Sunday, September 19, 2010

The Past is Prologue

Henry Clay, speaking of John Tyler, in 1842:
We could get along with a man who was only a fool or knave, or mad but the extraordinary occurrence of all three of those qualities combined in one person is intolerable.

Which got me thinking about the past administration. George Bush is the fool. Dick Cheney is the knave. Donald Rumsfeld and the claque of neo-conservative armchair warriors are the mad man. A perfect storm of incompetence and delusion with consequences as grave as any occasioned by John Tyler. The only difference is that modern Americans find this somehow tolerable.

The quote is from Henry Clay: the Essential American by David S. Heidler and Jeanne T. Heidler. Almost 500 pages plus 70 pages of notes and sources extensively chronicle a long public life. The story reads well and details the issues, politics and personalities of America in the early to mid-19th century.

Accounts of politics in the latter years of that era would easily characterize politics today. The manipulators and misinformers from those days would have no difficulty competing, once they understood the technology, with contemporary practitioners. Or vice-versa.

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