Taughannock Falls

Taughannock Falls
from: althouse.blogspot.com

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Sage advice from Simon Schama

These are extraordinary times. As a late baby-boomer, I've lived long enough to see a lot of wacky things. Yet I've never seen such a powerful blitz, of money and misinformation, unleashed by the billionaire plutocrats to seize total control of our country. Historian Simon Schama urges the Obama administration to recognize that they should not help maintain the fiction that their opponents are anything more than greedy, lying sociopaths. Civility is commendable, but defending the future of our representative democracy requires a willingness to get tough.

But Mr Obama is not dealing with informed readings of history, he is dealing with the comical-sinister version narrated by Glenn Beck who fancies himself a professor. He has had to deal with a quasi-religious conviction that tax cuts are the engines of growth rather than the makers of mega-deficits as any inspection of recent history will incontestably demonstrate. (Thanks Dubya for the $1.3 trillion deficit.) He is confronting a public that by a large majority believes he, not George W. Bush, created Tarp; that he is a Muslim not a Christian; that he is bent on turning America Marxist; that the jury is out on evolution; that global warming science is a hoax; and that Woodrow Wilson (don’t even ask) was Beelzebub in a Princeton bow tie.

Against this contagion of paranoid craziness, an epidemic spread by colossal infusions of money and the howling of radio ranters, the virtues that brought Mr Obama to office – composure, a belief in classical rhetoric and the force of reason, the hope that people of clashing beliefs may be reconciled – are of little avail. Sometimes those belief systems are so utterly opposed that embracing the conflict is preferable to pretending it may be painlessly resolved. If Mr Obama and his good works – for they are good – are to survive he needs to discard his Plato and summon his inner Machiavelli. Then he needs that Machiavelli to man up and talk back. If Ms Palin invents “death panels” in his healthcare reform he should not make light of it but call her out for a liar and never ever let her forget it. To Republicans who even now assert the falsehood that bureaucrats will dictate a choice of physician he should stand tall like Ed Murrow against the McCarthyism this moment so resembles and say: “Have you no decency?” Above all, he needs to repatriate the idea and practice of American government from its demonisation as some kind of occupying alien force.

He needs to be unafraid to give offence; and to say the words that can make him – especially amid a hostile Congress – a fighter for all the millions of Joes and Janes whose lives have been ruined by the busted flush of casino finance. Then he can flip adversity; then he can become again the Obama we all thought we knew.

My favorite part is the call to "summon his inner Machiavelli." As President Obama no doubt knows, Machiavelli cared deeply about preserving the Florentine Republic against the Medici family poised to take it over. He learned the hard way that compromising with the enemy could have disastrous consequences.


dgwarwick37 said...

Greedy,lying sociopaths? Gee, Ulysses, I'd hate to hear what you really think! lol :) The Prez does seem to have trouble fighting back sometimes...

stillinIthaca said...

I like and agree with what Schama says, except for his impying that it was Edward R. Murrow who said to McCarthy "Have you no decency?" It was actually Joseph Welsh in the Army-McCarthy hearings. I actually saw it on TV at the time.

Ulysses said...

You're absolutely right to point out Schama's somewhat careless error. If I'm not mistaken, E.R.Murrow may have approvingly quoted Joseph Welsh's words in one of his broadcasts.