Sunday, February 24, 2008

Banal Eloquence, Indeed

TheWife was fuming yesterday. George Will, she ranted, had said the most inane thing she'd heard in a long time...and when you are on a panel with Cokie Roberts and you're contribution is still more inane, that's really saying something.

I'm not one of those knee-jerk Will bashers. We disagree about much, but he often puts the things we disagree about in very thoughtful, clear ways. But with this one, I've got to agree with the beloved partner.

The topic was Barack Obama and Will said,

"He's worked one pedal on the organ quite enough now. This stuff about...I'd call it banal eloquence, where he says 'In the face of despair we can still hope.' I have news for him, Americans aren't in despair. Look around you, who's despairing? We have mild problems."
I suppose when you leave Potomac only to go to Rockville or Georgetown, perhaps this is the view you get. This quotation reminds me of the George H.W. Bush episode in the grocery store where he was amazed by the price scanner (should such an event have happened -- thanks Sabina's Hat). There is such a deep isolation from the lives of real Americans on the part of our elite pundits who nevertheless feel perfectly comfortable making declarations about the lives of real Americans. It is truly a head-shaker.

Let's ignore the fact that poverty continues to exist and look at just today. Has Will no sense of the mortgage crisis? Do the incredible amounts of foreclosures not make it onto the radar screen of the top national pontificators? Does the health care crisis not exist? I personally know several people who are stuck in jobs they would leave in a Cincinnati second were it not for the fact that they would lose their health insurance and likely not get picked up elsewhere because of pre-existing conditions. Three dollar gas, the bottom dropping out of investments, looming recession, and then there's this war thing...

I'm not sure if it is political theater, trying to pretend that the Republican control of the entire government hasn't left us in a terrible position; if it is a pathological lack of empathy, an inability to see real human suffering which allows him to ignore it in his policy views; if it is simply that he lives in a gated world where he really thinks that his little enclave truly is typical of the nation at large. Whatever it is, it is astounding.

But the fact is that in the face of all of this, the man inspires hope. That's incredible. For that he should be criticized?

Of course, then there's the point that other pedals on the organ are being played as well. His appeal includes those who are not despairing. Those who understand that they occupy a privileged place in this society that allows them a degree of comfort and stability while others do live lives of legitimate despair. We should be lauding the fact that he can be the photographic negative of Ronald Reagan and pull out our best selves, those that care for our neighbors in need instead of our worst selves, trying to find peace with greed and callousness.

I knew there was a reason I sleep in on Sundays.