According to The Devil's Dictionary
, by Ambrose Bierce, "admiration" is "Our polite recognition of another's resemblance to ourselves." Let me politely express, then, my admiration for Neil Gabler's op-ed in today's Boston Globe
, "The Best and Brightest Redux
." Gabler says the president and his closest advisors have one important thing in common: they are "onetime middle-class overachievers who made their way into the Ivy
League and then catapulted to the top levels of class and power." The problem is that "in elitism as in religion, no one is more devout than a convert, and
these people, again like Obama, all having been blessed by the Ivy
League, also embrace Ivy League arrogance and condescension. On this,
the Republican critics are right: The administration exudes a sense of
Gabler is making a point close to the one I advanced in the Spring 2010 Claremont Review of Books
on "The Meaning of the Tea Party
." In it, I contended, "Our new meritocratic masters have been more conspicuously smart than
wise. They know a lot, but don't know what they don't know. Their
self-regard as the modern Americans who are the 'natural aristocrats'
Jefferson looked for has left them with an exaggerated sense of their
, and a deficient awareness of their corresponding oblige
." I agree with Gabler that hyper-competence is not inherently contemptible, but that leaders whose estimate of their own analytical and executive abilities far exceeds what the facts would justify always cause trouble - for themselves and their country. As I wrote, "A leadership class that actually improved ordinary Americans' security
and opportunities would be forgiven condescension worse than Obama's.
It's when the people running the country are both disrespectful and
ineffectual that folks get angry."