Wednesday, December 10, 2008

I Need A New Word

I need a new word, one which can describe two apparent contradictions existing at the same time, like an oxymoron but carrying more the emphasis of the extreme nature of the opposites. Such a word might be used to describe Rod Blagojevich, a man who was smart and savvy enough to get himself elected governor of Illinois, yet stupid enough to not only think selling a seat for the United States Senate for personal gain was a winning idea, but moronic enough to think he could get away with it. Aside from the ethics of his apparent crime, one wonders how Governor Blagojevich could have been so short-sighted. As governor of one of the nation’s most important states, Blagojevich certainly held many attractive personal opportunities for his life after leaving office, but he threw them away for the chance at relatively small short-term gains. This guy crushed every hope for his own future, to say nothing of staining the honor of his office, through an ignoble and frankly stupid decision.

This is hardly the first time that smart people have done stupid things. Politically, the most infamous case would have to be Richard Nixon, who was caught covering up crimes committed by friends of his because of his own secret tape recording system – it somehow never occurred to Nixon to destroy the tapes before they were discovered, or better yet, not to say incriminating things in a place he knew would record everything said. The man brilliant enough to play the communist regimes in Moscow and Beijing against each other, was too stupid to remember his own tape system. Go figure.

Other Presidents have shown symptoms of the same disorder. George W Bush thought he could trust the Democrats to keep their word on agreements, just as his father did. Honorable but dumb. Bill Clinton thought he could lie his way out of the Lewinsky scandal, forgetting the Watergate lesson that the cover-up is worse than the crime. Ronald Reagan even fell into that trap, making a deal with Iran that he wrongly believed would never become public knowledge. Carter, despite his doctorate, was conned into believing that the Ayatollah was a man of peace. And so on through the pantheon of ‘great’ men.

So, what should we call this behavior, this odd habit of capable and intelligent people doing stupid things, of nominally honorable men giving in to poor judgment or poor morals? I wanna know.


fred said...

I always think back to the scene in Patton, when the General tells his aide, "In Rome when a conquering general returned to the glory of a parade in front of his countryman, a slave would stand behind him in the chariot, whispering the reminder that all glory is fleeting".

I am astounded by this dynamic; great men become so accustomed to their own power that inevitably, hubris leads them to overstep. The arrogance is astounding in the case of the Illinois governor. His sense of entitlement reveals him to be a small minded and selfish man. He has also failed to follow the time honored congressional custom of funneling funds to family members who are 'lobbyists'.

Leslie said...

Putz works for me.

kimsch said...

two words - narcissistic sociopath. He thought, like many in the Illinois Combine, that the rules didn't apply to him. It's not just the Chicago Machine, it's the truly bipartisan Illinois Combine that's the source of a lot of this. Of the three Illinois Governors sent to prison, only one, George Ryan, was a Republican. And he was convicted of corruption stemming from when he was the Secretary of State.

The combine was responsible for bringing in Alan Keyes to replace Jack Ryan - so they are responsible for Obama getting Peter Fitzgerald's (no relation to Patrick) senate seat.

Mark L said...

The phrase you are seeking is "too clever by half."