Image: As a surprise moderate, Justice Souter was also known for hating Washington.
Question: What do Malcolm Gladwell, George W. Bush and Justice David H. Souter all have in common?
Some months ago, a commentator here observed that an affinity for the work of Gladwell, a former science writer for The Washington Post, marks the mind of the pseudo-intellectual. Indeed, the best-selling author explains surprising and unseen patterns of the world in the wonderfully accessible style of Steven Levitt, whose Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything (2005) also reached popularity among the moderately bright and unbearably pretentious. With aplomb, Levitt could explain the underlying mechanics of chaos theory to a retard. Gladwell could teach a monkey to drive.
Looking for some mind candy to read on spot, I peruse the bookstore this weekend to pass a rainy day without lacing my coffee with whiskey and making a tour of the Orange Line corridor Irish pubs. Ever so helpful, the salesgirls wish not only to sell and up-sell but to discuss. For one unattractive but enthusiastic young woman, there is no better way to digest Malcolm Gladwell than to listen to his prose in spoken-word form. If I could, I would pee on her. For one pretty young redhead, however, there is a right way and a wrong way to appreciate Malcolm Gladwell. Which of his earlier works do I appreciate the most?
The woman brushes her hair behind her ear and smiles in a way that cannot be misunderstood. Were I to buy two copies of Outliers: The Story of Success (2008)—one for me and one to donate to the public library—she would blow me. It’s been several years since I read The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make A Big Difference (2000) but Blink (2005) seems too likely an answer, the former mathematical and more theoretical and the latter practical and insightful, a window into our animal minds.
I blink. The Tipping Point proves to be the wrong answer and there would be no oral sex—which brings me to George W. Bush, the 43rd president of the United States. There was no president in recent history so much a product of intellectualism and East Coast privilege but also none that rebelled so much against the label, restyling himself as a moron from Texas with a proclivity for simple speech and a penchant for brush-clearing. The son of a one-term president and grandson of a U.S. senator, Bush mimicked his brother, himself a U.S. governor, to brand the Bush men as—if not outliers—the ultimate Washington outsiders, no denizens of the District, no products of privilege.
Bush hated Washington so much he spent entire months in office on vacation, working at the Crawford, Texas, ranch he referred to as the “Western White House”—which brings me now to Justice Souter, the 105th justice of the United States Supreme Court, a Yankee from New Hampshire who professed to have “the world’s best job in the world’s worst city.” As the Post reminds us, the surprise liberal on the court, nominated by the elder Bush, proved to be no liberal but a dying political phenomenon in this country—the moderate New England republican. He spent his summers haunting the White Mountains of his beloved home state.
The more perspicacious reader now wonders how Gladwell, Bush and Souter share a connection. We understand that things connect to other things in unseen patterns, the entire globe itself one system in a system of systems. We understand chaos theory, the idea that a butterfly flapping its wings in northern Virginia—within a deterministic system—causes a traffic accident in Southwest D.C. or a rape in Silver Spring, Md. But what do these three men all share in common?
Posted by M@ at 1:49 PM