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The Weblog at The View from the Core - Sun. 03/15/09 05:20:52 PM

Capital Climbers

The Other McCain writes, Mar. 12, about the District of Columbia:

.... When I arrived in Washington from Georgia in 1997, I was immediately struck by the stifling falseness of the place. The source of this falseness, however, was not immediately apparent, and it took me many years of careful observation, painful experience and lonely contemplation to discover that source.
In Washington, reputation, image, status and prestige are everything, for these are the means by which one acquires that most precious of commodities, influence. Here, a man can be a clueless fool, a two-faced liar and/or a porn-addicted closet homosexual in a sham marriage, yet as long as he has influence, he will be praised and treated with courtesy as if he were a gentleman.
The all-important factor of influence in D.C. means that the smart operator carefully calculates everything he says or does. He learns to be circumspect and obsequious, to fawn and flatter with those who can help him, to backstab and undermine his potential rivals, to ignore those who are inconsequential to his ambitions, and to carefully accumulate a curriculum vitae of senior fellowships, contributing editorships, board memberships, et cetera, ad infinitum, ad nauseam.
Ordinary Americans do not operate by such methods, nor even attempt to understand them, because the Ordinary American happily lacks the quality essential to success in Washington, namely the ambition to be a success in Washington. And the reason the successful Washington operative is so insultingly arrogant is because he is so consumed by his pursuit of influence that he cannot distinguish between ambition and ability.
The press secretary to a Senator vainly imagines that he holds that job because he possesses such vast intelligence and skill that there is no one else in this nation of 300 million who could possibly do it so well. Yet if Tom Coburn fired his press secretary tomorrow — this is a name-out-of-a-hat example and I don't even know Coburn's press secretary, much less have any desire that he should be fired — the resultant job opening would attract a dozen or more applications from persons equally suited to the job. And never mind all those who might be qualified for the job, but have no interest in such work.
Such, however, is the role of influence in Washington that Coburn's press secretary is treated with a measure of deference and respect. He exercises, by proxy, senatorial prestige, and those who seek favor with the senator will cultivate the press secretary's friendship and admiration — though not nearly so much as they cultivate that kingpin of congressional bureaucrats, the Chief of Staff.
There are 535 chiefs of staff in the Capitol, and let the curious outsider inquire what terror the Chief of Staff wields over the lesser functionaires who are dependent on his good favor for their continued employment and hopeful advancement. No court eunuch in ancient Persia ever so jealously guarded his prerogative as does the congressional Chief of Staff....

The greedy, power-hungry, shallow, and superficial: just the kind of folks you want to run a federal government, right?

(Thanks, Craig.)

Lane Core Jr. CIW P — Sun. 03/15/09 05:20:52 PM
Categorized as Political.


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