There is a repulsive conversation going on in Washington at the moment. Journalists, un-named Pentagon officials and many politicians are discussing, as if true, the precise method by which President Bush intends to exit from Iraq in time for the midterm elections next year.
Perhaps future events will reveal me to be naive (not a charge usually posted against me). But for the record, I do not believe that President Bush is cynically looking for an exit strategy. However, most of the Washington political class clearly believes he is planning to pull troops out of Iraq in the next three to eight months for political, rather than military reasons.
Of course politics is not for Sunday school teachers. And a country cannot properly be led by people who don't have a practical understanding of human nature in all its often tawdry cynicism and self-interest. A worldly appreciation of these human attributes is always a necessary part of leadership.
But there is a vital difference between understanding that cynicism exists in the world and succumbing to it. And it is the signature attribute of second-rate leaders, courtiers and second-year college students (sophomores) that in their effort to appear worldly, they embrace cynicism. No aspiring wise guy wants to appear naive. Washington journalists are particularly driven not to appear naive.
But the opposite of being naive is not to be cynical -- it is to be wise. And the essence of wise political leadership is to remember and cling to the true ideals of one's country. A great leader understands that his or her leadership is not about him, it is about the country. All our greatest leaders (from Jefferson to Lincoln, to FDR to Reagan) were deeply practical and political men who nonetheless never forgot that the larger reason the nation had raised them on high was not to advance their career -- but to deliver the nation to a higher place.
It is well to remember that cynicism started as a Greek philosophy named after the word kynikoi -- dog-like (apologies to all the wonderful, uncynical, loyal dogs of the world).
It was a negative form of aggressive individualism that arose with the collapse of the political structures of the Greek world, and questioned the collective values, standards of decency and institutional rules of that crumbling world.
Blankley, who had been suffering from stomach cancer, died Saturday night at Sibley Memorial Hospital in Washington, his wife, Lynda Davis, said Sunday.
In his long career as a political operative and pundit, his most visible role was as a spokesman for and adviser to Gingrich from 1990 to 1997. Gingrich became House Speaker when Republicans took control of the U.S. House of Representatives following the 1994 midterm elections.