All my days I was raised among the wise, and I discovered that there is nothing better for a person than silence. (Mishna Avot)
The silence of the wise is becoming; it is even more so for fools. (Talmud Pesachim)
Train your tongue to say “I don’t know,” lest you get caught in an embellishment. (Talmud Brachot)
Murphy’s Law and its many corollaries are always good for a grim chuckle. Whatever can go wrong will go wrong, it states. Oddly enough, I have my own Murphys lore, as I have only ever been snubbed by two public figures, and both were named Murphy. The first was Bob Murphy, the Hall of Fame baseball announcer for the New York Mets over three decades. I ran into Bob at a hotel bar in Cincinnati circa 1995. The Mets players were staying at the hotel, so I drifted into the bar to shake a few hands and I saw Bob sitting there, nursing a drink and watching some utterly insignificant midseason ballgame on the TV screen.
“Mister Murphy,” I said. “What a pleasure to meet you. I grew up in New York City and I spent my childhood listening to your wonderful broadcasts.” This was not a blubbering kid, but a mature 35-year-old man.
“Can’t you see I’m watching the game?”
In 2005, I thought I might have better luck with Mike Murphy, the Republican campaign consultant, when I met him on the Weekly Standard cruise. I introduced myself as a writer who had been published in the Standard as well as contributing regularly to The American Spectator. He said he could talk to me, but not just then, because he had to send out an urgent letter over the Internet. For the next three or four days, whenever we passed each other he avoided making eye contact. Well, like my Granddad said, I’m not the type to be spit in the face and think that it’s raining.
That said, I have watched Michael Murphy’s career with interest. He has accomplished some meaningful things working for Republicans, not least when he helped Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger win that office in California. Comedian and talk-show host Dennis Miller is an admirer of Murphy, has hired him occasionally to write some witty lines about political matters and even uses him as a substitute when Miller takes a day off from the radio gig. In all these roles, Murphy is always adequate and often engaging. But one vibe comes through all the time: his trade in stock is to know all the answers about politics.
Now he has been made to look very foolish, with an off-mike conversation by Mike turning out to be on-mike. He was the other guest on the Chuck Todd Show along with Peggy Noonan. They offered the requisite optimistic platitudes during the official interview, until Todd cut to a commercial. Then they lapsed into the hardboiled banter that marks the self-conscious insider. Within a few lines of pursy persiflage, they managed to dismiss Sarah Palin, John McCain and the Republican Presidential chances in 2008.
It’s all over, they pontificated, and it is all over. Their folly, that is. All over town. Now everyone knows that these Republican solons have thrown in their towels before the nomination is even official.
Hey, everyone is entitled to their opinion. They are even entitled, I suppose, to their posturing, to their bet-hedging, to their spin cycling, even to their sourpuss pessimism. But for goodness’ sake, watch what you say, where you say it and whom you say it to. The walls have ears, people say, and King Solomon said it a mite more poetically: “The bird in the sky will carry your voice.” There are too many little birdies out there and it is not helpful for folks in their position to be feeding them juicy worms.
Here is the truth. Whether, like me, you pushed for this choice beforehand; whether, like some, you liked it when you saw it; or whether, like them, you disdain it, you have a right — no, a duty — to privacy. John McCain and Sarah Palin have an excellent chance to win, but it will be a squirmy skirmish, and they do not need to be undermined by the mavens they somehow neglected to hire.