THE ELITES AND THE PEOPLE

As he has before, president Bush is slowly growing into this crisis. His words at National Cathedral yesterday were his best yet. His radio speech today even better. Thank God someone in this administration knows what Churchill knew: words matter. They matter as much as any military might. I believe in my heart that our president will rise to this occasion – and that he is far, far more in touch with most Americans than many of the chattering classes. I read last week with growing dismay that some of my fellow journalists were actually making partisan points about this, glibly assessing president Bush’s performances, spinning and pirouetting as if the world were the same. Rick Berke’s performance on PBS’s Washington Week on Thursday told me all I need to know about this mindset. Mickey Kaus’s staggering comment that this story “will be off the evening news by Thanksgiving” reveals that one element of the chattering class still hasn’t begun to wrap its mind about what has really happened. These failures are not a result of what Mickey calls a faster news cycle among elites. They’re a function of the slower news cycle of elites. These journalists are simply behind the news, behind the curve, immune to what the people of this country already know in their hearts. But these are errors simply of judgment and they will pass. These commentators are decent people, just completely blindsided by events, and no-one should blame them. That doesn’t apply to the comments from the pathological right (Falwell and Robertson et al.) and the vile Left (Michael Moore, Eric Alterman), comments that reveal what many of us have suspected for years: that these elements in our culture are simply depraved. We shouldn’t harbor any illusions about these people and their ilk, and we need not make distinctions between right and left. Crises show you what people are really about. Falwell and Robertson and Moore and others harbor a hatred for many people of this great country and at some level blame America for this atrocity. That they could do so this week is beyond belief. We have a war on now and I’m not going to pursue these people in this space for their divisive, cowardly remarks. To start attacking other Americans now would be to descend to their level. We have far more important things to think about and to do. But let us remember what this moment showed us about these people. And if this war ends, let us ensure that they are cast to the margins of our culture and our society, and never treated with respect again.