Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Seming is Believing

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.

Discussions - 2 Comments

An "effete-left Machiavallian" is perhaps a rare combination (among actual politicians -- writers are another matter), but it seems to be a fair description of Obama. All the more reason to keep him out of the White House.

Brooks' column does a good job of exposing Obama's essential fraudulence. Toward the end, however, he suggests Obama's Chicago cynicism would be good in dealing with hostile foreign governments. What he forgets is -- just for starters -- the vast distinction between toughness on behalf of oneself, against rather weak opponents, and toughness against a much tougher guy like Putin. Brooks also seems to presume that Obama would be representing the American national interest in such a situation. How can one be confident of that if he's as selfish and cynical as he appears to be in his career to date? Equally or more so, how can one have such confidence if Obama is a globalist, placing global interests ahead of our own? Finally, one can be very shrewd about making it in domestic politics, yet very naive about what is best for the U.S. in world affairs. Brooks had a great column which he threw away at the end. The links between morality, intelligent appreciation of a historical situation, and ultimate (not small-scale Chicago) political effectiveness are stronger than Brooks seems to understand.

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