In his farewell address of 1796, President George Washington warned of the potential evils of political parties ....
"The alternate domination of one faction over another, sharpened by the spirit of revenge, natural to party dissension, which in different ages and countries has perpetrated the most horrid enormities, is itself a frightful despotism. But this leads at length to a more formal and permanent despotism. The disorders and miseries which result gradually incline the minds of men to seek security and repose in the absolute power of an individual; and sooner or later the chief of some prevailing faction, more able or more fortunate than his competitors, turns this disposition to the purposes of his own elevation, on the ruins of public liberty.
"Without looking forward to an extremity of this kind (which nevertheless ought not to be entirely out of sight), the common and continual mischiefs of the spirit of party are sufficient to make it the interest and duty of a wise people to discourage and restrain it."
We are now in the midst of the periodic repudiation of George Washington's wisdom. Whether the Democratic National Convention leads to despotism, even of that incomplete and incompetent sort pioneered by George W, Bush, I do not know, but the first night in Denver did impose on me the tyranny of tedium.
Political conventions strike me as weird. Weirder still are the people captured in the audience by the camera with looks of vacant hero worship reminiscent of some crackpot sect. No way would I sit at a political convention waving someone's name on a stick while making delighted noises, and I console myself that George Washington wouldn't have done it either. There are not enough hospitality suites at a convention to make me act like that in public.
While I sympathize with Sen. Ted Kennedy's brave battle against brain cancer, I was not moved to weeping as some in attendance apparently were. He raises in me mixed emotions. I think he should have had the good grace to retire completely after the tragedy that his actions triggered at Chappaquiddick almost 40 years ago.
On the other hand, he has done more good for American society since than most people achieve in their lifetimes - certainly more than most of his critics, which would include me.
But, even if I had felt emotional, I still would have been struck by one great burst of fatuousness. He said at one point:
"We are told that Barack Obama believes too much in an America of high principle and bold endeavor, but when John Kennedy called of going to the moon, he didn't say it's too far to get there. We shouldn't even try."
Who told us this? Apparently the mysterious "they" who are always saying ridiculous things to put us off. However, I have never heard anybody say that Barack Obama "believes too much in an America of high principle and bold endeavor." They have said many things about Obama and this has never occurred to them as far as I know.
As for Michele's speech, I thought it was nice but not great. To me, it was obvious as a matter of political necessity that at some point she would have to counter the claim that she is unpatriotic by saying she loved America - and so she did. And so she doubtless does. And so do we all. Ho hum and pass the flag.
Still, the Obama kids are cute, but, as I've always said, it's easy to be cute if you are a kid - the trick is to do it after age 60.
While all this was going on, Joe Biden was sitting there like the cat who swallowed the canary and was just dying to tell us about it at great length.
I always thought that Biden was insufferable in the various Supreme Court nomination hearings but I do think his choice as the VP candidate makes some sense in giving the ticket some foreign policy experience.
Moreover, there is a certain pleasing irony in Obama, who supports new sources of energy, teaming himself with a great font of hot air and natural gas to energize his campaign.