Mickey Kaus has an intriguing discussion of the origins of the pathology of the Guilty Southern White Boys (the N.Y. Times’ Howell Raines, etc.) and “their pernicious continuing effect on American politics.” Kaus largely rejects Andrew Sullivan’s explanation — that these are hicks trying to prove they are not bigots — in favor of Virginia Postrel’s view that the Raines’ of the world reject anything conservative because their thinking was formed at a time when the conservatives in their towns were reprehensible bigots. Both explanations may come into play when it comes to foreign policy. As Michael Lind has shown, throughout our history the south has been a bastion of support for the military and for military action. Thus, the Guilty Southern White Boys may have powerful overlapping reasons to loathe the military and the use of force. Sure, the vanquished local bigots of their youth were “miliatarists.” But so too is the unvanquished culture from which the GSWBs might still be running. While people like Raines may not need to keep distancing themselves from Bull Connor, the need to separate from the more abiding “Cavalier” culture of the south may persist. How else is one to explain the original GSWB, Jimmy Carter?
Kaus also tackles the question of whether Bill Clinton is a GSWB. He concludes that Clinton is not, and points out that Raines hated Clinton. I once read that the Clintons had a very simple explanation for that hatred — the fact that Clinton, not Raines, was the middle-aged southerner in the White House. It is possible, after all, to overthink these things.
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