Mea culpa. It turns out that I went off half-cocked about Emma Sullivan and Ruth Marcus a few months ago. In the raised-hackle froth of the moment, I simply didn’t read Marcus’ column closely enough, and I missed two material details about Emma Sullivan’s tweet: first, that she lied about having insulted Governor Sam Brownback to his face (according to Marcus, she did not), and second, that she posted her tweet during a school government trip to the Kansas State Capitol in Topeka.

That was poor moral character, not just immaturity or incivility. It showed that Sullivan was too callow and mendacious, not to mention shallowly partisan, to be trusted in any position of political leadership. The overall tone and content of her Twitter feed, which I follow, suggests the same thing.

More arrogance, petulance and grandiosity in our politics. Lovely. But the Sullivan donnybrook raises an odd question: what the hell is wrong with our politicians and journalists that they allow themselves to be lured into the gutter by a shit-talking partisan high school student, allowing her to scramble up onto the gutter and announce that she has seized the high ground? Teh political stoopid. It’s like watching Robert E. Lee stand at parade rest in front of a greenhorn Connecticut lieutenant and bellow, “Go ahead and take Little Round Top, you insolent bitch, I don’t care! Go ahead, mount that comely basalt plug and stick it up your Yankee ass!”

For the benefit of my ignorant and brainwashed compatriots in the Old Union, and there are more than a few of them in my parts of the country, the old Rebel meme about Robert E. Lee being a true Southern gentleman is no bullshit. Some of the other Confederate generals were incompetent vulgarians, and I doubt I’ll ever say anything as vicious about Jefferson Davis as other Confederate politicians said at the time, but Lee was the real deal.

For that matter, Brownback comes pretty close, and that’s a conservative estimate. Perhaps even everely conservative, as posh doofi are known to say. Manners didn’t die with the Lost Cause, and some of us in the Union have a few. But when I discuss people with manners, I do not discuss Ruth Marcus. She is a passive-aggressive scold whose support can only tarnish the likes of Brownback. Reasonable people of goodwill are rare in American politics, so the few we have should make an effort to distance themselves from Washington authoritarians who get wet disciplining other people’s children in national newspapers. People like Ruth Marcus have a contagious taint.

Eww, that sounds super dirty. I’ll probably be next in line for a scolding for degrading the public discourse. But before I allow that, let me turn the tables. You know what else degrades the public discourse? Impassioned, butthurt pleas to consider the fee-fees of poor public school administrators in these First Amendment disputes. That’s what. Yes, let us think of the “children” and of officious twits with no street smarts for whom the “children” are a convenient pretext to crown themselves kings of their own petty medieval duchies.

Brownback’s staff could have quietly killed the “he blows a lot” stoopid with a short public statement: “It has come to our attention that a high school student who visited the State Capitol as part of a student government group that Governor Brownback addressed posted a crude message on Twitter claiming that she personally confronted the Governor in the Capitol during the visit and accused him of ‘sucking.’ In fact, Governor Brownback confirms that this alleged confrontation never happened, and he trusts the judgment of his fellow Kansans to judge his record as governor for themselves.”

Whom do I kid? That wasn’t how Brownback’s staff dealt with it. Instead of responding to Emma Sullivan as the legal adult that she was and saying, in effect, “well, that sounds stupid, and Governor Brownback’s goal is to maintain a higher political tone than that,” they summoned the administration of Shawnee Mission East High School into the fray. They could have channeled the wit of Harold Macmillan at Prime Minister’s Questions; instead, they channeled the authoritarianism of the Valley Center City Council. The problem was one that, in somewhat more civilized language and phrased as a question, wouldn’t be strange to Parliament, but the solution was uniquely American.

God help us, it is also becoming uniquely British; the source code is being corrupted. But a funny thing happened on the way to servility before our masters in Topeka and Washington: the peons rebelled and refused to bow down to those who would be their prison wardens. And then they wrote a crappy high school play about it. Nah, that bullshit had already been performed a few thousand too many times by insufferably unseasoned actors; but some measure of the old British spirit of calling our officials dirty buggers when they merit it lives in the hearts of Shawnee Mission’s citizens. Maybe we should export it back to the old country, kind of like we sent a bunch of rootstock to France after we destroyed their vineyards with our phylloxera.

Alas, that old spirit of liberty is rather sickly in Versailles-on-the-Potomac. Is it ever. The paper of record in our national capital pays a columnist to opine about the righteousness of parents and school administrators chilling free speech based on the sort of arbitrary standards that the FCC imposes on broadcasters. This shouldn’t be surprising from a member of a class that strove to collectively fellate David Petraeus.

Well, fuck the FCC. Ruth Marcus may reinsert her sniveling servility into the orifice from whence she first drew it. In the same vein, God bless Janusz Kopycinski, the Chicago Transit Authority and the United States of America, and protect them always; that benediction will always befit a free nation infested with bad cops who, on a good day, don’t go home. But I close with a classically British question for Mr. Brownback: Does the governor not agree that the attitude of the columnist and the principal is rubbish worthy of the 1933 Reichstag?

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