Ethics Dunce: George Will (How Sad…)

Once upon a time, I used to read George Will regularly. He was erudite, he was principled, he was equally critical of both political parties, and he was a reliable champion of ethical values. I don’t know if it was Donald Trump who broke him, but Will’s intellect and integrity certainly didn’t survive Trump’s rise. If nothing else, Will is an elitist, and the prospect of an unmannerly low-class boor entering the White House was too much for George’s aging brain to bear. He snapped, and suddenly the slave of cognitive dissonance, he decided that if a man like Trump was allied to the democratic and political principles he had spent his professional life passionately advocating and defending, then he shouldn’t defend them any more.

Snobbery over substance. Good plan, George!

Since his decline into irrelevance or senility I haven’t wasted a moment on Will’s writings; I don’t care what he thinks, because he no longer thinks clearly. His latest in the Washington Post, however, is special. Risibly titled “Amend the Constitution to bar senators from the presidency,” it checks all the boxes of a truly bad, indeed unethical, op-ed.

Will’s simple-minded argument is…

Banning senators from the presidency would increase the probability of having senators who are interested in being senators, and would increase the probability of avoiding:

Presidents who have never run anything larger than a Senate office. Who have confused striking poses — in the Capitol, on Twitter — with governing…

Oh I see now: George isn’t really advocating banning Senators from being President. He’s just cranky that Senators aren’t doing a better job, and deceiving his readers into believing there’s any solution other than electing better Senators. Of course, Will has never been willing to dirty himself with actual policy making or trying to build public consensus; it’s so much easier to stand on the sidelines and call everyone else idiots.

Will’s argument is stuffed with straw men. Senators don’t become President very often: Will is engaging in deceit when he says that “seventeen Presidents were previously senators.” Will is counting Presidents who had other experience as well, like Joe Biden, Richard Nixon and Martin Van Buren, who all served as Vice-Presidents, James Buchanan, who held many relevant positions including Secretary of State, James Monroe, who served as both Secretary of State and Secretary of War as well as in various diplomatic roles and who was Governor of Virginia; John Quincy Adams, also a Secretary of State and an experienced diplomat, Andrew Jackson, who was a governor as well as a judge and an outstanding military leader; William Henry Harrison, also a military leader of distinction and a governor…there are more, but you get the point. Four of the “Senators” on Will’s list became President without being elected, so I guess he wants to ban Senators from the Vice-Presidency too. Is Will making the crack-brained argument that serving as Senator at any point in their careers should disqualify public servants from being President, regardless of what else they have accomplished or what leadership skills they have demonstrated? I think he’s just blowing off steam, but who knows?

The argument that only being a Senator without other relevant executive experience doesn’t prepare one for the Presidency has some legitimacy—look at Barack Obama and Warren G. Harding. Yet our greatest President, Abraham Lincoln, had no previous executive experience or Senate experience.

Why is Will picking on Senators? The House of Representatives has long been recognized as a pit of mediocrity or worse. What sense would it make to ban Senators from running for President and let House members like Cori Bush, Adam Schiff, Paul Gosar, Marjorie Taylor Greene, Louie Gohmert, Madison Cawthorne, “The Squad” and the usual gang of idiots have a route to the White House?

Governors and mayors have typically been seen as being on a potential track to the Presidency. Now just look at our array of governors and big city mayors. Is it really wise to rule out the rare talented leader in the Senate so politicians like Lori Lightfoot, Bill de Blasio, Andrew Cuomo, Gavin Newsome, Gretchen Whitmer and Jay Inslee have a clearer path? We already know Will would like to see business leaders like Trump banned from running. Who should be allowed to run for President? Indeed, America is built on the ideal that anyone can run for President in a democracy.

But George doesn’t believe in democracy any more. After all, it produced Donald Trump.

Add to these flaws in Will’s screed the fact that while any amendment to the Constitution is unlikely, passing this one is impossible. So once again, we have a pundit injecting a truly bad and stupid idea into the culture, making the public dumber, and promoting cynicism and distrust to no constructive purpose whatsoever.

Time to retire, George.


5 thoughts on “Ethics Dunce: George Will (How Sad…)

  1. At the risk of derailing the conversation due to minutia, I have a question.

    Here you stated that Abraham Lincoln was our greatest President and while I think he was spectacular, he has always gotten my number two vote. Why do you hold him in esteem over George Washington? My time here on this site has made me appreciate your analysis of the 46 men who have been US President and I am very curious as to your reasoning.


    • I don’t, I just hold Abe and George in equal esteem in different categories. Laying out the precedents and doing so wisely is a unique job, and only one man had to do it. He did it spectacularly well. George faced many problems; none he faced equaled the Civil War. Which is more important–building something, or keeping it from falling apart?

    • My take is that Washington was absolutely one of our greatest leaders ever, as was Lincoln.

      However, much if not most of Washington’s contributions predate his becoming President, hence I would probably also give Lincoln the nod as greatest president. Basically nearly all of Lincoln’s contributions came once he assumed office.

  2. I read George Will faithfully for years. Then, as you did, I began to see his reasoning abilities begin to fail while his writing became filled with unethical rambling. I miss the former George Will

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