Presidential History

Weep When You Consider That Alexander At His Age Had Conquered So Many Nations, And Obama Has Barely Conquered One.

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Render to Obama what is Caeasar's and to Obama what is Gods.

Whatever his many failings, National Endowment for the Arts chairman Rocco Landesman is staying true to his roots as a showman. Not content with seeing his boss crowned with a Nobel Prize, Landesman proves by algebra that President Obama is in fact better than Napoleon, Pope Joan, Kwan Lu of Argus 7, and all other leaders in history:

This is the first president that actually writes his own books since Teddy Roosevelt and arguably the first to write them really well since Lincoln. If you accept the premise, and I do, that the United States is the most powerful country in the world, then Barack Obama is the most powerful writer since Julius Caesar. That has to be good for American artists.

This quote was found by Kathryn Jean Lopez, but the whole speech is worth taking in, especially the comments from "Jerry Garcia" and others, who raise questions about Landesman's history and object to the general creepiness of the comparison.

But you know something: The ivied, laureled Obama Administration does seem closer to a patrician oligarchy than the socialist cadre people say it is.

The rest of the speech promotes the new slogan "Art Works" and is filled with many wild claims: that a performance space tripled home prices in an East Harlem neighborhood; that an arts districts "transformed" Chattanooga, and that Chicago Mayor Richard Daley should be considered a "number one hero."

Basically, this is why you hire a Broadway producer. Caesar here is just a wild point of comparison, a guarantee of high production value like Jesus or Tony Kushner. It's the courtier's equivalent of "This show features a live elephant!"

But politics is no place for dreamers. Julius Caesar was assassinated and in the aftermath of his death a poet was killed by a pro-Julian mob. His own favored successor allowed the writer and politician Cicero to be beheaded, and later exiled the poet Ovid. These don't seem like good signs for American artists, or for the safety of our president.

Related: Jim Henley on Landesman's more circumspect predecessor Dana Gioia.

Update: Commentary's John Steele Gordon provides an even more thorough check of Landesman's history of presidential literature, including the tidbit that Herbert Hoover published a 640-page translation of Georgius Agricola's De Re Metallica. Which means I've got a new favorite president.

NEXT: Reason Writers Around Town: Peter Suderman in Newsweek on Republicans and Big Business

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  1. Vae victus . . .

    1. It’s “Sic semper tyrannis.” You said, “always faithful terrible lizard.”

  2. Almost forgot . . .

    WEEP AND DESPAIR, FOOLS!!!

    1. NS, you had it in the first post.

      1. Unless he was trying to type “vae victis”

        1. Unless NS is a gamer, in which case the victus is correct from his point of reference. Otherwise victis it is?

          1. I remember reading Livy. I’m almost certain “Vae Victus” was used but you appear to be correct. Stupid internet.

  3. Barack Obama, you’re my hero. . .

  4. These losers can’t even talk shit properly. I have had drunken facebook rants that were less pathetic than this.

  5. the first to write them really well since Lincoln

    To my shame, I have not read the memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant. But they’re on my list, and the main reason they’re on my list is because everyone says the corrupt old drunk was a fantastic writer.

    1. To Rocco Landesman’s shame, Lincoln never actually wrote a book.

      1. No. Just a bunch of mash notes to his gay lover, and the Gettysburg Address.

    2. favorite Grant anecdote:

      President Lincoln, when informed that General Grant preferred to guzzle whiskey while leading the troops, replies, “Find out the name of the brand so I can give it to my other generals.”

      1. Not Lincoln, but one of my favorite.

        The number of medals on an officer’s breast varies in inverse proportion to the square of the distance of his duties from the front line.

      2. Also told of General Wolfe in the 18th cent.

        1. but instead of ‘whiskey’ and giving the same brand to other generals, it was ‘mad’ and biting some of the other generals.

          1. Please repeat that?

        2. but instead of ‘whiskey’ and giving the same brand to other generals, it was ‘mad’ and biting some of the other generals.

          1. That’s Wolfe who defeated Montcalm on the Plains of Abraham? Never heard that one. But when both commanding generals die, you know it’s a battle.

    3. That would be pretty good. It would be like reading the Hemingway presidency.

    4. Jesse,

      His memoirs are really quite good. And he wasn’t corrupt, he couldn’t say no to his friends that were corrupt. And he also wasn’t a drunk.

      It never fails to amaze me how Grant, a general who actually won a war, is constantly denegrated. Yet, a career loser like R.E. Lee is still venerated.

      1. Christian martyr complex.

        Winners are blood drenched murderers like the Romans. Losers are honorable underdogs nobly sacrificing for their cause.

      2. Grant didn’t win the war, the Union’s massive industrial and population advantages — as well as, sad to say, its higher degree of centralized government power — did.

        There was absolutely no way the South could win the Civil War. The best they could hope for was to prolong it long enough for the North to give up.

        1. Actually, the Confederate government was far more centralized and its war economy more centrally planned.

        2. Looked at that way, no general ever wins a war, which is kind of true. But the fact remains, Grant was the one northern general who knew how to put the North’s advantages to proper use to end the war. He actually won the war when he took Vicksburg. At that point the South was split in half and no longer a viable country. They had lost the war then. It just took them two more years to admit the truth.

          1. “Grant was the one northern general who WAS WILLING to put the North’s advantages to proper use to end the war.”

            Corrected.

        3. The South’s war strategy was to win enough battles to convince either the British or the French to diplomatically intervene. They were handicapped in doing so by the existence of powerful antislavery sentiment in Britain, but even with that handicap they probably only came up one major victory short. Had Lee won at Gettysburg, there is a distinct likelihood that Britain would have recognized the independence of the Confederacy, which would have made the continued maintenance of the sea blockade impossible and probably would have brought down Lincoln in 1864.

          The South’s real error was starting the war so early in Lincoln’s term. It gave him basically a full four years to stubbornly butt his big old head against the problem before he had to face re-election. If 1862 had been a Presidential election year, Lincoln would have been out and an accomodationist would probably have been in the White House. So there were ways the South could have won.

        4. If Lee had won at Gettysburg, there was nothing between him and Washington D.C. I think had Gettysburg gone the other way (and it was damn close), the South would have won.

          1. You know, when I look at the map, it seems to me there was nothing between Lee and Washington D.C. on the first day of the war, because geographically D.C. was essentially inside the confederacy (and surrounded by slave states). I have no comment on anybody’s generalling skills, but I do wonder how the South went four years without ever taking Washington D.C. The British did it in a walk 50 years earlier.

      3. Grant was a miserable drunk and his victories were not the product of his sodden intellect, cunning or intestinal fortitude but the pedestrian result of possessing far more men that Lee/the Confederacy in every battle.

      4. Lee is overrated. His generals, particularly Stonewall Jackson, made him look better than he was.

  6. The rest of the speech promotes the new slogan “Art Works” and is filled with many wild claims: that a performance space tripled home prices in an East Harlem neighborhood; that an arts districts “transformed” Chattanooga, and that Chicago Mayor Richard Daley should be considered a “number one hero.”

    I don’t know his numbers, but I can prove the same thing. The problem is the increase in property price due to gentrification isn’t solely related to the arts. It’s correlated more with the people who are most know for living in communities that become art havens. You want to flip homes or buy investment real estate with some of the highest growth ratios? Follow those wacky gay people and artsy people as they are shunned from the burbs and gentrify low rent neighborhoods into the next hot spot. Of course this trend is fading as the stereotype and stigma is fading from the gay community. The artsy people usually earn their stigma.

    1. The other annoying thing is context and time frame, but that is just par for the course with retarded comparisons.

      Artists and journalists commenting on politics, economics, physics, hell anything with a fucking number and the possibility of one Greek letter is like watching a monkey fucking a greased football.

    2. Which basically means allowing urban blight to repair itself through natural market forces.

      Artists will move the the cheaperst, dirtiest, grungiest parts of town, because that’s all they can afford.

      The main ingredient is probably tolerating a lax attitude towards drug use. It keeps violence down and allows artists their favorite form of entertainment.

  7. This is the first president that actually writes his own books since Teddy Roosevelt

    Well, so much for Saint Jack and the myth of Profiles in Courage.

    1. Eisenhower is said to have had a lot of help writing Crusade in Europe. Of course Eisenhower lived it. So it is forgivable if he had some help writing it. But since we elected Obama, actually accomplishing anything is passe.

    2. I thought it was proved that Salager wrote that? But most of my college professors were on your side.

  8. Only left wing nutbags would think “writing” autobiographies makes you a writer.

    1. Them and idiot sons. Christopher Buckley voted for Obama because Obama had “written two books” and was “errudite”.

      1. “Errudite” = excellent misspelling! It’s now a Joycean joke with the word “err”….

  9. What exactly is so awesome about writing a book? Especially in today’s age?

    1. Not much really, especially writting two autobiographies.

      1. James Bond should do that. You only live twice.

      2. So he basically wrote the same book twice. Isn’t that admitting that the first book sucked?

  10. Woodrow Wilson was president of Princeton. I know he wrote a book argueing for the parlimentary system. I would imagine he wrote others. It is astounding how ignorant these people are.

    1. Which people? Are you implying that Landesman had a ghostwriter? Maybe Woodrow Wilson wrote that article, and he’s an actual ghost!

      1. No. Landesman is ignorant for thinking that no President’s since TR had written any books.

        1. I was recently given a history textbook written by good old Woody — It’s from the Epochs of American History Series. This volume is Division and Reunion: 1829-1889. It doesn’t mention Grant having written any books though, so it must not be true.

          A sample from the text: “‘Field hands’ on the ordinary plantation came constantly under their master’s eye, were comfortably quartered, and were kept from overwork both by their own laziness and by the slack discipline to which they were subjected.”

          Sounds great!

          1. Ole Woody was a racist back when that term actually meant something. He was just an awful person.

        2. Oh, sorry, you weren’t using the form of “these people” that referred to multiple persons. Must have been my mistake.

  11. “This is the first president that actually writes his own books since Teddy Roosevelt and arguably the first to write them really well since Lincoln. ”

    Ah, that would be bullshit.

    http://www.powells.com/biblio?isbn=9780486447353

  12. It never fails to amaze me how Grant, a general who actually won a war, is constantly denegrated. Yet, a career loser like R.E. Lee is still venerated.

    John, you have a point, but I think if you look into the actual battles, Grant wasn’t an exemplar of strategic or tactical genius. He simply recognized that the Union had an overwhelming numerical superiority, and, unlike his predecessors, was willing to use it.

    Lee took an army that was outnumbered, outgunned, outsupplied, and beat his enemy over and over for three years despite that.

    1. I agree that Lee was spectacular—he only really fucked up when he decided to take the offensive in Penn.; he did also have the advantage of the South fighting for land and its way of life.

      Grant IS a badass. Sure he had numerical/technological advantages, but his taking of Vicksburg just bleeds badass. Cutting yourself off from all reinforcements/contact/supplies for two weeks in the DEEP south in ’63? Damn.

      Light has trouble escaping the massive gravitational field created by his balls.

    2. If you look at the actual battles, Grant was faced with a well led fanatical enemy fighting on its own territory in an era were rifles had replaced muskets and combined arms tactics hadn’t been developed. There was no way to win that war without losing a tremendous number of people.

      As far as Lee goes, he won a huge series of pyric victories that bleed the Confederacy dry. Further, while Lee was galavanting around Virginia, he ignored the the key theater in the West and allowed Sherman and Grant to divide the confederacy and won the war.

      If you look at Lee’s victories, most of them were very costly. Chancelorsville cost Lee 1/3 of his army in a mobile action when he could have dug in and had another Fredericksburg. I really think Lee is highly overrated.

      1. People fighting on their own territory were fanatical? As opposed to being laid-back and casual about defending their own homeland?

        Amazing!

        1. So everyone who fights on their own territory fights finatically? Really? I think the French might disagree with that.

          1. I hate to come to the defense of the French, but they fought pretty fucking hard in WW1, and did as well in WW2 as you could expect of an outflanked force.

            1. They did fight hard in the first world war. But they were total cowards in the second. They could have attacked Germany in the fall of 1939 and rolled them. All of Germany’s first rate troops were in Poland. They could have devistated Western Germany if they had had any courage.

              1. There’s some truth to this, John, but France at the time was bitterly divided by the war. A lot of the French “right wing” didn’t want to go to war.

                Also, there was a fair amount of sabotage by French communists on order from Moscow. A lot of commanders suspected the loyalty of their troops for both reasons.

                1. I had never heard that about the Communists. Figures.

                  1. The Hitler-Stalin pact of August 1939 meant that every Communist party in the world, taking orders from Moscow, did a 180 and stopped talking about the perils of fascism, and instead took a “keep us out of the war” line. Large numbers of Western communists got disillusioned by it all, and didn’t get their spirits back up until Hitler invaded the USSR in June of 1941.

              2. If you ever get a chance to read de Gaulle’s memoir l’Appel, he paints a pretty vivid picture of the May-June 1940 debacle as something that didn’t need to happen. The theme that keeps coming back is that de Gaulle and his droogs — who did have a few supporters at the general staff level — were always in the mood to kick ass, and did in fact score a few tactical victories. Then they get back to Paris, confident and pimpant, as they say, only to realize all the politicians and most of the generals a) have no idea what’s going on in the field and b) are all running their own games against domestic rivals, with no particular commitment to winning the war. It’s always political but it’s not always about politics. IIRC, at one point de Gaulle gets cockblocked on a rolling-defense idea just because somebody doesn’t want to admit to having been wrong about the idea of massing armor independent of infantry for rapid movement.

          2. It is disingenuous to not understand that those defending their homes and livelihood are, all else being equal, more passionate about victory.

            1. Mad Max made a really stupid comment. The South was both fanatical and fighting on their own territory. One is not exclusive or the other and it is not a redundant statement. I should have just ignored it.

          3. The German blitzkreig was a fairly novel invention at the time. Germany rolled over everyone they fought, because massed armor columns weren’t in anyone else’s playbook at the time. No one knew how to fight them. If there had been a land bridge to England, they wouldn’t have lasted three weeks.

            Sadly, the one country that would have had a chance to really fight the Germans, Czechoslovakia, had been sacrificed to them. The Sudetanland had a “mini-Maginot” line of defense that the German generals admitted they probably couldn’t have broken through. However, when the English and French welched out of their commitments, and the Poles stabbed the Czechs in the back for a small chunk of land, that was it for them.

            And a good portion of the tanks used to invade Poland and France were from the Czech Skoda factory.

            1. That is one of the reasons why the Germans invaded Poland. They didn’t think there was any way the British would go to war over Poland when they wouldn’t go to war over Czechoslovakia when as you point out it was a lot more strategiclly vital.

              But, the Germans were not as invincible at the start of the war as they are made out to be. They only had a few really top rate divisions. The British and the French actually had better tanks. Had the French had more elan, they could have driven north and cut off the German’s armored thrust. But, they were truly a beaten people after World War I. France ceased to be a world power after Napoleon and ceased to be any power at all after the First World War.

              1. You seem to be giving the French a good deal less than their due. As Cavanaugh points out, the cause of the French collapse seems to have been largely a failure of nerve amongst the French politicians (and the British ones as well I would add) rather than any supposed lack of elan amongst the French troops. Rather than being a “beaten people”, the French soldiers fought hard, not only during World War II, but in their Algerian and Indochinese wars (among others) as well.

                There is a good deal of evidence, moreover, that the blitzkrieg during WWII was not nearly as effective — or as novel — as is often claimed. It is all well and good to speak of great “armoured thrusts” into the enemy rear (!), but throughout the Second World War, many such thrusts fell far short of their objectives as they ran both into resistance and out of fuel.

                1. The French did not mass their tanks, of which they had more and better than the Germans. The big problem was their tanks did not have radios. They used semaphores for God’s sake.

              2. i think its going a bit far to say that france wasn’t a world power after napoleon or that it wasn’t a power at all after the first world war.
                Its sheer size made it a power.

            2. And they (the other European leaders) look at Vaclav Klaus in disgusted disbelief over his hesitation on signing Lisbon. This despite his repeatedly reminding them the Czech people have learned well what loss of freedom means.

              Presently Brussels is carrying out the final stage of the operation before mop up, the portion in which opponents are mercilessly smeared while showering proponents with promises of special favor and free trinkets, leading to one commenter, Adam K?re?ka, posting: “I warn you ?.freedom is more than temporary benefits!”

              Someone needs to nominate Adam to receive a Franklin Award. That’s correct, Adam, those willing to exchange freedom for temporary benefits deserve neither one.

              Seeing it unfold has some Europeans worrying that once the product they agreed to buy arrives it may not be what was advertised. Much of the concern is resulting from loss of money into the machine paired with loss of access to their reprehensive who now work as representatives of the machine only. Examined in light of the fact the initial simple clearly written legal documents involving laws, regulations, treaties, and such have give way to long verbose vaguely worded ones no one can understand is throwing up red flags for some. Such as Maria Klingler who posted:

              “I am afraid this Lisbon Treaty is a train which has left in the wrong direction and cannot be stopped anymore.Now the EU-supporters in Bruxelles have told us, that the signature of Mr.Klaus is not necessary anyway.So whoever does not like this dictatorship of the EU must leave.”

              Any of this sound familiar?

              The Framers were no fools they expected we’d last until we became too passive and sedated to understand the value of freedom. We were given all the necessary cutting edge tools to preserve and protect our freedom for as long as we wished to keep it.

              We are at the point of no return, now. No one can say for sure which little step will put us over the edge at this point. One thing for certain, keep trading the tools vital to maintain it off for trinkets and that ol’ train will be leaving the station with no means to turn it around. If it hasn’t already done so.

              If you’re unfamiliar with the Lisbon Treaty here’s a link to a typical blog on the subject:
              http://supportvaclavklaus.word…..president/

          4. OK, I will admit that the Confederates were more fanatical than the French. Mea culpa. 🙂

            1. More fanatical in their willingness to defend their homeland.

              Too bad that it was Confederate support for slavery was a root cause of having to defend their homeland in the first place – it takes the bloom off the rose. But the patriotism of the Confederate soldiers was generally based on a sincere desire to defend their homes from invaders.

              Moral ambiguity – deal with it.

      2. …in an era were rifles had replaced muskets and combined arms tactics hadn’t been developed. There was no way to win that war without losing a tremendous number of people.

        If you look at Lee’s victories, most of them were very costly… I really think Lee is highly overrated.

        Durrrr.

  13. “patrician oligarchy”?
    you’ve got your factions in the Roman revolution backwards. “patrician oligarchy” is a good description of the agenda of the optimates: cato, cassius, and brutus.

    caesar was himself a patrician, but his political career was as a popularis (demagogue) involving patron-client ties between himself and the lower classes, think hugo chavez in a toga.

    1. Ceaser was a Republican. The optimates were assholes who started killing and exiling their enemies. Once Ceaser was faced with exile when he left military command, he had nothing to lose. The Optimates left him no choice.

      1. Interesting view. But I think you’re going a bit far calling him a Republican. His hand may have been forced, but that doesn’t mean he had no intention of seizing power when he returned to Rome. After all, he waged an illegal war, had the mob on his side, and had all the money and connections that made him a member of the second trumvirate. He’s pretty much already demonstrated a fondness for being part of a three-man oligarchy. His enemies really weren’t any less corrupt or ambitious, but it’s not like they didn’t have any justifiable reason to be afraid of Ceasar’s power if he was allowed to return.

        1. It seems to me that the Optimates and the Populares had about as much substantive difference between them as the Republican and Democratic parties. Another thing that strengthens the analogy is that they regularly switched positions on issues based on who had the upper hand in Roman politics of the day. The army reforms that Marius carried out, for example, had been proposed earlier by Scipio Aemilianus and were bitterly opposed by the populares of the day (the Gracchi, who aimed to solve the shortage of troops available for the army through land reform).

          1. I think it’s fair to say that both sides were only interested in amassing as much power for themselves as possible.

        2. The problem with the optimates is that they were fairly upfront about their intention to rig a court trial to destroy Caesar if he ever left the Gallic command.

          When the other guy has a better army than you, it’s not wise to announce in advance your intention to use extralegal means to bring him down.

          It also means that the optimates were willing to corrupt their republican institutions in order to save them, which muddies the waters a bit on the “who was right” question.

          Octavian was much more unambiguously in the wrong than Julius was. But by Octavian’s time there were so many jackals climbing on the corpse of the republic that it’s hard to single him out – he was just the strongest and the last one standing.

          1. Eh, the Republic had been going to Hell in a handbasket ever since they passed the Lex Canuleia.

            1. Late in life I have come to believe that the republic died with the Brothers Gracchi.

              For many years I regarded them as quasi-Spartacists and was instinctively against them, but in post-bailout America it is easy for me to see how the Senate had become a tool of the rent-seeking class, and that had their plan to distribute all civically-owned land succeeded the republic would have endured much longer. I always thought that the Gracchi were proto-Rosa Luxembourgs but I have come to realize that they were probably more like proto-Ron Pauls.

  14. No jokes about Bill Ayers yet?

    1. I used my one Ayers joke a while ago. I have a self imposed limit of 1.

      1. But I bet your joke was really da bomb!

    2. How about: “The really impressive thing is to get a Marxist terrorist bomber to ghostwrite your autobiography and then get elected President.”

  15. Anyone else find a great disparity between the content of his two books and the Office Space banality of the limited phrasing that comes out of Obama’s mouth?

    How many times can you repeat, ‘let us be clear’, ‘(fill in the blank) is not an option’, ‘skin in the game’ before you are sick of your own existence and enticed by the sheen of razor blades greeting you in the bathroom cabinet every morning?

    I know a few writers who are not that impressive in person, but who could also string some pretty words together on the page, so I don’t really entertain the idea that the first book at least was ghost written.

    However, whatever embarrassment to more mainstream righties those who claim that Ayers wrote the first book can’t really compare to the sight of white liberal porch honkies shucking and jiving like Landesman does or the Nobel committee did to glorify our underwhelming president.

    1. He is not that bright. He was a affirmative action baby in college. And someone, maybe Ayers but who knows, ghost wrote his books. If he were that smart or interesting, he wouldn’t have written two books about himself. Didn’t he ever think about something else?

      1. Obama is a very curious fellow which is the reason he is subject to so many rumors. There are things about his narrative that make no sense. He spent months in Pakistan as a young adult but was under the impression that there is a lack of Arabic translators in Afghanistan. A nation that shares in cultural aspects, especially in language, Urdu and Persian dialects, with Pakistan. How could he have not been aware of this?

        1. Good question. He was in Pakistan? I thought he was in Indonesia? Regardless, we have been in AFghanistan since 2001. And Obama has been in public life that entire time. You would think at some point during that time he would have learned what language they spoke.

          I think the answer is that he is incredibly discplined about speaking. He says exactly what is in his notes or teleprompter no matter what.

          1. Here is a link about his college trip. If memory serves me, his mother lived there for several years when she was in microbanking.

            http://blogs.abcnews.com/polit…..llege.html

          2. Go fuck yourself, San Diego.

  16. I read somewhere that Coolidge translated Dante.

    I’d to see Obama translate anything. Here’s an idiot who thinks Austrian is a language.

    Can we please wake up already?

    1. Obama can probably translate for Bawny Fank.

      1. They both speak buttfuck retard.

    2. Seriously, Bush might not have been the brightest bulb, but at no point did he say that Austrians speak Austrian nor have problems pronouncing ‘Orion’.

      Obama isn’t very bright.

  17. Herbert Hoover was a Metallica fan?

    fuck ya *throws up horns*

  18. It’s worth remembering that there was a time when Metallica didn’t suck.

  19. Hey, is that Obama statue flipping us off?

  20. All statues are flipping us all off, always.

  21. Rocco gives slavish obsequieousness a bad name.

  22. Caesar should always get his due.

  23. Anyone who has read Ceasar’s The Gallic War, even in translation, knows how farcical Rocco Landesman’s comparison is.

  24. Aresen,

    Personally, I feel that “The Gallic Wars” is one of the most well written books I have ever come across. His writing style is short and articulate. I can’t think of any ancient writer who has the degree of sophistication I found there. Plutarch and Livy come close in my opinion.

    1. Wow Naga, you are the Ubergeek of Reason!

      1. That’s because you keep running off all the other commentors. Now get off my coattails.

        1. I loved “The Gallic Wars,” but I think Thucydides deserves a mention as a great ancient writer.

          1. He made to much mention of “If only the Athenian’s had listened to me” in his history. Great though it was. Why not throw in Diodorus of Sicily, Xenophon, Polybius, etc? Because I can. There are a lot I can throw in if I wasn’t cherry picking.

    2. Naga Shadow

      Personally, I prefer Homer and Aristophanes (The Birds is hysterically funny, even after 2500 years), to Ceasar.

      But the comparison was to another writer who was also a head of government. Unless you buy into the ‘Elizabeth Tudor wrote Shakespeare’s plays’ idea, no other head of government comes close.

  25. His own favored successor allowed the writer and politician Cicero to be beheaded, and later exiled the poet Ovid.

    To be fair Ovid was an asshole.

    1. Well to be fair, sleeping with the slutty member of Tiberius’s clan was a bad move on his part.

    2. And to also be fair, it was Antony (really Antony’s wife) who wanted Cicero dead. Supposedly, Augustus tried to talk Antony out of it.

      1. That’s right, and Cicero had been an occasional supporter of Octavian/Augustus. But Augustus did make the deal. That kind of thing has a “chilling effect” on free speech — though of course, not as chilling as when you don’t spend taxpayer money to prop up The New York Times.

  26. De Bello Gallico is actually overrated. It’s very well-written, but Gauls are a very prosaic foe. I prefer the lesser-known De Bello Lemures [see sig], because zombies were a better enemy for ancient Rome than silly old Gauls.

    1. Wait, what? The Romans went to war with the lemurs? But they’re so cute! They’re like all the awesome of dogs, but in monkey form!

  27. “If you accept the premise, and I do, that the United States is the most powerful country in the world”

    who doesn’t think that the United States is the most powerful country in the world?

    1. The Iraqis and Taliban aren’t that impressed.

    2. My vote is for China. They just happen to have the good sense to know that owning the world is better than trying to lead it from the bully-pulpit.

    3. you could make an argument that the most powerful country in the world is the one with the strongest, most influential currency…

      From that respect, it doesn’t look good for the US.

  28. “This is the first president that actually writes his own books since Teddy Roosevelt and arguably the first to write them really well since Lincoln. ”

    It hasn’t been established that Obama actually DID write his own books.

    I hear that Bill Ayres claimed he wrote one of them.

  29. Really, that whole speech is art, if bullshittery is an art form, and I think it is.

    Check this out: Bill Ivey and Dana Gioia worked tirelessly to build strong relationships on Capitol Hill and to re-establish the NEA as a respected, bipartisan agency with a presence in every state and most Congressional districts.

    I guess he forgot about this.

  30. I see nothing particularly intellectual or even patrician about this administration.

  31. The amazing thing about this speech is that he can enunciate so clearly with his tongue that far up Obama’s ass.

  32. There’s also nothing aspirational about this administration other than the fact that it aspires to seize more power. Rhetoric alone is bullshit. You’d think an educated person would’ve picked up on that fact by now.

    Of course, from my perspective, Obama’s rhetoric would be bullshit even if he did exactly what he said all of the time.

    1. I don’t think it even wants to have the responsibility of seizing that additional power. It is waiting for the republicans to help award more power. Obama , I think, is more infatuated with wielding the power for its own sake.

      1. That’s the craziness of it all. Bitch and moan when the other side abuses its power, then take over, commit most of the same abuses, add some more, then hand the more powerful office to the other side again.

        I don’t want to overstate this, but the same sort of thing happened in the late days of the Roman Republic. Constitutional breakdowns (e.g., the weakening of the censorial office, multiple consecutive consulships), excessive populism in the political arena (i.e., inciting popular anger and using that to achieve purely political ends), etc. Eventually, if you weaken the basic accepted framework of a stable system enough, then you’ll get instability. After you get instability, most likely, you’ll get one form or another of tyranny.

  33. in the aftermath of his death a poet was killed by a pro-Julian mob.

    Didn’t read this bit yesterday, but now that I did I feel I must mention that Helvius Cinna was killed because the mob mistook him for one of Caesar’s assassins, not because he was a poet. It says so right in the link you provided.

    1. That’s right. It was a case of mistaken identity. Even Shakespeare mentions that event in Julius Caesar:

      Third Citizen: Your name, sir, truly.

      CINNA THE POET: Truly, my name is Cinna.

      First Citizen: Tear him to pieces; he’s a conspirator.

      CINNA THE POET: I am Cinna the poet, I am Cinna the poet.

      Fourth Citizen: Tear him for his bad verses, tear him for his bad verses.

      CINNA THE POET: I am not Cinna the conspirator.

      Fourth Citizen: It is no matter, his name’s Cinna; pluck but his name out of his heart, and turn him going.

      Third Citizen: Tear him, tear him! Come, brands ho! fire-brands: to Brutus’, to Cassius’; burn all: some to Decius’ house, and some to Casca’s; some to Ligarius’: away, go!

      Exeunt

      Of course, in this quasi-fictional account, at least one of the mob was, in fact, a literary critic (“tear him for his bad verses”).

      1. Man, that is such a hate crime…

  34. Lee was a great general. However, he left his army vulnerable to more aggressive Union generals (Antietam, Gettysburg). But he knew his opponents and got away with it. Once Grant grabbed him like a bulldog and held on,the South was doomed if Sherman could (and he did) take Atlanta.

  35. James Garfield discovered and published a new proof of the Pythagorean Theorem. That’s not a whole book, so I guess it doesn’t compare to blathering on about your old coke habit.

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