The White House Mystique and the Washington Warp

The defeat last week of Senator Richard Lugar (R-Ind) in the Indiana GOP primary sends the ominous rumble of war drums out across the political landscape. No doubt the scary reverberations have reached as far as Utah, and the ears of another Republican, Senator Orrin Hatch.

The two Republican elder statesmen, according to recent events, are regarded as having become more relics than adventurous frontiersmen, and the Tea Party wants their scalps.

Lugar, who became an Indiana senator in 1976, had been reduced to begging for primary votes, according to the Indianapolis Star. On a recent weekend, "Lugar pleaded with groups that he has helped over the years to now help him salvage his political career," said the Star, as cited in The American Spectator.

Senator Orrin Hatch, also elected initially in 1976, perhaps is haunted by the spectre of fellow Utah Senator Bob Bennett's defeat in 2010. Bennett was brought down by the war-bonneted Tea Partiers. Hoary Hatch squeaked to victory last month in the state GOP convention, eking out his win in a run-off with a Tea Party-backed opponent.

How is it that two venerable foundation stones in the Washington political establishment came to the sad state that one had to go begging for votes, and the other had to beat off a primary challenger?

The answer is in the words, "two venerable foundation stones in the Washington political establishment."

Back in the Jurassic Age, I wrote a book about my experiences as a young velociraptor in the Washington jungle - The White House Mystique (Fleming H. Revell, 1976). "Mystique" and "warp" were major themes in the book, the former affecting the young and green (not in the sense of Earth Day, ecology and the current nuance, but in the sense of a plant just sprouting), the latter the aged and seasoned.

The "mystique," not only of the White House, but of the whole Washington ethos, made it hard for the bedazzled novices to think critically. Watergate, among other travesties, was a result.

The "Washington warp" is the problem for the aged men and women of Washington renown. By the way, there's a reverse proportionality in that: the more the renown of a politician in Washington, the less renown there is "back home" in the current political mood.

It's possible to have been in Congress or some other facet of the Washington stratosphere so long one forgets how people "back home" see the world. By the time the light of truth travels across the social-cultural-philosophical solar system and pierces through the Washington atmosphere, it is so distorted it sometimes actually becomes untruth.

I remember a White House aide who was sent frequently to the hinterlands to speak at the events not worthy of the White House big stars. He would tell his friends, who barely ventured from the iron-gated fortress on Pennsylvania Avenue, "you need to get out of here and go out to places like Carlsbad, New Mexico, and Glover's Gap, West Virginia, and listen to how real people really feel about the real state of the nation."

Those who stay inside those walled DC compounds too long don't understand how distorted their vision is until they hear the whizz of Tea Party arrows "back home."

The incarnational style modeled by Jesus Christ could instruct august politicians as well as every other brand of sinner. The fact that the omniscient God comes "down here" and becomes one of us is a wondrous piece of strategy. That He identifies with us so completely that He "is tempted in all ways as we are" is staggering truth. But that's what equips Jesus of Nazareth for His service to the people. Hebrews 2:18 says, "since He Himself was tempted in that which He has suffered, He is able to come to the aid of those who are tempted."

Politicians are servants of the people. When they are dazzled by the mystique and see hazily because of the warp, they are either too inexperienced to hold power, or have been around Washington so long they have forgotten how the world really looks.

They need to go home and dodge the arrows frequently, then they will learn to see clearly and serve more effectively.

Wallace Henley, a former Birmingham News staff writer, was an aide in the Nixon White House, and congressional chief of staff. He is a teaching pastor at Second Baptist Church, Houston, Texas. He is a regular contributor to The Christian Post.