October 19, 2011

Preppies at the gate

ALTHOUGH DANA MILBANK has done some good reporting from the White House he continues to display a curious anti-Nader fetish, most recently making fun of Nader selling books on his website. Given that Nader, David Cobb of the Greens, and Michael Badnarik of the Libertarians were clearly the three most decent human beings in the race who got any notice, the question arises: why does Milbank so dislike honesty and decency in a politician?

Ironically it may lie deep in the same preppy arrogance that Milbank's other target, George Bush, displays so regularly. It is the assumption that only people who act like them and belong with them matter. The rest are fools.

You don't even have to have gone to a prep school to pick up this nasty trait. Four years at Harvard or Yale are plenty to develop what songwriter Alex Jay Lerner described to as an "indubitable, irrefutable, inimitable, indomitable, incalculable superiority."

And since such people often go far in public life, it becomes a curse that affects us all. It was the arrogance of the Harvard faculty that helped mire us in Vietnam. It was the arrogance of George Bush that has us mired in Iraq. And no small part of the origins of such arrogance can be found in the training of such schools as Yale and Harvard especially if - as in the case of Bush, Kerry and Milbank - you add in the perverted and power lusting curriculum of Skull & Bones.

One can identify this way of thinking easily. Just ask a hard question and see how dismissive the answer is. Take Milbank being asked whether it wasn't strange for the Washington Post to have assigned a Bonesman to cover the election in which two Bonesmen were running. His response:

"I have been assigned to monitor all secret hand signals during the debates. . . I have it on good information that if this one gets tied up in a recount, [late Supreme Court Justice and Bonesman] Potter Stewart will return from the grave to write the majority opinion."

The odd thing about people like Milbank is that they expend so much effort trying to prove how sophisticated and grownup they are, yet in the end basically display a remarkable childishness. They are culturally imprisoned in a narrow set of values and perceptions and even in conversation repeatedly use the techniques of power - such as putdowns and dismissiveness - in place of intelligent argument.

Thus, they become little more than members of a club, rather than grownup members of the society they purport to serve or run. It is the irony of institutions like Yale and Harvard that they produce so many childlike products. And it is the thing that in the end make Dana Milbank and George Bush have far more in common than either would wish to admit.