Most of us, when emerging from intellectual childhood into intellectual adolescence, pass through a phase of earnest search for certainty about the world. For instance, George W. Bush recently read a book (by a Mr. Sharansky, we are told) and enjoyed a revelation. He discovered, as he informed us in his Inaugural Address, that he is a Menshevik, with Zionist leanings. This is not too surprising. Verbiage about magical crusades for humanity has a powerful appeal for adolescents. The verbiage discovered by Bush Jr. is in the air we breathe and has been ever since Marx, taking his cue from the Gettysburg Address, conflated the Declaration of Independence of the free American states with the power-friendly Declaration of the Rights of Man.

Objectively considered, without superstitious awe of his office or sentimentalism about “good intentions,” Bush is a liar and a criminal. Nothing surprising about that either. That is commonplace for heads of government. What is unusual in this case is that the head of government is an ignorant fool and a spoiled brat. We have entered into the stage of imperial decadence in which a clueless inheritor of the throne is a tool of his courtiers, though, like all courtiers, they must occasionally endure an outbreak of petulant self-assertion or manage a tangent of eccentricity by their lord.

The Framers and ratifiers of the federal Constitution were hardly conversant with the concept of “personality,” but they were highly conversant with the histories of empires and monarchies and how rulers’ defects of character had introduced distortions into the state. But about the only consideration of character that came into their view in regard to the president was that he might become too ambitious and employ his considerable powers to the detriment of the public. This was not too worrisome since it could hardly be thought that the man who would emerge from the electoral process could be other than one long and widely known for integrity, patriotism, and exceptional services to his country. The Union would not be held hostage to accidents of birth.

The Founders’ assumption held true until 1836, when Martin Van Buren demonstrated that one could become president merely by being a politician, by working the system and cultivating the support of his popular predecessor. Expansion of the patronage and the electorate had brought the methods of Aaron Burr’s Tammany Hall to national politics. Lincoln nailed down the point with a vengeance by becoming president with 39 percent of the vote and hardly any record of public service at all. Presidents have since occasionally been men of distinction and service, but the general trend has been downhill. ~Clyde Wilson, The Old Republic

Dr. Wilson is correct in his comments on the people’s worship of the president as a celebrity and on the adolescent mind of the current president. It will be of interest that Prof. Lukacs also observed and decried both in Democracy and Populism, even seeing the same puerility and unserious character in Reagan that he sees in Mr. Bush. That accusation of superficiality and immaturity would surely anger Dr. Wilson’s Reagan follower even more that Dr. Wilson’s thoughtful remarks about the emptiness of Mr. Reagan’s “legacy” and the need to abandon such “legacies,” but they are all part of the same problem: celebrity politicians cannot help but be shallow and immature to some extent, as they are here to entertain us and it is by the surface appearance and style that celebrities are judged.

As long as we need to have politicians we venerate and can be enthusiastic about, as if we were a throng of cult devotees or screaming groupies rather than sober, rational people, we will have the most vacuous, insipid and superficial rulers whose chief duty is to please the crowd and assuage fears. The therapeutic state is here, and politicians have become the equivalent of glorified “self-help” gurus (the last thing they would counsel, of course, is any sort of self-reliance, since this would make them redundant).