John Leo
The chattering classes are sullen. The president they were sure was a foolish bumbler is doing rather well. He has been patient and forceful. He glued together a coalition that includes a Labor prime minister of Britain, a Russian president and a Pakistani dictator. A number of prominent Democrats admitted -- anonymously, of course -- that they are relieved that Bush is president, not Gore.

Here in New York, the news for the chatterers is almost as bad: Rudy Giuliani, the mayor they derided for so long as a reckless demagogue, has emerged as the American Churchill. How irritating.

The big picture is galling, too. Leading roles on the national stage haven't been played by the thinking elite but by the semi-disdained non-chatterers who act physically in the real world: the military, the police, firefighters, agents of the CIA. And the values of the non-chatterers -- heroism, patriotism, self-sacrifice -- are on the rise. Crowds aren't lining the streets and holding up "Thank you, chatterers" signs as pundits and professors drive by.

Journalist Andrew Sullivan has been sharp in detecting the anguish of the chatterers. "Not a sentence of celebration" appeared in The New York Times after the Northern Alliance broke through, and the same gloom prevails at the BBC and National Public Radio, he wrote. Why? Sullivan thinks the media chatterers of the left feel disempowered by the war. They are used to being in charge. They played a big role in ending the Vietnam War and ousting Nixon. But in this war, Sullivan wrote on his Web site: "The pundits and editorialists and cable executives have been knocked down a few pegs in the social hierarchy. They have much less power than they had before Sept. 11." As a result, Sullivan thinks angry media elites will get even angrier and will soon step up efforts to disparage and undermine the war.

Lawrence Summers, the new president of Harvard, had something to say about the elites, too. "The post-Vietnam cleavage between the coastal elites and certain mainstream values is a matter of great concern and has some real costs," he said. He urged the academic world to rethink its attitudes toward patriotism, which must have sent hundreds of his professors into a swoon. He said Harvard has a responsibility to support all public servants, especially "those who fight and are prepared to die."

These sentiments are ordinary in most of America, but amazingly bold on most campuses. Consider Summers' comment a polite warning that chatterers can expect to lose influence if they keep moving away from the mainstream at a time of crisis.


John Leo

John Leo is editor of MindingTheCampus.com and a former contributing editor at U.S. News and World Report.

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