Ross Douthat's Quest For The Tragic

Larison reacts to Ross's op-ed with, well, a classic blog-post:

Perhaps one reason there is not much interest in exploring the tragic side of our politics is that Nemesis is ever-elusive. The ambition and pride of political leaders may lead to disaster, but the men whose ambition and pride fueled the calamity escape relatively unscathed. We have an abundance of hubris in our politics, and there are more than enough sins that invite punishment, but unlike the famous figures of tragedy our leaders never answer for what they have done.

It is always “History” that is supposed to judge them. In the meantime, they walk away, and often enough they head off to a comfortable retirement. They remain unaccountable and surrounded by a small army of revisionists just waiting to rehabilitate their reputations in a few years’ time.

When that changes, perhaps we will have more complicated storytelling that does not simply vilify the people responsible for a great crime. However, since there will apparently be no accountability for our leaders in the real world, we may have to settle for the inadequate stories we have now.