April 24, 2005

Should we screen out mean?

The fuss over the Bolton nomination leads to a more general examination of the phenomenon of mean people in politics. Apparently, there have been plenty of people with various nasty character traits who attained high positions of power. How can you disqualify someone for something that could be said about all the various people named in this article (including Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter as well as many, many senators)?

Well, it worked against Supreme Court nominee Robert Bork:
"Bork is the classic modern instance of someone who made it easy for his opponents, in part because of his demeanor," he added. "I don't think he ever cracked a smile."

For former Sen. Alan K. Simpson of Wyoming, the personal criticism of Mr. Bork reached absurd heights. "They turned him into a gargoyle," he said.
And Bork had that beard, remember. Is it any surprise people keep zeroing in on Bolton's mustache?

5 comments:

Gerry said...

"How can you disqualify someone for something that could be said about all the various people named in this article (including Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter as well as many, many senators)?

Well, it worked against Supreme Court nominee Robert Bork"

The Philly Inquirer's editorial today encourages Alren Specter to oppose Bolton because of his meaness.

Alren Specter. Snarlin' Arlen. Voted by his peers as the meanest in the Senate.

Irascibility is a disqualifying trait for conservatives. It is not for moderate Republicans or for Democrats.

To be honest, I would whine about the unfairness of this dichotemy except for the fact that I think the world would be a better place if people made more of an effort at being congenial; it is possible to be gentlemanly or lady-like without being a wuss.

But make no mistake- Bolton is being opposed primarily because he is a hardliner on the UN, not because he is ornery. That's nothing but the pretext.

I hate posturing in politics.

Ann Althouse said...

But Gerry, it's perfectly appropriate that meanness only disqualifies conservatives. Conservatism itself is mean, so you've got a case of double mean. But liberals love. Even a mean liberal still drips with syrupy love for humanity, which balances off the nastiness felt by those in close proximity.

Gerry said...

"Conservatism itself is mean, so you've got a case of double mean."

Tell me about it. When you are not just conservative, but really conservative, the mean just oozes out of all of your pores, which makes the laundry an absolute bear. Not only is there more of it, but it all has to be pre-treated. Thank God for new Tide Buzz.

I would grow a mustache but I can't afford to replace the washing appliances.

Eric said...

Should we screen out mean? It depends on the position.

Here are a couple of definitions from American Heritage Dictionary.

Diplomat: 1. One, such as an ambassador, who has been appointed to REPRESENT a government in its realtions with other governments. 2. One who uses skill and TACT in dealing with OTHERS.

Diplomatic: 1. Of, relating to, or involving diplomacy or diplomats. 2. Using or marked by TACT AND SENSITIVITY in dealing with OTHERS.

I agree that meanness should not be a disqualifications for a great many things, but for certain positions I'm not convinced that someone who appears to be a serial verbal abuser should be the diplomatic face of our government at the U.N. (or anywhere else for that matter). It doesn't matter to me that he's a conservative, it just matters that by almost all accounts he's a complete prick and is applying for a job where being a prick may negatively impact his effectiveness.

Also, just because his facial hair is ridiculous doesn't mean I can't also criticize him for being a prick. Look, I was on Michael Schiavo's side, and he looked ridiculous with his 70's porn mustache.

Walter said...

Ann, my sarcasm detector is not very good, but as I read your comment, it went off. I hope you were being sarcastic about the conservatives = mean quip.

Assuming people actually mean "conservatives = true", I would say that they are either trying to slur conservatives without pretext or they are trying to use the conservatives = strict father [parent], liberals = permissive/touchy feelly parent meme as the pretext for the slur. Or they have what I see as a distorted view of what conservatives stand for, as some things that might look mean may actually be the better approach than the "syrupy love for humanity" way.

I like the fact that Bolton is a hardliner on the UN, we will need that if we are to fix it. The UN is broken and after the Oil for Food scandal there should not be any doubt that fact.

Personally, I whould rather have an honest bastard, someone who showed his irascibility or meanness up front, than a dishonest bastard, someone who was was all sweetness and light, but who would "cut your balls off" in private.

That kind of dishonesty is one of the things that turns me off from voting for the Democarats.