Ed Driscoll

Noble Sentiment, Wrong Messengers

At the Tatler, PJTV impresario Owen Brennan writes,  “After Weiner: Want a Better Republic? We Need Better Citizens:”

On the topic of Anthony Weiner, CNN’s John Avlon reminds us that it was RFK who said, “Politics should be the most honorable profession.”

He adds “[This] seems increasingly like a bitter joke.”

Anthony Weiner, Chris Lee, Mark Foley, John Ensign, Mark Sanford, Larry Craig …  Edwards, Vitter, Spitzer, Clinton.

Is it a national civic crisis as Avlon points out? I’ve been talking to PJTVs James Poulos about this topic for a while. He says we need better citizens if we want a better Republic.

That’s all true, but I’m not sure if, given his father and his brothers’ assorted debaucheries — and the fact that Bobby himself was ordering wiretaps of Martin Luther King — I’m not sure if RFK is the right man to hold up as the poster boy for better government, particularly given his speech made in the last year of his life that:

“If our colleges and universities do not breed men who riot, who rebel, who attack life with all their youthful vision and vigor then there is something wrong with our colleges. The more riots that come on college campuses, the better the world for tomorrow.”

Given what was to come that year, it’s fortunate — and not at all surprising, given who writes it — that history largely suppressed that quote from RFK, since it would serve as a the perfect epitaph for both himself, and the horrors of the late sixties as a whole.

Beyond that, I’m not sure if John Avlon, who declares all of the people who don’t fit into his establishment centrist worldview as “wingnuts” is the best contemporary man to deliver this message.

The idea that “Politics should be the most honorable profession” is a bitter joke, but it’s not a recent one — it’s been exactly the opposite since the days of Rome. In a sense, that was one of the many geniuses of the Founding Fathers — knowing how ugly politics can be, they chose to focus on limited government, and would have been shocked at the Galbraithian central-planned Leviathan that it had morphed into by the time RFK arrived on the scene, let alone what it’s further mutated into under the Democrats’ latest would-be JFK du jour.

In contrast, I’d say Milton Friedman had the better idea for government:

“I do not believe that the solution to our problem is simply to elect the right people. The important thing is to establish a political climate of opinion which will make it politically profitable for the wrong people to do the right thing. Unless it is politically profitable for the wrong people to do the right thing, the right people will not do the right thing either, or if they try, they will shortly be out of office.”

That seems like a noble sentiment for the Post-Obama years.

Or to put it another way, “Politics isn’t and has never been the most honorable profession, it’s merely the oldest.”