Tuesday, April 1, 2008

The Greater Loyalty

The Washington Post has recently printed an exchanged between a long-time Clinton political advisor, James Carville, and the Governor of Mexico and former Clinton Cabinet Member, Bill Check SpellingRichardson.

Carville was recently compelled to compare Bill Richardson to Judas Iscariot after he endorsed Clinton's opponent.

If you want to read the entire exchange you can find Mr. Carville's remarks here and Gov. Richardson's here.

To me, this is the most striking part of Mr. Carville's remarks:

I believe that loyalty is a cardinal virtue. Nowhere in the world is loyalty so little revered and tittle-tattle so greatly venerated as in Washington. I was a little-known political consultant until Bill Clinton made me. When he came upon hard times, I felt it my duty -- whatever my personal misgivings -- to stick by him. At the very least, I would have stayed silent. And maybe that's my problem with what Bill Richardson did. Silence on his part would have spoken loudly enough.

Richardson, predictably (but nevertheless perhaps genuinely) responded that he prioritized "loyalty to my country" over loyalty to an individual.

I am not naive enough to be surprised that Carville - or anyone else that makes a career in politics - values loyalty to an individual above loyalty to the country. We see politicians act in this manner constantly because loyalty to a powerful sponsor is almost always rewarded more richly than loyalty to ideals. It's an undeniable and tragic reality of our political system.

Nevertheless.... to see this idea spoken of so openly makes me shudder. Carville must believe that he and his allies are so right that loyalty to each other is synonymous to loyalty with the country or... he's completely lost touch with the core democratic idea that public service is just that.

He's not even faking it any more. That's just scary to me.


Unknown said...

Loyalty is easily the most overrated virtue. Loyalty to a misguided cause (or worse, an evil one), be it an individual or a community or an organization or a country, is wrong. It should not be praised, and it should not be rewarded.

The "I was just being loyal" philosophy is, to me, not fundamentally different from the "I was just following orders" defense that we (wisely) rejected at Nuremberg.

I liked James Carville during the Bill Clinton days, but if he really believes that loyalty to the Clintons trumps the good of the country or even the Democratic party, then he has lost a fan in me.

Dr. Goddess Mommy said...

One should be loyal to the following: your country, your family, and your baseball team.

Everything else is fair game.

Keep up the quality blogging.