Tuesday, May 21, 2013

True Gentleman: Bill Keller

Some might mistrust Master Keller based on the company he keeps at the Times, but he's a good egg. Faced with an increasingly unpleasant and uncivil swirl of accusation and innuendo that threatens to intrude on the white shoe season, Keller proposes the most dignified and polite way to sort out Benghazi, the IRS situation, and any other instance of bad behavior: find a gentleman of superior moral character and intellect, appoint him as Special Prosecutor, and grant him the resources to hunt for malfeasance wherever his character and intellect (which are, again, of the highest rank) should lead him.

As one gentleman knows another when he sees him, Keller places appropriate trust in the leaders of both political parties to appoint and oversee this investigation, which would have the wholesome effect of allowing the people's representatives of both parties to focus on the stern and serious business of governing.

Here are three reasons that, on this one, the president should give the Republicans what they claim to want.
First, it would demonstrate that the president understands that, in the cascade of controversies that have knocked his second term off course, the I.R.S. case is the one that matters most....
The second reason to bring in a special prosecutor is that it’s the surest way to get answers the public might trust....
The third reason for a special counsel is that the government has serious business to conduct, and the scandal circus on Capitol Hill is a terrible distraction....

Only a boorish hobo would suggest that a special prosecutor might fan the flames of scandal, pursue wild tangents in search of crimes, arouse partisan resentments, or encourage further conspiratorial speculations, let alone that raising a hellish conflagration of distraction and accusation might be a purposeful strategy to avoid governing or secure political advantage. Since such a thing has never happened before, we may rest assured that the honor of these gentlemen, whom Providence has placed at the head of our esteemed government, will secure and ensure their wise action.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Trip Gabriel: Gentleman (UPDATED)

Dr. Benjamin Carson made the following statement about his family's tax burdens:

Dr. Carson said that he is in the new top federal bracket of 39.6 percent for family income above $450,000, and with Maryland state taxes added in, “I pay a lot more than half of what I make,” he said.
Dr. Carson is a busy man, what with the separating of conjoined twins and the criticisms of the President at prayer breakfasts. I'm sure it was simply an oversight on his part that only the margin of his family's income above $450,000 is taxed at that rate, and that Maryland's top marginal tax rate for couples is 5.75% for couples on income over $300,000. Surely, the good doctor made an honest oversight of the fact that, even with Baltimore's 3.2% local income tax thrown in, there's absolutely no way his family pays anywhere close to fifty percent of its income in taxes. There's no chance that he was attempting to deceive anyone or exploit public ignorance of marginal tax rates for political purposes.

And it was tremendously gracious of Tripp Gabriel at the Times to reward Dr. Carson's good faith by declining to perform Google searches of state tax rates, basic arithmetic, or fact checking in the writing of his article.

UPDATE: After some obstreperous reader broke ranks to criticize the gentlemanly reporting of Mr. Gabriel, the Times public editor has apparently struck the clause of the sentence. This is as it should be. When a public figure speaks falsely or absurdly in a public forum aimed at influencing public policy, the polite thing to do is to pretend the statement was never made.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

True Gentleman vs. Uncouth Ruffian: Scarborough and Silver

As the election approaches, it is easy to lose sight of the higher principles of gentlemanly discourse amid the heat and noise of the campaign. It's been tempting for certain individuals to attempt to dominate the public's attention and influence their expectations for the election using the blunt instruments of statistical analysis, evidence, and predictive modeling. Such individuals commit the most egregious offenses against decorum when they use these tools of impertinence to suggest that the election may not, in fact, be a contest of chance, and that one candidate may be predicted with high confidence to emerge victorious.

Nate Silver is the worst of these offenders, with his command of the devil's own mathematics.

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Not only does Silver make others feel foolish and publicly challenge their wisdom and undermine their authority, his predictive methods threaten to destroy the economy as well. If Silver's polls are to be believed (and, dear readers, you may be assured that they are not), then the worthy gentlemen of industry and finance who have exercised their constitutional rights to free speech by the expenditure of money, and the helpful gentlemen of politics who have offered to help manage those funds (for reasonable fees), are all wasting their time and money. Following Nate Silver and his math would throw Karl Rove out of a job. Will no one think of Karl Rove?

Thankfully, True Gentlemen like Joe Scarborough are on alert to preserve the higher truth of the campaign beyond the reach of evidence or arithmetic. It's a tossup, and no amount of applied intellect can demonstrate otherwise.

While Scarborough will certainly be proven correct in his judgment, he was far too polite to accept Silver's boastful proposal of a wager on the subject, reinforcing his credentials as a True Gentleman. And, while I would never stoop to repeat gossip, Joe apparently knows how to treat a lady. Kudos to you, Joe Scarborough. Keep up the good work.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Thankfully There Remain Some Gentlepersons in our Media

Note: Please accept my apologies for failing to publish last week's post. 

Our national news media have not distinguished themselves as tribunes of decency of late, chasing after the cowardly and boorish betrayal of private confidence now known as the "47 Percent" video like so many poorly trained hounds after a rabbit.

Thankfully, some of our journalists have seen fit to explore other issues, and in so doing have provided redemptive models of circumspect and civil discourse on political affairs. 

Take the Times's Ashley Parker. Tasked with covering the political response to the Romney video, Parker refused to accept the idea that the former Governor was indifferent to the interests or even hostile to the very existence of the lower classes, based as it was on the flimsy evidence of words spoken in private by the candidate himself to his closest allies and peers:

But the ad came nine days after the video surfaced, a period in which Democrats have bashed Mr. Romney over the remarks, leaving him on the defensive in swing states like Ohio. The ad reflected a belief among his aides that in addition to trying to move past his “47 percent” comments, Mr. Romney can appeal to voters in an intimate, personal way, bonding over their economic worries.
For those of you lacking the subtle gifts of intellect that characterize elite political discourse, read on and learn something. Parker takes the essential first step of balancing the scales of moral culpability; while some media hooligans have chosen to focus on Romney's remarks, it's important to remember that the Democrats are equally guilty of rudeness--they called attention to unflattering things said by their political opponent--they BASHED him! Poor Romney is indeed on the defensive, and from that vulnerable position--faced with losing his bid for the most powerful office in the universe, he would be left with the petty consolations of his immense wealth--there is little doubt that his empathy is genuine. Some more ignorant members of the punditry might ridicule the very notion of Romney bonding with Ohio steel workers like these (Photo Justin Sullivan/Getty).

But Parker has shown us the error of that churlish interpretation. This young lady is going places. After all, she has worked as a researcher for Maureen Dowd, whose reputation for rigor and thoroughness are unparalleled. My heart is gladdened at the thought that, despite being shy of thirty (and I'd never say exactly how far shy), Ms. Parker might just represent a new generation of polite journalists.

Hall of Uncouth: Joe Biden

The most recent enshrinee in my hall of infamy should surprise no one. Last night's performance was truly disgraceful. Have decades of public life not taught the Vice President the fundamental rules of political civility? The honor system demands that one's opponent's ideas be accepted as true and praised as thoughtful, reasonable, and guided by good faith. It is decidedly uncouth to offer rebuttals, which present the public with the unpleasant dilemma of evaluating evidence and reaching informed conclusions. Far better that we be allowed to decide on the basis of manners; the most gentlemanly candidate is certainly the one most suited to govern us. On that score, the Vice President came short of the mark. To wit:

I can scarcely remember such a show of utter disregard for the seriousness and honesty of one's opponent. Thankfully, it appears that our esteemed news media are rallying to the defense of the honor system. With the exception of fellows like Krugman, who may be angling for his own spot in the Hall of Uncouth, a critical mass of our scribes appear to be abandoning the distractions of verifying claims and evaluating policy proposals in favor of contrasting styles. As Brooks tells us,

What do independents want most? They want people who will practice a more respectful brand of politics, who will behave the way most Americans try to behave in their dealings: respectfully, maybe even pausing to listen for a second. To them, Biden will seem like an off-putting caricature of the worst of old-style politics.
This is not just an issue of manners. It is: How are we going to practice the kind of politics that will help us avert the so-called fiscal cliff? How are we going to balance the crosscutting challenges, like increasing growth while reducing long-term debt?
A lot of people will look at Biden’s performance and see a style of politics that makes complex trade-offs impossible.
It doesn't matter if the policy positions staked out by one campaign are incompatible with those staked out by the other, if, for example, one campaign views a social program as essential and another views its abolition as a top priority. It doesn't even matter if compromise is a logical impossibility. Good manners, as this blog has always contended, make for good government. Always, everywhere, and without fail. When journalists focus on style and manners, the public has the best opportunity to choose the best, most gentlemanly candidate. We're all better off for it.

If anything redeems Joe Biden, it's that he did teach a lesson about respect for one's elders.

No one who upholds that timeless virtue can be all bad. Though I am told that I am using the wrong ring-sport for metaphorical purposes. If I were one of the uncouth sort who watches professional wrestling I could better judge the accuracy of this claim.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

I'm Compelled to Offer Comment....

on the recent unpleasantness surrounding the Romney campaign.

I've been so shocked by the breach of decorum that I've been unable to properly assemble my thoughts on the matter, and have hesitated to comment in order to avoid any intemperate remarks made in anger. But the time has come for clear-eyed analysis and dispassionate blame-fixing. This incident has truly marked a low point in our nation's political discourse, and the parties responsible must be held accountable.

And those parties are James Carter IV and the anonymous recorder of the notorious video. Violating the confidence of gentlemen like Mitt Romney and his financial backers by videotaping and publicizing the conversations they hold as part of a combined effort to win the most powerful public office in the world is absolutely unconscionable. If the private confidences of these men continue to be betrayed, then the wellsprings of gratitude and devotion from the masses that inspire both public service and capitalist enterprise will surely dry up. And what horrors would await us then?

Thankfully, it is not too late for Governor Romney to repair the damage done to his reputation and public image by this nefarious conspiracy of ruffians, who employed the most underhanded tactic of using a candidate's own words and deeds against him. This Colbert gentleman has an excellent suggestion:

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Friday, September 14, 2012

Mocking a Candidate's Sincerity after a Tragedy...

even when using pictures of the candidate's own face is uncouth. For all we know Mitt Romney's Temple Garments were riding up on him and causing his uncomfortable grin, though it would also be impolite to express that speculation out loud.