Politics Without Passion: It’s a Good Thing

George Will, responding to Joe Klein and others who think our politics are too scripted and lacking in honest passion, writes:

If banality is the price we pay for the mostly mundane politics of a tranquil democracy, we should pay it gladly. The world would happily have forgone the most luminous episodes of democratic leadership — Lincoln’s, FDR’s, Churchill’s — in order to avoid the catastrophes that elicited them. Pericles would not have been Periclean if Athens’ problem had been gasoline at $3 a gallon.

Quite right. Indeed, George W. Bush, admittedly not a generally an eloquent public speaker, has given his best speeches in the darkest hours of his presidency, notably in the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 attacks. Although, occasionally, he has his moments outside the forge of tragedy:

At a town meeting, a man demands to know what the candidate would do about “all these bastards” born to welfare mothers. The candidate, Klein recalls, “glared at the man — he seemed truly angry — and said, ‘First, sir, we must remember that it is our duty to love all the children.”’ So spoke, during the hotly contested South Carolina primary in 2000, an indignant George W. Bush. Politics still has exhilarating moments.


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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Len says:

    The thing to remember is that the man who asked about “all those bastards” was invited to that town meeting. Nobody attended any of the Bush/Cheney events during either of their campaigns without an invitation. That man is a member of George W. Bush’s base.

  2. Bithead says:

    Anyone even suggesting the idea that the Democrats have not been driven by passion in their politics hasn’t been paying attention. Indeed, the only passion that the republicans have been able to show was during the Reagan revolution, and to a lesser extent the Contract with America back in 94.

    Outside of those two occasions becoming passionate in one’s politics if you were Republican was tantamount to painting an orange circle on your back.

    Meantime, over on the Democrat side witness Howard Dean. Witness any one of us thousand far left protests against one thing or another were buildings get wrapped up, along with police , and, for that matter, mere passerby. What were the L.A. riots for example, but passion in politics?

    Witness every show on Err America. A bundle of senseless passion, that, if ever there was one on the radio. Indeed, leftist politics is not bought emotion and passion. Quite seldom is it, that there is any sense to it at all.

    Now, if Will’s point is to be taken as a comment on the state of center to right politics, we might take him seriously. However, he makes a no such distinction in his write-up.

    On that basis, then, one can only consider one of two conclusions about his position. Either:

    * He’s blind to what’s been going on last 40 years, and therefore cannot be taken seriously at all, or else ;

    * He’s a victim to the same banality that the charges everybody else with, by trying to equally apply his charge of banaility to both sides… and thereby not evoke anyone’s anger…And as a result, once again, we can’t take him seriously, given he’s part of the problem.

    It’s these little relationships that Will has been missing in his writings for some time now, and has caused me to seriously consider that Mr. Will is losing his analytical edge.

  3. Roger says:

    Interesting point, Len.

  4. McGehee says:

    The thing to remember is that the man who asked about �all those bastards� … is a member of George W. Bush�s base.

    Apropos of what? Is it your contention that Bush knows intuitively what every single one of his supporters believes, and therefore the invitation means he condoned the opinion?

    So I suppose I can argue here that Al Gore agrees with the Unabomber, and you won’t squawk?

  5. Roger says:

    The Unabomber attended an Al-Gore-supporter-only political event? Wow. You truly do learn something new every single day. Why didn’t I read about this in the news? That damned liberal media.

    All kidding aside, no McG, I don’t think that was Len’s contention. I found the irony Len pointed out interesting–Bush “glaring” at his own pre-vetted and selected supporter and event attender. I.e., a member of his base. And we’re supposed to cheer Bush on for the “passion” of his response to the man’s comment. Ironic, right?