Obama's real failure has been his belief that the fundamentals of human nature have changed. Mac would disagree.
It may have come as shock to my "Flower
Power" generation, but human nature has changed very little since
the beginning of recorded history. This is especially so when it
comes to war and politics. Which is why Tzu Sun's 6th
text, "The Art of War"
is still required reading for military
brass. And why Niccolò Machiavelli's 14th
leadership handbook, "The Prince"
is as informative today to
those who wish to govern as it was five centuries ago.
Now don't get me wrong. Both these guys
were about as amoral as it gets. Neither was a fan of taking
prisoners, either on the physical or political fields of battle.
Still each man knew his enemies. They each understood something my
Marine Corps drill instructor pounded into my head way back in 1965:
"If you find yourself in a fight, remember this... there's no such
thing as a fair-fight. There's only the fight you win or the fight
I only mention this because I'd like to
suggest that President Obama, who I assume has read The Prince at
sometime in his academic life, curl up with at Camp David for a brush
up. Because he is in the hole he's in right now because he violated
some of Machiavelli's (Mac The Knife's) prime-est of prime
Here, let me get Barry started on this
review; (Machiavelli quotes in bold)
"I'm not interested in
preserving the status quo; I want to overthrow it.
So far, so good. That's exactly, nearly word for word, what Barack
promised us during the campaign.
There is nothing more difficult
to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its
success, than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of
And again, spot on Big O. He's been
telling us this for a year now, so we assumed he understood none of
this would be easy which, as the old saying goes, also means,
"You can't make an omelet without breaking a few eggs."
The wise man does at once what
the fool does finally.
Oops. Barry dropped that ball, hasn't
he. Mac The Knife would never have missed the opportunity to strike
when his enemy was at its weakest.
There is no avoiding war; it can
only be postponed to the advantage of others.
Oops #2. Obama tried to avoid going "to
war" with Republicans and conservative Dems, thereby allowing them
time to unbraid him and his health care reforms and financial
reforms. As Mac warned, "Tardiness robs us of opportunity,"
And so it came to pass, advantage the enemy.
Hence it is to be remarked that,
in seizing a state, the usurper ought to examine closely into all
those injuries which it is necessary for him to inflict, and to do
them all at one stroke so as not to have to repeat them daily; and thus by
not unsettling men he will be able to reassure them, and win them to
himself by benefits.
Yeah, well there we go. Obama had to
know that he was going to have to step on a lot of powerful and
sensitive toes in order to get his health and fiscal reforms passed.
And he should have gotten about it the second he took the oath of
office. He should have leveraged his "a new broom sweeps clean,"
momentum to get the bloodshed over with. Instead now he tarried, and
now he's stuck doling out the all that pain in drips and drabs
like pulling off a bandage real slow instead of fast. As a result he
will be hated by more, for longer:
He who does otherwise (slowly,)
either from timidity or evil advice, is always compelled to keep the
knife in his hand; neither can he rely on his subjects, nor can they
attach themselves to him, owing to their continued and repeated
wrongs. For injuries ought to be done all at one time, so that, being
tasted less, they offend less; benefits ought to be given little by
little, so that the flavor of them may last longer.
Big O. should have had greater a
respect for the enemies he knew would have to be vanquished. After
all, these maundering Huns the health insurance companies, Wall
Streeters and big banks had enjoyed decades of unfettered looting
and pillaging. And they would not go quietly. Then Barack became the
new sheriff in town. But, rather than laying down the law, he just
laid down one a big ass mistake, according to Mac The Knife:
The innovator has for enemies all
those who have done well under the old conditions, and lukewarm
"conservative Dems") in those who may do well
under the new. This coolness arises partly from fear of the
opponents, who have the laws on their side, and partly from the
incredulity of men, who do not readily believe in new things until
they have had a long experience of them. Thus it happens that
whenever those who are hostile have the opportunity to attack they do
it like partisans, whilst the others defend lukewarmly, in such wise
that the prince is endangered along with them.
But Obama came to us as the prophet
preaching a "new era of bi-partisanship." And, we the people,
exhausted and disgusted by more than three-decades of virtual
political and social gridlock, longed for the same. But simply
singing "Give Peace a Chance," while the enemy gins up
another rendition of "The Battle Hymn of the Republic," is
something Mac The Knife would find absurdly naïve:
It is necessary, therefore, if we
desire to discuss this matter thoroughly, to inquire whether the
innovator can rely on himself or have to depend on others: that is to
say, whether, to consummate their enterprise, have they to
use prayers (read
"hope") or they use force? In the first
instance they always succeed badly, and never accomplish anything;
but when they can rely on themselves and use force, then they are
rarely endangered. Hence it is that all armed prophets have
conquered, and the unarmed ones have been destroyed.
The Knife understood people like Obama, who
come to high office with highfalutin notions of reforming, not just
government, but human nature itself. And, need I tell, Mac had little
patience for it:
Those who solely by good
fortune become princes from being private citizens, have little
trouble in rising, but much in keeping atop; they have few
difficulties on the way up, because they fly, but they have many when
they reach the summit. Such stand simply upon the goodwill and the
fortune of those who has elevated them- the two most inconstant and
unstable things. Neither have they the knowledge requisite for the
position; because, unless they are men of great worth and ability, it
is not reasonable to expect that they should know how to command,
having always lived in a private condition; besides, they cannot
hold it because they have not forces of their own which they can keep
friendly and faithful.
Barack Obama is not a likable guy by
accident. He's gotten where he is today through a combination of
awesome brain-power and a sparkling personality. As such he values
likability over causing offense. Yet, at the same time, he wants to
do good while in office. But, if he takes my advice and re-reads
Mac's book, he'll understand that eventually he's going to have to
give up one or the other:
Hatred is gained as much by good
works as by evil... The fact is that a man who wants to act
virtuously in every way necessarily comes to grief among so many who
are not virtuous.
Finally there's the machinations of the
enemy forces. Republicans and those invested in the status quo are
not interested in being liked, or even respected. Instead they are
interested in being sure nothing restricts their looting and
pillaging as usual. As such they will fight dirty... oops.. wait,
there's no such thing as a fair fight. I almost forgot. Which
explains the so-called "Tea Party" folk.
Men are so simple and so much
inclined to obey immediate needs that deceivers will never lack
victims for their deceptions.
And so there you have it. We are still,
at the core, a vicious, deceitful and conniving species. And nowhere
more than in the political arena. I wish it were otherwise. I wish
we'd evolved beyond all this. And, I am sure Barack Obama wishes so
as well. But if wishes came true, 50 million Americans would not be
without health insurance and bankers and Wall Streeters would be
satisfied to earn millions while staying within the law and bounds of
But none of that is so. When I
testified before Congress in 1991 I warned that they not repeal
Glass-Steagall until someone first could assure them that the laws of human nature had been repealed first.
They did it anyway and, well, you know the rest of that story.
So, all I'm saying here is not that
Obama can learn anything uplifting from Machiavelli's open-eyed
advice about ruling, just that most of it still applies. And he is in
the hole he's in right now because he decided to pretend it didn't.
Memo to Barry: We need that freakin omelet out
here, amigo. So knock off the Mr. Nice Guy act and start breaking some
Submitters Bio:Stephen Pizzo has been published everywhere from The New York Times to Mother Jones magazine. His book, Inside Job: The Looting of America's Savings and Loans, was nominated for a Pulitzer.