Part 3—We turn to professional athletes: We've often thought that LeBron James—he's a professional athlete—is almost preternaturally mature.
He went from being a high school senior straight into the NBA. He scored 25 points in his first game, has barely received a parking ticket in the years since.
At age 25, he handled his departure from his home-town team fairly poorly. But let's be fair, if only this once:
Not counting Jimmy Stewart in It's A Wonderful Life, how many people, at age 25 or below, have ever had to navigate the pressure of saving his home town?
We regard James as something resembling a model citizen. When he said, this Monday, that he'd spent the summer with his two sons (and their youth basketball teams) and his daughter, it sounded to us like he was probably telling the truth.
That said, LeBron James is a professional athlete. He's not the U.N. ambassador. Neither is Colin Kaepernick. Therein lies a problem.
Over Here, on our liberal planet, we tend to be convinced of our tribal greatness. It's hard for us to see how poor our tribal leadership actually is. But in the absence of skilled "professional" leadership, we're forced to turn to professional athletes to exercise leadership on difficult "culture war" topics.
That brngs us to something James said in Monday's lengthy press conference. First, though, let's talk about Hillary Clinton, who has always pretty much lacked the "political gene."
Once again, let's be fair. Most people, by and large, "lack the political gene." When people become transcendent political leaders, it's because they have important abilities which everybody else lacks.
Hillary Clinton's husband, Bill Clinton, was widely praised for his political abilities. By and large, Hillary Clinton, like most people, has tended to lack that political gene. Consider what she said, in January 1992, on that 60 Minutes special.
Good God! In a lunatic press event, Gennifer Flowers had accused Bill Clinton of conducting a torrid, twelve-year love affair with her bombshell self. We will guess that Hillary Clinton knew this was total crap.
Gennifer Flowers made oodles of money pimping this unlikely claim. The Clintons were forced to appear on a special broadcast of 60 Minutes—right after the 1992 Super Bowl game!
Did we mention the fact that this CBS special aired right after the Super Bowl? Tens of millions of American men had been drinking beer since 6 AM. Had Bill Clinton said, "Yes, I blanked her, so what?" a lusty roar might well have gone up all across the nation.
Bill Clinton didn't say that. As far as we know, such a statement would have been false.
This morning, though, we're talking about what Hillary Clinton said. A fair amount of what she said did, in fact, make very good sense. But good lord! She also blurted this:
KROFT (1/26/92): I think most Americans would agree that it's very admirable that you have stayed together, that you've worked your problems out, that you seem to have reached some sort of an understanding and an arrangement. But—Steve Kroft had his nose in the underwear drawer. (The Clintons had reached "an arrangement!") But alas! With her remark about Tammy Wynette, that one Clinton took the bait.
BILL CLINTON: Wait a minute, wait a minute! Wait a minute! You're looking at two people who love each other. This is not an arrangement or an understanding. This is a marriage. That's a very different thing.
HILLARY CLINTON: You know, I'm not sitting here some little woman standing by my man like Tammy Wynette. I'm sitting here because I love him and I respect him and I honor what he's been through and what we've been through together. And, you know, if that's not enough for people, then, heck, don't vote for him.
"Then heck, don't vote for him?" That was a sound political move. But we recall being very surprised by the Wynette reference:
"How could the long-standing first lady of a Southern state make a statement like that?" we inquired. And sure enough, Hillary Clinton had to spend a chunk of time explaining away what she'd said. Given the way our journalism and politics work, the clumsy statement has followed her down through the annals of time.
Was anything really so horribly "wrong" with what she said that night? Truthfully, no—unless your husband is running for office, in which case you're doomed to spend a chunk of time cleaning up what you had said, and you're going to lose some votes, perhaps even decades hence.
Hillary Clinton's tone of annoyance that night seemed to come from a real person. But it also came from a person who lacked the political gene.
Twenty-five years later, that same person has written a book explaining why she lost last year's election to Donald J. Trump. (She received 2.9 million more votes than the winner.) We're still reading that book, but we've already been blown away by several things she has said.
Hillary Clinton just keeps insisting that half the people who voted against her are "deplorable," perhaps "irredeemable." In her book, she bases that astounding assessment on a bunch of embarrassing non-evidence evidence.
Then too, there's what she says at the start of her "Sisterhood" chapter. We just started reading that chapter this morning. Go ahead! Read pages 112-115.
In those few pages, you'll see it again. You'll see Clinton blaming "the American electorate" for the fact that she lost last year. She says she wishes that we had a better, more receptive electorate. ""But that's not who we are. Not yet," she amazingly says.
We hope to discuss that tone-deaf passage at greater length at some point. But in those pages, you see Clinton fall prey to one of the deeply flawed political instincts which infest our "liberal" planet.
We meritocratic liberals! Again and again and again and again, we're committed to the proposition that the American people haven't quite managed to rise to the level of our own vast insight and our obvious moral greatness.
It's the oldest instinct in the "human" playbook, the source of our millions of wars. This instinct deeply infests our self-impressed tribe. It represents one of the most significant ways we insistently practice to lose.
There have been times when our liberal tribe has had "professional" leadership which was astoundingly brilliant. Rosa Parks was astoundingly brilliant. So was Dr. King.
At this time, such leadership doesn't exist. As a result, we liberals turn to 28-year-old quarterbacks to engineer our important crusades.
This is profoundly foolish. Even someone as preternaturally mature as LeBron James shouldn't be thrown in that patch, unless we self-impressed liberals simply don't care whether we win or lose.
Doggone it! On Monday afternoon, we watched all of James' press conference. He discussed our nation's latest culture war at some length.
He said a lot of perfectly sensible things. His frameworks were much more politically savvy than those we've been seeing in many other places.
That said, James is a professional athlete, not a U.N. ambassador. At one point, he got a perfectly sensible question, and he fumbled his response in the way our tribe is inclined to do.
Below, you see the question he was asked. It came from Steve Aschburner, of NBA.com.
Aschburner's question was perfectly sensible. We'll show you the fumble below:
ASCHBURNER (9/25/17): You live and work in a state in which the majority of voters voted for the current president, some of whom, many of whom probably had valid reasons beyond his twitter account or his social graces. How do you reconcile having called that choice a mistake when many of those people are also Cavaliers fans?Aschburner's question made perfect sense, That said, James is a professional athlete, not a professional political leader. This was his initial response:
JAMES (continuing directly): Well, I mean, that's a great question.On a political basis, Ow ow ow ow ow ow ow ! But this is very much the way how our tribe tends to think.
At the end of the day, like I said, you can—
I don’t think a lot of people was educated. And I think that’s the biggest, one of the biggest problems when it becomes vote time, that people are just not educated on either the individual, or on what’s actually going on in the state of the world right now, not in that particular state, but in the state of the world. I don’t think a lot of people are educated, and they make choices and say things that’s uneducated.
(To watch that exchange, click here, move ahead to the 8:30 mark.)
To his credit, James seemed to realize that he'd headed down the wrong track. As he continued, he seemed to look for a way to take his framework back.
"And am I saying that the people of Ohio wasn’t educated?" he said as he continued. "Am I saying that some of the people in the other states that voted for him was uneducated?
"They could have been, or they could not have been. But that doesn’t mean it was the right choice," he said.
He tried to take his framework back. But this is very much the way we liberals tend to think Over Here, on our dying planet.
(Things only got worse as James continued from there.)
At present, our highly self-impressed liberal tribe boasts little political leadership. As a group, we fail to see how dumb it is to think that young, well-intentioned professional athletes should be conscripted to fill this leadership void.
"We don't have a single person to waste." That's what the Clinton who won the White House said during his upbeat campaign.
The "American electorate" was to blame, and half The Others should go straight to Hell. That's what the other Clinton is still saying in her book, after a campaign which sent our country's craziest person live and direct to the White House.
Over Here on our dying planet, we're so short on leadership that we expect young quarterbacks to provide it. Tomorrow, we'll briefly touch on the kind of leadership we get from our endless string of assistant professors—and from Michelle Goldberg, the New York Times' new columnist.
She wrote an excellent first column this Monday. But we know what she did that spring, on her way to the Times.
Tomorrow: Assistant professors and Goldberg oh my! Ways we practice to lose