Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Imagine my surprise . . .

Confession time: When my Newsweek comes on Tuesdays, I tend to give it an initial flip-through back-to-front. So, it only took turning a couple of pages to come upon "Atlas Hugged," an article about Ayn Rand's new biography, Ayn Rand and the World She Made, by Ayn Heller.

How cool is that, I thought, yesterday being the release date for the book.

Child of an academic that I am, I looked for the author's name and credentials and found: "Mark Sanford is the governor of South Carolina."

I actually sat and stared at the tag, right there at the bottom of page 55. Was this a weird exploitation of misbegotten celebrity or what? Of course, maybe the man writes and publishes regularly . . .

I found one other article by Mark Sanford. "Obama's Symbolism Here" was an op-ed piece he published in The State, a Columbia newspaper, on January 11, 2008, shortly before the S.C. presidential primary. And he's published one book, The Trust Committed to Me, which appears to be out of print. Sanford has a B.A. in Business from Furman and an M.B.A. from The Darden School at U.Va. Such an academic business background would certainly explain his personal interest in Ayn Rand, the patron saint of free market individualism, but it doesn't immediately make him the most qualified person to write an article attached to a new, scholarly biography of her for a national news magazine.

Of course, I read the article, and I was amused--not so much at the article, as at myself.  It was impossible for me to read what Mark Sanford had written about Ayn Rand, particularly taking Rand gently to task for her theory that man is perfectible, without both gentle amazement and amusement, a feeling that one foot had stepped through the Looking Glass, that reality had tipped gently toward the absurd. It was impossible not to think that this particular man's words were published in this particular magazine, not because of his education or his experience, but because he'd had an extramarital affair with a Brazilian woman, partly paid for by the taxpayers of South Carolina.

Notoriety, it seems, may have become our only essential credential.

But then, I guess if you need to sell magazines, a disgraced governor who is most likely facing impeachment, does make for a natural go-to guy.

FYI: Interesting op-ed piece on Afghanistan's second round of elections in today's New York Times by an extremely qualified contributor.

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