The Obama Watch

Obama’s Tudor Tutor

There's a lot of Henry VII in our current president, not to mention the host of mini-Shakespeares covering for him.

By 2.25.13

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Barack Obama routinely blames George W. Bush or Republicans in the House of Representatives for anything that goes wrong or might go wrong. Where did this trait come from? Was it Saul Alinsky, the community action radical? Or was it William Ayers, the onetime Weather Underground terrorist who was far more than the casual neighborhood acquaintance Obama claims he was? The answer is, neither. The real source of this Obama trait was Henry VII, King of England (1485-1509) and his Tudor successors, abetted by William Shakespeare.

The real story is now coming together with the scientific proof that a skeleton unearthed last year from a car park in the town of Leicester, England, is that of Richard III whose short reign (1483-85) ended with his death at the hands of Henry Tudor’s troops at the Battle of Bosworth Field. The ambitious Henry had Richard’s body mutilated and strung up in the town square, then ignominiously buried in an unmarked grave. 

This marked the end of the Plantagenet kings of England and brought in the long rule of Tudor monarchs. To make sure his line succeeded, Henry steadily blamed all of the country’s problems on Richard. Not only that, he also accused him of murdering his two nephews, one of whom was next line after Richard’s brother, the late King Edward IV. Henry’s allies also insisted Richard had arranged for thugs to drown another of his brothers, the Duke of Clarence, in a barrel of wine. 

While Henry never hesitated to blame Richard for any policy problems, he ignored the fact that Richard had been popular in many parts of the realm (divided in loyalty between the Houses of York and Lancaster in the War of the Roses) and that Richard’s coronation in July 1483 had been well attended. Would it have been if it had been widely believed he had murdered his nephews in the Tower of London? 

Henry tried to get his country men to forget that Richard had done away with press censorship, created the right to bail for those awaiting criminal trial, and reformed the country’s finances. He also fought bravely in battles, despite a handicap. 

Like Obama, Henry VII wanted his countrymen to think of his predecessor as a poor leader and creator of failed policies. One hopes that Obama’s efforts to demonize his own predecessor does not last as long at Henry’s did. Over 100 years later (and 45 years after the death of Henry’s son, Henry VIII), Shakespeare’s play Richard III had its premiere. In it, the late king was depicted as an evil, scheming hunchback (he had curvature of the spine, but was not a hunchback) who, indeed, saw to the murder of his brother and nephews -- and probably his wife as well. Shakespeare’s command of facts was thin. In the play he even had Richard killing the Duke of Somerset at the battle of St. Albans, which was fought when Richard was two years old. 

Shakespeare had succumbed to the flattery of latter-day Tudor flacks. The tales they told him were filled with intrigue and action. Thus, it is the bad Richard that comes down to us to this day. 

Barack Obama seems to have learned the lessons of the Tudors well, trashing his predecessor and opponents non-stop and making free use of exaggeration, hyperbole, and untruths to make his points. 

This is not the end, however. With the identification of Richard III’s skeleton, a proper burial is expected and his defenders are finally getting attention for their efforts to set his record straight. While Richard was killed in battle, George Bush simply retired from office and has wisely kept his own counsel about his successor.

In time, history and not a self-serving Chicago politician will be the real judge of his record. 

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About the Author
Peter Hannaford was closely associated with the late President Reagan for a number of years. He is a member of the board of the Committee on the Present Danger. His latest book is “Presidential Retreats.”