Wednesday, August 10, 2005


I often make the point that Leftists have big but weak egos. They think they are wonderful but need constant approval from others to reassure themselves of that. So they advocate anything that sounds good at the time regardless of any adverse long-term consequences that it might have.

The converse of that, of course, is that conservatives have no need of all that hoopla. They just quietly get on with lives that they are broadly satisfied with. Ronald Reagan, of course is an excellent example of conservative humility. As Nancy Reagan said: "I think they broke the mold when they made Ronnie. He had absolutely no ego, and he was very comfortable in his own skin; therefore, he didn't feel he ever had to prove anything to anyone." And as Cal Thomas said: "He was hated for precisely the same reasons he was loved. He had convictions and made those without them look weak. ... He knew who he was before he came to office; he did not need the office to complete him." And Eamonn Butler noted Reagan's lack of egotism too:

"The pompous conceit of the media Establishment is parried by Reagan's own epitaph on his administration, which reveals his own complete lack of both pomposity and conceit, tempering his pride in having changed minds and changed events: "Men and women across America for eight years did the work that brought America back. My friends, we did it. We weren't just marking time. We made a difference. We made the city stronger, we made the city freer, and we left her in good hands. All in all, not bad, not bad at all.""

But Jeff Jacoby sums up Ronald Reagan's humility best. A small excerpt:

"But one trait has gone largely unmentioned: His remarkable humility.... But if no man was his better, neither was he the better of any man. That instinctive sense of the equality of all Americans never left him -- not even when he was the one with fame and power. I don't think I have ever heard a story about Reagan in which he came across as arrogant or supercilious. In a number of reminiscences this week, former staffers have described what it was like to work for the president. Several have recalled how, even when they were at the bottom of the pecking order, he never made them feel small or unworthy of notice. To the contrary: He noticed them, talked to them, made them feel special. Reagan climbed as high as anyone in our age can climb. But it wasn't ego or a craving for honor and status that drove him, and he never lost his empathy for ordinary Americans -- or his connection with them"

But, as great an example as Reagan was, one swallow does not make a summer so I thought readers might be interested in another example of an American conservative with vast influence but who nonetheless needs and seeks no praise or fame -- so much so that most people have never heard of him. I quote a few excerpts from an article about him by a Leftist journalist who, in a typically uncomprehending Leftist way, can only see the self-effacing manner of the man as "nutty"!

"If no one knows anything about Bruce Kovner, it is because he likes it that way. Yet the unassuming manner is camouflage for one of the most powerful people in the country, culturally, financially, and politically. Kovner, 60 years old and divorced, manages the largest hedge fund in the world and every year ratchets higher on the Forbes list of the richest Americans.... He's a neoconservative godfather. He is among the backers of the Manhattan Institute and the fledgling right-wing daily the New York Sun.... Most important, Kovner is chairman of the American Enterprise Institute. The right-wing think tank has supplied the government with the most powerful ideas in foreign policy in a generation... This is perhaps Bruce Kovner's signal (and shared) achievement: to underwrite what had been extreme ideas and bring them into mainstream discourse.... Now and then, Kovner's spending is directly political; last year, he spent a lot to re-elect President Bush. But his main interest has been quietly strategic: the idea factory. "Bruce is an intellectual. He understands the world of ideas," says Norman Podhoretz, the legendary editor of Commentary.... But again there is his outward manner: self-erasing. His press has been mostly limited to financial journals.... A socialite who encounters him at the opera is surprised by his schlumpy dress and regular-guy mien: "You'd never know he's a jillionaire." "One of his distinguishing characteristics is humility," says Thomas Carroll, president of the Foundation for Education Reform and Accountability. "If you meet him on the street, you would never know who he was. There's no fanfare, no pomposity, no effort to get people's attention." .... Kovner, over two decades, has underwritten the infrastructure the neocons have used to achieve their current prominence. On the fifth floor of the AEI building, the Project for the New American Century helped lay the ground for the Iraq war .... He plays visionary and psychiatrist to the AEI board. "He's brilliant," says Perle. "He's intellectually rigorous, balanced, and thoughtful.".... I gained the impression that everyone I had talked to gave me: that of a thoughtful, unpretentious, and highly reserved person, a man with a musical voice and a self-effacing manner"

And one of the comments about Kovner that the journalist records is insightful. It is a comment from another whizz in financial trading:

"Kovner's objectivity made him great. "If you can find somebody who is really open to seeing anything, then you have found the raw ingredient of a good trader-and I saw that in Bruce right away." Weymar told me that one of the most important qualities of a trader is ego strength, the self-confidence that allows a person to acknowledge his mistakes and not fall in love with his ideas. "The biggest risk in trading is hubris."

So we see again that a really strong ego leads to humility. It is weak egos who need to boast and cannot admit that they are less than wonderful.


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