Tuesday, April 5, 2011

John Hayward: The Cincinnatus Trap

This ideal is an intellectual bear trap that ultimately serves the purposes of the Left
John Hayward opines at Human Events that the Republican who opposes Obama will need more than just "fire in the belly" to unseat the sitting president in 2012:
Conservatives and libertarians have a certain romantic fascination with Cincinnatus, by reputation if not by name. Cincinnatus was a Roman farmer who reluctantly left his fields to take charge of the Republic during a moment of crisis, served wisely and selflessly for precisely as long as he was needed, and trudged quietly back to his farm when Rome was safe once again. There’s a statue in his namesake city of Cincinnati that shows him surrendering the symbols of power with one hand, while he limbers up his trusty plow with the other.

That’s the mythological ideal of a limited-government president, isn’t it?


This ideal is a dead end, an intellectual bear trap that ultimately serves the purposes of the Left. Embracing it will deny us the tough and energetic leadership we need for real reform to succeed in Washington.

I found myself thinking of the Cincinnatus Trap as I read an opinion piece from former Republican senator John Sununu in the Boston Globe on Monday. Sununu criticizes prospective GOP presidential candidates Donald Trump and Sarah Palin for being “captivated by the idea of being President,” which makes them “exactly the type of political figure our country’s founders were worried about.”

Sununu goes on to recount the Founders’ abiding suspicion of populism, reminding us how they were “troubled – some might say preoccupied – with the potential dangers of ambition, factions, and concentrated power.” Although he assures us he doesn’t “view Palin or Trump as a threat to the republic,” he feels “ill at ease with officeholders or candidates who are too enamored with the idea of holding a particular office.”

Here’s the problem: no one will win a modern Presidential race unless they want the Oval Office like Gollum wants the One Ring. The 2012 race will be an incredible test of endurance and character. No matter how affable and inoffensive they might seem today, any candidate who runs against Barack Obama will be mercilessly savaged. The media will sit up nights preparing ambush interviews, and magnify the smallest gaffe into evidence of greed, stupidity, or psychosis. Every moment of the candidate’s history will be scrutinized, every element of their personal lives will be weaponized, and every member of their families will be a target.

Hayward reminds us of how the armies of the press left no dumpster unexplored in Alaska in 2008 and warns that it’s going to even w0rse than that in 2012. "The candidate will spend the first round of media appearances appealing a summary conviction of racism, hypocrisy, and slavish obedience to the Evil Rich." No reluctant Cincinnatus, Hayward concludes is going to be able to weather that kind of storm. To take down Obama, the GOP candidate will need the endurance of the Energizer Bunny and a campaign organization which pays meticulous attention to detail.

Sarah Palin is the only Republican who has been under the media's magnifying glass for so long in the midday sun, yet she has not been reduced to mere ashes from the intense scrutiny. She has proved that she can weather the firestorm. The next question is does she have that burning desire and the leadership qualities to change the course of this nation away from the cliff. We know she can lead; she's clearly demonstrated that. We have also seen evidence of the fire inside. The only remaining question is can she build a winning campaign organization. We believe she can. She has done so at the municipal and state levels in the past, and she has witnessed, up close and in a very personal way, how it should not be done in the big leagues at the national level, thanks to the McCain campaign's mixed bag of the good, the bad and the ugly in 2008. The time to build that winning team is now or never.

- JP

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