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Thursday, January 04, 2007


why no good man will ever be president

one doesn't have to accept that ambitious and deeply amoral men like dick cheney must necessarily hold high american office. even as roman society (much like our own) degenerated from a highminded if naive imperialism toward outright despotism, it nonetheless found some good men to hold high office. criticisms of men like cicero and m. porcius cato are certainly available -- these are men who after all were creations of their degenerate times, and even to such a degree as they looked backward to a less divisive time for inspiration and (in cicero's case particularly) worked toward concordia ordinum they still sought paths to power in a way that mocked the myth of cincinnatus. indeed, at times their means were unfortunate, even contributory -- the staunch reactionary cato by his very rigidity in the face of the demands of newly-aware lower classes did as much to empower the triumvirs as anyone. but that they were ethical men who sought common peace over individual power is made clear especially in comparison to the ends sought and methodologies employed by men like crassus, pompey and caesar.

however, the demoralization of public leadership into a pandering power game at the hands of the demos is perhaps nowhere more evident than in such men because of the stark contrast their ostensibly higher aims offer. when cicero finally was made to knuckle under to the triumvirs, to defend vatinius and to sing the praises of pompey, the fate of rome was never more awfully apparent. there is no doubt that cicero found such men contemptibly dangerous. but his public cooption to their power -- the power of the demagogues -- marked the end of his political career just as surely as it assured the victory of those who would shatter the republic in the pursuit of unfettered imperial power.

john mccain is exposed in vanity fair as a man whose principles have, since 2004, been publicly compromised in exactly that way. locked out of the presidency by the bush political machine and the dominance of the more radical elements of the right which exercize great power in the primaries, mccain has sought to compromise with them -- cashiering his moral authority for a final run at the top.

moderation is the hallmark of moral leadership -- and mccain is no zealot. but compromising on issues like the military commissions act destroys the very heart of what might have made mccain a good man, and make him little more than another pursuer of power.

it is far from clear that mccain ever was a good man in the terms a common man would use. this is a member of the keating five, after all -- a fact unmentioned in the entire article -- and mccain is clearly as advocate of an american global imperium that puts it in a position where he feels some sort of action taken against iraq was not only valid but inevitable. by his own admission, paralyzed by fear, he cannot comprehend the failure that perhaps unbeknownst to him is already written in stone and has long been. that failure -- the ultimate failure to compromise, as it were, with difficult reality -- has led him to support escalation (or "surging" as it has been euphemized). he is deeply flawed.

so are we all. that he might have been a good man is more or less beyond question. but it is equally beyond question that the politics of empire have destroyed this man -- that his potential is not realized, that the damage is done by the very process of seeking leadership. i wonder if any good man could ever be the leader of this country as it now is.

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Great post gm,

This political system has destroyed lesser men than McCain. Why would he be any different. I don't think he is the same man today as he was before the Bush presidency.

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