Friday, May 17, 2024

Quote of the Day (William Galston, on Partisanship and Geography)

“[W]ith today’s deep polarization, voters in the minority experience the enactment of one-party programs as an attack on their deepest convictions. As they lose hope of turning the tide, many respond by leaving their states for others where the majority shares their beliefs. This further intensifies the link between partisanship and geography.

“If this trend continues, our nation will become a patchwork in which citizens live under fundamentally different legal regimes.”— American author, academic, political advisor, and Brookings Institution senior fellow William Galston, “Florida Turns Right, Minnesota Turns Left,” The Wall Street Journal, June 7, 2023

The accompanying photo of William Galston was taken Jan. 8, 2012, at a Civics Ed panel at the Brookings Institution by Medill DC.

TV Quote of the Day (Kevin Hart, Imagining a Medical Procedure That Makes Him Tall)

“I'm 6'6"….Now I can't put my hands in my pocket… I still wear a size 7 sneaker….Now I can't support the new body. My balance is off. I look like that thing that be at the car dealerships, that man... that air man.”—Stand-up comic, actor, and entertainment entrepreneur Kevin Hart, in Kevin Hart: Reality Check (2023), teleplay by Kevin Hart, directed by Leslie Small

The image accompanying this post, showing Kevin Hart at the red carpet premiere of Ride Along, was taken Mar. 6, 2014, by Eva Rinaldi.

Thursday, May 16, 2024

Quote of the Day (Stephen Colbert, on Cynicism, ‘A Self-Imposed Blindness’)

“Cynicism masquerades as wisdom, but it is the farthest thing from it. Because cynics don’t learn anything. Because cynicism is a self-imposed blindness, a rejection of the world because we are afraid it will hurt us or disappoint us.”—American comic and late-night talk-show host Stephen Colbert, Commencement Address at Knox College, Galesburg, IL, June 3, 2006

The traditional commencement exercises that had been scheduled for yesterday by my alma mater were cancelled a few days ago.

I’m not going to retrace the words and actions that led to this decision. But I thought I would offer for students there and elsewhere in this tumultuous year a replacement of sorts, a throwback to another commencement address, from Stephen Colbert nearly two decades ago.

Extreme idealism—demands expected be fulfilled immediately—is also blindness. But the deformed moral vision that Colbert identified is more deadly in the long run, because it withers the soul day by day.

If you want to know something close to my philosophy on change, I can think of few lines better than these, from Bernard Malamud’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, The Fixer:

“I am somewhat of a meliorist. That is to say, I act as an optimist because I find I cannot act at all, as a pessimist. One often feels helpless in the face of the confusion of these times, such a mass of apparently uncontrollable events and experiences to live through, attempt to understand, and if at all possible, give order to; but one must not withdraw from the task if he has some small things to offer—he does so at the risk of diminishing his humanity.”

Wednesday, May 15, 2024

Quote of the Day (Ralph Waldo Emerson, on ‘The Form of Government Which Prevails’)

“[T]he form of government which prevails, is the expression of what cultivation exists in the population which permits it.”— American philosopher, essayist, and poet Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882), “Politics” (1844)

Tuesday, May 14, 2024

Quote of the Day (Henry Ward Beecher, on What Really Makes Someone Rich)

“No man can tell whether he is rich or poor by turning to his ledger. It is the heart that makes a man rich. He is rich or poor according to what he is, not according to what he has.”— U.S. abolitionist/minister Henry Ward Beecher (1813-1887), quoted by Thomas Wallace Knox, Life and Work of Henry Ward Beecher: An Authentic, Impartial and Complete History of His Public Career and Private Life (1887)

Monday, May 13, 2024

Quote of the Day (Andrew Ferguson, on John McLaughlin, ‘A Legend’ Among Rotten DC Bosses)

“In a city famous for tyrannical bosses, from congressmen crazed with drink to bureau chiefs aflame with illicit desire, [John] McLaughlin had become a legend. You heard stories of volcanic rages, unimaginable flights of egomania. Least among his eccentricities was his requirement that all staffers refer to him as ‘Dr. McLaughlin,’ because he had once earned a Ph.D. in communications or some other of the lesser academic disciplines….

“The McLaughlin legend, I quickly discovered, had shortchanged the McLaughlin reality. When I opened the door to his production company’s suite, the first words I heard came roaring up in the famous Rhode Island drawl: ‘This is s–! Unadulterated s–!’ From the shadows of a darkened office, behind a desk as vast as the deck of an aircraft carrier, McLaughlin would bellow at his staff through an intercom. His voice ricocheted down hallways, and the epithets burst like ack-ack above the dim cubicles where his assistants cowered and trembled. The abuse was astonishing, unpredictable, and, in several instances, cruel. A single tirade could last for an hour.”—Conservative commentator Andrew Ferguson, “The Man Who Started It All,” The Weekly Standard, Dec. 24, 2007, reprinted in The Washington Examiner, Dec. 24, 2007

Since death took him eight years ago, fewer and fewer people will remember what all the commotion was about each week on The McLaughlin Group.

But nobody who heard the stentorian voice of the founder and host of that current affairs show, John McLaughlin, could ever forget it—least of all, judging from Andrew Ferguson’s profile, the staffers unlucky enough to work for him.

A high decibel level was only one aspect of his impact on employees, however. As writer and TV personality John Leonard noted in a June 2000 article for The Nation, McLaughlin “settl[ed] one sexual-harassment suit out of court, facing the prospect of at least two more–and nevertheless permitting himself to savage Anita Hill on his McLaughlin Group.”

In addition, on a scale of 1 to 10—a popular measure that the host used to rate and dismiss issues or legislation—McLaughlin, a former Jesuit who appeared to display precious little humility or piety in any part of his life, rated a “10” for his impact on the level or content of political discourse over the last 40 years. He has a fair claim to being the godfather of the cable shout-fests that have raised the nation’s emotional temperature during that time.

Did McLaughlin improve the environment around him by what he said or did—the choice that ultimately all of us face and are graded by? To quote the Beltway blowhard’s frequent response on other matters during his show’s long run: “WRONG!!!”

(The image of John McLaughlin accompanying this post was taken by Karl H. Schumacher on May 3, 1974, when the future pundit still worked at the White House as a speechwriter for Richard Nixon—whom he hailed, extremely prematurely and utterly preposterously, as “the greatest moral leader in the last third of this century.”

Sunday, May 12, 2024

Spiritual Quote of the Day (St. Augustine of Hippo, on Christ From Birth to Ascension)

"But our very Life came down to earth and bore our death, and slew it with the very abundance of his own life. And, thundering, he called us to return to him into that secret place from which he came forth to us—coming first into the virginal womb, where the human creature, our mortal flesh, was joined to him that it might not be forever mortal—and came ‘as a bridegroom coming out his chamber, rejoicing as a strong man to run a race.’ For he did not delay, but ran through the world, crying out by words, deeds, death, life, descent, ascension—crying aloud to us to return to him.  And he departed from our sight that we might return to our hearts and find him there. For he left us, and behold, he is here.  He could not be with us long, yet he did not leave us.” —St. Augustine of Hippo (354-430 AD), The Confessions of St. Augustine (401 AD), translated by Albert C. Outler (1955)

The image accompanying this post, The Ascension, was created in 1801 by the British-American painter Benjamin West (1738-1820).