A Description of a Really Nice Sausage
Wednesday, November 24, 2004
  Let's review. From the National Review's John Derbyshire:

Invited to choose between a president who is (a) a patriotic family man of character and ability who believes the universe was created on a Friday afternoon in 4,004 B.C. with all biological species instantly represented, or (b) an amoral hedonist and philanderer who “loathes the military” but who believes in the evolution of species via natural selection across hundreds of millions of years, which would I choose? Are you kidding?
No one's kidding here. I'd be inclined myself to choose (a), as family men of character and ability are not only rare in the landscape of politics, but are likely at this time to be actively selected against.

But let's not be too hasty—I'm thinking there are a couple of leaders whose attitudes toward the military, had they gone more toward loathing than lustfulness, would have benefitted not only America but several other empires, nations, principalities, duchies grand and lite, plus a city-state or two.

More chordally, I think we have to wonder just which hypothetical choice Mr. Derbyshire is here pondering. For while there are superficial similarities to a couple of recent presidents here and abroad, esp. if one is prone to allow personal political affiliations to interfere with his or her view of reality, no such contest has taken place in the world.

Moreover if it had and, say, 48% of the electorate had gone and supported (b), I think I would be mighty upset. Stupendously so. Even if I wished that (a) had had a little more science education and were a bit less beholden to Conservative religious interests.

However—no, let's just look at a recent example, shall we? Because I want to point out that Derbyshire's hypothetical, although parable-like, if not completely parabolic (at least—some kind of -bolic), is naïve of real political experience. Which is, in a review of the Nation, the marrow we're digging at, correct?


So let's compare the 43rd and 42nd presidents, as they are the most recent. William Jefferson Clinton is a family man. So is George W. Bush. Both are patriotic. WJC suffers in the character department because of what's likely a sequence of extramarital affairs, at least one conducted while president. At the same time, GWB suffers in the ability department as a result of having never had to work very hard to get anywhere—and, once gotten there, promptly getting booted out until recently.

So like so far there's no obvious choice. Certainly no "Are you kidding?" (AYK) choice. So but let's dig deeper, as Derbyshire is fond of doing.

Fondness for the military is a hard thing to measure, as analogously there are people who accept the existence of guns as protective measures, and then there are people with walk-in gun safes. Apropos 42 and 43, both avoided Vietnam. WJC by plane, moving to Canada. GWB by train and automobile, effectively skipping out on much of the last part of his improbably-obtained Air National Guard duty. But in darkness of Vietnam (I'm loathe to say in light of), I can hardly blame either for their efforts. Forty-two used his military often in foreign interventions. Forty-three only twice, so far, but what a pair of interventions! So they like tie there, too.

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