"He has treated fortune like a woman"

Maybe one of the best quips about the strange and dominating political talents of George W. Bush, from Jack Balkin, in a delightful and enlightening post on Bush as the "Mayberry Machiavelli." Paraphrasing Machiavelli he says:

...fortune favors the bold and impetuous, because by taking the offensive they have a greater chance of reshaping the situation to their advantage; acting agressively and forcefully requires others to respond to them and play their game.

Looking over the three years of the Bush Administration so far, it seems clear (to me at any rate) that Bush has followed Machiavelli's advice admirably. He has shown himself by nature bold and reckless; by acting decisively, and refusing to compromise, he has forced first Congress, and later the world to dance to his tune. His domestic policies show little concern for what tomorrow may bring; and his bold maneuver into Iraq was made heedless of the consequences of a long occupation. In conformity with Machiavelli's remarks on fortune, Bush has acted "less cautious, more violent, and with more audacity;" he has treated fortune like a woman. And he has brazenly dissembled whenever dissembling was required to promote his aims. This is the source of his considerable success.

This analysis goes well with another excellent post of Balkin's on why Bush's particular governing philsophy might best be termed "Free Lunch Conservatism."

Whatever ideological squabbles the left and right have had, the extraordinary past three years have at base been about one thing: the maintenance of power against all odds. That's why in the end Bush will burn both ideological liberals and conservatives (at least the kind that don't control large numbers of votes or dollars). Its harder for the conservatives to realize, of course, because Bush operated in their idiom for so long, and because his dismissal of their opponents was so ruthless and galvanizing.

But the cracks are starting to appear now. For the small government-ers, for the fiscal conservatives, for the military democratizers--all must face the fact that their ideological goals are utterly subservient to this administration's focus on maintaining its power. The remaining questions are whether 1) this crisis of conscience will really produce converts, and 2) whether an about face for the intellectual right will mean anything to the average voter.


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