On being ruled by fanatics
By James Lewis
“At a dinner to celebrate Bill Clinton’s first presidential victory [Rahm Emanuel] began to reel off the names of those who had ‘crossed’ him. He grabbed a steak knife and began plunging it into the table shouting “Dead! Dead! Dead!” after each name.
“When he was done the table looked like a lunar landscape,” a witness relates. “It was like something out of The Godfather. But that’s Rahm for you.” Times of London
Fanatics have their uses. I want my brain surgeon, if I need one, to be fanatically dedicated to his craft. I’m happy if my airplane pilot loves his job with total dedication. And sports “fans” were called that because they are fanatically dedicated to their teams. Go for it, sports fans!
When it comes to politicians I feel a lot more dubious about fanaticism. Zealots always have blind spots. I don’t mind total dedication in monks or in US Marines. But leaders are supposed to be mature, wise, and thoughtful. They are supposed to be open-minded about policy choices, so they can figure out the best ones to go for. That’s what we elect them for.
The looming ObamaCare fiasco is a classic example of a public policy plan that has never been weighed against the alternatives. Even liberal economists are saying it. Any consistent reader of the Wall Street Journal knows more about healthcare options than the Obama administration’s “experts” do. That’s why ObamaCare fails so badly against choices that are more practical, far less expensive, and much more humane and respectful to all concerned. O-Care is simply not a result of a balanced, fair-minded assessment of human needs and costs.
On the contrary. It is a plan so single-minded, so monomaniacal, so disruptive, grandiose and blind to the alternatives that it is even now crashing in the minds of a shell-shocked public.
This is the result of fanaticism, not balanced thinking. That seems to be President Obama’s way. This White House defines a goal like Arab-Israeli Peace in the Middle East, or Health Care for All, and goes hell for leather, damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead — without ever pausing to think, or to listening to people who have spent decades dealing with these questions — if they dissent from Obama orthodoxy. Any opposition is interpreted as bad faith rather than reasoned disagreement. Critics must be evil or racist. That is the state of mind of jihadis going on suicide missions. It is not how intelligent policy makers operate.
This White House knows no limits. It is endlessly self-aggrandizing. And it is contemptuous of dissent. Add that to fanatical thinking and huge mental blind spots, and you have a recipe for disaster. The captain is drunk on power and heading straight for the iceberg.
Our best presidents have not been fanatics: On the contrary. Lincoln did not rush into the Civil War. The most famous fanatic of that time was John Brown, who tried to start a war at Harper’s Ferry at the very time that Lincoln was desperately trying to avoid a clash. Our Constitution was also not written by zealots. Just the opposite: It was carefully designed to place brakes and counter-weights on the single-minded fanatics who arise in every generation. The Constitution was written by men who had outgrown their self-centered teenage stage. The fanatics of that time were kept out of the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia.
I think we have some classical fanatics in this White House. But it’s not just the White House. We have a Speaker of the House who replied to a press question she didn’t want to answer, “I’m trying to Save the Planet.” Seriously. We have a US Senator from Michigan who has just been quoted as saying,
“Climate change is very real,” she confessed as she embraced cap and trade’s massive tax increase on Michigan industry – at the same time claiming, against all the evidence, that it would not lead to an increase in manufacturing costs or energy prices. “Global warming creates volatility. I feel it when I’m flying. The storms are more volatile. We are paying the price in more hurricanes and tornadoes.”
And of course we have a Secretary of State who wrote her Wellesley thesis on on Saul Alinsky. She used an Alinsky quote for her title, in big capital letters:
THERE IS ONLY THE FIGHT
That is a pretty good definition of fanaticism.
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