TV Tropes Org

Forums

search forum titles
google site search
Total posts: [80]
1
 2  3 4

Why can't American Presidents be openly Machiavellian?:

I'm reading an interesting book right now, The Next Decade, and it raises a good point - American presidents often struggle with having to do one thing (because that thing, even if morally "grey", is necessary for American interests), but saying another (to keep their approval ratings high enough for re-election and for maintaining control over Congress). And here's what I don't understand - why can't Americans accept that?

Our best presidents are the ones that were willing to cross certain lines but would only do so if it was necessary in order to defend the country. Lincoln, for instance, suspended habeus corpus and censored pro-segregation legislatures in Maryland, but he only did so because the nation's very survival was at stake, and Reagan funded various illegal activities because doing so was part of his plan to contain communist Russia. History has judged these men to have done the right thing, so how come our present leadership is treated so poorly for trying to do more of the same? People are critical of Obama for singing into law legislation that could allow the government to arrest American citizens and hold them indefinitely, but in extraordinary times such a measure could very well protect American interests, even the rights that we hold so dear.

I guess I would rather have a leader willing to step a few times on so-called "American values" if they are doing so in order to save those values from being utterly crushed, and it surprises me that so few Americans seem to recognize this necessity. Where does all this naivete come from, anyway? Why can't Americans realize that to be a leader sometimes means not playing by the conventional rules?
 
Because if values are ignored by the very people who are supposed to uphold them, they are already utterly crushed.

Then again, I am hopelessly naive, and not even American
If we disagree, that much, at least, we have in common
 3 Loni Jay, Tue, 3rd Jan '12 11:15:27 PM from Australia Relationship Status: Pining for the fjords
[up] What she said, down to being a naive non-American.

You can't uphold values with one hand while tearing them down with the other. It doesn't work like that.
Be not afraid...
Democracy dictates that the will of the people should be the code of the state. People do not want to believe that their politicians are aiming to undermine the values they hold dear. People who then say that the government isn't any good at what it does can merely hope for a better one next time around.

If one openly disregards the values that they were elected for, that person is likely not a good ruler. "Doing what is needed to do good" depends on what good is. If you disregard legislature and the platform you were elected on in order to do "good", would it not be a great shame if what you did had massive negative impacts?

Cutting down human rights in order to preserve them is both contradictory and stupid.

Also: Machiavelli was likely being satirical in The Prince.
 
 5 Aceof Spades, Tue, 3rd Jan '12 11:16:17 PM from The Wild Blue Yonder Relationship Status: Yes, I'm alone, but I'm alone and free
Because, quite frankly, that's fucking stupid. Not to mention that the particular law you mentioned has brought up concerns about this being abused in times of peace, used on individuals who didn't actually do anything, without the right to a lawyer which is not a value that should be stepped on. (I don't think it's going to have much of an effect on much, but the point still stands.)

Plus, Machiavelli wrote for a specific time and place, and his most famous work was quite likely some kind of satire. He ALSO said that it was important not to be hated, which means that stepping on things that Americans value is a really stupid thing to do.

Also, we can vote out and impeach our presidents, which makes behaving in a Machiavellian way really dumb, if you can't spin it into American values. Which the Republicans do. Even so, Bush got lambasted for his decisions because we're looking at the president far more than we do at our Congress.
Mentor
I wouldn't mind a leader who was more honest about how little values actually mean to them but I doubt the rest of the general public would appreciate that truth.

 7 Pykrete, Tue, 3rd Jan '12 11:24:29 PM from Viridian Forest
NOT THE BEES
Doesn't help when the kind of violations made aren't even the ones that have any believable payoff.

Jefferson overstepping his bounds to buy Louisiana? Clear long-term benefit.

Shady government organization with a record of being way overzealous given the blessing to indefinitely incarcerate whoever they feel like without trial or charge, to combat a threat that statistically ranks lower than your goddamn bathtub? Not so much.

 8 Blixty Slycat, Tue, 3rd Jan '12 11:25:45 PM from Driving the Rad Hazard
|like a boss|
Because even Machiavelli wasn't a Machiavellian.

It's not a system that works very well, honestly. Pointing out how twofaced the political system is is a great way to get elected, but reveling in an I-don't-care attitude doesn't sit well with most people.
go ahead and do every stupid thing you can imagine
betaalpha
I see three main reasons why the presidential dishonesty and anti-constitutional actions must be punished even if they are supposedly done in the intetrests of the country.

If there is no punishment, might they just do it again and again, for increasingly casual reasons, eventually destroying all trust in the president's role and allowing him to become a dictator?

If the president did this act for his country (eg. the Iran Contra Affair), maybe he's secretly doing more of the same for himself? (eg. the Watergate or Lewinski scandals)

Even if his actions serve the United States, it may damage other contries, seriously screwing up international relations.

Finally, many scandalous actions like Iran Contra and Extraordinary Rendition have _not_ necessariy been vindicated by history. Many people think acts like these did much more harm than good.

[down] Here's one of those people :)

edited 4th Jan '12 4:11:42 AM by betaalpha

Pro-Freedom Fanatic
Lincoln is only regarded as a hero because he crushed fucking slavers: Had he done his whole suspending the Bill of Rights against anyone else, history'd rightly see him as an authoritarian monster.

As for Reagan... He busted unions. He supported violent and oppressive fascist regimes. He did deeply illegal shit to fund right-wing paramilitaries in South America. He presided over the dismantling of American manufacturing and the degradation of our wages: There's been few presidents (If any) more hostile to the American working class.

If the government can violate your rights with impunity, that doesn't keep you safe at all: Rather, they become a larger threat than the official enemy (if they weren't to begin with).

edited 4th Jan '12 4:05:56 AM by SavageHeathen

You exist because we allow it and you will end because we demand it.
 11 Barkey, Wed, 4th Jan '12 6:33:00 AM from Bunker 051 Relationship Status: [TOP SECRET]
War Profiteer
Meh, I'm not sure I care anymore. The American people are idiots, and American politicians are assholes. There's no way out until this Bread & Circuses shit stops.
The AR-15 is responsible for 95% of all deaths each year. The rest of the deaths are from obesity and drone strikes.
 12 Polarstern, Wed, 4th Jan '12 6:46:49 AM from United States
I think I'm going to look into immigrating to Canada...

I know every country has it's problems, but as so many tropers have listed before, the general population is scared, stupid, and willing to believe anything.

Just look at what crap Bush was able to get away with in the name of September 11th? (And is still getting away with...)

@Op

Being openly Machiavellian is not being machiavellian at all.
I will always cherish the chance of a new beggining.
 14 Greenmantle, Wed, 4th Jan '12 6:59:29 AM from Failing Britannia Relationship Status: [TOP SECRET]
Carry On
@ Barkey:

QFT.

Unfortunately, that's at the root of the America's image problem (Eagleland Type B).

But the American population does seem to be a bit naive to the I Did What I Had to Do aspect of International Politics — to achieve the National Interest doesn't always mean you can be nice about it...

edited 4th Jan '12 7:01:10 AM by Greenmantle

"To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield" — Alfred, Lord Tennyson
Anyone who thinks rulers should be openly Machiavellian clearly missed Machiavelli's point.
"You fail to grasp the basic principles of mad science. Common sense would be cheating." - Narbonic
 16 Ramidel, Wed, 4th Jan '12 7:51:30 AM Relationship Status: Above such petty unnecessities
My theory on why American Presidents can't act in accordance with ruthless realpolitik is something like this: http://www.giantitp.com/comics/oots0606.html

Politicians know that they can't keep their word and say what they mean all the time. The functions of government are often basically incompatible with campaign promises, the law, and American values. But people would rather have a lying sack of politician than one who openly admits he's going to trample on whatever they hold dear to make a better state. So long as politicians play the game, everyone can pretend that their values mean something.

 17 Drunk Girlfriend, Wed, 4th Jan '12 7:53:25 AM from Castle Geekhaven
They are. Machiavelli wrote satire after all. tongue
"I don't know how I do it. I'm like the Mr. Bean of sex." -Drunkscriblerian
If the government can violate your rights with impunity, that doesn't keep you safe at all: Rather, they become a larger threat than the official enemy
This. Larger threat indeed, because government is right here while enemy is somewhere.

(sigh) Speaking back to who is a bigger threat, personally, if I am to die, I'd rather die as an innocent victim to be avenged rather than "enemy of the nation" to be trampled and forgotten. So for me, not only an abusive government would be a more immediate and certain threat, but a worse threat too.
If we disagree, that much, at least, we have in common
 19 Octo, Wed, 4th Jan '12 8:12:55 AM from Germany
Prince of Dorne
[up][up]And even if not, pretending to be nice while in truth being ruthless was the entire core point of The Prince...

But yeah, the best counter argument is really Beholderess' and Savage's approach. If it's already the government violating your rights, what do you need an enemy for? Hell, what do you even need a government for then?
Unbent, Unbowed, Unbroken.

Unrelated ME1 Fanfic
For one thing, when did history judge Reagan's actions anywhere close to correct? For most non-Americans he's a despicable monster and for half of Americans, he's still a despicable monster. That man killed millions of innocent people, if not tens of million.

Secondly, being openly Machiavellian, as stated, is not being Machiavellian.

Thirdly, you live in a democracy in which leaders are supposed to both what is good for the nation and what is wanted. Both conditions should be satisfied. Very rarely is there a situation in which a leader must ignore what the people want and simply do what is good (because if people don't want it, such legislation is typically repealed). Those rare situations typically involve increasing social freedoms, civil liberties or political freedoms.

edited 4th Jan '12 9:24:01 AM by breadloaf

 21 Greenmantle, Wed, 4th Jan '12 9:46:14 AM from Failing Britannia Relationship Status: [TOP SECRET]
Carry On
[up]

What if it's not legislation, it is a situation? One that requires an immediate response? Say if the country is under threat of Terrorist Attack, for example? Or a need for a country to sell it's products abroad, sometimes to regimes with not the greatest regard for Human Rights, for example?
"To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield" — Alfred, Lord Tennyson
 22 Karkadinn, Wed, 4th Jan '12 10:00:04 AM from New Orleans, Louisiana
Karkadinn
Thank you, Breadloaf. 'History' has not judged Reagan correct. The GOP have WHITEWASHED him into being correct because they love to idolize the dead (who can no longer disagree with what they say) to justify their jingoism. Meanwhile the rest of the country and the rest of the world rolls its eyes.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=juxm4P4fnq8
Furthermore, I think Guantanamo must be destroyed.
 23 Octo, Wed, 4th Jan '12 10:10:42 AM from Germany
Prince of Dorne
What if it's not legislation, it is a situation? One that requires an immediate response? Say if the country is under threat of Terrorist Attack, for example?
Outside 24, there are still always proper procedures for such events. The "ticking bomb scenario" is a myth.

As for Reagan - yeah. Crediting him was the downfall of the USSR as some idiots within the GOP do is just plain stupid and outright insulting.
Unbent, Unbowed, Unbroken.

Unrelated ME1 Fanfic
 24 Greenmantle, Wed, 4th Jan '12 10:17:41 AM from Failing Britannia Relationship Status: [TOP SECRET]
Carry On
[up]

Outside 24, there are still always proper procedures for such events.

Exactly.

I was just reacting to part of breadloaf's post. Specifically, this part:

Thirdly, you live in a democracy in which leaders are supposed to both what is good for the nation and what is wanted. Both conditions should be satisfied. Very rarely is there a situation in which a leader must ignore what the people want and simply do what is good (because if people don't want it, such legislation is typically repealed).

It happens, probably more often than you think, and certainly more often since 9/11.
"To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield" — Alfred, Lord Tennyson
 25 Octo, Wed, 4th Jan '12 10:26:26 AM from Germany
Prince of Dorne
Exactly. [...] It happens, probably more often than you think
Uh... hm. I think you should make up your mind...
Unbent, Unbowed, Unbroken.

Unrelated ME1 Fanfic
Total posts: 80
1
 2  3 4


TV Tropes by TV Tropes Foundation, LLC is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available from thestaff@tvtropes.org.
Privacy Policy