Friday, January 04, 2008

I'm pretty cynical myself, and mostly sympathetic to cynics generally, but every so often I run across someone who takes it too far. One Thomas Daulton, on an IOZ comment thread, quips:

[The Democrats would] love, and have tried, to form a personality cult around Bill Clinton, but it's been obvious since his Governor days that -- like other banana republic dictators -- Bill looked at public office more as a means of chasing tail than the Will to Power, and thus lacked staying power as a dictator.
Yeah, right. The focus of his presidency was chasing tail, and the best tail that he could get, as President of the frigging United States, was a college intern. I mean no offense to Monica Lewinsky here, who might well be a fine catch for the likes of me, but Bill Clinton --- he who routinely stayed up into the small hours debating issues with unattractive male subordinates, he whose memoir got panned because it was all policy and no dish --- if he'd really focused on chasing tail, he would have done better.

The irony here is deeper than, say, a Libertarian writing, in all apparent seriousness, that the true danger of government health care is that it might become as obnoxious and destructive to liberty as unregulated corporations have already been --- if perhaps not so obvious.

It's not just that Daulton's disappointment with cynical, substance-free politicians has itself become a cynical pose, which is obviously devoid of substance. If you read the whole comment, he clearly sees himself as a radical critic of the established political order. But in support of that position, he's taken one of the silliest talking points of the Washingtonian chattering classes (habitually projecting their own empty-headedness on everyone else), and just run with it, without subjecting the thing itself to the least critique.

Vacuous personality politics? He's soaking in it.

By the way, I was generally disappointed with Clinton, and didn't vote in the 1996 election because I didn't want to give him my support --- not that it mattered much in Massachusetts anyway. (Largely because of his civil rights record, but his failure to secure decent NAFTA side agreements was also a deep disappointment). I never doubted that he had serious, considered positions on issues, though --- I just didn't like them.


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