Apr 03 2011


“Honestly, I think we should just trust our president in every decision he makes and should just support that, you know, and be faithful in what happens.”

Britney Spears, September 3, 2003

“So what should I think about [the war in Libya]? If it had been my call, I wouldn’t have gone into Libya. But the reason I voted for Obama in 2008 is because I trust his judgment. And not in any merely abstract way, either: I mean that if he and I were in a room and disagreed about some issue on which I had any doubt at all, I’d literally trust his judgment over my own. I think he’s smarter than me, better informed, better able to understand the consequences of his actions, and more farsighted.”

Kevin Drum, Friday, in Mother Jones

As part of his consulting work my father comes in contact with law enforcement officials from around the country and one time he chanced to meet up with the CHP officer assigned to teach Britney how to use a child’s car seat.

She’s a moron.

So what should I think about Kevin Drum?

Citizenship duties

by Glenn Greenwald, Salon.com

Saturday, Apr 2, 2011 12:03 ET

(D)eciding that — once they’re in power — you’re going to relinquish your own critical faculties and judgment to them as a superior being, which is exactly what Drum (and Spears) announced they were doing. That form of submission is a definitively religious act, not a political one (Proverbs 3:5: “Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding“). Venerating a superior being and blindly following its will is a natural human impulse, as it frees one of the heavy burden of decision-making and moral and intellectual judgment, and it also creates a feeling of safety and protection (hence the cross-cultural and sustained strength of religion, as well as the potent appeal of both political authoritarianism and personality cults).

But “thinking” that way is an absolute abdication of the duties of citizenship, which compel holding leaders accountable and making informed judgment about their actions (it’s a particularly bizarre mindset for someone who seeks out a platform and comments on politics for a living). It’s also dangerous, as it creates a climate of unchecked leaders who bask in uncritical adoration. I honestly don’t understand why someone who thinks like Drum — whose commentary I’ve usually found worthwhile — would even bother writing about politics; why not just turn over his blog to the White House to disseminate Obama’s inherently superior commentary? And what basis does Drum have for demanding that Obama inform him or the nation of the rationale for his decisions, such as going to war in Libya; since Drum is going to trust Obama’s decisions as intrinsically more worthwhile, wouldn’t such presidential discussions be a superfluous act?

It’s truly difficult to overstate just how antithetical this uncritical trust is to what the Founders assumed — and hoped — would be the cornerstone of the republic. Jefferson wrote in 1798: “in questions of power, then, let no more be heard of confidence in man, but bind him down from mischief by the chains of the Constitution.” Adams, in 1772, put it this way: “The only maxim of a free government ought to be to trust no man living with power to endanger the public liberty.” Four years later, his wife Abigail memorably echoed the same sentiment in a letter to him: “remember, all men would be tyrants if they could.”

Even the most magnanimous leaders — perhaps especially them, given their belief in their own Goodness — are likely to veer into serious error, corruption and worse if they are liberated from a critical citizenry. Mindlessly cheering for a politician — or placing trust in their decision-making — is understandable a couple of months before an election when you’ve decided their re-election is important. But it’s wildly inappropriate any other time. And subordinating your own critical faculties to a leader’s is, at all times, warped, self-destructive and dangerous.

Perhaps too charitably some have suggested it’s all an elaborate April Fools (h/t Corrente).

3 pings

Comments have been disabled.