The Corner

It’s Only False Emotion

Is this time of year now established as Blubbing Speaker Season? Newt Gingrich turned on the waterworks Friday:

But I identify my mother with being happy, loving life, having a sense of joy in her friends, but … late in her life she ended up in a long-term-care facility … Alzheimer’s, which I did with Bob Kerrey for three more years, and my whole emphasis on brain science comes indirectly from dealing with the real problems of real people in my family,” the former House Speaker continued, at moments stopping to cry …

If I were to disgrace myself in public with such a maudlin display of bogus emotion, my own sainted mother would return from the Afterlife wielding her big old cast-iron frying-pan and whack me upside the head with it.

We’ve been here before, though: just precisely a year ago, in fact — hence my opening question. From the January 7, 2011 broadcast of Radio Derb:

[New House Speaker John] Boehner’s repeated displays of public blubbing are unsightly, undignified, and unmanly. What on earth must the world think, seeing a grown man sniveling and dabbing his eyes on becoming Speaker — third in the chain of command under the President and Vice-President? For crying out loud, Mr. Speaker — no, as you were: for goodness’ sake, Mr. Speaker, this is the Congress of the United States of America, not a twelve-step program for compulsive tanners. Show a little Republican gravitas, dammit.

The sheer embarrassing unsightliness of the thing aside, all this weeping betrays a poorly developed sense of proportion. If you burst into tears when Nancy Pelosi hands you the Speaker’s gavel, what do you have left when our enemies nuke Indianapolis, or the dollar is trading at par with the Laotian kip, or your wife leaves you, or the doctor tells you you have terminal cancer?

That is the essence of sentimentality — lavishing more emotion on a thing than it deserves; and sentimentality has been acknowledged by all serious thinkers to be a species of folly. Dostoyevsky went further,identifying sentimentality with wickedness.

Folly will do for now, though. Watching John Boehner working his hanky, I found it hard to avoid the thought that we have a fool for House Speaker. Well, it wouldn’t be the first time. By any means.

I closed that RD broadcast with this classic pop song from the just-pre-rock’n’roll era — one of the great mid-20th-century voices, now alas forgotten. I particularly refer the Speaker and ex-Speaker to the second verse:

When waking from a bad dream

Don’t you sometimes think it’s real?

But it’s only false emotions

That you feel …

Most Popular


The Gun-Control Debate Could Break America

Last night, the nation witnessed what looked a lot like an extended version of the famous “two minutes hate” from George Orwell’s novel 1984. During a CNN town hall on gun control, a furious crowd of Americans jeered at two conservatives, Marco Rubio and Dana Loesch, who stood in defense of the Second ... Read More
Law & the Courts

Obstruction Confusions

In his Lawfare critique of one of my several columns about the purported obstruction case against President Trump, Gabriel Schoenfeld loses me — as I suspect he will lose others — when he says of himself, “I do not think I am Trump-deranged.” Gabe graciously expresses fondness for me, and the feeling is ... Read More
Politics & Policy

Students’ Anti-Gun Views

Are children innocents or are they leaders? Are teenagers fully autonomous decision-makers, or are they lumps of mental clay, still being molded by unfolding brain development? The Left seems to have a particularly hard time deciding these days. Take, for example, the high-school students from Parkland, ... Read More
PC Culture

Kill Chic

We live in a society in which gratuitous violence is the trademark of video games, movies, and popular music. Kill this, shoot that in repugnant detail becomes a race to the visual and spoken bottom. We have gone from Sam Peckinpah’s realistic portrayal of violent death to a gory ritual of metal ripping ... Read More