably sound weird, but I admire these politicians who put themselves out there before the American public knowing full well that all their warts will be exposed big time.

Most of them already have lots of money. They could easily coast at this point in their lives and sit back and relax.

I’ve seen them in action, and it’s tough. They get up early in the morning and go to sleep late at night. They have to deliver the same stump speech over and over and over again, and then answer an endless amount of often annoying questions at town hall meetings, at diners and from reporters such as me.

As Mr. Blitzer points out, these politicians could easily go on their merry way, without trying to run the government that does so much for us. Instead, they are making personal sacrifices on our behalf. In exchange for this selflessness, they are met with long nights, repetitive speaking engagements, and “annoying questions” from the people they want to lead. It’s difficult to imagine anything more difficult.

As if to provide an example of the very intrusiveness that so many in our political class find inconvenient, at last Thursday night’s presidential debate one of Mr. Blitzer’s CNN colleagues, John King, asked presidential candidate Newt Gingrich a question about some prurient allegations leveled against him  by his ex-wife. Mr. Gingrich responded with lines as eloquent as any ever written by either Mr. Brooks or Mr. Blitzer:

“I think the destructive, vicious, negative nature of much of the news media makes it harder to govern this country, harder to attract decent people to run for public office. And I am appalled that you would begin a presidential debate on a topic like that.”

Mr. Gingrich is willing to put in the long days, giving the same speeches over and over again, and answering annoying questions. He is working hard to combat the cynicism that is crippling our country. And his reward? A question about whether or not he might in the past have wanted to have an “open marriage.”

People like John King are ruining this country. People like John King are making this country ungovernable.

This is the same attitude that has opened up the current president for so much cynical criticism. It is fashionable for some people to point out that candidate for president Obama was opposed to wars in the Middle East, but that now he seems to relish them. It’s also fashionable to point out that before he was president, Obama opposed certain elements of the PATRIOT ACT, but as president, signed its extension. To these people, personal growth is not only not a positive quality for our leaders, but it is actually a negative quality, to be criticized. Clearly, since candidate Obama became president Obama he has come to realize the important necessity of dronebombing those Muslims into submission, and allowing investigators to write their own search warrants all in the name of protecting the askers of “annoying questions.”

It’s as if we’re trying to force decent people away from a life of leadership. Demanding to know ever more personal things about their lives, requiring that they never change their minds… These are absurd requirements that will ultimately punish the country by driving men like Barack Obama and Newt Gingrich away from leadership positions.

Can you imagine that? Can you imagine living in a world in which decisions made by politicians like Newt Gingrich and Barack Obama did not directly impact your life? Can you imagine living in a world that was denied the benefit of the leadership of these two incorruptible paragons of virtue? These men, and so many others like them have worked hard to make their mark on the world; it’s selfish of us to deny them the opportunity.

As I write these powerful and emotional words, South Carolina is holding its Republican primary. Some recent polls have shown Newt Gingrich leading the other candidates, despite the venal attacks on his character by the likes of John King. This is welcome news. At the urging of powerful political thinkers like Sarah Palin and Rick Perry, the voters in South Carolina are rejecting the politics of personal destruction. They are rejecting the “incursions” that “repel decent people from running for office.” They are poised to deliver a powerful rebuke to cynicism, and a resounding “stay the course” to our political class, by awarding a victory to Newt Gingrich.

Ricky Sprague occasionally writes and/or draws things. He sometimes animates things. He has a Twitter account and he has a blog. He scripted this graphic novel about Kolchak The Night Stalker. He is really, really good at putting links in bios.
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2 Responses to “You can do it, South Carolina — strike a blow for the political class”

  1. I read a study somewhere — maybe in the NYT? — that just linking to Brooks, Thomas Friedman or Paul Krugman — just LINKING to them — makes one a smarter person. More sophisticated and cultured too. I appreciate that these audacious intellectual heroes exist in the NYT, right there for me to link to on my own blog (or Facebook page too, if I’m feeling really audacious and intellectual and want my friends, coworkers and neighbors to know it).

  2. I would think that linking to them while agreeing with what they say — and really, how could you not agree with what they say? — would be an indicator of genius, if only by association.

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