Peggy Noonan has a great piece about how pompous our politicians have become. This is why I hate award shows in which a group gives its members awards and we're supposed to care.

Why do they do this? Is their egomania not part of a trend? Have you noticed that every announcement now made on television has become an Academy Awards show in which the speaker announces that he is the winner? I often watch cable news during the day, and in the past year I've been taken aback by what happens when a local police chief announces the capture of a serial killer who's been murdering people for 30 years. The police chief does not say, "We finally got him." Instead he gives a long speech congratulating himself, lauding law-enforcement personnel, complimenting his department, congratulating investigators and their families, and nodding to the district attorney, the attorney general and the governor. Sometimes the police chief's voice shakes, so moved is he by the excellence of himself, his colleagues and his bosses. Then he announces a bad guy got caught. The only thing he never says is, "Sorry it took 30 years!" The only question he doesn't want to hear is, "Didn't you get tips on that guy in 1978?" ...

I think everyone in politics now has been affected by the linguistic sleight-of-hand, which began with the Kennedys in the 1960s, in which politics is called "public service," and politicians are allowed and even urged to call themselves "public servants." Public servants are heroic and self-denying. Therefore politicians are heroic and self-denying. I think this thought has destabilized them.

People who charge into burning towers are heroic; nuns who work with the poorest of the poor are self-denying; people who volunteer their time to help our world and receive nothing in return but the knowledge they are doing good are in public service. Politicians are in politics. They are less self-denying than self-aggrandizing. They are given fame, respect, the best health care in the world; they pass laws governing your life and receive a million perks including a good salary, and someone else--faceless taxpayers, "the folks back home"--gets to pay for the whole thing. This isn't public service, it's more like public command. It's not terrible--democracies need people who commit politics; they have a place and a role to play--but it's not saintly, either.

Instead of Campaign Finance Reform, how about a law that prohibits anyone from revealing the name or face of a politician? We can assign them all numbers and they can release position papers to their hearts' content, but no public fame or recognition whatsoever.



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