David Brooks’ column today about the two Obamas, one genial, easy-going, but very much a man of the effete Left, and another Machiavellian, reminds me of this bit of commentary from John Adams:
Mirabeau said of La Fayette, ‘Il a affiche desinteressement’ and he added, ‘this never fails. You know the sense of the word ‘affiche’? It is as much to say, ‘he advertised’ his disinterestedness.” This is equivalent to saying that he employed a crier to proclaim through the streets ‘O Yes! O Yes! O Yes!’ All manner of persons may have the benefit of my services, gratis, provided always and only that they will yield me their unlimited and unsuspecting confidence and make me commander in chief., and after I shall have gained a few victories, make me a king or an emperor, when I shall take a fancy to be either. This has been the amount and the result of most of the disinterestedness that has been professed in the world. I say most, not all. There are exceptions, and our Washington ought to pass for one.
As far as I can tell, the key question, regarding Obama, is what his true intensions are. Sometimes, it seems that he’s been talking Left in order to please certain constitutencies, even as he prepares to steer a more moderate course in practice. But sometimes, it seems that he really wants this expansive republic to have the kind of regime that is only suitable for a small one.
Recall here, Obama’s NAFTA kerfuffle, and the question of whether Obama means it when he says, "Look. I am a pro-growth, free-market guy. I love the market." (Quoted here), or if he’s geniunely baffled by the Laffer Curve.
One final point. There are several instances in the past few centuries of men who believed that they were free to be Machiavellians today in order to change the world into a place where such hijinks were no longer necessary. Others, like our friend John Adams, believing that the would could not be fundamentally remade, tried to burst such bubbles.