Thursday, September 6, 2012

Not a Rhetorical Question

The curious thing was that Bill Clinton did manage to sound like the late William F. Buckley for a brief second when he employed the old saw, “even a broken clock is right two times a day.” Buckley once said “even a stopped clock is right two times a day.” Was his endorsement of Barack Obama one of the great speeches of all time? Did it rank with Churchill’s “never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few?” It’s a rhetorical question in the true sense of the word since the real question could be, who is the brilliant speechwriter behind the speech? But Clinton’s mark was all over it. He challenged the Republicans where it hurt on the untruths about Obamacare taking away from Medicaid and Obama removing the work requirement from welfare and on the failure of supply side economics when he said “we can’t double down on trickle down.” He was leading up to his rousing finale when he talked about the bipartisan approach which led Obama to appoint his former rival Hillary Clinton to be secretary of state. But the coup de grace was the iteration of a basic philosophy of both politics and ethics: the “we” ideal. Adam Smith wrote The Wealth of Nations which is a primer on free market economics but he also wrote the The Theory of Moral Sentiments, a work in which he basically argued that a policy is only good for the individual if it’s good for everybody. It was this precept that Clinton recalled in a speech that will insure Obama’s reelection and place Clinton himself in the ranks of the great orators of history. Here is how The Theory of Moral Sentiments begins: “How selfish soever man may be supposed, there are evidently some principles in his nature, which interest him in the fortunes of others, and render their happiness necessary to him, though he derives nothing from it, except the pleasure of seeing it. Of this kind is pity or compassion, the emotion we feel for the misery of others, when we either see it, or are made to conceive it in a very lively manner. That we often derive sorrow from the sorrows of others, is a matter of fact too obvious to require any instances to prove it; for this sentiment, like all the other original passions of human nature, is by no means confined to the virtuous or the humane, though they perhaps may feel it with the most exquisite sensibility. The greatest ruffian, the most hardened violator of the laws of society, is not altogether without it.”

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for this, Francis - a perfect and invaluable complement to Clinton's address.


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