Recent Examiner Columns
And since I last updated the blog, I’ve written eight columns for the DC Examiner. Here are the first four; I’ll put the others up tomorrow:
1. “Sarah’s Swan Song”: prompted by Palin’s resignation, it argued that “Conservatives undermine their movement when they fetishize inarticulateness as ‘plain speaking'” and take disinterest in national affairs or foreign policy–the stuff of the presidency–to be qualifications for the office:
William F. Buckley had a point when he said he’d “rather be ruled by the first 500 people in the Boston phonebook than the faculty at Harvard.” But you can take that point too far–and conservatives have.
Their logic seems to go something like this: Jimmy Carter was smart, and a bad president; Reagan went to Eureka College and the intelligentsia sneered at him, yet he was a good president. Liberal elitists sneer at Bush and Palin, too, therefore they’d make marvelous presidents.
But unlike either Bush or Palin, Reagan was fiercely interested in ideas. Anyone who’s looked at “Reagan in His Own Hand,” the volume that reproduces his handwritten 1970s radio speeches, knows how sharp and skilled our 40th president was as a writer and thinker. And it must be said that none of Reagan’s speeches featured as many screaming ALLCAPS and exclamation marks as Palin’s Friday speech, which included lines like, “LIFE is about choices!”
2. “The Statist Generation”: reading about the “Millenials” made me oddly proud to be a cynical Gen X’er. Musically, we have very little to apologize for (Grunge was pretty awesome), and politically, what’s coming is far worse:
Kids today are a credulous bunch. The 2007 Pew Political Values survey revealed “a generation gap in cynicism.” Where 62 percent of Americans overall view the federal government as wasteful and inefficient, just 42 percent of young people agree.
No wonder, then, that GenNext responds to President Obama’s call for “public service,” roughly translated as “a federal paycheck.”
Here, they differ dramatically from their skeptical “Generation X” predecessors. A 1999 survey asked Gen X college seniors to name their ideal employers; they “filled the entire list with for-profit businesses like Microsoft and Cisco.” What a difference a generation makes. In the same poll today, Gen Y prefers the State Department, Teach for America, and the Peace Corps. That’s a problem for a country built on the entrepreneurial spirit.
Get off my goddamn lawn.
3. “Staying Sane as President”: at least, I think that’s what I called it originally.
Silent Cal couldn’t have imagined the atmosphere of celebrity adoration that envelops today’s chief: “OMG! Obama swatted a fly! So cool! He went to Ray’s Hell Burger! Just like any normal person with a massive Secret Service detail!” How long could any of us remain “grounded” in an environment where we’re constantly treated like a god?
Cornell University psychologist Robert Millman argues that many celebrities suffer from “acquired situational narcissism.” As Millman explains, otherwise emotionally healthy people often develop delusions of grandeur after they strike it big in Hollywood. When “a celebrity walks into a room,” Millman writes, “everyone looks at him: he’s a prince.” After a while, what happens is our star “gets so used to everyone looking at him, that he stops looking back at them.”
Celebrity pathology is harmless fun when we scan Us Weekly in the checkout line. But if the president loses his grip, there’s rather more at stake.
Past presidents, drunk on adulation and tormented by responsibilities no movie star faces, have indeed lost their grip. In an Oval Office meeting in 1967, asked by a reporter why America was in Vietnam, President Lyndon Johnson unzipped his fly, wagged the presidential member at his questioner and exclaimed, “This is why!”
4. “If Troops Are Deployed at Home, We Need to Have Solid Oversight.” Actually, I don’t think troops should be deployed at home for domestic security purposes even if there is solid oversight:
if you’re inclined to thank God for small favors, there’s this at least: Obama has yet to propose turning the U.S. military against American citizens. Last week, The New York Times revealed that the Bush administration seriously considered doing just that.
According to former administration officials, at a top-level meeting in 2002, then-vice president Dick Cheney and his allies lobbied hard for sending U.S. troops onto the streets of a Buffalo, N.Y., suburb to kick down doors and kill or capture a group of terrorist suspects, the so-called Lackawanna Six.