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Strong opinions, weakly held

When utter destitution is no longer an option

This morning I read that former CIA director and Presidental Medal of Freedom winner George Tenet currently holds a professorship at Georgetown University. Yesterday it was reported that St. Bernard Parish might hire MIchael Brown as a consultant to help deal with recovery efforts. There’s no doubt in my mind that if Ken Lay and Jeffrey Skilling don’t get thrown in jail, there’s some think tank, university, or industry assocation that would be happy to put them on the payroll.

What must it be like to have achieved a station in life where destitution is no longer an option? Once you’ve attained a certain level of fame, or notoriety, it is literally impossible to find yourself in the ranks of the unemployable. Indeed, corruption, criminality, incompetence on a grand scale, and rank stupidity cease to become ostacles once one has ascended to a certain station.

What’s odd is that you read about guys who used to be famous professional athletes working as custodians or former rock stars who find themselves back in the ranks of the mundane. Not so for businessmen, politicians, and bureaucrats. You never read about the former Senator who works as a groundskeeper at his country club or the CEO who now works in accounts receivable.

What do we need to do as a society so that fear of shame and ruin motivate our leaders to do better?

Update: Douglas Feith currently has a think tank job and is angling for a faculty position at Georgetown as well. Here’s an accounting of his failures.

3 Comments

  1. Because you don’t necessarily have to be terribly bright to be a rock star or a successful athelete.

  2. You never read about the former Senator who works as a groundskeeper at his country club or the CEO who now works in accounts receivable.

    There was a time when this was the case. In Robert Caro’s biography of LBJ, he relates how Johnson’s ambition (or fear of failure) was spurred in part by seeing how far other congressmen fell when they were out of office. Included was an anecdote about a former representative who became the elevator attendant at the Capitol.

    Because you don’t necessarily have to be terribly bright to be a rock star or a successful athelete.

    ahem You don’t have to be terribly bright to be a CEO or elected official either.

  3. I would put Feith and Tenet in slightly different categories. Whereas Feith is a lifelong operative who failed up repeatedly, Tenet is one who was not outstanding, but at least competent and with a head on his shoulders. Feith is a hack of a certain ideology, nothing more.

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