"Henry," she cut him off. "He'll never tell the truth. You settle it. Here's the deal: Stanton and I have this argument about social programs. He's a sucker for inspirational leaders. He figures you can parse genius, analyze it, break it down and teach others how to do it. My feeling is: Gimme a break. Only God can make a tree. You can't teach inspiration. What you do is come up with a curriculum. Something simple, direct. Something you don't need Mother Teresa to make happen -- and that's what you replicate."
"But you can't sell anything if the teacher is a dud," he said. "You've gotta figure out a way to make great teachers. If you can really liberate them, reward them for creativity, they'll make their own programs. Henry, you ever see a curriculum inspire wonder? This is an argument I always win."
"Henry," she interrupted, "tell us about the librarian. Kind of inspirational, the governor said?"
"Well, she was . . ." They were, I knew, listening very closely now. It was showtime. "She was a pretty typical library bureaucrat."
"Hah!" Susan Stanton snorted.
"But it didn't matter -- she didn't have to be very good -- because they wanted it so bad," I continued. Having allowed her the battle, I wasn't about to take sides in the war. "See, your argument is moot when hunger is there. If everyone wanted to read, or whatever, as much as those folks did today, social policy would be a walk in the park. But you both know that's not where the problem is. It's creating the hunger for nutritious things when all they know is junk food."
"And that's where inspiration comes in," Stanton said.
"Watch out," she said. "He's going to do his Lee Strasberg number on you now."
"Tell me I'm wrong," he said. "They should teach teachers, psychologists, social workers -- all the people who do community stuff -- like they teach actors, make them aware of their bodies, how to project, how to emote."
"We already have a nation of bad actors," she said.
Okay. It was a set piece, and kind of goofy at that. But it was about policy, not politics -- not tactics, not gossip. They cared about it.
Tags: Joe Klein, Anonymous, Primary Colors