In War, Surrender. In Defeat, Apology. In Peace, Dhimmitude. In Victory... What's That?
Ideas and Beliefs: "The best kind of democratic leader has just a few -- perhaps three or four -- central principles to which he is passionately attached and will not sacrifice under any circumstances." One immediately sees the problem with Obama and the Clintons, for what do they actually believe in aside from socialized medicine, global warming, and appeasing our enemies? Bill Clinton may have been the most unprincipled president in history, and it is impossible to say what his wife actually believes.
And as for Obama, he doesn't seem to have any discernible philosophy except for the usual ad hoc leftism. I say ad hoc because American style leftism operates in a kind of helter skelter way, from the periphery toward the center. It is always concealing first principles that it never articulates, unlike conservatism, whose principles can be stated quite plainly: limited government, local control, low taxes, free markets, strong military, sovereignty, and judges who don't invent laws.
I suppose the problem is, no viable leftist, even if he privately believes it (Dennis Kucinich notwithstanding), can come out and say that his political philosophy revolves around a large and intrusive federal government, burdensome taxes, a state controlled economy, a weak military, appeasement of our enemies, open borders, and elites in black robes dictating constitutional law.
Johnson writes that he is not impressed "by leaders who have definite views on everything. History teaches it is a mistake to have too many convictions, held with equal certitude and tenacity. They crowd each other out. A great leader is someone who can distinguish between the essential and the peripheral -- between what must be done and what is merely desirable." He cites the example of Margaret Thatcher, who, similar to Ronald Reagan, had only three core "musts": "uphold the rule of law at home and abroad; keep government activities to a minimum, and so taxes low; encourage individuals to do as much as they can, as well as they can."
Willpower: The decisive quality of willpower has to do with the ability to make one's principles a reality. Thus, "a politician can have immense intelligence and all the other virtues, but if will is lacking he is nothing." It is fair to say that most politicians have abundant willpower, but I suppose the question is whether this power derives from mere narcissism -- the will to power -- or from a higher source -- the will to serve. I can't even imagine the stamina, drive, and discipline it must take to campaign for president day after day, month after dreary month. Personally, I'd die of boredom, mustering all that fake emotion and making the same stupid speech to the same slack-jawed crowds. It would be like having to be an actor in a bad play for two years, except that the play lasts 16 hours a day.
This is what is so off-putting about the Clintons. Yes, their will to power is impressive, but what's behind it? What actually drives them? Likewise, what actually motivates Obama? He pretends that it has to do with "unity" and "ending divisiveness," but these are bizarre sentiments coming from one of the most far-left politicians in American life. To the extent that he actually believes his own speeches, it only goes to show how out of touch with reality he is.
Obviously, willpower cuts both ways. Hitler, Stalin, Mao, and Castro all seized and maintained power entirely through the force of their personal will. "Mao's overwhelming will, we now know, led to the deaths of 70 million fellow Chinese. The cost of a misdirected will is almost unimaginably high." Thus, "those three or four simple central beliefs behind the will" had better be "right and morally sound."
Once in power, Bill Clinton proved to have willpower, but it was again a kind of scattered and "flighty" will that was easily derailed and distracted, typical of the American left. As such, he required constant polling of the mood of the country in order to sense where to direct his will. His principles -- to the extent that he had any -- were insufficient to motivate his will. This is reminiscent of the narcissistic but charismatic actor who feeds off the applause of the crowd, which gives him a faux sense of being, but who shrivels to nothing when the curtain is drawn.
As such, Johnson says that mere willpower is insufficient. Rather, it "must be organically linked to resolution, a determination to so see the cause through at all costs." Washington during our eight year war for independence, Lincoln in the struggle to preserve the nation, Churchill during the dark days of World War II -- each displayed patience, doggedness, pertinacity, resolution and even obstinacy. President Bush has shown all of these traits with regard to Iraq, and it remains to be seen whether they will pay off. But to openly flaunt their opposites as if they are virtues, as do the Democrat candidates -- impatience, weakness, and irresolution -- will most certainly yield immediate results, in that they will reward the patience, doggedness, pertinacity, resolution and obstinacy of our enemies.
Next is the ability to communicate. "The value of possessing a few simple ideas which are true and workable is enormously enhanced if the leader can put them across with equal simplicity." Interestingly, unlike Lincoln, whose words conveyed remarkable power, Washington was said to have been a rather unskilled speaker. Nevertheless, his physical bearing was such that he was able to communicate more with his personality, demeanor, and physical presence. This reminds me of something Schuon wrote about souls of great spiritual attainment, who are able to embody and reflect the "unmoved mover" within.
If there is one thing that does impress me about Obama, it is this. At least superficially, he seems to be rather unflappable, and I think people respond to this. He is quite natural and at ease. If he's faking it, he's doing an awfully good job of it. In this regard, he is the polar opposite of a Richard Nixon, who never seemed comfortable in his own skin.
But again, the question is, what is at the center of that unmoved mover? I'm not in any way comparing them to Obama, but Stalin and Mao were also preternaturally unflappable as they sent millions to their death. It's almost as of there is a spiritual peace that flows from the divine center, but a counterfeit version that emanates from a center that is "dead," so to speak. You often see this in great athletes. You wonder how they can maintain their poise under incredibly stressful circumstances, until you hear them interviewed after the game and say to yourself, "ahh, that's how. Just be so stupid that you don't have any thoughts that get in the way."
The final virtue that Johnson discusses is magnanimity, or "greatness of soul." This one is difficult to define, but it is what "makes one warm to its possessor." For example, "we not only respect and like, we love Lincoln because he had it to an unusual degree. It was part of his inner being." I again can't help thinking that Obama radiates a counterfeit version of this virtue. Obviously, his supporters respond to him just as if he is a great soul.
But this would be difficult to maintain in light a quote by Churchill, that he felt embodied the great statesman: "In war, resolution. In defeat, defiance. In victory, magnanimity. In peace, good will." Because for Obama, it would read, "In war, surrender. In defeat, apology. In peace, dhimmitude. In victory... what's that?"