I, too, just finished reading the op-ed page of the August 6-7 issue of the Wall Street Journal, and am still scratching my head over Joseph Rago's interview with Eric Cantor in which he says that both Cantor and President Obama suffer from the "narcissism of big differences."
I think - although I'm not sure - that Rago means both men measure their self-worth by adhering to an all-embracing philosophy. For Obama, it's achieving "social justice" by redistributing wealth and increasing the role of government. For Cantor, it's restoring economic prosperity to America by reducing the government's debt and its role.
Rago explains that "Mr. Cantor's aggressive style has earned him the enmity of liberals and most of the D.C. press corps." This caused me, the great literary connoisseur, to recall the opening chapters of Jane Austin's Persuasion. The heroine's father and elder sister are spending their way toward bankruptcy, and are only persuaded with great difficulty to change their ways. Needless to say, the heroine's efforts to promote economy earn her no gratitude.
So I find myself agreeing with Claudia Rosett, who praises Standard & Poor's because it "has finally reduced the spending bacchanal of the U.S. government to a sound bite that anyone can understand..."
| Eric Cantor: new Jane Austen hero? |
Maybe, just maybe, Eric Cantor strikes many people as aggressive because they, like the heroine's father and elder sister in Persuasion, really but really don't like what he's saying, even though it's true. And they hope that, if they make a big enough noise, the electorate won't catch on that he has a point.
All this might have worked several years ago, but Cantor has the wind of the Tea Party at his back. It will be an interesting fall; a year ago, Obama could convene a bipartisan debt commission and then utterly disregard its recommendations. That's unlikely to happen again.