Noonan with the post of the day.
I think everyone in politics now has been affected by the linguistic sleight-of-hand, which began with the Kennedys in the 1960s, in which politics is called "public service," and politicians are allowed and even urged to call themselves "public servants." Public servants are heroic and self-denying. Therefore politicians are heroic and self-denying. I think this thought has destabilized them.
People who charge into burning towers are heroic; nuns who work with the poorest of the poor are self-denying; people who volunteer their time to help our world and receive nothing in return but the knowledge they are doing good are in public service. Politicians are in politics. They are less self-denying than self-aggrandizing. They are given fame, respect, the best health care in the world; they pass laws governing your life and receive a million perks including a good salary, and someone else--faceless taxpayers, "the folks back home"--gets to pay for the whole thing. This isn't public service, it's more like public command. It's not terrible--democracies need people who commit politics; they have a place and a role to play--but it's not saintly, either.(You know, if things continue to trend this way politics will become like rap in the late '80's. Remember when almost every single rap song's main subject was how great its writer/performer was? Like EVERY song could be summarized thus: "I'm the best."
Then in the early 90's and De La Soul and Digital Underground and some others ascended with something new and beautiful and wonderful- a sort of hippy mystical sensibility that somehow worked in this format!- and then Gangsta' rap quashed it, murdered it, like Annakin destroyed the younglings... sob...)