Saturday, September 6, 2008



September 6, 2008,
The Mirrored Ceiling
New York Times

It turns out there was something more nauseating than the nomination of Sarah Palin as John McCain’s running mate this past week. It was the tone of the acclaim that followed her acceptance speech.

“Drill, baby, drill,” clapped John Dickerson, marveling at Palin’s ability to speak and smile at the same time as an indication of her unexpected depths and unsuspected strengths. “It was clear Palin was having fun, and it’s hard to have fun if you’re scared or a lightweight,” he wrote in Slate.

The Politico praised her charm and polish as antidotes to her lack of foreign policy experience: “Palin’s poised and flawless performance evoked roars of applause from delegates who earlier this week might have worried that the surprise pick and newcomer to the national stage may not be up to the job.”
“She had a great night. I thought she had a very skillfully written, and very skillfully delivered speech,” Joe Biden said, shades of “articulate and bright and clean” threatening a reappearance. (For a full roundup of these comments go here.)
Thus began the official public launch of our country’s now most-prominent female politician. The condescension – damning with faint praise – was reminiscent of the more overt misogyny of Samuel Johnson.

“A woman’s preaching is like a dog’s walking on his hinder legs,” the wit once observed. “It is not done well; but you are surprized to find it done at all.”
Palin sounded, at times, like she was speaking a foreign language as she gave voice to the beautifully crafted words that had been prepared for her on Wednesday night.
But that wasn’t held against her. Thanks to the level of general esteem that greeted her ascent to the podium, it seems we’ve all got to celebrate the fact that America’s Hottest Governor (Princess of the Fur Rendezvous 1983, Miss Wasilla 1984) could speak at all.

Could there be a more thoroughgoing humiliation for America’s women?
You are not, I think, supposed now to say this. Just as, I am sure, you are certainly not supposed to feel that having Sarah Palin put forth as the Republicans’ first female vice presidential candidate is just about as respectful a gesture toward women as was John McCain’s suggestion, last month, that his wife participate in a topless beauty contest.

Such thoughts, we are told, are sexist. And elitist. After all, via Palin, we now hear without cease, the People are speaking. The “real” “authentic,” small-town “Everyday People,” of Hockey Moms and Blue Collar Dads whom even Rudolph Giuliani now invokes as an antidote to the cosmopolite Obamas and their backers in the liberal media. (Remind me please, once again, what was the name of the small town where Rudy grew up?)

Why does this woman – who to some of us seems as fake as they can come, with her delicate infant son hauled out night after night under the klieg lights and her pregnant teenage daughter shamelessly instrumentalized for political purposes — deserve, to a unique extent among political women, to rank as so “real”?

Because the Republicans, very clearly, believe that real people are idiots. This disdain for their smarts shows up in the whole way they’ve cast this race now, turning a contest over economic and foreign policy into a culture war of the Real vs. the Elites.

It’s a smoke and mirrors game aimed at diverting attention from the fact that the party’s tax policies have helped create an elite that’s more distant from “the people” than ever before. And from the fact that the party’s dogged allegiance to up-by-your-bootstraps individualism — an individualism exemplified by Palin, the frontierswoman who somehow has managed to “balance” five children and her political career with no need for support — is leading to a culture-wide crack-up.

Real people, the kind of people who will like and identify with Palin, they clearly believe, are smart, but not too smart, and don’t talk too well, dropping their “g”s, for example, and putting tough concepts like “vice president” in quotation marks.
“As for that ‘V.P.’ talk all the time … I tell ya, I still can’t answer that question until somebody answers for me, What is it exactly that the ‘VP’ does every day?” Palin asked host Lawrence Kudlow on CNBC sometime before her nomination. “I’m used to bein’ very productive and workin’ real hard in an administration and we want to make sure that that ‘V.P.’ slot would be a fruitful type of position.”

And, I think, they find her acceptably “real,” because Palin’s not intimidating, and makes it clear that she’s subordinate to a great man.
That’s the worst thing a woman can be in this world, isn’t it? Intimidating, which appears to be synonymous with competent. It’s the kiss of death, personally and politically.

But shouldn’t a woman who is prepared to be commander in chief be intimidating? Because of the intelligence, experience, talent and drive that got her there? If she isn’t, at least on some level, off-putting, if her presence inspires national commentary on breast-pumping and babysitting rather than health care reform and social security, then something is seriously wrong. If she doesn’t elicit at least some degree of awe, then something is missing.

One of the worst poisons of the American political climate right now, the thing that time and again in recent years has led us to disaster, is the need people feel for leaders they can “relate” to. This need isn’t limited to women; it brought us after all, two terms of George W. Bush. And it isn’t new; Americans have always needed to feel that their leaders were, on some level, people like them.

But in the past, it was possible to fill that need through empathetic connection. Few Depression-era voters could “relate” to Franklin Roosevelt’s patrician background, notes historian Doris Kearns Goodwin. “It was his ability to connect to them that made them feel they could connect to him,” she told me in a phone interview.

The age of television, Goodwin believes, has made the demand for connection more immediate and intense. But never before George W. Bush did it quite reach the beer-drinking level of familiarity. “Now it’s all about being able to see your life story in the candidate, rather than the candidate, with empathy, being able to relate to you.”

There’s a fine line between likability and demagoguery. Both thrive upon manipulation and least-common-denominator politics. These days, I fear, this need for direct mirroring — and thus this susceptibility to all sorts of low-level tripe — is particularly acute among women, who are perhaps reaching historic lows in their comfort levels with themselves and their choices.

Just look at how quickly the reaction to Palin devolved into what The Times this week called the “Mommy Wars: Special Campaign Edition.” Much of the talk about Palin (like the emoting about Hillary Clinton before her) ultimately came down to this: is she like me or not like me? If she’s not like me, can I like her? And what kind of child care does she have?

“This election is not about issues,” Rick Davis, John McCain’s campaign manager said this week. “This election is about a composite view of what people take away from these candidates.” That’s a scary thought. For the takeaway is so often base, a reflection more of people’s fears and insecurities than of our hopes and dreams.
We’re not likely to get a worthy female president anytime soon.

I learned the other night at dinner that a family we know, who’d recently gotten a puppy, had decided, with much sadness and soul-searching, that they had to return her to her breeder.

“They realized,” my daughter Julia reported to me, “that they just weren’t dog people.” I’m not a dog person either. I like the idea of being a dog person. Dog people are happy-go-lucky. They’re warm and laid-back and friendly and outgoing, able, at the very least, to make pleasing conversation about their pets. They don’t give the evil eye to well-wishers who stop and croon and want to hear you say what a good boy or girl your very-beautiful-doggie is.

(“Here – you want her?” my friend D. says to New Yorkers who so impinge upon her personal space.)
Real dog people do not have such acid tongues.
I have a dog. I got him because I am allergic to cats and I wanted my children to be happy. Edward M. Hallowell, a clinical psychiatrist, devotes a whole section, in his “Childhood Roots of Adult Happiness,” to the value of pets: “Pets love you. No questions asked … Pets teach us how to relax.”

But there are limits to what I will do for my family. I never would have gotten a puppy. I’d seen too many moms showing up at my daughters’ school in the mornings, bleary-eyed from lack of sleep, covered in spit-up, hair and god-knows-what-else, barely able to kiss their children goodbye before being pulled away by hyperkinetic balls of fur that knocked over every toddler in sight before leading their “moms” away, back to the house, where they would sit by the door and wait for the trainer to arrive. That wasn’t going to be me.

There are also serious limits on how much I will do for a dog. When I made up my mind to get our dog, Grady, there was a whole host of conditions. He had to be trained. He couldn’t smell and couldn’t shed. He couldn’t chew furniture or drool or burrow his nose in embarrassing places. He couldn’t pant excessively and couldn’t have the kind of tail that sends glasses of red wine whizzing off coffee tables. In short: he had to be a carbon copy of the dog next door, a chubby and calm, sweet and sad-eyed Sheltie named Cassie, who had the added advantage of belonging to a breed to which my husband, Max, isn’t allergic.

The night we brought the dog home, for a Christmas/Hanukkah surprise, is one I’ll never forget.“Our own dog!” Emilie screamed.“Oh, Daddy,” cried Julia, cautious in her joys, “did you rent him?”

I love my children. I love my husband. They love the dog. I don’t not-love him, exactly. He is a fine fellow. He guards the house. He is polite, deferential, and calls us all “Sir.” When he first came to live with us, I spent many hours every day running circles with him in the backyard. The girls and I would take him to the hill near our house, gather around him and then scatter, in all directions, shouting “Baaa.”

This was so that he could herd us.“He certainly has you well trained,” a well-dressed stranger, putting golf balls, commented.
But I found, over time, that I just couldn’t sustain the relationship. There was too much pressure – not just the running in circles, not just the jumping up every 30 seconds when Grady sounded the intruder alarm (A squirrel! A chipmunk! The printer! A doorbell on TV!) It was the look in his eyes. The anxiety in his face. The desire to please … 24 hours a day. And that question, every time he raised his chin, Why don’t you love me more?

The guilt was unbearable. I could no longer work at home. I had to flee downtown to my office, where there were no such freighted interactions. Downtown, among humans, I could easily go weeks on end without making eye contact at all.
* * *
Is it permissible to have such a hierarchy in your love? To love your children, your husband – even, perhaps, your furniture – more than you could ever love your pet?
According to the veterinary practice where we take our dog for his ruinous annual check-ups, it clearly is not.

“Like other family members, dogs and cats deserve the best health care available,” its welcome brochure (suggested title: “An Invitation to Extortion”) begins. “They may have names like Fluffy, Meathead and Trouble, but they’re every bit as loved as any other member of the family.”

What if they’re not? Is the very thought taboo?
A generation ago, I think, people allowed themselves to be “good-enough” pet parents. They didn’t routinely get their cats’ teeth cleaned. They didn’t – as a friend of mine in New York recently did – spend $10,000 on kitty chemotherapy. They didn’t take their puppies on “play dates,” as the owner of the returned puppy told me she was instructed to do: “The trainer said, if we were going to have a dog who was going to be socialized appropriately and not have any issues, we had to have her meet 100 people a week so she wouldn’t develop any phobias. Plus 25 to 50 dogs.”
And they didn’t, as a family I know in Washington recently did, spend thousands and thousands of dollars on repeated surgeries for a puppy that had dashed out in traffic and been hit by a car.

This family, sick at heart, did it because they felt they had to for their son.
“When I was a kid, if your dog was hit by a car and was badly hurt, you’d take him out back and you’d shoot him,” the father, who grew up in rural North Carolina, told me. “You wouldn’t take him to a vet to have him put down – you did it yourself. It was kind of an act of honoring the dog, an act of love.”

It seems to me that pet ownership has become – like so many other aspects of modern “parenthood” – a realm in which the goalposts have been moved to greater and greater lengths of expense and absurdity. I actually count myself lucky that I can’t afford to spend thousands of dollars on my dog’s health care.

The other night, Max and I made each other a solemn promise: if the dog gets cancer we will, taking care that he experiences the least amount of pain possible, allow him to die.
I think I do love that dog well enough after all.
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Starve the Beast
Tags: confessions, elizabeth edwards, john edwards

“If I had had to choose my place of birth, I would have chosen a state in which everyone knew everyone else, so that neither the obscure tactics of vice nor the modesty of virtue could have escaped public scrutiny and judgment,” Jean-Jacques Rousseau wrote, in the dedication to his “Discourse on the Origin of Inequality,” in 1754.

Life in our United States, I think, might have changed his opinion.
By utter coincidence, I happened to be reading a lot about Rousseau, the Enlightenment philosopher best known for his autobiographical “Confessions,” at the very moment when John Edwards’s own torturous confession hit the airwaves.

It was long and complicated reading, and so lasted through the whole Edwards news cycle, taking in Elizabeth’s statement about the affair, the unlikely-named Pigeon O’Brien’s assertion that Edwards’s relationship with videographer Rielle Hunter had lasted longer than the ex-candidate claimed, and this week’s People magazine cover story in which Elizabeth’s brother and best friend step forward to set the world straight on the true nature of Elizabeth’s suffering. (It hurts.)

Through it all, I heard echoes of Rousseau. I heard Rousseau – who believed man’s inherent goodness was corrupted by society’s worldly institutions – behind John Edwards’s explanation, on “Nightline,” that he was a “small-town boy in rural North Carolina” who “came from nothing” and had been led astray by fame and fortune. I heard Rousseau’s belief in the noble cause of self-examination in Edwards’s approach to his own guilt: “The important thing is: how could I ever get to the place, to that place, and allow myself to let that happen?” And I heard Rousseau’s dream of transparency – of individuals being true and honest to themselves, and fully open to one another in society – in Elizabeth’s sad, sad belief that telling the truth would somehow bring her family peace. (“She anticipated the great relief the truth brings,” Elizabeth’s best friend, Hargrave McElroy, told People.)

I don’t want to discuss John Edwards’s extramarital behavior here. I don’t want to beat up on Elizabeth, a woman who, it seems to me, has already endured many lifetimes’ worth of pain.

But it also seems to me that, in this affair, Elizabeth has been doubly duped, once by her husband and again by the fetish we children of Rousseau make of transparency: demanding Truth, at all costs, declaiming faith in the Justness of public opinion, maintaining that, armed with the truth, we will together be good and fair.
What bunk.

What incredible earnestness has greeted the revelations of John Edwards’ marital improprieties. With what incredible earnestness we’ve received his sorry tale, ever since he confessed his sins two weeks ago to Bob Woodruff on “Nightline.”
“What were you thinking?” Woodruff – returned nearly from the dead for this noble purpose – asked Edwards, the outrage of 300 million concerned citizens ringing loudly behind each word.

Edwards, everyone said, “had” to go on the air. He “owed” an explanation to each and every voter. Bunk again. Edwards obviously owed his wife the truth. He did owe his supporters – particularly those who gave considerable amounts of their time and money to his cause – an apology for having led them into a venture that would necessarily have exploded, disastrously, had the Hunter revelations surfaced in the general election campaign.

But besides this narrow and deserving audience, the only person for whom John Edwards “had” to make his confession was John Edwards. It was a necessary, preliminary step on the road to redemption, the beginning of the dance of sin and sorriness that may, eventually, pave the way up from his current depths of shame to new heights of wiser, smarter, deeper, public service.

He made no secret of this. “I don’t think anything’s ended,” he told Woodruff. “My Lord and my wife have forgiven me. So I’m going to move on.”
This particular round of re-branding doesn’t much seem to have worked, judging by how “unsatisfying” reviewers have judged Edwards’s “Nightline” performance to have been. But I have no doubt that, in the future, he’ll be back – with a few well-planned wrinkles, a few grizzled hairs to connote wisdom and suffering, and, most important, a more personal and immediate relationship with God. One simply wonders, with a shudder, whether Elizabeth will be with him.

Elizabeth, apparently, pushed John to come clean. She’s said to be the kind of person who likes to make things clear, almost compulsively; the kind of person who can’t stand to leave things unsaid or bear secrets.

This is an admirable trait in private life – but I’d argue that, at this particular moment in the Edwardses’ public life – it has been an awful mistake. Not for them, necessarily, but for the country as a whole. For if public figures, purported leaders, “owe” us anything, it’s some kind of role modeling in the sphere of public discourse. They should not feed our basest appetites for dirt. They shouldn’t encourage us in the ugly side of our national quest for the ostensible truth in all things political – that tendency we have, that we hold in common with other spiritual heirs of Jean-Jacques Rousseau, to get the whips out and flay alive those who reveal themselves in ways that don’t jibe well with the public mood.
Sometimes it’s the innocent – cheated-upon wives, notably – who turn into victims in the tribune of public opinion.

“Think of the people they betrayed – yes, THEY,” Sally Quinn wrote in her “On Faith” blog for The Washington Post this past week. “These women, these political spouses have to stop enabling their husbands to behave like this. Because as long as they do the men will continue to cheat, lie and betray….This kind of thing hurts everybody. Most importantly it hurts women. It paints all of us as pathetic victims, or potential ones in any case.”

The late Chicago Tribune book critic Joseph Coates once called Rousseau’s dream of social transparency a “utopian and inherently totalitarian goal.” In the French Revolution, this dream, in the hands of butchers, led to the guillotine. Today, it leads to “Nightline.”

Elizabeth Edwards apparently hoped that, in letting her brother and best friend talk to People, she could give the vultures feeding off the carrion of her marriage a takeaway message that would leave them satisfied. When will she learn? If you keep on feeding the beast, you’ll get your hand, then your arm, then your head chopped off.

“When the door closes behind him, he has his family waiting for him,” she said, on the day John made his “Nightline” confession.
That door should stay closed now.

“Are Democrats Now Pro-Life?” asked ABC News this week, in an online story that pretty much summed up the buzz surrounding the party’s new official platform.
This year’s language on abortion, adopted last weekend, speaks of how “health care and education help reduce the number of unintended pregnancies and thereby also reduce the need for abortions.” It declares, “The Democratic Party also strongly supports a woman’s decision to have a child,” and was spun all week as an olive branch to evangelicals, a significant departure from past policy, and a victory for the opponents of abortion rights.

“They reached out to us,” said Jim Wallis, a progressive evangelical leader who was consulted on the abortion language, and who on Tuesday convoked a rather remarkable phone press conference in which a group of Republicans, Catholics and evangelicals came together to publicize and promote the new Democratic statement.

“The committee worked hard to give language that gave evangelicals and Roman Catholics the sense that they could participate in the Democratic Party without the compromise of their convictions,” Tony Campolo, a prominent evangelical, and a member of the Democratic platform committee, said in the conference call.
Joel Hunter, senior pastor of the Northland Church in Orlando, Fla., and a former head of the Christian Coalition, went even further. “Pro-lifers of both parties can now support Senator Obama,” he said.

A lot of anti-abortion activists — including the leadership of the group Democrats for Life, which has long tried to get their party to soften its stand on reproductive rights – weren’t buying it. “It would be really tragic if some young evangelicals unaware of history of civics would vote for a candidate that will guarantee that we will have abortion on demand for another 30 years,” Gary Bauer, president of American Values, told Bloomberg News.

And they were right. There is nothing new in the Democratic position. The abortion plank’s first sentence, “The Democratic Party strongly and unequivocally supports Roe v. Wade and a woman’s right to choose a safe and legal abortion, regardless of ability to pay, and we oppose any and all efforts to weaken or undermine that right,” is, arguably, the most powerful statement in favor of abortion rights that the party has ever made. Some pro-choice activists find it less grating to the ear than the old Clintonian formulation, which promised in the 2004 party platform to make abortion “safe, legal, and rare.”

Proposing to aid women in becoming mothers by “ensuring access to and availability of programs for pre- and post-natal health care, parenting skills, income support, and caring adoption programs,” as the platform does, hardly amounts to a radical departure. Adoption was mentioned in 2004, and Democratic legislation aimed at abortion prevention and reduction — Hillary Clinton’s Prevention First Act and Representatives Rosa DeLauro and Tim Ryan’s Reducing the Need for Abortion Initiative — has long been circulating in Congress. Barack Obama himself has been talking about the dual approach for years.

And pro-choice opinion leaders like Planned Parenthood and NARAL have been talking about the importance of reducing the number of abortions in America for decades. “For the past 20 years leaders on reproductive rights have always established that a woman’s right to decide is fundamental, but as a nation we can make it more possible for women to not have to face the decision in the first place,” former NARAL president Kate Michelman, who has advised the Obama campaign on abortion rights issues, told me in phone interview yesterday. “Those are not contradictory goals. And this is not compromise.”

If there is any sort of olive branch on offer to the anti-abortion community right now, it seems to me to consist chiefly of this week’s spin campaign, which gave cover to evangelicals and Catholics who have come out as pro-Obama (or as willing to talk to Obama) and now may well need to save face.

There may be something more going on here as well, as was suggested this week by Douglas Kmiec, professor of constitutional law at Pepperdine University, and a former Reagan Administration lawyer who once wrote briefs requesting that the Supreme Court overturn Roe v. Wade and now supports Barack Obama.

“We’ve been trying to find the elusive fifth vote on the Supreme Court for over 30 years,” he said during Tuesday’s press conference. “We have not found it and even if we did find it, overturning Roe will not save a single life but instead merely return the question to the states.” The Democratic platform, however, “recognizes that there is more than one way, alternative ways, to discourage abortion,” he continued. “While it still falls short of the Catholic ideal … we live in this world and we pursue the art of the possible.”

The truth is — as both sides of the abortion divide now know, and Kmiec acknowledged — Roe itself barely matters anymore. It is dying a death by a thousand cuts as state regulations, harassment of providers and other methods of psychological warfare erode women’s ability to access abortion services in many parts of the country.

The great frustration of the abortion opponents who hoped to gain ground with the Democrats this campaign season is that the new plank does not provide additional ammunition for that deeply wounding form of war. “What we are waiting to hear from Barack Obama,” Campolo said on Tuesday, “is that he … sees this as a moral issue and an issue of conscience.”

Let’s hope Obama doesn’t take the bait. Or better yet: let’s hope that, as he seeks out new religious allies (the problematic Jeremiah Wright becoming a much more distant memory), he pushes hard to redefine the moral high ground in the abortion rights debate. Sanctifying life – without care for the living — is little more than a morality play. Supporting families is a moral choice.

I spent a good deal of my just-completed two-week working vacation on Cape Cod thinking about playing cards.
Not actually playing them, unfortunately — I have somehow failed to transmit my own childhood love of Spit and Gin Rummy to my daughters — but mulling over the degree to which accusing others of card-playing has become a very sorry national pastime.
I spent the first week thinking of Michael Savage, the hugely popular, widely syndicated host of the radio show, ”The Savage Nation,” who last month went on a tear, essentially accusing autistic kids (and their doctors and parents) of seeking undue sympathy, victim status, and services for a malady that is in most cases nothing less than a “fraud” and a “racket.” (If you’re feeling strong today, take a listen here.)

Then came the comments by Rick Davis, Senator John McCain’s campaign manager, that Barack Obama had “played the race card” by noting that Republicans appeared to be trying to suggest to voters that the Democratic candidate “doesn’t look like all those other presidents on those dollar bills.”

And finally, there was coffee with my niece, Margaret.
Margaret is an incoming senior at a large, suburban high school in the Midwest, who told me, one day, over a cranberry muffin, what it’s like to be applying to college in this particularly anxious admissions season.

She painted a bleak picture. Her classmates, she said disgustedly, seem to view the college admissions trials as an all out game of war, waged by combatants who are perennially flipping cards of gender, race, class, status and ethnicity, ready to cheat if they don’t like the luck of the draw. Some students, she noted, managed miraculously to discover their non-white ancestry just days before they had to check off their race on admissions forms. These same students had spent their junior years bashing Hillary Clinton for “playing the gender card” (the oft-repeated phrase.)

They bewailed the terrible unfairness of a college application system that, they believed, gave unfair advantage to racial minorities and students from economically disadvantaged homes. Now they were racing to use any card they might have in their own decks — be it legacy status, or sports prowess, or family money enough to pay for the most edifying-sounding summer activities — to advance their own cause.

These were kids — mostly white, mostly comfortably middle- or upper-middle-class — who had grown up believing that they lived in a post-feminist, post-racial society. Who’d absorbed the ambient belief that measures like affirmative action, once put into place to address long histories of discrimination, were now little more than corrupt systems to be gamed.

They were truly their parents’ children, this much remarked-upon generation of non-rebels, kids who had internalized all their parents’ fears about their futures, and voiced those fears in the most unquestioning, un-self-aware ways. They were convinced of their own incipient victimhood: Because they were girls and everyone knew that college admissions were now weighted toward boys. Because they were boys and everyone knew that the whole system was biased toward girls. Because they were white and everyone knew that you can’t get in anywhere if you’re white. Or upper-middle-class.

To accuse someone of playing some sort of card — race, gender, or whatever — is to assume they’re trying to take unfair advantage and to assert that they have no genuine right to express a grievance or even to mere self-assertion. That such accusations have flowed so thick and rich in the past year of presidential campaigning and now circulate unquestioned among our next generation of college students, reflects two realities: one is the degree to which the meaning of the historical battle of America’s long-discriminated-against populations has been corrupted, and the other is the degree to which everyone seems to feel that the deck is stacked against them.

There’s a meanness that flows from this, and that airs itself most openly on the Internet and on our shock radio airwaves, whether in the rants of Rush Limbaugh or the sadistic sniping of Dr. Laura, or in the weird pride with which Savage has stuck to his guns on autism. And before you start equivocating, hemming and hawing that while autism is undoubtedly real, Savage may have a point about A.D.H.D. and the “cartel of doctors and drug companies” that he says push the diagnosis, tune in to how, one breath after bashing autism as a “fraud,” Savage took on the asthma card: “For a long while we were hearing that every minority child had asthma,” he said. “Why was there an asthma epidemic among minority children? Because I’ll tell you why. The children got extra welfare if they were disabled and they got extra help in school. It was a money racket.”

I won’t dwell too long on this. I’ll just say that Savage is hardly alone in his views.
From where — other than ignorance — does all this ugliness spring? From a cultural moment when people feel locked in hand-to-hand combat, competing for an ever-shrinking stock of resources. The kids applying to college — in what promises to be, demographically, one of the toughest years ever — are feeling this whittling-away of the cultural pie most acutely. As a result, they’re particularly susceptible to the awful miserliness of spirit that accompanies periods of shortage.

Perhaps we shouldn’t judge them too harshly. Their mindset may be adaptive. When these kids graduate college, the economy may be even worse than it is today. If that happens, knowing how to play your cards right will be an even more valuable skill.