Man Without Qualities

Wednesday, October 30, 2002

The Fact Is, It's Acceptable

Nobody likes to work around - and especially under loud people with ready tempers, who throw things, slam doors and drawers and shout and curse.

Some people go further and present such characteristics as broadly disqualifying and unacceptable. There is a line here - albeit not a pretty one. For example, the OpinionJournal gets it just right, but obscures its own success:

Just this Sunday, a profile in the San Francisco Chronicle noted that "[Gray Davis'] temper and foul language are legendary." A 1997 profile by the liberal columnist Jill Stewart of the weekly New Times Los Angeles recounted several instances of Mr. Davis "hurling phones and ashtrays at quaking government employees." She concluded that "his incidents of personally shoving and shaking horrified workers" marked him as "a man who cannot be trusted with power."

Jill Stewart and, by approving reference, OpinionJournal, are correct to point out that we should know that Gray Davis is "a man who cannot be trusted with power" because he hurls objects at people and personally shoves and shakes horrified workers. Such acts are not just pecadillos. Such acts are violent California crimes.

But a hot temper and frequent foul language are not broadly disqualifying - not from employment and not even from trusting someone with power. Nor is the likes of "hurling phones and ashtrays" disqualifying - until the "at people" zone is entered. Some people do not agree, but I believe that the facts show otherwise. Many very good, valuable, accomplished and talented people have loud, foul tempers and/or a penchant for hurling bibilos: Ronald Reagan, both Bill and Hillary Clinton and Barry Diller come immediately to mind, although the list could be extended indefinitely. Mr. Diller, however, may for one cross the line into the "at people" zone by some reports.

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