January 29, 2010


Brookheiser commenting on SOTU reaction over in the Corner:

The Jeffersonian tom toms are beating in the Corner, so I must respond.

There are monarchical trace elements in SOTU, because there are monarchical trace elements in the presidency. It is inevitable, and often good that this should be so. They help the president assume the mask of command when that is necessary, and they put politics on an even keel.

Different presidents vary the mix, to suit their personalities and their ideologies. Jefferson submitted a written address (it was not then called SOTU) because he hated public speaking, and was not good at it.On ideological grounds he also wished to purge the presidency of what he called the monarchism of his predecessors (John Adams and Washington, though he dared not criticize Washington in public). This did not mean he was uninterested in wielding power. As his shrewdest enemies—Hamilton, John Marshall—saw, Jefferson was intent on concentrating political power in his own hands, through charisma, backstairs maneuvering, and doses of demagogy. His White House dinners were centerpieces of his strategy—small groups of congressmen, no wives, excellent food and wine, talk dominated by the host (Jefferson was a superb conversationalist). The system worked fine—except when it didn't, in his second term, when the wheels fell off. You cannot banish power and its problems from governing. You can address them honestly—or finesse them, dishonestly.

That expression - "Jeffersonian tom toms" - caught my eye and made me smile because I happened to be telling the eldest Llama-ette this morning what I thought of Jefferson (and all limousine liberals), which to say isn't very much.

Posted by Robert at January 29, 2010 08:42 AM | TrackBack

Always been more of a J. Adams fan myself.

Posted by: Boy Named Sous at January 29, 2010 12:11 PM

I'm no fan of Jefferson either; I'm much more a Hamilton guy. But is it not an inconvenient truth that many of the Founders were the rich liberals of their day?

Posted by: ScurvyOaks at February 2, 2010 03:10 PM
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