Follow Up: National Service, Earnestness, Acting

A few things I’ve written about have re-surfaced recently:

1. National Service. Here’s my Marketplace commentary on the issue. Jonah Goldberg wrote a column for the L.A. Times blasting national service and then chats with Peter Beinart in this Bloggingheads video about the topic (among other things). The stunningly articulate Beinart, who I’ve long been impressed with, challenges Goldberg for conflating the more extreme opinion of compulsory national service with the more mainstream opinion advocating just incentive-based national service.

2. Earnestness. Here’s my post questioning whether too much earnestness comes at the cost of a sense of humor. Maureen Dowd, who in general isn’t half as funny as she thinks she is, today asks whether Barack Obama’s "chilly earnestness" and humorlessness is a political weakness if it suggests an over-calculated quality. She notes that Bill Clinton has womanizing, John McCain has being an asshole, George Bush has the constant struggle with the English language — all aspects of their characters people can parody. It reminds me of the point from the memoir Clinton & Me, written by a humor speechwriter in the Clinton White House, who said that most people’s public persona are made up of a handful of obvious facts, and if you concede the obvious you gain back credibility while trading nothing.

3. Acting vs. Planning. Here’s my post responding to Cal Newport that "just get started" is bad advice. Cal responds by drawing distinctions between "goals" and "experiments," "habits" and "achievements."

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