Some may wonder how it can happen that Agathocles, and his like, after infinite treacheries and cruelties, should not be conspired against by their own citizens. I believe that this follows from cruelty being well or badly used. Cruelty is well used, if one can say 'well' of such evil, when it is applied at one blow when necessary to one's security, and not persisted in afterwards. Cruelty is badly employed when it commences in a small way, to then multiply with time.
Injuries ought to be done all at once, so that, being tasted less, they offend less. Benefits ought to be given little by little, so that the flavour of them may last longer.
Machiavelli, the Prince, Chap. VIII
"There is a lot of politics in Washington -- in my judgment, needless politics. And it's almost like, 'If George Bush is for it, we're against it,' and 'If he's against it, we're for it.' And the American people don't like that," Bush said.
Carter's disdain for artifice served him well as long as things were going his way, but when things weren't going his way it created problems for him, because it essentially deprived him of the full use of one of the basic tools of statecraft. He didn't like to perform--in the sense of giving a performance. He hated to pretend to be feeling emotions he wasn't actually feeling at that moment. And of course that kind of pretending is essential to making an effective political speech, which is a theatrical turn. You have to act like you're feeling pride or sorrow or the swell of patriotic feeling, even if at that particular moment, the moment the speech is scheduled for, what you really want is to be home in bed....
The received version of what happened is simple. It goes like this: in the summer of 1979, President Carter was overwhelmed by energy and economic crises. In desperation, he made a disastrous speech blaming the American people and a national "malaise" for his own manifest failures of policy and leadership. The American people, horrified, turned him out of office at the first opportunity. ...
It goes almost without saying that the historical reality and the political caricature do not comport with one another. ... 1. Carter himself never mentioned the word "malaise." 2. The speech itself was an enormous popular success. It generated a record amount of positive mail to the White House, and Carter's approval rating in the polls zoomed up by eleven points literally overnight. 3. The sudden political damage came not from the speech but from the cabinet firings a few days later. 4. Although Carter has been flayed for blaming others, the first third of the speech is devoted to the most excoriating self-criticism ever heard from any American president. As these details suggest, the "malaise" episode has become encrusted in myth. ...
The speech engendered a mixed reaction among the elites, although it did get mostly favorable editorial comment in its immediate aftermath. But three days later, Carter asked for the resignations of the whole of his cabinet and senior staff, telling them he would decide which ones to accept. He hoped that this would be the beginning of a regeneration of his administration--an infusion of new blood and new ideas, and a signal that even those whom he would decide to keep on would be starting anew. Instead, the mass resignations created an unanticipated and unwelcome global sensation; many foreign newspapers and governments, whose grasp of the intricacies of the American political system was imperface, actually believed that the United States government had "fallen." It was at this point, I think, that the elites decided that Carter was finished. Within a few weeks this view had trickled down to the public, and Carter's popularity ratings dropped back down to the abysmal level where they had been at the outset. ...
... The speech was a truthful and prescient diagnosis of what was wrong with the country and what in many ways continues to be wrong with the country. But a president who sets out to diagnose a problem had better be able to offer a plausible solution to it. The Carter of the "malaise" episode was a prophet. But he was not a savior.
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