October 2, 2016

Sex, war and the Ivy League

From our overstocked archives

Sam Smith, 2011 - If Harvard had a better football team, we might have a safer world.

The thought occurred as I read about Obama and John Kerry once again attempting to prove their manhood in matters foreign at the continued risk to the republic such policies have had since 9/11.

I used to run into Kerrys and Obamas when I was a student at Harvard. I had gone to a co-ed Quaker high school and wasn’t ready for the values of preppy mono-gendered Ivy New England. I not only thought them to be pompous potatoes, I also noticed how much effort they expended to prove their manhood. It seemed a little weird.

The memories came back as the media opened the flood gates to permit unmitigated machismo over Bin Laden’s death flow across the low lands of our culture.

Defense Secretary Gates – who went to the southern Ivy, William & Mary – even called Obama’s choice to kill bin Laden “one of the most courageous" decisions he has ever seen a president make.

When I started out as a Washington reporter, I tried to hide the fact that I had gone to Harvard from my colleagues because in those days it would have been a liability. As late as 1950, over half of America’s journalists only had a high school education.

But now we are approaching nearly a quarter century of unrelieved Ivy League presidents (not to mention ones with unrelieved ties to the CIA).

And nearly a quarter century of unrelieved stupid wars.

It actually started well before that. John F. Kennedy launched the modern era of Ivy political aristocracy.

Joseph Epstein described in the History News Network:
||||| John F. Kennedy was a president who, based on the decisions he made or didn't have the courage to make while in office, deserves to go down as one of the resoundingly mediocre figures in American presidential history.

And so he would have done but for the one brilliant decision he did make -- to surround himself with a staff of Harvard men and Cambridge intellectuals who continue to supply him with an unrelenting public relations build-up. . . Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., John Kenneth Galbraith, Richard Goodwin and Theodore Sorensen were among the circle around Kennedy -- a president the British humorist Malcolm Muggeridge called "The Loved One" -- who have kept pumping away at his already inflated reputation. . .

After the Kennedy administration, the Democrats were no longer the party of the little man (Harry Truman's party), or the party of the underdog (Franklin Delano Roosevelt's party), but that of the intellectual and cultural sahibs pretending to speak for the little man and the underdogs because it makes them feel virtuous to do so; they turn politics into an affair of snobbery, where politicians are judged on elegance not substance. |||||
Lyndon Johnson inherited a fair portion of the myth. On the one hand this man who had attended Southwest Texas Teachers College once pointed out the CIA was full of up of boys whose families sent them to Princeton but wouldn't let them into the family brokerage business. On the other hand, he let a cabal of Harvard types strut their manhood at the cost to the nation of a rotten and unnecessary war.

A few days ago I heard a news commentator wisely compare the thrill that our leaders and the media feel about of Bin Laden’s death as similar to that of a cocaine high. But driving that high is the presumed confirmation of manhood - one of the most perverted purposes to which to put political decisions.

I know I’m meant to be impressed, but whenever I see an Ivy League leader like Obama parading his machismo, I am reminded of those strutting preppies at Harvard who, despite it all, somehow or other never seemed to have that many dates.

Only now it’s reflected not only in faulty presumptions but in disastrous policies.

Sam Smith, 2011 -

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