- The Washington Times - Friday, June 13, 2008

In the land of the blind, so the ancient philosopher reminds us, the one-eyed man is king. In our own time, the ignorant, the unaware and the witless ride high.

This is largely the intimidating work of a runaway media, taken over by untutored consultants, marketing men armed only with ignorance and Powerpoint presentations. Every dunce with a laptop computer feels empowered to snuff out the dying light.

This is making it difficult for the search committees, both Democratic and Republican, assigned to find suitable running mates for Barack Obama and John McCain. Nearly every prospect has something in his past - a little learning, accomplishment in the arts, an example of religious faith - that demands disqualification.

The Internet is buzzing with the “news” that Bobby Jindal, the fresh governor of Louisiana, observed an exorcism as a student at Brown University and wrote about it without mockery. This is supposed to consign the governor, born into a Hindu family from his parents’ native India and later a devout convert to Roman Catholicism, to irrelevance. (A believing Christian is the scariest figure in the secular pantheon of horror, hate and fear.) Mr. Jindal wrote about his experience for the New Oxford Review, which one blogger describes as “a serious right-wing Catholic journal” (irony not intended) and not only did he not make fun of the participants in the exercise but described his own experience as possibly “a personal encounter with a demon.”

Such credulity is embarrassing, and probably disqualifying, particularly for a graduate of Brown University (which is trying mightily to live down its Baptist origins) and for a callow Rhodes Scholar who had been accepted at both Yale Law School and Harvard Medical School when he wrote the essay. “Reading the article leaves no doubt that Jindal … was completely serious about the encounter,” reports the Web site Talking Points Memo. “He even said the experience ‘reaffirmed’ his faith.” Didn’t the boy learn anything in the Ivy League?

On the Democratic side, Jim Webb, the junior senator from Virginia, is a hot prospect for sharing the ticket with Barack Obama. A decorated Marine in Vietnam, the father of a Marine in Iraq, Mr. Webb would give Mr. Obama, who consorts with an unrepentant terrorist who plotted to plant bombs in America while Mr. Webb was taking fire in Vietnam, a little cover with the ordinary working-stiff Americans who are so suspicious of what Sen. Obama, with or without a flag pin, may be up to. But Mr. Webb, a literate man with a knowledge and actual appreciation of the history of his country, has some ‘splainin’ to do to the Obamaniacs, many of whom would have to hold their noses to vote for a soldier.

Jim Webb, the proud descendant of Confederate soldiers, makes no apology for his inheritance, an inheritance that has been a guiding light for the American military since the founding of the republic. The dull and the ignorant, ignorant of what they rail against, see only evil and treason where there was gallantry, bravery and sacrifice. Those examples survive among the highest American traditions of military service. The dull and the ignorant, incapable of understanding complicated history, defame gallantry, bravery and love of kith and kin as a defense of slavery, “the peculiar institution” first brought to these shores by New England sailing families. (Gen. P.G.T. Beauregard, who commanded the Confederate line at First Manassas and wrote well-regarded battle histories after the war, estimated that only 1 in 20 Confederate soldiers owned slaves.)

But the ignorant demand stereotypes and history reduced to fantasy. The revisionist Robert E. Lee, Mr. Webb observed in his 2004 book, “Born Fighting: How the Scots-Irish Shaped America,” is typical of the uninformed calumny heaped on the memory of the Southern soldier. “The greatest disservice on this count has been the attempt by these revisionist politicians and academics to defame the entire Confederate army in a move than can only be termed the Nazification of the Confederacy.”

The vice presidency may be “the most insignificant office ever the invention of man contrived” (John Adams) and “not worth a pitcher of warm spit” (John Nance Garner). Or it may not. But interesting scholars certainly need not apply.

— Wesley Pruden is editor emeritus of The Times.

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