Quote of the Week…

From Gary Wills’ memoir Outside Looking in: Adventures of an Observer, reviewed by Michael McDonald:

“Politicians live for contact with people. They lose the gift for contemplation, or research, or simple reading. Being alone with a book is a way to die for many of them.”

  • aquifer

    Those are the kind of politicians who will get elected under the current systems. Strengthening party funding could enable the parties to promote people who can think as well as press flesh. Or just run a tight ship like Sinn Fein where the party brand is all.

  • wee buns

    Not familiar with the author, but the quote is meaty.

    Any chance of a quick summary of how he qualifies it?

    I would imagine it’s true that politics requires an extrovert leaning personality.

    Like the adage of ‘power corrupts’ perhaps ‘politics abases’.

  • Shallow but then its about politicians it doesn’t need to be deep. In fact if there were any depth it wouldn’t be about politicians. I liked it.

  • Mick Fealty

    McDonald’s review is quite good. Wills apparently notes that Nixon was probably the best prepared individual President of the modern era, for all the good it did him:

    “He [Wills] describes his impressions of various presidents: Nixon “was not the cartoon figure of liberal myth” but rather “an intellectually serious and prepared candidate”; George H. W. Bush, however, seemed “devoid of personal reading memories.” Wills seems most impressed with Jimmy Carter, in large part because of Why Not the Best?, a campaign book that Carter had written that “had a precision that comes from clear thinking.””

  • ” Wills seems most impressed with Jimmy Carter, in large part because of Why Not the Best?, a campaign book that Carter had written that “had a precision that comes from clear thinking.””

    This would be the one term (failed) President who really made a mess of his presidency? I recall a very embarrassing rescue attempt, I’m pretty sure it was his watch. Not exactly a glowing recommendation although in later years he travelled and made some difference I think.

  • Mick Fealty

    That, I think, is part of the point Pip. Worth reading the reveiw as a whole…

  • Mick Fealty

    I’m tempted, if only to find what other little gems there might be. Carter, clear thinking eh, A pity none of us saw the best of him until he left office.

  • Nunoftheabove


    In his 2006 “Peace Not Apartheid” book, Carter advised that the mistake of Israel is to have moved away from God and the prophets and toward secularism. Better yet, he shared this wisdom with the Israeli leadership.

    Shastastic clarity !

  • Nun

    Oh well in that case he is clearly doomed! actually I would not say that Israel have turned away from God they have a large and growing fundamentalist Jewish population and some of the more liberal Jews are very uneasy about that.

  • tuatha

    Gary Wills was a Rockefeller booster in 1968, then a neocon who went on to damn Raygun as soft on communism and Shrub as insufficiently bellicose, sort of a cerebal PJ O’Rourke though the latter at least had the decency to call himself a Republican party Reptile whilst loathing them.

  • wee buns

    Ah I did not notice the review on the red-click.

    Yes he says ex-politicians make for bad academics. Why? Because they don’t know what to do when their stock of anecdotes runs out. Hmmm sounds about right.


    According to this review the whole deal with Willis is that he’s an oxymoron. A conservative who is really a liberal; an insider who considers himself an outsider (hence the book title) and ‘portrays himself as an outsider because he thinks that he is not easily categorized’ ….but a ‘cerebral PJ O’Rourke’ will do grand. The years must have changed him as he’s a Distributist now too.

  • Mick Fealty

    Oxymoron, there’s a discussion about that word in there too if I recall correctly?

  • wee buns

    Oxymoron: Has been misused as meaning ‘contradiction’ as opposed to the true meaning, paradox?

  • If you want a politician with a hinterland then read “My Secret Planet” by Denis Healey; and he read a few books along the way.

  • wee buns

    Wills blames Buckley for ‘poisening the general currency’ of oxymoron with his ‘intelligent liberal is an oxymoron’’ remark…. I suppose in the hinterland of norn iron an equivilant to that = tranquil terrorists.
    But for precise oxymoron ‘police force’ is one, which is why they probably had to change the name.

  • Crubeen


    Their inability to read is perhaps matched only by their inability to speak in other then cliches and then only in cliches approved by the Party. One perhaps leads on from the other … let not politics be sullied by one original thought.