You know what’s irritating? Watching the political class celebrate its own sacrifice and “pubic service” all the time. Really, it’s a form of snobbery; the notion that working on policy or social issues for Washington is more worthwhile than computer programming in Rhode Island or truck driving in Nebraska.
John F. Kennedy’s silly “ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country” has been religiously repeated by politicians my entire life, including at the recent Democratic National Convention. But Americans are free to demand all kinds of things of their country — that it uphold the law or put up a new stop sign, for instance — without any obligation to do public service or volunteer to help save the sage grouse. They certainly have no duty to ask politicians, “Hey, what can I do for you?”
Glorifying the public sector — a practice found nowhere in the Founding documents — has transformed mere work into the great sacrifice of “public service.” Even politicians act as if they’ve given up all their earthly possessions and gone a mission to Burundi when they’re actually moving to a condo in Capitol Hill.
Most Americans would probably agree that soldiers who put themselves in mortal danger sacrifice. Joe Biden, on the other hand, has “sacrificed” nothing by living on the public coffers for 40-plus years. He’s attained power and fame. It’s more than likely the vice president prefers celebrity and influence to toiling in comparative obscurity, even if such a life provided him with more material wealth. The self-proclaimed “middle-class Joe,” made a choice, not a sacrifice. So spare us.
To a lesser extent, the same goes for public school teachers, TSA agents, and other “public servants” — some of whom are excellent at their jobs and deserve better pay and others of whom are abysmal at their work. Like a landscaper, chef, or an insurance professional, “public servants” are compensated for their work, and despite the endless grousing about that pay, they enjoy numerous advantages.
The same definitely goes for Hillary Clinton.
Sacrifice is the act of surrendering something of value for the sake of something else that is regarded as more important or worthy. It is the latter part of this definition that matters most. Example: Democrats are hyper-focused on Hillary’s career in helping children,” though many of us believe leaving children alone would be greatest public service Democrats could ever bestow on the American people. “Public service” always seems to align with liberal activism these days.
After watching the DNC, for example, Steven Cohen, the executive director of Columbia University’s Earth Institute, got very excited about the prospects of another (imaginary) golden age of “public service.” He defined this as “giving your own time and effort to make your community, nation and world a better place.” It’s admirable to volunteer to better your community. Yet you’ll no doubt be blown away when you learn his characterization of “public service” entails doing a bunch of stuff progressives find meaningful.
This always seems to be the case. “One of the things I think I can bring to the presidency,” Barack Obama explained in 2008, “is to make government and public service cool again.” Liberals are always trying to make public service “cool again” because “public service” is a way to grow the state and further the mission. Trust me, if public service meant advocating that Americans should embrace their civil rights and own a handgun, it would quickly become uncool.
So, with that in mind, here’s Mara Liasson at NPR, writing about Hillary’s speech at the DNC:
Yes, she sweats the details of policy because it matters to her and yes, she cares more about the ‘service’ part of public service more than the ‘public’ part, but voters looking for a revealing insight to help them relate to her didn’t get one.
When one considers the power-hungry, pitiless ambition of the Clintons, you just have to shake your head when reading the myth of her selfless “public service” (emphasis on the service!). The entire convention lineup attempted to pin her biography on a few months of pro bono work on children’s issues, rather than all the ruthless ladder-climbing necessary to gather her immense power and riches. She has “sacrificed” nothing. She has made choices.
Now, after a Gold Star father called out Donald Trump, while brandishing a Constitution at the DNC, for his comments about Muslims, the issue of “sacrifice” came up, as well. Setting aside the broader implications of the debate — worthy of discussion, no doubt — it was interesting to hear Trump answer George Stephanopoulos’ question about what he had given up for this country:
I think I’ve made a lot of sacrifices. I work very, very hard. I’ve created thousands and thousands of jobs, tens of thousands of jobs, built great structures. I’ve had tremendous success. I think I’ve done a lot.
Most reasonable people would, at best, consider these achievements rather than sacrifices. So if the point is to embarrass Trump for attacking a dead soldier’s parents, bravo. But is “sacrifice” a prerequisite to public office? Has Hillary Clinton – or Bill, or Obama, or W. — sacrificed more for their country?
Along with everything else, we can judge Trump on his shady business dealings and bankruptcies. But the wealthy, inadvertently or not, often create economic conditions that help provide for many people. That, no doubt, includes a number of children. It is no less honorable or patriotic to live in the private sector, pay your taxes, and raise your family than to spend a lifetime figuring out how to exercise state power. There are many reasons not to support Trump or Clinton. Their respective “sacrifice” in the name of “public service” is not one of them.