Admiral Hornblower in the West Indies

Dyer Dhow

Without warning he would hang out a signal putting the most junior lieutenants in command of their respective ships, and then he would plunge into intricate manoeuvres calculated to turn the anxious substantive captains, looking helplessly on, grey with anxiety -- but those junior lieutenants might some day be commanding ships of the line in a battle on which the destiny of England might depend, and it was necessary to steel their nerves and accustom them to handle ships in dangerous situations. In the middle of sail drill he would signal "Flagship on fire. All boats away." He called for landing parties to storm non-existent batteries on some harmless uninhabited cay, and he inspected those landing parties once they were on shore, to the last flint in the last pistol, and treated excuses with a disregard that made men grind their teeth in exasperation. He set his captains to plan and execute cutting-out expeditions, and he commented mordantly on the arrangements for defence and the methods of attack. He paired off his ships to fight single-ship duels, sighting each other on the horizon and approaching ready to fire the vital opening broadside; he took advantage of calms to set his men to work towing and sweeping in desperate attempts to overtake the ship ahead. He worked his crews until they were ready to drop, and then he devised further tasks for them to prove to them that they had one effort left in them, so that it was doubtful whether "Old Horny" was mentioned more often with curses or with admiration.

-- C.S. Forester, Admiral Hornblower in the West Indies (Boston: Little, Brown, 1958), 157.

Judith Warner on “The Mirrored Ceiling”

Why does this woman -- who to some of us seems as fake as they can come, with her delicate infant son hauled out night after night under the klieg lights and her pregnant teenage daughter shamelessly instrumentalized for political purposes -- deserve, to a unique extent among political women, to rank as so "real"?

Because the Republicans, very clearly, believe that real people are idiots. This disdain for their smarts shows up in the whole way they’ve cast this race now, turning a contest over economic and foreign policy into a culture war of the Real vs. the Elites. It's a smoke and mirrors game aimed at diverting attention from the fact that the party's tax policies have helped create an elite that's more distant from "the people" than ever before. And from the fact that the party's dogged allegiance to up-by-your-bootstraps individualism -- an individualism exemplified by Palin, the frontierswoman who somehow has managed to "balance" five children and her political career with no need for support -- is leading to a culture-wide crack-up. . . .

One of the worst poisons of the American political climate right now, the thing that time and again in recent years has led us to disaster, is the need people feel for leaders they can "relate" to. This need isn't limited to women; it brought us after all, two terms of George W. Bush. And it isn't new; Americans have always needed to feel that their leaders were, on some level, people like them. . . .

There's a fine line between likability and demagoguery. Both thrive upon manipulation and least-common-denominator politics. These days, I fear, this need for direct mirroring -- and thus this susceptibility to all sorts of low-level tripe -- is particularly acute among women, who are perhaps reaching historic lows in their comfort levels with themselves and their choices.