Sunday, May 25, 2008

Technicians and Aristocrats

She who I had promised never to speak of again has been caught in a faux pas brouhaha that strikes me as eminently unfair: I speak of course of Hillary Clinton’s unfortunate comment that she might stay in the race because Robert Kennedy was still vying for President in the month of June when he was shot. All hell has broken loose in a society trained not to recognize vice so much as to spot offense. And unfairly I think- clearly the point of the statement was not to evoke assassinations or dead Kennedys, but to argue that Presidential nominations take time, and perhaps to recall a hero of the Democratic Party in doing so. She needn’t be vilified for being a bit tone deaf. But, people are quicker to take offense than to listen. Que Sirhan Sirhan…

That said, it was certainly tone deaf: an inelegant comparison with impeccably bad timing. If Barack Obama has the innate persona of aristocratic Grand Passion, and John McCain the warrior ethos of Imperial Rome, Hillary Clinton is a technician of a very twentieth century Industrial Liberal type. She is a Miss fix-it, ready to tackle any problem by rationality and book-learning, and hostile to the idea that a leader might face problems that resist both rationality and technique. She has no sense of the high drama of Western leadership, inherited from absolutism, but stripped of generations of family training through the sister Revolutions. She can’t hear the bugles.

The Greeks held that an art could be learned through a combination of: nature (in the sense of innate ability), reason (in the sense of gaining knowledge through learning), and practice. Obama seems to excell in Nature, and have reason on his side, but not practice. McCain has Practice, but not reason, and not really nature either. Clinton has Reason on her side, and perhaps practice, but not nature. In this sense, I would say that she is actually more suited to the American tradition than Obama, McCain, or any of the Kennedys. However, as a partisan of aristocracy, I have a natural affinity for Obama and I suspect that Americans are tired of warriors and not quite ready for technicians.

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