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Um, What's Loyalty Good For, Anyway?

Saturday, March 29, 2008
I've been in politics long enough to think that I was beyond outrage, but it turns out I was wrong. In this morning's op-ed at the Washington Post, James Carville defended his assertion that Bill Richardson was a "Judas" for endorsing Barack Obama. Carville claims that since Richardson's cabinet appointment, Richardson was obligated to at least remain neutral:

I believed that Richardson's appointments in Bill Clinton's administration and his longtime personal relationship with both Clintons, combined with his numerous assurances to the Clintons and their supporters that he would never endorse any of Sen. Hillary Clinton's opponents, merited a strong response.

Let's break this down, shall we? Richardson is friendly to Bill Clinton, was appointed to a Cabinet position by Bill Clinton, and said he wouldn't endorse anyone else, and this makes him a traitor. Well, I would hazard a guess that Clinton didn't nominate Richardson because they were friends - I expect he also wanted to make use of Richardson's political talents, for which Clinton derived a great deal of benefit - the relationship was a 2 way street, not a gracious boon to a subject from a generous monarch. Hence, no obligation would be generated. As for going back on his (supposed) word that he would endorse no one else, this act (if true), would make Richardson a liar, but not disloyal - not an attack Carville can really make with a straight face, given Bill's track record. As for being "friendly," this might generate some personal obligation, but would only amount to treachery if Richardson actually said mean things about Clinton, which he didn't. I'm friendly with lots of people - people I would never hire for a job, by the way.

Finally, Carville is conflating Richardson's (supposed) obligations to Bill Clinton. Where, may I ask, is BIll Clinton running for office? I really don't remember his name anywhere on the ballot. I know in a biblical sense husband and wife are supposed to be of "one flesh," but this is taking it a little far.

After eight years of the Bush administration, and a year of watching Clinton's campaign follies, I've come to the conclusion that loyalty may be a vice masquerading as a virtue. As Brazen Hussy just said to me a minute ago, loyalty is fundamentally unprincipled - it is without any moral content beyond personal history. How many times have we watched excuses made horrific actions on the grounds of loyalty? Loyalty is a we-feeling, the cousin of flag-waving xenophobia that trumpets liberty while endorsing torture. It is detached from any independent consideration of what is right or wrong, or even expedient, in favor of some half-baked personal attachment. Look, I love my dog, but I'd never let him drive the car - does that me disloyal?

I greatly fear that recent discussions of "loyalty" to one's political allies is just another manifestation of the creeping power of aristocracy in American politics - where politics is a matter of family and friends, rather than principles and law. I hope I'm wrong.
Posted by Arbitrista @ 7:45 AM
  • Welcome to my world. Since I'm on break my friends at the local coffee shop are getting a little sick of me screaming at the Op-Ed pages of the NYT everyday.

    Lately they're all ridiculous.

    By Blogger lost clown, at 5:34 PM  
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