Unmitigated failure behind a vain mirage of gold-foil triumph
Obama Believed He’d Reign Like Julius Caesar, But Will He End as Nero?
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Like a troop of soap opera actors convinced they are perennially on the verge of real stardom, modern leftists seem persuaded liberalism lacks only an unblocked opportunity to show the world it is an unrivaled theory of sheer genius. Yet conservatives argue it has been the very lack of a chance to fully implement pure liberalism – until now – that gave liberals their cover, helping obscure certain, unmitigated failure behind a vain mirage of gold-foil triumph.
Obama’s critics claim no politician has ever summed up better than Barack this gulf between the empty reality of full-blown, late-term liberalism and the promised fool’s-gold socialist mirage. His campaign promises were so large when he ran for office, but his follow through so paltry, that if he’d come from Texas, he’d simply be known as Barack “Big Hat, No Cattle” Obama.
Bisecting Roman history as a colossus, Julius Caesar inspired men to achieve great deeds during war and peacetime, during the height of the Republic. Yet, ironically, Julius employed all his leadership genius to actually subvert the government in order to create an empire ideally run by one man – himself. While he died before achieving a kingdom, he left plans behind that laid the foundation to create the Roman Empire, used by his adopted nephew Octavian, aka Augustus. President Obama seems he might have fancied himself a new Julius Caesar when starting his first term, but his current trajectory comports better with the addled Nero, who also began auspiciously. Yet, the latter’s infamous reign was terminated by a perverse comedy of errors befitting a powerfully misguided clown.
Born in 100 BC, in Rome’s Subura district, Gaius Julius Caesar came from a moderately successful family. His stunning array of unparalleled political powers was directed by his towering ambitions, all which he nearly achieved. According to Michael Grant, in “Julius Caesar,” “He was an astute politician, a masterly propagandist and showman, a clever and affective administrator, and exceptionally gifted writer, a man of great and wide learning and taste, and a military genius who moved with terrifying speed and exercised magnetic authority over his troops.” Grant adds, “He possessed extraordinary personal charm, and was so successful with women his ancient biographers often attributed to him the morals of the farmyard.” Many historians rate Julius the greatest and most gifted leader in history.
Beyond raw talent, Julius had the discipline to guide himself unerringly towards goals, and the great good fortune of living when such a man could flower into his prime. He matured during the brutal reign of Sulla, whose pro-senatorial leadership produced more terror than any in memory. Caesar, along with famous fellow general Pompey and the millionaire Crassus assembled an informal First Triumvirate to resist Sulla, according to Michael Grant’s “The Twelve Caesar’s.” Meanwhile, Julius also often led troops in his far-flung military campaigns. His famous war against the barbarian Gauls, lasting a decade, resulted in the conquering of large territories, the enslavement of a million souls, and deaths of a million more. Caesar brought huge troves of booty back to Rome, as well, adding great wealth to his increasing fame.
In evaluating Julius Caesar, one is confronted with an extraordinary level of experience and success. These include ascending to the top Roman civil post of Consul, in 59 BC. He was also elected Chief Priest, ie Pontifex Maximus, in 63 BC, the position in charge of the priestly college. Between 58-51 BC, he conquered central and northern Gaul to the Rhine, breaking the Gauls forever. He also he penned his lively history of the Gallic War, immortalizing the conflict. After this, Caesar battled and badly outmaneuvered the previously untarnished Pompey in the Civil War of 49 BC. During the same period, Julius also fought King Pharnaces in Asia Minor, claiming later to the Senate, “Veni, Vidi, Vici,”—“I came, I saw, I conquered.” He then set sail to Spain where he defeated the last vestiges of Pompey’s army, returning to Rome for a hero’s welcome.
But Caesar did make a crucial mistake, allowing himself to be appointed dictator in 49 BC, after being elected to consul five terms. According to Chester G. Starr, in “Civilization and the Caesars”, Julius inherited a Republic stressed and falling apart for various reasons, including its giant size, lack of political power of the poor, a vacuum of enlightened leadership, and an increasingly foreign populace. The upper classes were afraid total chaos would erupt, and welcomed Caesar’s mastery of the leadership arts. He took perverse advantage of this to push for a short-lived tyranny. Previously, the head of Rome was always a co-consul, lasting only a year, to avoid despotism. So when Caesar grabbed total power, shock waves rippled through the Republic, and many fine patriots died in the struggle against tyranny—such as Cicero, who was murdered in the resistance, and Cato the Younger, who simply committed suicide rather than accept the loss of freedom. Caesar refused to believe the Roman people were not ready to return to a kingdom.
So, in fighting Sulla’s brutal tyranny, Caesar ended up creating a bigger despotism in order to cure the first. In war, Julius used propaganda and rumormongering to help terrify his foes, being a master of the art. Naturally, in his home rule, he also used psychological props and tricks to win over the people. Starr writes, “To the masses he made practical promises of money, peace and security; to the nobles he proceeded on a different plane, as a craftsman of both the spoken and written word.” So Caesar bribed the commoners, and seduced the upper classes with speeches and pamphlets, appealing to their values. But, Julius had taken a Republic and turned it into a dictatorship. This fact caused him to be struck down by Brutus and friends, in 44 BC.
Nero was born Lucius Domitius Ahenobarbus at Antium on December 15, 37 AD, the last male descendant of Emperor Octavian Caesar Augustus, and he reigned from 54 to 68 AD. He was the stepson of Emperor Claudius. Nero is identified more than any other emperor with crazy antics and bad leadership, but was actually a beloved young ruler nearly as popular as modern Elvis, and even referred to as the “Babe.” Nero began his reign at 17, too young to legally sit on the throne so his mother Agrippina guided his first few years of rule. But she was so aggressive and ambitious that the court, the upper class, and Nero himself, came to despise her. He eventually decided to kill his mom by sending her out in a collapseable boat, but when the vessel fell to pieces, she simply swam to shore. Nero then sent two naval officers to cut stab her in her own bed, according to Grant’s Twelve Caesars.
Nero was advised by famed Roman Stoic philosopher Seneca, and started off as a fairly attentive and typical Emperor. But as time passed he became increasingly bored by the hard work of running an empire. His real love was theater, chariot racing, acting, and singing. He also took to wearing Greek clothing, and was the greatest grecophile in Rome’s history. He affected a charioteer’s hairdo, and wore increasingly outlandish outfits, often donning a very short toga with a floral print. After his mother’s death, he devoted himself to learning how to sing and act. He was a fop and a ham. Nero decided that composing and performing the Arts were what he was born to do, and he spent much of the second half of his reign in the conquered territory of Greece on stage – where he performed, when he wasn’t racing chariots. Nero was famed for being a persistent ravager of both sexes and all ages, and devoted much time to debauchery, and regular feasts of wine and much gluttony, states Grant in Twelve Caesars.
Nero is most famous for the great fire which burned much of Rome during his tenure. There seems to be no proof he set the fire himself, but the fact he cleared the land to build his massive home, the Golden House, caused the people great anger and suspicion. It’s indisputable he did blame the Christians for starting the blaze, badly persecuting them. Nero’s policies were increasingly impulsive and sentimental. For example, he once tried to cancel indirect taxes for the entire Empire, which would have left direct taxation or war booty as the only means of raising funds. He later became so attached to Greece that he ostentatiously announced he was canceling taxation for the entire province, according to Grant’s Twelve Caesars.
Nero’s reign became increasingly dilatory, as he spent greater amounts of time in Greece, performing his shows. During his last run he garnered over 1,800 trophies. His naturally suspicious and fearful nature was soothed by the constant encomiums delivered by the Greeks. But back in Rome were launched relentless purges against Nero’s political enemies, which badly weakened the Empire, but which only seemed to egg on future conspirators. The army stayed largely loyal to him, despite his finally sending orders for some of his best generals to commit suicide. But his other generals finally turned against him. An order was issued that the Emperor himself was an enemy of the state and must be hunted down and flogged to death by rods, as was the ancient punishment for this crime. Nero committed suicide before soldiers came to strike him down, writes Grant in Twelve Caesars.
Comparisons to Barack Obama
One can see elements of both Caesar and Nero in Obama’s actions and character. To begin, Obama had all the ambition of Caesar to remake the US Republic, but only the love of performing of a Nero at his disposal to achieve the feat. Like Nero, Obama loves the stage, but conversely, he appears to have few of Caesar’s wide array of gifts – or more importantly, his great vision or common sense. Yet it does appear Barack badly misread his times, just as Caesar did, which badly affected both men’s popularity.
Obama Compared to Caesar
Caesar, like Obama, had an impressive list of goals he planned to work on. According to Grant’s “Julius Caesar,” these included trying to allow the poor to relocate to foreign colonies where they might find land. He limited the free corn dole to the truly needy, which he was able to do by cutting the rolls from 320,00 to 150,00. He was planning to codify all Roman civil law, which was first done 600 years later. He also planned to reform the bankruptcy laws, and was also trying to cut down on the percentage of slave laborers allowed on farms. He wanted to drain the Fucine lake to increase arable land, and form a new waterway for Rome. He was also working on breaking down barriers between provincials and Italians by offering citizenship to scholars and doctors.
Obama’s list of programs and proposals tends to be much more doctrinaire and theoretical than Caesar’s, who specialized in practical answers to current problems. But it helped that Caesar did not have to genuflect towards any theory, such as any leftist ideas, in building his policies. Obama focuses upon the classic goals of socialism such that any politician of the appropriate leftward slant could fill in the same blanks with carbon copies of the same programs. For example, a Hubert Humphrey, Lyndon Johnson, or Ted Kennedy would have offered the same exact ideas as Barack, without skipping a beat. Such proposals as giant deficit spending bills, government “Obamacare” health reform, state investment in private business, increased federal employment, jobs bills, reductions in foreign military investments, increases in taxing the wealthy, Global Warming fighting measures, and cap’n trade, etc. Certainly, these programs represent the old battle-cries of the benighted leftist ringing down from the past decades and centuries.
Yet, it’s inconceivable a highly successful leader like Julius Caesar would take seriously such an embarrassing bunch of already tested and failed programs. Given Caesar’s logical powers and genius, it’s certain he would quickly see through the flaws of socialism and utterly oppose Obama’s entire theory of legislation, despite not having lived long enough to read Karl Marx. He would quickly intuit Marxism refuses to accept human nature, etc.
In fact, Caesar fought against the socialism of his day, by cutting back on welfare, and by offering to send the poor to colonies where they’d be more productive. He also wanted to reserve Roman citizenship to offer to truly valuable non-Romans. He too believed in gaining peace through armed strength and war, not a truce achieved through a show of belly-barring capitulation. Further, Julius did not portray himself as above and beyond Rome itself, and nor did he excoriate the Roman way of life, war, or its economy to other countries. Yet he did think for himself, outside of the box, beholden to none in trying to solve Rome’s problems.
Personality and Character
In terms of character, Caesar was known for his extraordinary charm which he could apparently turn on at will. Obama has this, but often appears aloof, whereas as Julius was known for being down-to-earth. Julius was also famed for great rapidity and speed in everything he did, whether mental or physical. But Obama took almost half a year to decide on how many troops Afghanistan needed. Caesar was a great horseman and swordsman and he led his army from the front, often on foot. He was absolutely fearless. Obama has never been in the military, and is not known for bravery.
Both men gained fame as speakers, but Obama seems terrible without a speech written by others, delivered by a teleprompter, whereas Caesar penned his own speeches and recited these from memory. Caesar was a great leader of men, both by example and by word. Obama doesn’t seem to have the gift of leadership, despite being a riveting speaker. Further, there is credible evidence Obama had a ghostwriter for his autobiographies, whereas historians don’t dispute Caesar wrote his own masterpiece – the Gallic Campaigns. And, by the way—can one imagine Julius Caesar bowing to a barbarian king, for example?!!
Most of all, Caesar exemplified success at every level, except when his ambitions finally outstripped his opportunity. Obama represents an unending roll call of failed legislation, and non-performing programs. He seems not even to understand how to help create legislation, or how one presents ideas in such a way that others find them compelling. This undoubtedly has much to do with the fact he appears to have spent much of his life in opposition as a critic. His never having headed any organization appears a colossal hurdle that Obama cannot overcome. Contra, Caesar led both military and civilian groups, and was a master at persuading others to support his plans. Yet, both men have encountered the same response from their people – that too much statism is unacceptable.
Obama Compared to Nero
Nero’s policies were initially influenced by a naïve desire to help others, such as by canceling all taxes. Later, he virtually gave up ruling Rome to go and play in Greece. Certainly, Obama seems more grounded than Nero, but his policies may turn out to be just as damaging. For example, massive deficit spending bills will achieve the same effect as canceling all taxes, when one considers the impact of the reckless printing of fiat money, which has nothing backing it up. Both will make insolvent the government. Further, Nero’s decision to rule Greece a tax free zone makes about as much fiscal sense as Obamacare, with both being launched as a personal crusade, and to cost their governments huge amounts, but the results being a general debasing of the economy. Further, Obama’s habit of allowing others to craft his legislation is similar to Nero relocating to Athens instead of staying home to run the country.
Personality and Character
Nero goes down as one of the truly horrendous emperors. But does Obama also rate as one of the worst presidents? Both men share a fixation on superficial oral presentations while leaving the heavy lifting of leadership to others. Both were initially regarded highly until their ruling style became well-known as haphazard, reckless and irresponsible. Each man seems to lack any native ability to lead, or inspire the confidence of those who initially oppose them. Further, both blame their mistakes on others. And each seems committed to a cause beyond the borders of their land – Nero to stage productions in Greece, and Obama to a totally foreign concept of economics, values and leadership.
Obama did seem to start his presidency with the same goal as Julius Caesar – to take a functioning democratic republic and move it closer towards statist, one-man rule. In both cases, the people arose to criticize the attempt. Now, it remains to be seen if Obama’s first try will be his last. Since Barack keeps pushing Obamacare, it seems he will continue to try to force the issue over the next three years. Will America become the next Roman Empire run by selfish demagogues?
Nero ruled as an increasingly infantile figure, completely fixated on being on stage. In fact, when he discovered he was named an enemy of the state, he gasped, “qualis artifex pereo,” or—“What a loss I shall be to the arts!” One wonders if Barack Obama will ever see fit to rise above his own slogans and simplistic, boastful rhetoric to truly embrace the whole job of being Commander in Chief? This position includes not just reading speeches, but researching important topics at length, and thinking deeply about these, as well. Barack must come to his own positions, based upon genuine knowledge, deduction and common sense – not just political ideology.
If he can’t do this bare minimum, then certainly Barack is destined to follow in the steps of Nero – a failed and even laughable caricature of a leader, content to spend his days reciting others’ words, without understanding them, but reading them like a soap opera star from a cold teleprompter to people he will never know, nor apparently ever care to.