Dec. 4th, 2008

peterbirks: (Default)
Boris Johnson may be a clown, but at least he is also a classical scholar. He is appearing on TV to present "After Rome". It's hard to imagine many of the 1990s class of UK politicians being able to do the same.

I thought of this when I heard on the radio yesterday that President-elect Obama would "look to Lincoln" in a bipartisan approach. Well, never mind the bipartisam approach, it's nice to hear that Obama actually knew what was going on in the US in the 19th century. He called in Doris Kearns Goodwin, the author Team of Rivals, to discuss exactly how her subject, Abraham Lincoln, had set about reconciling his former adversaries. Kearns had also written a book on Lyndon Johnson (which happens to be sitting on my bookshelf), which was why the name rang a bell.

It's nice to see scholarly people making a comeback in politics and not being embarrassed by it. There seems to me to have been a fad in the past 20 years for politicians to pretend that they are "just ordinary blokes" (political women seem to have had more sense -- you won't see Jacqui Smith or Harriet Harman comparing prices in Lidl) and to act the common man, even if they have firsts in PPE from Oxford.

This seems to stem from a probably misplaced and almost certainly focus-group-generated belief that the ordinary voter distrusts intellectuals. That, I suspect, may be a fad.

Robert Kennedy, when he heard that Martin Luther King had been shot, quoted Aeschylus. That he was speaking off the cuff is evidenced by the fact that he got the quote wrong. Curiously, the Kennedy quote is now better known than the original.

“In our sleep, pain which cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart until, in our own despair, against our will, comes wisdom through the awful grace of God”
said Kennedy.

In fact it's "in our own despite". But Kennedy's is probably better.



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