My prejudice against these Best And Brightest types is perhaps misunderstood. I do not automatically despise every young Ivy Leaguer. J.P. Freire graduated from Cornell, and he's a good guy. Helen Rittelmeyer graduated from Yale, and she's even better.
What I hate, however, is the disrespectful Best And Brightest tendency toward know-it-all-ism, as if high SAT scores and four years at a school where tuition is $40,000 a year entitles them to pole-vault past the dues-paying journeyman career stage and start lecturing everybody else.
The Internet facilitates such obnoxious precocity. Excuse me for resorting to the when-I-was-your-age argument, but before the Internet, not everyone had access to a national readership. Pixels are free, whereas publishing in print costs money and so, in the pre-digital age, it was a very rare thing for a callow parvenu or arriviste to gain access to the kind of punditry platform that National Review's blog affords Salam:
As regular readers, I'm a huge fan of Tim Lee and his concept of a bottom-up approach to understanding and improving society. And so I was struck by the final paragraph of Republican consultant Alex Castellanos's New York Times op-ed on the Republican revival . . .You can read the whole thing, but what caught my eye was how Salam begins with the trademark know-it-all-ism of the Best And Brightest. Castellanos is even older than me and was working on big-time campaigns when Reihan Salam was still pooping in Pampers.
Pause to contemplate what's happening here. In a rare reversal of its usual policy, the New York Times gives a Republican a chance to explain how Republicans won an election -- and not merely won it, but did the Godzilla-through-Tokyo stomp to an 18-point landslide. In response, Reihan Salam feels compelled to piss in Castellanos's cornflakes with his snooty oblique criticism, to the effect that Castellanos has offered an imperfect interpretation of McDonnell's Virginia gubernatorial campaign.
It's a punk move, and betrays the ungodly arrogance that inevitably overtakes young people who've become accustomed to being petted and praised for how precociously clever they are.
Young people, especially the most promising young people, must be chastised and disciplined if ever they are to develop to their fullest potential. This puerile Douthatian know-it-all tendency toward omniscient punditry -- "I've got a Harvard diploma! I know everything!" -- must be rigorously suppressed.
Intelligence and wisdom are two different things. There are plenty of bright fools (and I may be one of them) just as there are those people of less stellar aptitude who, by patient toil and study, eventually eclipse the adolescent glory of the Best And Brightest in the same manner that Aesop's tortoise beat the hare.
Much as I love the hierarchy-flattening effects of the Internet -- affording a guy with a Blogspot platform the chance to whack David Brooks, who certainly needs whacking and needs it badly -- there are some hierarchies that we should hesitate to level. Chief among these is the deference that the young traditionally owe to their elders.
Remember that I am a father of six, including a 20-year-old daughter and two teenage boys.
Are my kids bright and promising? You betcha.
Do I let my kids get away with thinking that their youthful potential entitles them to special treatment and unmerited praise? Hell, no.
If I don't indulge my own kids in their (arguably hereditary) tendency to think they're God's gift to the world, why should I sit silent while Reihan Salam presumes to lecture Alex Castellanos?
Shut up and get me a cup of coffee. I got ties older than you, kid.