August 20, 2004

Champion of the beleaguered incumbent.

Ah! I see our resident public sociologist Jeremy Freese has devised a theory of me--the political me at least. Let's check this out:
toward a unified theory of ann althouse

While I was off in San Francisco, another blogger was examining Ann's voting record and announcing that, despite her professed undecidedness, she was likely to be voting for Kerry. This person is wrong; their error is paying too much attention to the party of the candidate Ann supports. If you look at Ann's electoral-biography, it would seem more reasonable to predict that--and quite apart from whatever eventual rationale she might provide for doing so--she's likely to vote for Bush. Consider her lifetime history of support in incumbent elections:
Supports incumbent: Ford, Carter, Clinton
Against incumbent: Johnson, Nixon, Reagan, Bush I
Plain as day: Ann is more likely to support an incumbent the more unpopular the incumbent has been upon the time of their re-election campaign. She's a contrarian independent. The only instance that doesn't really fit the pattern well is her vote for Clinton over Bush in 1992. One explanation for this would be, if one looks back to Ann's various posts about Clinton, it's clear she thinks he's a hottie. Apart from the "hottie" theory, however, one might suggest that Ann is more likely to support an incumbent the more she feels like the political discourse is unfairly maligning the incumbent (a discourse-contrarian independent, then). ...
So it seems I'm the champion of people who are holding power, but beleaguered! (That, and I think Clinton is hot.) It is true that I have a thing about incumbent Presidents. It's connected with a life-long, unshakable feeling that no one is good enough to be President, especially no one who has the ambition and the nerve to say he should run. I really don't like anyone having the distinction of being President. The incumbent already has the distinction, so keeping the incumbent always involves denying the distinction to one more unworthy mortal. As for the beleaguered incumbent, perhaps it is true that regard for the office of the Presidency causes me to react to disrespectful criticism of whatever poor human being happens to occupy it. The man is doing the best he can at an impossible task: can't you at least make constructive criticism!

I remember truly despising Lyndon Johnson in 1968, then being caught off-guard the night he announced that he would not run for reelection. At the end of a speech about Vietnam, he said:
With American sons in the fields far away, with America's future under challenge right here at home, with our hopes and the world's hopes for peace in the balance every day, I do not believe that I should devote an hour or a day of my time to any personal partisan causes or to any duties other than the awesome duties of this office -- the Presidency of your country.

Accordingly, I shall not seek, and I will not accept, the nomination of my party for another term as your President. But let men everywhere know, however, that a strong and a confident and a vigilant America stands ready tonight to seek an honorable peace; and stands ready tonight to defend an honored cause, whatever the price, whatever the burden, whatever the sacrifice that duty may require.
I was seventeen years old, and I burst into tears. That poor man! That man I had hated. How old and worn out he looked. It still brings tears to my eyes today. It made quite an impression. Johnson's words resonate today. You call upon the President to address "personal partisan causes" that take him away from the "awesome duties of this office," and, yes, I do feel very protective of that beleagured incumbent. To say there are failings, that a more perfect Presidency could exist, is not enough. Everyone will fall short. I hear John Kerry assert time and time again that he would do better, that he has a "better way," and the way George Bush has gone about doing things is defective for one niggling reason after another. But Bush is the one who has actually had to do things. It's easy to look on and say I would have done better. Maybe when you were watching Paul Hamm the other night, all you talked about was how he fell on his ass after the vault. And, of course, you wouldn't have fallen.

UPDATE: Rereading this, I realize that I have similar feelings about Supreme Court Justices: harsh and bitter criticism, especially personal criticism of individual Justices, inclines me to see the legitimate and professional reasons for the arguments they have made and the outcomes they have reached.

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