Harry Hope's Saloon

This blog takes it's name from the setting for O'Neill's The Iceman Cometh -- a lousy gin-mill; a smoked-out, greasy dive where the habitues have all landed, it seems, permanently. Their lives, in each case, are paralyzed by fear and laziness. Like my own.

Thursday, September 30, 2004

Flip Flop

Fresh Air host Terry Gross, a day or so ago in a Salon interview, when asked about her impression of the current presidential campaign:

Well, it's interesting for me to see Kerry being criticized for being complex. I guess in a campaign situation maybe you need to speak more simply, but it surprises me that complexity should be seen as a liability for a president. The issues are, in fact, complex.

But of course the plain truth is that complexity is, and always has been taken to be a liability in this country ... for president, for governor, for congress, for school board, for whatever. "Character" is infinitely more important than intellect (and since politics is indeed theater, it matters not one single little old whit whether the character is organic or not. It should just appear so). Are you for freedom and against evil? Will you just quickly know what Jesus would do? Then good.

Someone once wrote of Thomas Jefferson:

At the seat of government his abstract, inapplicable, metaphysico-politics are either nugatory or noxious. Besides, his principles relish so strongly of Paris and are seasoned with such a profusion of French garlic, that he offends the whole nation. Better for Americans that on their extended plains "thistles should grow instead of wheat, and cockle instead of barley," than that a philosopher should influence the councils of the country, and that his admiration of the works of Voltaire and Helvetius should induce him to wish a closer connexion with Frenchmen.

[More recently, Zell Miller at the RNC: "John Kerry wants Paris to decide when we should defend our country ... I want George Bush to decide!!"]

Oh Man! God preserve us from these silly statesmen and feckless philosophers; let them do no harm. Let them stay reclined in their perfumed parlors where they belong, brushing their hair and reading Helvetius - or I guess, these days, Foucault.

note: the quote on Jefferson is attributed to Joseph Dennie in Richard Hofstadter's classic Anti-Intellectualism in American Life, published by Vintage Press, page 149.

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