The Bishop and the Butterfly: Murder, Politics, and the End of the Jazz Age
    Michael Maiello's picture

    Nobody Misses the WASPs

    "Those virtues included a spirit of noblesse oblige and personal austerity and piety that went beyond the thank-you notes and boat shoes and prep school chapel going — a spirit that trained the most privileged children for service, not just success, that sent men like Bush into combat alongside the sons of farmers and mechanics in the same way that it sent missionaries and diplomats abroad in the service of their churches and their country."

    This is hilarious.  Of course it's Ross Douthat because, what other self-hating Catholic and devotee to slave morality would write a column about how much the U.S. needs and misses the old line New England WASPs that used to specifically exclude Catholics like him from high society?

    But, also, let's think about this for a minute.  Yes, Bush served in World War II alongside the sons of farmers and mechanics.  The difference is that after World War II, Bush got to send the sons of his fellow soldiers into yet more wars, while nobody asked the sons of farmers and mechanics who Bush fought alongside, what they thought.

    When it came to Bush's own son and Vietnam, well... funny how he wound up in Texas, far from the drafted middle and working class children sent into the jungle (by people like Bush) to fight and die for nothing.

    I have more on this, I suppose, but come on... do we really need to re-prove that having a WASP aristocracy in the US is a bad thing?  If you ask me, those pasty losers still have too much power and cultural cache.

    Okay, one more thing -- Douthat thinks the WASPs compare well to every leader that has come forward since Bush. He seems to want to argue that the technocratic elite has been a failure too.  I agree. But here's what Douthat doesn't consider.  We need to not have an elite political class at all.  The best ideas go unheard. Try to mention Universal Basic Income to somebody at an influential think tank like Brookings and they will just blink at you. Try to suggest to your congressional representative that the $66 trillion recently reported wasted at the Pentagon could have paid for universal healthcare and see what they do about it.  See if they even answer with substance.  If you're not represented by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, I bet you get nothing.

    The problem is, whether you have an aristocracy based on WASP lineage, or Ivy League school attendance, you will still have an aristocracy and it will still warp society in order to perpetuate itself and it will still take advantage of people in the outgroups by turning them into soldiers, employees or wards. Meanwhile, people in the outgroups probably have great ideas about how we could all live better together. They probably have a lot of stupid ideas, too. But that makes them no different than anybody else.

    We don't need a new artistocratic class.  We need a more inclusive system where more voices are meaningfully heard. We need to burn down what's left of what Bush represented.



    No one misses the WASPs. Oh my God, no.

    This is also one of those moments when the fact Douthat was only been Catholic for the last fifteen minutes shines through. No one with the lived experience, let alone the intergenerational experience, of dealing with WASPs’ social dominance would want another helping of that. 

    It’s taken me the twenty years since I left Massachusetts to get over that old inter-tribal hostility, and Douthat brought it all flooding back with one stupid column. Thanks, Ross.

    I am reminded of that which Teddy called “rather poor poetry, but good sense from the expansion point of view.” 

    But on this

    When it came to Bush's own son and Vietnam, well... funny how he wound up in Texas, far from the drafted middle and working class children sent into the jungle (by people like Bush) to fight and die for nothing.

    Dowd and others remind us that Poppy really vociferously argued that he had become a true Texan, leaving all that East Coast patrician WASP stuff behind. And he definitely produced at least one gen-u-ine Texan son there. The Chuck Yeager/Right Stuff thing, you know. None of that drafted grunt stuff. Fly jets. Mission accomplished. Jump out of planes at age 90. So there's that. wink

    Looking good in a flight suit is a service!

    See, Catholic boys can too learn how this all works!

    I suspect that, like me, you've perused the permanent collection of lovely artifacts at the 7th Regiment Armory on 63rd & Park Ave? Where all the best men Mrs. Astor's list had to offer served in a most splendid manner....

    Actually, W has always read as a very traditional prep-school WASP to me. The Texas twang is a surface veneer; he may have grown up in Texas, but he was still raised by Barbara Bush. 

    W’s anti-intellectualism is an old prep-school behavior designed to show off class privilege. Because if you’re at Andover or Yale and you’re a lousy student, there’s only one explanation for why you’re there. W is rubbing it in the scholarship kids’ faces. That’s ugly behavior in a college boy, and tedious in a man over fifty.

    One of the things I liked about GHW was that he never played that game. He was one of the old-money legacy types who worked for his Phi Beta Kappa key and always tried to excel. GHW hadn’t earned his privilege, but he put on a good show of trying to deserve what he’d been given.

    Anyway, George W. in mourning for his father looks more like an old-school New Englander than he ever has. He could be standing in a chapel in Connecticut, doing exactly the same performance of dignified grief that his forefathers have been doing since 1700. I’m not saying his grief isn’t real. It obviously is, and so’s the dignity. I’m saying W learned that style of expressing grief in his family, as part of a very long tradition. It’s like seeing the Connecticut Yankee inside him laid bare.


    Great input, doc, I know you know your stuff on this, I'll take it into consideration. As a born and bred upper midwesterner transplanted to NYC, I admit I have a hard time seeing the CT Yankee in W, though I do definitely see the prep school brat/frat thing, that's for sure.

    Well, W. also works hard on the Texas act, and lots of people  have bought it, (Maybe especially lots of non-Texans; I’m not a Texan, and can’t be sure.) The man is still going to the lengths of mispronouncing Kennebunkport, where his family has had a home forever. He knows he’s saying that name wrong. He knows how to say it. But he’s been doing that accent too long to stop,

    Bush lost his first election in Texas for the House. He was portrayed as out of touch with rural Texans and a too smart eastern elitist. 

    Too smart! Wow.

    Speaking of the whole Tom Wolfe "Right Stuff" thing/flyboy thing, I totally buy this narrative, rings true to me:

    The fly over was chilling! I truly believe this makes @realDonaldTrump so mad because he can never have any of this level of respect and love! That’s why he wanted that bogus military parade, not for the soldiers, but for him!

    — Joseph Iacovella (@joeiavovella) December 6, 2018

    I do miss De Mortuis nil nisi bonum.

    It'd be easier without Douthat shouting "One whitey to rule us all" from the NY Times.

    The Times has a stable of  also-rans covering the losers whose views, get short shrift in the news columns or the main stream columnists, Rightly so.

    "You should never say bad things about the dead, only good… Joan Crawford is dead. Good.” - Bette Davis

     and she was once a Cushing girl!  my word, what becoming an actress does to people!


    There is one thing that old line WASPism supported when it was in charge which I think they deserve belated kudos for. Something they got a lot of shit for from leftists, as in suggesting genocidal intent: birth control. That breeding like animals was not the smart thing to do.  A lot of those yearning huddled masses eventually learned that having a choice of how many progeny to produce and support was a big key to breathing free.

    Edit to add: okay I know hatred of papists goes waaaay back in New Englund and other issues are involved. Still, it was the correct prescription in this case and: papacy wrong, not infallible.

    P.S. There is also this: as former parochial school girl now agnostic, I love me some American Episcopal in those rare instances when I still find myself in need of a dose of organized religion. Mho, it is liberal, love-thy-neighbor kumbaya Christianity the way Christianity is supposed to be. I actually don't know how the heck that happened, how it became that, but I thank "the WASP's" for it.

    Strikes me as related, as in "Queens trash, born in a barn", even the unwashed know to read The Creed as a sign of respect:

    This is your "Christian" evangelical president.

    — Keith Boykin (@keithboykin) December 5, 2018

    Oh shit, I actually thought of you when I read that title and saw it was Douthat, and said to myself.. hahaha, what’s Maiello going to say!

    My only comment for Douthat is, how can we miss them when they never really leave?

    Right?  They're always right in front of us, holding up the line at the grocery store because they're fascinated by the barcode scanner.

    Repeating myself (who's counting?Well stop!) the few minutes I watched of today's funeral made me think that some things at which , sensibly, we scoff  maybe shouldn't be deprecated but are somehow important.To others 

    In a Mary McCarthy novel  of 50 years ago the MMc character  arguing with - well clearly  Edmund Wilson throws back at him " The world wasn't  created yesterday".

    A pregnant exchange from which you could go in a myriad of ways .

    One way I go today ie.this particular Wednesday when  a famous and once powerful - a "considerable" person is being honored , if not by us than by The don't lightly dismiss it. Not only because that would be un gracious but  because 


    .......When the brokers are roaring like beasts on the floor of                                                    .                                                                   the Bourse,                                                                                                                                                        .........And the poor have the sufferings to which they are                                                                                                   ...................fairly accustomed ,                                                                                                                                          ........And each in the cell of himself is almost convinced of                                                                                                          .of his freedom; a                                                                                                                                                           few thousand will think of this day                                                                                                                                       As one  thinks of a day when one did something slightly unusual



    What would  Auden, have thought however about Bush if they were both still alive  and writing?                                        Who knows?  And more to the point, why cares? Happy to guess however,so my very strong guess is he'd have   elegantly   defended the private moment of any of the few thousand  there today  when later they think  of this day  "as of one  when he did something slightly unusual." 

    Like  him , 80 years ago as he  wrote


    Earth, receive an honored guest                                                                                                                                  (George Herbert Walker Bush) is laid to rest.           







    It's worth a moment to reflect on our own imperfections, how we would fare with the same responsibilities, the different people trying to push us this way and that, the exposure of all what we do. Would we have any honor or patience left? When we pipe up with, "I could do it better" what happens when or if we're forced to try?

    Force me. I'm game.

    Let me get my stick... you ain't here for the politicks, is ya.

    There was a good tweet I saw by a sociologist expert retweeted by several people I follow, can't find it now. But it was chiding people that national funerals of like not just statesmen but important celebs are an important binder of our universal standards, our culture. The point: they are symbols here, you are not judging the man or the woman, you leave out the really bad stuff because you want to stress the good stuff that you'd like the majority to accept as "good stuff." It's a national discussion of what is the good stuff. Setting aside a day where you don't discuss the bad stuff, but more of a check of what the society currently thinks the good stuff is.

    I remember way back on TPMCafe we had a lot of issues with Michael Jackson's death. A few just could not let go of the pedophile monster thing. So that obviously was a moral priority for them, trumps everything else. But a heck of a lot more people not just on TPMCafe but worldwide agreed that he did a lot of good stuff and that's what they wanted to share: the good stuff.

    This tweet will suffice for the one I can't find, from the liberal guy who famously got really nasty attacks from lefties on his George Bush in memoriam statements:

    Brace yourselves people. I don’t like Bill Clinton’s personal behavior, crime bill, welfare reform, don’t ask don’t tell or the Defense of Marriage Act. And I’d probably still find something nice to say were he to pass on.

    — Bryan Behar (@bryanbehar) December 2, 2018


    This is a really good point about national funerals for celebrities and politicians.

    I'll warn everybody right now to stay away from me online for a few weeks after Woody Allen dies.

    The New Statesman had a contest for the most sycophantic obit or final words for a monster. Past and present,

    Nero :" fondly remembered for his outdoor cook outs." Some African dictator who announced he was immortal: "But this is impossible".


    "End of life, Happy Wife."

    Re: Brookings and UBI... I see the point you are trying to make but this is the first hit when you put those two terms in the google machine:

    Thank you,


    Interesting! Thanks!

    Strikes me that the "Crazy Rich Asians" might keep WASP culture alive by appropriation if people like you no longer need them:

    Burberry Releases its First Chinese New Year Campaign #blouin #artinfo #Burberry #ZhaoWei #ZhouDongyu #Britishluxury

    — BLOUIN ARTINFO (@artinfodotcom) January 14, 2019


    Conservative New York Times columnist Ross Douthat is one of numerous corporate media figures to have defended Augusto Pinochet, Chile’s murderous US-backed capitalist dictator

    Ah yes, Pinochet, the gift who keeps on giving. The left still angry that a Moscow-colluding socialist President was removed, 46 years later. They're more angry that Pinochet killed their socialist puppy 46 years ago than they are that Russia quite likely would have used a communist toe-hold in South America to kill tens/hundreds of thousands while forming a decades-long oppressive dictatorship as they did elsewhere (including of course Vietnam and Angola), or that Sandinista socialist icon Daniel Ortega killed hundreds of Nicaraguans last year. They're more angry that Hillary's coalition no-fly zone in Libya indirectly resulted in Gaddafi's fleeing & death than they are that Gaddafi tortured & killed tens of thousands across his illustrious dictatorial career or that Gaddafi had threatened to wipe out peaceful protesters. They're more worried that Hillary supported arming Syrian dissidents and a no-fly zone that "could start World War III" than that Syria and their ally Putin have killed a couple hundred thousand civilians and used chemical weapons while pushing refugees towards Europe to destabilize it. They're more worried that neo-Nazis *might* have some marginal influence in the Ukrainian government than they are that Russia unilaterally (& illegally) annexed Crimea and recently the Azov Sea, while putting troops & weapons in Donbas.

    I didn't even feel it necessary to go there. I went to Lulu's link and I get where this "news" about Douhat comes from

    Intellectual historian Timothy Barker dug through columns that Douthat penned for Harvard University’s right-wing student newspaper The Harvard Salient between 1998 and 2002.

    Suffice it to say: I was making Lulu's arguments back in college. What does this have to do with anything now? I don't give a shit what he wrote at Harvard as an undergrad two decades ago to draw attention to himself as a kid. Bare minimum, stick to what he has said during his career as a Times columnist.

    You and PP can be pretty funny at times. Above he spends a couple hundred words referring to our violent history and alternate histories he thinks might have been even more violent if not for all the particular violence prescribed by the likes of Douthat and other elite educated right wing idiots. He sees“Liberals” as dupes who are the real problem. He does so just to diminish any credence given to someone who is pointing out how a current public pundit, one who has some power and authority that goes with being hosted by the NYT, developed his political philosophy. PP's knee-jerk reaction which is to Gish gallop around the subject and the reason for that gallop are both quite predictable.

     Referring to the documented history of Douthat you assert:  "What does this have to do with anything now?" you ask, or state as if it is an intellectually defensible rhetorical question. You have said again, as in the recent past, that an  individual’s history means nothing significant about that individual or what they are saying today. Every day, according to you, is a new day which plays out with no reason to see how it got that way and with no purpose served in paying attention to the people who played significant parts in making it as it is. In only a few years Trump's reputation, currently based on being the Trump he has always been, may be rehabilitated by these same smart people who tell the us how to think about today just as they did yesterday, and what to fear tomorrow if we do not twist the world into one guided by their lights. You have recently linked approvingly and multiple times to, and then defended the reputations of Bill Kristol, whom Douthat replaced, and Max Boot, for example. It is apparent that you believe they have something valuable to say today and we should forget the past “value”, and value to whom, of what they pushed for in the past and where they were given space to do their pushing. You bring not so much as a grain of salt to sprinkle on their word salad while you suggest that someone looking critically at their foundational past is being as juvenile as you declare you were as a college student.  I do give a shit what the wannabe thought leaders wrote in the past. Your mileage obviously differs. 

    No, I see the whacked out GOP as the real problem (along w our Russian and Chinese expansionist adversaries. Purity liberals are just a complicating factor at times.

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