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Wise Men

The term “wise men” refers to a group of respected, experienced individuals who are consulted for their expertise and judgment on important matters of policy or strategy.

The “wise men” are typically characterized by their extensive experience, deep knowledge, and respected status within their field.

Origin of “Wise Men”

The term has a historical context and is often associated with a group of influential advisors who have played significant roles in shaping policy, particularly in the United States during the mid-20th century.

They are often senior statesmen, diplomats, or experts who have held high-level positions in government, academia, or industry.

Wise men are called upon to provide advice, guidance, or insight based on their expertise and experience.

Their role can be significant in shaping policy and decision-making.

Their advice can influence the direction of policy, the strategy of political campaigns, or the response to major events or crises.

They can provide a valuable perspective that combines deep knowledge with practical experience.

However, critics argue that it can perpetuate a system of elitism and exclusion, where a small group of insiders has a disproportionate influence on policy.

There are also concerns about a lack of diversity among the “wise men,” who have traditionally been predominantly white and male.

More on “Wise Men”

An expression borrowed from the Bible, it refers to reputable veterans of D.C. who have an intimate knowledge of the town’s inner workings.

Often synonymous with “graybeards.”

To qualify, members generally have to have served in or be associated with multiple presidential administrations or campaigns, or had a multi-decade tenure in Congress that preceded a lucrative lobbying career. They generally are pragmatists who shun partisan politics, which makes them something of an anachronism in today’s polarized climate.

Lawyer Clark Clifford, who advised four Democratic presidents and served as Lyndon Johnson’s secretary of defense, is often held up as the preeminent Washington wise man. Today, former secretary of state Colin Powell is generally acknowledged to hold the post. He and others of the ilk often are called to serve on commissions that spring up whenever politicians want to put off a firm decision on a vexing issue.

They also act as campaign advisers, as sherpas for high-profile nominations, and to solve crises.

Among others considered the wisest of the wise: former Federal Reserve chairman Paul Volcker, former secretary of state James Baker and veteran lobbyist Vernon Jordan.

Like other exclusive clubs in politics, the group as a whole is overwhelmingly male. But women can belong, too. Former secretary of state Madeleine Albright was named to an international NATO council in 2009 that was dubbed “the Wise Men.”

From Dog Whistles, Walk-Backs, and Washington Handshakes © 2014 Chuck McCutcheon and David Mark.

Use of “Wise Men” in a sentence

  • In the midst of the crisis, the president convened a meeting of the ‘wise men,’ seeking their expertise and guidance on the best course of action.
  • Historically, the ‘wise men’ of American politics, a group of seasoned statesmen and diplomats, have played significant roles in shaping foreign policy.
  • Critics argue that the concept of the ‘wise men’ perpetuates an elitist system where a small group of insiders wields disproportionate influence over political decisions.