Saturday, November 27, 2004

Reppert on Politics

Victor Reppert, author of C. S. Lewis's Dangerous Idea, writes in response to earlier comments of mine:

So, would you say that while Bush's intellectual deficiencies are a liability, they are not the sort of fatal liability they would be for someone aspiring to be, say, professor of philosophy at the University of Notre Dame?

BV: Yes.

But I think it's a fairly serious problem if the person who takes ultimate responsibility isn't the brains of the operation. It takes the brain-work behind the administration out of public scrutiny. Who are Bush's brains? Rove? Cheney? What are their conflicts of interest? I certainly would not say that you should always sellect the more intelligent candate over the less intelligent one. But I think you underestimate the liability incurred.

BV: I am aware of the liability incurred, but actual politics is always about making a concrete choice in a concrete situation among the available alternatives. It came down to choosing between an opportunistic flibertigibbet whose voting record puts him to the left of Ted Kennedy and a man who, although in many ways a mediocrity, is rooted in principles and possesses the courage to implement them.

It is also unfair to suggest that Bush has no brains of his own and must borrow those of Rove or Cheney. Bush's somewhat dopey demeanor and lack of linguistic facility hide a good deal of practical intelligence of the sort that is in short supply in the academic world.

Steadfast commitment to an ideology, as opposed to political pragmatism, is, I suppose, a virtue so long as you like the ideology. Do you think Clinton would have been a better President if he had been truer to leftist politics?

BV: Commitment to an ideology is like idealism: neither is unqualifiedly good; both are good only in the measure that the ideology or the ideals are correct.