Friday, October 10, 2008

The Stuff of Carter-like Presidencies

David Brooks:

You know very few people risk their careers in their lives. She [Palin] has a . . . quitting this regulatory board in Alaska and taking on the establishment of the Republican party. She did that, and I give her tremendous credit. Second, I think she has . . . I mean her family life seems good to me. Her . . . I thought the performances she gave at the speech and the debate were good performances. And I thought analytically she’s got tremendous political talent. That’s a natural talent that believe me 99.9% of Americans do not have. Do I think she’s ready to be vice-president or president? No. Uh, she’s not even close. Uh, the more I follow politicians, the more I think experience matters, the ability to have a template of things in your mind that, uh, that you can refer to on the spot. Because believe me once in office you have no time to think or make decisions. And then the final thing, and then again I’m more Republican than not, she represents a fatal cancer, uh, to the Republican party. When I worked first . . . started journalism . . . I started at National Review for Bill Buckley, and Buckley famously said he’d rather be ruled by the first 2,000 names in the Boston phone book than the Harvard faculty, but he didn’t think those were the only two options. He thought it was important to have people on the conservative side who celebrated ideas, who celebrated learning. And his whole life was based on it. And that was also true for a lot of the other conservatives in the Reagan era. Reagan had an intense power of ideas . . . power . . . faith in the power of ideas. But there has been a counter, more populist tradition which is not only to scorn liberal ideas but to scorn ideas entirely. And I’m . . . I’m afraid that Sarah Palin has those prejudices. I think President Bush has those prejudices.

[emphasis mine]

Not a word of proof to back this up. It sounds as though David Brooks, while celebrating his own ideas, scorns digging up the proof to back them up. He intuits Palin’s “prejudices.”

Certainly Bill Buckley did celebrate ideas. One of them was that the common sense ideas of the people give better government than the learned ideas of the elites. Unfortunately, Brooks does not recognize this as a Buckley (and a conservative) “idea”.

Palin obviously believes in the power of ideas. It was the belief that government should rule on behalf of the people and that corruption is a real cancer (as opposed to Brooks’ unproven cancer) that pushed her to risk her career in standing up to Republican corruption and fueled her veto pen in how she actually governed in Alaska.

The cancer that hurts a political party, cause and the standing of ideas is Brooks' assumption that he doesn’t need proof to back up ideas and opinions. Just intuition.

The power of ideas is not merely in their being expressed (as Brooks does), but in their being put into action. That’s what Gov. Palin has done. That's what Ronald Reagan did.

Christopher Buckley:

But having a first-class temperament and a first-class intellect, President Obama will (I pray, secularly) surely understand that traditional left-politics aren’t going to get us out of this pit we’ve dug for ourselves. If he raises taxes and throws up tariff walls and opens the coffers of the DNC to bribe-money from the special interest groups against whom he has (somewhat disingenuously) railed during the campaign trail, then he will almost certainly reap a whirlwind that will make Katrina look like a balmy summer zephyr.

Obama has in him—I think, despite his sometimes airy-fairy “We are the people we have been waiting for” silly rhetoric—the potential to be a good, perhaps even great leader. He is, it seems clear enough, what the historical moment seems to be calling for.

[emphasis mine]

Again, no proof in terms of Obama’s actions. Just Christopher Buckley’s intuition.

These guys are anti-proof and anti-idea.

Of such is the stuff of Carter-like presidencies.


UPDATE: The context of Buckley's assertion that he thought common people understand essential elements of a good society ("respect for the laws of God and for the wisdom of our ancestors") that educated elites miss due to "intellectual arrogance":

I am obliged to confess that I should sooner live in a society governed by the first two thousand names in the Boston telephone directory than in a society governed by the two thousand faculty members of Harvard University. Not, heaven knows, because I hold lightly the brainpower or knowledge or generosity or even the affability of the Harvard faculty; but because I greatly fear intellectual arrogance, and that is a distinguishing characteristic of the university which refuses to accept any common premise. In the deliberations of two thousand citizens of Boston I think one would discern a respect for the laws of God and for the wisdom of our ancestors which does not characterize the thought of Harvard professors–who, to the extent that they believe in God at all, tend to believe He made some terrible mistakes which they undertake to rectify; and, when they are paying homage to the wisdom of our ancestors, tend to do so with a kind of condescension toward those whose accomplishments we long since surpassed.

William F. Buckley, Jr., “A Reply to Robert Hutchins: The Aimlessness of American Education” (in Rumbles Left and Right)

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