That’s what happens when you think you have a Prince for a president.
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It was surely an example of hubris that Jack Kennedy was so prolific and indiscreet in his infidelities.
But Obama’s ego has long been a weakness. His first biographer, David Mendell, followed him on behalf of the Chicago Tribune for four years, and tells us that managing Obama’s ego was “one of the most trying tasks for his staff and paid consultants.” Obama’s wife, Michelle, “considered it her personal mission to prevent her husband’s ego from inflating beyond all proportion.” John Heilemann and Mark Halperin, who followed the 2008 campaign intensively for their best-selling Game Change reported that his campaign workers hoped that adulation would not go to his head, “his ego was robust enough already.” The same concern is expressed by some of his warmest admirers. Joe Klein of Time wrote that the biggest adjustment Obama needed to make was to find an intellectual equal who could challenge his decisions and demeanor “in private, with the bark off.” One of the great dangers of the presidency is that people will tell him what he wants to hear rather than what he needs to hear. In his recent book, Confidence Men, former Washington Post reporter Ron Suskind depicts Obama’s senior cabinet officials and staff as often contemptuous of his decisions — or indecision — and “slow walking” what they did not intend to carry out.
Machiavelli would point to dangers for the Republicans as well. Obama faced it in 2010, but it may be more dangerous for the Republicans in 2012. It is the danger of change. Change as a slogan, like Hope and Audacity, when unaccompanied by any specific detail, may be alluring. But, Machiavelli notes, “there is no more delicate matter to take in hand, nor more dangerous to conduct, nor more doubtful of its success, than to set up as a leader in the introduction of changes.” There are vested interests in all existing systems, there is always doubt about whether change will work, and what it will cost. Underlying the doubt may be naked fear: of losing one’s health care, for example. Obama’s in-house Machiavellians, David Axelrod and David Plouffe, have already made it clear that they will be exploiting this fear to the full.
It is not an insuperable obstacle. Margaret Thatcher and Tony Blair, Powell writes, were strong enough to bring about radical reform. So, of course, was Ronald Reagan. But this concern, if the White House Machiavellians have their way, is going to underlie the U.S. election of 2012.
Their problem, and Obama’s undoing, is Obama’s comprehensive failure. For Machiavelli “princes become great through the difficulties they have to face and overcome.” Machiavelli is the supreme political exponent of the principle that winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing. Success above all depends on results. To paraphrase Machiavelli, the president who neglects the present for some supposedly better future “sooner effects his ruin than his preservation.” If only 13 percent of Americans tell Gallup that they are “satisfied” with how things are going in the country, if only 43 percent approve the job Obama is doing — and no president has been re-elected with so low an approval rating a year before an election since Gallup began asking the question in 1945 — then Machiavelli would not be bullish about Obama’s prospects.
A man of faith in a godless age is hitting Americans where it hurts.
Mr. and Mrs. American Spectator Reader, let P.J. O’Rourke talk sense to your kids.
In Britain, defending your property can get you life.
It won’t take long for conservatives to scratch this presidential wannabe off their 2008 scorecard.
Was the President done in by the economy, or by the politics of the economy?