Politics is a Country Club: Mubarak/Clinton Edition

Hillary Clinton, March 10, 2009: “I really consider [Egyptian] President and Mrs. Mubarak to be friends of my family. So I hope to see him often here in Egypt and in the United States.”

If that seems shocking, consider it a bitter reminder that a great deal of politics exists precisely to protect social order already in place. Consider how entrenchment operates, and how difficult it is to change direction, especially procedural direction.

Consider the fact that President Mubarak revealed in yesterday’s speech that he intends to stay in office until September — ostensibly as a “figurehead” to ensure that everything “goes smoothly” when the government changes hands.

Consider the fact that when Honduran President Zelaya dug in his heels and refused to leave the Honduran office when his term expired under that country’s constitution, and when his countrymen ousted him per the terms of the Constitution under which they had elected him, much of the world, including American President Obama, jumped to call it a “coup.”

Consider how unwilling much of America is to end Social Security even when we know the numbers don’t add up. The system is entrenched and that’s what we know.

What makes a government work is people’s faith that it will work. If people believe their government to be untrustworthy they will seek extralegal remedies and self-help. Faith in government keeps the system ticking even when the government misbehaves.

The Clintons and the Mubaraks are friends. What these two families share in common overshadows their differences enough that they are friends.

Politics is a country club. The purpose of an energetic public — and particularly of a strong fourth estate — is to keep the country club as small and as responsive as possible.