As President Obama strides upon the world stage like a colossus, at long last filling America's political, moral and intellectual leadership vacuum created by eight years of the malgovernance of George W. Bush, he should reflect upon the fate of a similar historical giant with similar political impulses: Julius Caesar.
Caesar was a man of unparalleled genius--indisputably one of the greatest minds of the ancient world. Both as a lawyer and politician, few could match his oratorical powers and rhetorical skill.
But in Rome, true political power (and personal wealth) could not be achieved without a brilliant military career. This Caesar undertook as military governor of Gaul where he brutally suppressed the uprisings of the various tribes chafing under the Roman yoke.
Caesar's most brilliant campaign was against a united Gaul under King Vercingetorix, who managed to raise an army of over 250,000 Gauls against Caesar's 50,000 legionaries. Using brilliant leadership and his genius for engineering, Caesar constructed a ringed stockade surrounding Vercingetorix's hilltop fortress at Alesia--preventing escape--and then a second ring to the stockade to fight off reinforcements from outside. Only Caesar's genius saved the Roman army in Gaul, and cemented Roman rule over Gaul for centuries to come.
There were many in Rome who resented Caesar's brilliance, his success and his popularity with the people. The hereditary nobility plotted against him --forcing him to decide between facing criminal charges and ruin, or treason--"crossing the Rubicon" with his army and sparking the Roman Civil War. But Caesar's opponents were intellectual lightweights. Caesar's brilliance combined with his opponents' ineptitude made the outcome of the civil war inevitable.
But if Caesar had a weakness, it was that he was merciful. In victory, he generously granted pardons to those who had taken up arms against him.
It was the "spirit of bi-partisanship" of the time.
After the civil war, Caesar immediately embarked on public works and civil engineering projects. But the resentments of Caesar's enemies didn't cool with their rout on the battlefield or with their pledges of loyalty to Caesar as a condition of their pardons.
Conspirators pardoned by Caesar, citing freedom and democracy in a society ruled by a hereditary aristocracy and maintained by slave labor, plunged their daggers into Caesar at a meeting of the Roman Senate on the Ides of March, March 15, 44 BCE.
What should President Obama take from this historical lesson?
First, Obama should know that the Republicans will hate him because he's smarter, more popular and better than they are (he didn't need to lie to get elected). Most important, they hate him because he has defeated them. He should never project his own good intentions upon his GOP opponents. Republicans will rightly view any Obama success as a direct and indisputable refutation of the Republicans' failed ideology.
As was proved by the recent House vote on the stimulus package, House Republicans have no interest in "bipartisanship" beyond how it can be used as a rhetorical weapon.
Second, at no time should the Republicans be given a chance to influence policy in any way. They will only use such an opportunity to obstruct any rescue of the economy and meaningful relief for ordinary Americans--they would rather see Obama fail than America prosper.
It was the Republicans' reckless policies and inverted priorities that got us into the disaster we now find ourselves in. Why on earth should these maniacs be let anywhere near the levers of power again?
The only responsible action for Obama and the Democrats to do now is to tell the Republicans to STFU, remind them why they were trounced in the last two elections, and let the grownups handle things now.
President Obama should never forget whom he's dealing with. Just as Caesar's enemies remained committed to his destruction despite his mercy and generosity, Republicans are sharpening their daggers while sanctimoniously lecturing him on the need for more "bipartisanship."