In Bureaucracy, History, Politics on June 8, 2010 at 5:39 pm

From: Niccolo Machiavelli
To: President Barack Obama

In my last letter to you, Mr. President, I noted that Columnist Jonathan Berr advised you to “really crank up your energy level” in criticizing those responsible for the BP oil spill.

I do not share Berr’s opinion that losing your temper in public would prove helpful. On the contrary, as I stated in my book, The Discourses, which outlines how to preserve liberty within a republic:

A truly great man is ever the same under all circumstances. And if his fortune varies, exalting him at one moment and oppressing him at another, he himself never varies, but always preserves a firm courage, which is so closely interwoven with his character that everyone can readily see that the fickleness of fortune has no power over him.

On the other hand, your countrymen are long overdue for a White House history lesson–conducted directly from the Oval Office–on who is truly responsible for the current crisis in the Gulf of Mexico.

Consider the following examples:

While Hurricane Katrina–to which the BP crisis has been repeatedly compared–was created by Nature, the BP disaster was created by the secret bureaucratic maneuvers of the Bush administration.

• Halliburton–a market leader in the energy sector–gave its former CEO, Dick Cheney, a check for $34 million after he was nominated as the Republican Vice Presidential candidate in 2000. Had this happened in any other country, the American media would have denounced it as a bribe to influence public policy.

• Soon after Cheney took office as Vice President, Minerals Management Service (MMS), the division of the Department of the Interior responsible for ensuring safety in oil-drilling operations, got two new high-ranking appointees. Both turned out to have a history of working for Halliburton. Their job: To oversee their own “former” employer.

• MMS declined to mandate certain safety devices required on offshore rigs in other countries and gave BP “a categorical exclusion” from the National Environmental Policy Act in 2009. This allowed BP to drill in 5,000 feet of water without requiring a detailed environmental impact analysis. BP’s exploration plan called the prospect of an oil spill “unlikely.”

• As if that weren’t bad enough, in 2008, Interior Department Inspector General Earl Devaney found that MMS employees in the division that gathers fees had sex with and accepted gifts from industry contacts while failing to collect almost $200 million due from energy companies.

• In addition, Vice President Cheney created an “energy task force” whose members consisted entirely of representatives of the oil, gas and nuclear energy industries. No environmental-protection groups were invited to attend. And no members of the media were allowed to monitor these secret meetings. Energy regulations were drafted by the very companies the government was supposed to be regulating.

• The Cheney policies of environmental pillage recieved strong and widespread support from influential Republicans, such as Columnist Ann Coulter, who said: “The lower species are here for our use. God said so: ‘Go forth, be fruitful, multiply, and rape the planet–it’s yours.’ That’s our job: drilling, mining and stripping. Sweaters are the anti-Biblical view. Big gas-guzzling cars with phones and CD players and wet bars–that’s the Biblical view.”

• And Republican Vice Presidential Candidate Sarah Palin gave her own blessing to oil drilling–off-shore and on-shore–when she coined the now-infamous war-cry, “Drill, baby, drill!” It was a guaranteed crowd-pleaser at Republican rallies. For some reason, however, it has now completely vanished from Republican political events.

In presenting this history, Mr. President, you should boldly place blame on where–and whom–it lies. Your predacessor, Bill Clinton, had such an opportunity in 1994, at the funeral of his predacessor, Richard Nixon. And he blew it.

He could have reminded his countrymen how lucky they were that this hypocritical arch-criminal had been forced to resign from office. He could have spoken of the triumph of a free press and judiciary and Congress over a power-crazed felon.

Instead, Clinton’s eulogy resembled one that might have been given for Adolf Hitler–had he died of natural causes 20 years after the Third Reich collapsed. Imagine Hitler’s surviving henchmen gathered at his gravesite and calling up fond memories of “the Fuhrer’s great heart” and speaking reverently of what he “meant to do” instead of the infamy and death and suffering he left as his legacy.

Finally–for now–Mr. President, you must take heed of the warning I gave you in my earlier book, The Prince:

“Men love at their own free will, but fear at the will of the prince, and a wise prince must rely on what is in his power and not on what is in the power of others.”

In short, Mr. President, you must abandon your instinctive trait of turning the other cheek when attacked by arrogant and ruthless enemies. As I have earlier advised you:

“A man who wishes to make a profession of goodness in everything must inevitably come to grief among so many who are not good. And therefore it is necessary for a [leader], who wishes to maintain himself, to learn how not to be good, and to use this knowledge and not use it, according to the necessity of the case.”

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