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Opening Arguments

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It was William F. Buckley Jr. who said he would rather be governed by the first 2,000 people in the Boston telephone directory than by the 2,000 people on the faculty at Harvard. In that spirit:

The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey of Likely U.S. Voters shows that 43% believe a group of people randomly selected from the phone book would do a better job than the current Congress. Thirty-eight percent (38%) disagree with that assessment, while another 19% are not sure. (To see survey question wording, click here.)

I think that's another way to say, "The fact that they want the job proves that they shouldn't have it." People chosen from the phone book (or by some other other randomizing method) would be forced to learn how Congress works and then would go about getting stuff done. People who actually run for the office start with a polarized attitude, which they apply chiefly to getting re-elected. The original idea in this country was that our national leaders would be ordinary people with real lives who do government service for a brief time, then return to their normal lives. Randomly selecting people from the phone book would be closer to that ideal than what we have now.


Sat, 02/11/2012 - 9:34pm

Well, the current Congress isn't made up of Harvard men, although Obama and his likely opponent, Mitt Romney, are. Furthermore, Buckley's anti-intellectualism is hard to take seriously, given his Yale education. I'm pretty sure he was being hyperbolic.

I knew Bill Buckley - he taught me how to eat caviar (put it on a sweet cracker with cream cheese). He and my father, a radical liberal, were good friends, and he was an occasional visitor at our home. He was good company and certainly not the knee-jerk right-winger many assume he was.

If he were alive today, I'm certain he would be just as appalled by Sarah Palin and the Tea Party as his son Christopher is.

I apologize for name-dropping, but I'm proud of having known him.

Leo Morris
Mon, 02/13/2012 - 10:17am

Buckley gave me a greatly improved vocabulary and helped make me into the word snob I am today. I used to watch "Firing Line" every week, even before I cared about the political discussions, with a dictionary by my side, knowing I'd have to use it more than once during the broadcast. If you want a really good word book, check out his "The Lexicon," definitions, usage notes and citations for the most interesting words he used in his writing (including his fiction).