Sunday, January 04, 2009

Best Lead of the Month

'These are the times that try men's resum├ęs. Maybe it is the swift emergence of Washington as the capital of status anxiety, in the transition's tilting of egos and elbows; or the restoration to prestige of "the best and the brightest," all shadows gone, and the return to power of liberal credentialism; or the fact that Congress could find $700 billion when the mandarins of New York needed it but could not find $14 billion when the workers of Detroit needed it-whatever it is, I am tiring of very important people. I never saw the owl of Minerva fly through Harvard Yard. In a society as wounded as our own, there is something repellent about the assertions of elitism. Its most awful expression, of course, is the acquiescence of almost everybody in the dynastic ambitions of the Kennedys. I can almost not imagine a more obvious mutilation of the meritocratic ideal than the appointment of Caroline Kennedy to the United State Senate. A Senate seat is a fucking valuable thing, you just don't give it away for nothing. But of course it will not be given away for nothing: the princess and her family will be delighted to pay for it. Ever since this democratic indignity was broached, the really smart talking point has been that she has the money for her eventual campaigns. In Michael Bloomberg's city, this is all you need to know. After all, the next mayoralty of New York will have been decided over breakfast by two billionaires who have their respective uses for term limits and the strategic manipulation of them. Bloomberg appears to regard term limits as an unwarranted governmental interference in a free market: no sooner did he announce that he would prefer not to relinquish his rule than he let it be known that he will spend $80 million on his campaign. If his record in office is so sterling, why does he have to buy it back? More important, when will the authority in American life of the oligarchy of Manhattan finally come to an end? The wantonness of their capitalism was widespread and systematic, and it injured millions of lives. A society may be measured by whom it admires. No class of Americans has done more to damage America than the financial class. A generalization is an ugly thing, but every day's newspaper refreshes my impression that the titans, the insiders, the big players, the boldfacers, the movers and the shakers-the hoshover menschen, as we say where I come from-have been, many of them, fools or thieves.'
--from Leon Wieseltier's thundering back-page Washington Diarist essay in the current issue of The New Republic. It certainly helps our selection process that, in addition to being powerfully written, this article contains sentiments with which we heartily agree. This is not his first time Leon has made it into our BLoM category: as it happens, we chose him for that designation last January as well. Our runner-up this month is this gleaming little gem of an opening paragraph from Vanity Fair columnist James Wolcott. He too is a repeat winner. Anyway, you can review earlier best leads here.


At 1:52 PM, Anonymous jk said...

Thundering indeed. Articulate, powerful, intelligent, passionate . . . thank you for the morning jolt!

At 1:58 PM, Blogger Art Durkee said...

The sentences that spoke most powerfully to me, with whose thoughts I have been publicly agreeing for some time, was:

"The media that used to be fascinated by the pleasures of the rich is now fascinated by the pains of the rich, but the fascination is the same, and it contributed to the bubble that burst in all our faces, and it interferes now with what we really need to know. When I read the papers I skip guiltlessly over the desperate sales of jewels and summer homes and go straight to the accounts of unglamorous desperation, of ordinary people helping each other because otherwise they would be even more powerless than they are."

It's all still bread-and-circuses while Rome burns, and we're still not getting the news we really need to know.

At 4:14 PM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

The right news is out there, Art. You just have to search for it, and perhaps graze among more outlets than was once the case. But the web makes that far easier (and cheaper) than ever before.


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