Sunday, August 16, 2015

the last book I ever read (The Speechwriter by Barton Swaim, excerpt ten)

from The Speechwriter: A Brief Education in Politics by Barton Swaim:

Let me ask that question in a more pointed way: Why do we trust men who have sought and obtained high office by innumerable acts of vanity and self-will? When a work colleague makes a habit of insisting on his own competence and virtue, we may tolerate him, we may even admire his work, but his vanity is not an inducement to trust him. Why, then, do we trust the men who make careers of persuading us of their goodness and greatness, and who compete for our votes? Catherine Zuckert makes this point powerfully in an essay on Tom Sawyer. Tom, remember is brave and clever and has a firm sense of the right thing to do, but he is animated mainly by a hunger for glory. He is, in short, the essence of an able politician. “People like Tom Sawyer serve others not for the sake of the others,” writes Zuckert. “They serve because they glory in receiving glory. . . . We should reward such people with the fame they so desire – if and when they perform real public services. But we should not trust them.” I feel the force of that last sentence now: we go badly wrong when we trust them. Indeed much of the hand-wringing commentary about the loss of trust in government resulting from Vietnam and Watergate is simply, I now think, a failure to appreciate the simple truth that politicians should never have been trusted in the first place. They may be lauded when they’re right and venerated when they’re dead, but they should never be trusted.

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