Feature

A rising tide of political mediocrity

We&rsquo;re now &ldquo;dumbing down the standards for public service,&rsquo;&rsquo; said Dick Polman in the <em>The Philadelphia Inquirer,</em> requiring only that candidates remind us of us.

Dick PolmanThe Philadelphia Inquirer

America used to be a meritocracy, said Dick Polman, but is now becoming a mediocracy. In a nation where every Little League team gets a trophy, we’re now “dumbing down the standards for public service,’’ requiring only that candidates remind us of us. Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin is just the latest beneficiary of this new celebration of ordinariness. Before her came U.S. Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers, whom President Bush lauded as “the best person I could find.” In reality, Miers’ chief qualification was handling the paperwork on Bush’s fishing cabin. Or consider the case of George Deutsch, a 24-year-old political appointee who barred NASA scientists from discussing global warming and ordered the word “theory’’ appended to every mention of the Big Bang. And then there was Michael Brown, the former FEMA chief who learned everything he knew about disasters while working at the International Arabian Horse Association. Four decades ago, the late Sen. Roman Hruska of Nebraska defended an unqualified court nominee by saying, “There are a lot of mediocre judges and people out there. They are entitled to a little representation, aren’t they?’’ Hruska was mocked for his comments, but it turns out that he was just a little ahead of his time.

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