A lousy way to govern a hegemon

I listened yesterday to excerpts of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s testimony to Congress.

I appreciate when good people (I won’t name names so as not to hex them) are willing to serve under our terrible President for the sake of the nation, but that was really hard to listen to.

Congressmen (yes, I think all the questions I heard were from men) asked perfectly reasonable questions, particularly about the notorious optics in Helsinki, while Secretary Pompeo regurgitated talking points, usually as soon as the Congressman began asking a question.

I don’t often sympathize equally with both sides in an untenable situation, but condemnation of those sorry actors doesn’t seem apt.

Let me summarize the Secretary’s testimony:

You cannot believe a word this President says. There is no necessary connection between what he spews by mouth or Twitter and the actual policy of the United States.

But I dare not put that policy in my own words for you, beyond chronicling things we have done “on the record,” because my crackpot boss, whose intentions even I don’t understand, might take umbrage at something and fire me.

(Sotto voce) Do you really want the A Team to get fired so this President can fill positions with cronies or B-Teamers?

So Congress is kept in the dark, and governance lurches forward by some ineffable mash-up between this President’s obsessions and what some fairly competent people recognize as sound policy.

It beats the chaos of governance solely according to 45’s obsessions, but other than that, it’s a pretty lousy way to run the world’s de facto hegemon.

It’s enough to make one long for the good old days when Congress engaged in grandstanding, pocket-lining, and raising war chests for re-election, but we could actually read the Supreme Court decisions, Code of Federal Regulations and Executive Orders by which the country was actually governed. Now, in many cases, we don’t even have that.

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Learning how to think really means learning how to exercise some control over how and what you think. It means being conscious and aware enough to choose what you pay attention to and to choose how you construct meaning from experience. Because if you cannot exercise this kind of choice in adult life, you will be totally hosed.

(David Foster Wallace via Jason Segedy, Why I’m Leaving Twitter Behind.)

By modernity, I mean the project to create social orders that would make it possible for each person living in such orders “to have no story except the story they choose when they have no story.”

Stanley Hauerwas, Wilderness Wanderings

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