PERSPECTIVErna It Ain’t Me ?7rnby Thomas FlemingrnAmerica’s Fortunate SonsrnGeorge W. Bush conies as close as anyone to representingrnthe current American aristocracy. It is not that the Bushesrnare old family or even old money. The family fortunes arernusually traced back to great-grandfather Samuel Bush, a middleweightrnrailroad magnate in Columbus, Ohio. Samuel’s sonrnPrescott raised the fismily to national prominence b’ all ing hisrnfortunes with fellow Yalie (and fellow Bonesman) Averell Harrimanrnand his family with Harriman’s top banker, Bert Walker.rnWith the Harriman connection, it seemed almost natural forrnthe U.S. government to put old Samuel in charge of munitionsrnmanufacturing during World War I, and ever since, the Bushrnfamily has faithfidly represented the interests of what fellow RepublicanrnDwight Eisenhower called the “military-industrialrncomplex.”rnGeorge II has been a blue chip off of George Fs portfolio,rnboth in his loyalty to multinational interests and in his curiousrninability to speak a coherent sentence that has not been rehearsedrna dozen times. As Ann Richards (or her speechwriter)rnsaid so memorably of George Herbert Walker Bush, “He wasrnborn with a silver foot in his mouth.” Perhaps it is a learning disabilit)’;rnperhaps it is the result of being in so privileged a posihonrnthat it is impossible to speak directly of anything. Either way,rnthe Georges “come by it honest,” since Sen. Prescott Bush (asrnGary Wills pointed out some years ago) was almost as incoherentrnas both his son and grandson, and some day the inability tornspeak English will be as convincing a sign of royalty as hemophiliarnor the Habsburg jaw.rnOf course, this is America, where dynasties and aristocraciesrnare forbidden, which is why George I dropped the final “g”rnfrom his present participles and cultivated a taste for checkedrnshirts and bad country music. (Lee Greenwood was his campaignrnsinger!) In fact, George I was a dead ringer for the conservativernsenator whom Andy Griffith tries to turn into a good ol’rnboy at the end of Bndd Schulberg’s A Face in the Crowd. In thernmovie, an honest network employee reveals both Andy and hisrnsenator for the frauds they are. In real life, frauds become TVrnproducers and presidents.rnGeorge II has gone one better in abandoning the presidentialrnchurch (Episcopal) for the decidedly down-market Methodists.rnThis poor-mouth strategy is not a new invention: William Henr)’rnHarrison, scion of a Virginia planter family, staged the firstrnlog-cabin campaign, and some years before Harrison, a patricianrngangster named Publius Claudius Pulcher changed thernspelling of his name to the more popular “Clodius” andrnarranged with a more powerful gangster (one Gains Julius Caesar)rnto get himself adopted into a plebeian family.rnAlthough George II apparentl)^ shares with Bill Clinton a robustrnappetite for common pleasures, poor Clinton has had tornspend his life proving he is not the cracker that his family hasrnproduced since the beginning of time. (If there had been arnClinton in the Garden of Eden, he would have been running arnstill and trying to make time with Eve. “Eorget tiiat ‘knowledgernof good and evil’ stuff, babe, and let me show you how to have arngood time.”)rnDespite the games the’ are forced to pla}’. Bill Clinton, AlrnGore, both Bushes, and all the Kennedy cousins do, in fact, exemplifyrnthe American ruling class of our day as much as thernAdamses and the Roosevelts did in theirs. From John I to Brooksrnand Henrv’ was a “descent from glon” indeed, but now here nearrnso precipitous a decline as the road that went from Adams tornRoosevelt to Kennedy. The Kennedys and Clintons—and, yes,rnthe Bushes—are a far crj’ e’en from the mandarins ridiculed b-rnJoe McCarthv- Dean Acheson may have been a “pompousrndiplomat in striped pants,” but he was a fair imitation of a gentleman.rnNeither Madeleine Albright nor the members of thernBush Cabinet would knov- the meaning of the word.rnHere is the dilemma: EA’er’ society- requires leaders, and (asrnGaetano Mosca and Robert Michels, among others, have explained)rnthe leadership class stamps its mark upon society; yetrnour own leaders—since at least the beginning of the last centuryrn—have been self-seeking, corrupt, and alienated from the culturernof most decent Americans. More recently, our leadersrnhave shown that they are incapable even of/eadnzg—of properlyrnmanaging a small war for example, or of subordinating theirrnlibido dominandi to their libido. We need an aristocracy, but wernhave to settle for Bill Gates and Henry Kissinger, Hillary Clintonrnand Ted Turner.rnReaders of Sir Walter Scott and admirers of Sir Philip Sidneyrnma’ confuse aristocracy with chivalry or with “the gentleman.”rnBut not all aristocracies are chivalrous. Cincinnatus andrnLeonidas the Spartan were not especially gentie people; neitherrnwere William Wallace, Hereward the Wake, Castruecio Castricane,rnor (for that matter) Geronimo, all of whom sacrificedrntheir comforts and risked their lives to defend their people andrnadvance their interests. Chivalry is a fine and noble concept,rnbut it does not define the essence of aristocracy, the plain meaningrnof which is “the rule of the best and bravest.” Even Castiglione,rnthe verv model of the Renaissance courtier, concedesrnthat martial courage is the chief virtue: “I judge the prineipallrnand true profession of a Courtyer ought to be in feates of amies,rnthe which Amies the Courtvers chiefe profession.”rnIn Creek, the key words which we translate as “good,” “best,”rnand “virtue”—agathos, aristos, arete — were all connected withrnmanliness and courage, while bad men are preeminently cowards.rnNietzsche made the point a long time ago, but it is no lessrntrue for Nietzsche having said it. The simplest aristocratic codernis the advice Peleus gave his son Achilles: “Always be the bestrnand fight among the champions in the front ranks.” “SuchrnlO/CHRONICLESrnrnrn