Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Warner article

I meant to post this - a Washington Post article on Sen. Warner (D-Virginia) and his role in negotiating a plan on the deficit.

I think there's a decent chance he's going to run for president in 2016, and I think he's got a good shot at winning. I've had almost no interest in working in the actual policy-making side of government (I've toyed with the idea of being a research economist that no politico pays attention to anyway). The best chance of me ever working in an actual policy job is if I were to get one in the Warner administration. He's one of the very few politicians I am genuinely impressed with and respect.


  1. That's because politicians are generally unimpressive and unrespectable.

  2. Actually Mattheus, politicians throughout history have included as a fairly large proportion people who are impressive and respectable - but often for things other than politics.

    British Liberal politicians often spoke a minimum of four languages, fluently. Thomas Jefferson knew everything from Gaelic to Arabic, while other Americans such as Herbert Hoover spoke perfect Chinese, while Calvin Coolidge and Harry Truman both read ancient classics in original language.

    Israeli politicians are unusually respectable and impressive. Benjamin Netanyahu and several of his close colleagues have been both Special Forces commandos AND successful businessmen.

    Roman politicians would include men like Julius Caesar, who would be expert scholars in two or three fields while also having astonishing military service record by a very young age.

    Why this digression? Because I don't think a politician being respectable or impressive is even nearly enough or relevant. Often it has to do with the nature of the work he does - and even such smart brilliant people fail often, due to the Law of Unintended Consequences and epistemological uncertainty.

  3. Politicians have to appeal to too many different groups and the poor memories and sharp policy differences of said different groups makes talking like a truth-shading asshat the only way to win. And because politics is the art of the gun and every partisan HATES HATES HATES at least half of all politicians, there's no way pols are going to look impressive.

    Jan Helfeld's gonzo interviews of unsuspecting pols are peaks of necessary truth-shading and nonsense.

    I mean, Harry Reid isn't stupid, but look at this!:

  4. Jan Helfeld's "success" is based on the fact that politicians are so caught off guard by his style that they don't challenge his premises when they ought to, and they don't realize they ought to have challenged his premises until they've already committed to them. Even if they were to realize earlier that they should challenge his premises, I doubt many - on the fly - would not quite sure the best way to do that.

    This isn't to defend politicians, of course. I tend to agree with Mattheus on that. But it is to suggest that Jan is winning at a word game that he's lured his interviewees into.

  5. "Even if they were to realize earlier that they should challenge his premises, I doubt many - on the fly - would not quite sure the best way to do that."

    I agree, and the reason that they're unsure is because there is no good way to say:
    "Taxation is voluntary because there's no Berlin Wall."

    If he says something honest and polarizing like that, the disinterested will be given a whole new way to view politics... a way that Reid doesn't want non-progressives to consider. Progressives already know that this is the truth and wouldn't mind hearing it, so he instead says a bunch of mealy-mouthed nonsense to avoid scandal.

    Pete Stark is a smart guy, but he can't justify increasing deficit spending so just acts like an enraged alpha male... and this is a good idea. It makes more sense for him to gibber threats than to admit that there are negative consequences to doing what he and pretty much all dems are committed to: ever-growing spending.


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