Do you have a burning desire to be in with the in crowd? I do not. Maybe that’s what makes me a contrarian.
But the desire to be in with the in crowd is certainly a very common and powerful human instinct. You might even think that this desire is universal. If so, then you probably suspect that I must be lying when I say that I have no desire to be in with the in crowd. It must be that I have always been so nerdy and awkward that I was never going to be in with the cool people, so I had to develop this contrarian schtick in order to preserve some pitiful semblance of self-worth.
OK, you can go right ahead and think that. At least I don’t go around regularly making a fool of myself in a desperate quest for approval from the cool people. And our current in crowd is rather achingly dumb, which means that anyone pursuing their approval is regularly going to make a fool of him or herself.
Yes, I am talking about Mitt Romney. Could there be a more embarrassing example of panting and slobbering after the approval of the in crowd than Romney’s New Year’s Day op-ed in the Washington Post? If only I get on board with the theme that we have to get rid of this Trump guy because his character is just not acceptable for a President, then finally the cool people will like me! Even the editors of the Washington Post! Excerpt:
[President Trump’s] conduct over the past two years, particularly his actions last month, is evidence that the president has not risen to the mantle of the office. . . . A president should unite us and inspire us to follow “our better angels.” A president should demonstrate the essential qualities of honesty and integrity, and elevate the national discourse with comity and mutual respect. As a nation, we have been blessed with presidents who have called on the greatness of the American spirit. With the nation so divided, resentful and angry, presidential leadership in qualities of character is indispensable. And it is in this province where the incumbent’s shortfall has been most glaring.
The President “has not risen to the mantle of the office.” What does that even mean? I’ve got news for you, Mitt. The people in Washington who seem to be the cool people — by which I mean the wealthy, the media, the people at the cocktail parties, the lobbyists, the permanent bureaucracy — almost to a person, those people hate you. And to the extent that you may dare to speak out or vote for the slightest amount of diminution in their influence or, God forbid, their funding, they will hate you even more. In other words, as long as you stand for or advocate any principle important to the Republican Party or its voters, they will hate you. When you are willing to pen an op-ed supporting whatever they are pushing at the moment, they will smile for an instant and pretend to like you; and the next day they will go right back to hating you and calling you Hitler or racist or climate denier or whatever.
But don’t worry, Mitt, you are not alone. There are plenty of other examples of Republicans in Washington, present and past, who have not been able to resist the powerful lure of seeking the approval of the in crowd. John McCain stands out as a prominent example. No Republican so ostentatiously chased the favor of the Washington elite, for example, with the McCain/Feingold campaign finance law, with prominent support for “cap and trade” legislation supposedly to slow climate change, and with casting the deciding vote that sank the repeal of Obamacare. All huge policy errors. They got him the nickname “maverick” from time to time, but not when it counted. When it counted, they hated him. Here are some examples of prominent Democrats and media figures calling McCain a racist during the 2008 campaign.
The two Bushes? Not nearly as bad as Romney or McCain, but neither was above pandering for media and/or elite approval. A key example of someone who was not willing to do it: Dick Cheney. For his reward, he got an endless stream of vilification. A new movie reviving every false story about Cheney is just out. Here’s an excerpt from a review of “Vice” by Greg Sheridan (head foreign editor) that appeared today in The Australian (behind pay wall):
Vice is a supreme propaganda film, using all manner of sly tricks to dehumanise its villains. It is full of specific falsehoods. More generally, the innuendo and the physical mockery of its designated villains makes it manipulative and dishonourable.
And then there’s President Trump. Say whatever you want about the guy, but he just does not care what the Washington pooh-bahs think about him. Now, which is a bigger character flaw, most particularly in a President: (a) saying unkind and sometimes belittling things about you political adversaries, or (b) completely lacking backbone and regularly caving on your most basic principles and campaign promises as you slavishly seek the approval of the in crowd? I vote for (b).