Searching For Cincinnatus

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Now that Congressman Ron Paul has announced that he will no longer be pursuing victories in the remaining Republican primaries, I am left to ponder the increasing likelihood that I’m going to have to get used to saying “President Romney.” Granted, Paul’s decision to focus on delegates at this summer’s convention might work; but given the GOP’s nefarious behavior toward Paul so far, pigs would have to fly. Heck, if Paul pulls off a win in Tampa, Fla., Roseanne Barr might take wing (something we’d all like to see, regardless of the Convention’s outcome).

Nonetheless, we replaced a President with the hormone-dominated behavior of an oversexed teenage boy and a penchant for blowing up stuff in Eastern Europe with a President with the diction of a teenage boy and a penchant for blowing up stuff in the Mideast. Then we replaced him with a President with the physique of a preteen girl and a penchant for blowing up stuff in Afghanistan (and the Mideast, Africa, Arizona and — given the predilections of President Barack Obama’s friends in Al Sharpton’s hate group and the New Black Panther Party — Sanford, Fla.). With Obama’s Administration wheezing like Michael Moore trying to touch his toes (perhaps he should start with his knees; baby steps, big fella), it looks increasingly likely that we’re going to replace Obama with Mitt Romney. For his part, Romney has given no notice that he isn’t going to dive into the Pentagon’s toy bin with any less enthusiasm than his predecessors.

The time has come to consider the reality that the American electorate will replace Obama with the “lesser of two evils.” In doing so, I can’t help but consider the absolute dearth of true statesmen among those who covet political power. President Harry Truman once said “a statesman is a politician who has been dead for 10 or 15 years.” Even a cursory glance at the archetypal 21st Century American politician proves him right. But why can’t we find our modern-day incarnation of Cincinnatus? Where is the man (sorry, ladies, person) who will not only assume power only if it is thrust upon him but will cast it aside the moment his term has ended? Is there no one among us who will restore dignity, honor and greatness to his office and our Nation?

In the interest of historical accuracy, I must inform you that Cincinnatus was not quite the hero you think he is. He was born without wealth, albeit with an important-sounding last name — much like one of those junior varsity Kennedys who appear on the cover of People only when they kill someone (as opposed to all the varsity Kennedys who get the cover of People even when they don’t kill someone). Cincinnatus wasn’t particularly fond of his fellow poor folk, believing they didn’t warrant treatment equal to those of patrician birth. In a sense, Cincinnatus was former West Virginia Senator and Democratic icon Robert Byrd if Byrd had had a conscience — except that Cincinnatus never deliberately cut eyeholes in his toga and wore it on his head.

As I write this, Memorial Day weekend is upon us. It’s a time for the Nation to reflect upon the sacrifices made by so many of our countrymen and countrywomen in what President Abraham Lincoln so perfectly described as “the last full measure of devotion.” Some people will use that reflection to gain a better sense of the divine gift those fallen heroes bestowed upon us as citizens of this great land: the ineffable greatness of freedom, new lyrics to country songs (“’cause freedom ain’t free, ya’ll!”), the benefits of gas vs. charcoal or — in the opinion of some at MSNBC (aka the Democrat Channel) — nothing in particular.

Perhaps the heir to President George Washington himself — as close to filling the Cincinnatus bill as any American ever was — is hiding somewhere among the men and women in uniform. Although I must note that serving in the military is hardly a prerequisite to serving in office. There are certainly no shortage of examples of those who were magnificent soldiers and horrendous politicians. Consider President Andrew Jackson: hell on the redcoats as general; hell on the redskins as President. There certainly have been — and are — more than a few military heroes who would return respect and honor to the White House; but why would they lower themselves to such undignified circumstances?

To be honest, I’ve often wondered about the sort of man who aspires to occupy the highest elected offices, specifically the Oval Office. After all, pursuit of the Presidency carries with it spectacular risk of one’s finances, reputation and peace of mind. And if the aspirant is a Republican, his detractors will attack even his children. A man willing to endure such potential personal disasters for four to eight years of earning the undying enmity of nearly half the population of the planet must be either supremely confident or supremely disturbed.

And perhaps that’s the lesson. There is no Cincinnatus. Even Cincinnatus wasn’t really Cincinnatus. Transposed to modern American circumstances, only the most horrendous among us would actually want to stay in Washington for more than a few hours if we really didn’t have to. True, there are a few stalwarts of decency who brave the bilge of the Nation’s Capitol out of a strong sense of duty and/or a weak sense of direction. Subsequently, Americans are left picking through the detritus of our democracy to find representatives who don’t make us physically ill. We practice pond-scum politics. We determine which of the candidates we can endure without crippling nausea, and then we hand them the keys to the national wheels.

Despite serious misgivings from a sizable number of conservatives, the Republican Party is about to name Romney its standard-bearer for 2012. Hell, despite the Obama Administration displaying all the Presidential acumen of the villain from a “Scooby-Doo” cartoon, a substantial number of Americans are still willing to keep him in Washington.

Allow me, therefore, to posit a theory: America can’t find her Cincinnatus. And America shouldn’t. If this Nation ever discovers a leader who truly embodies such virtue, we would never allow him to leave office and would be undone upon his death. Our mythical Cincinnatus would say: “That’s the point.” On the other hand, perhaps we deliberately avoid finding such a worthy leader because we know we don’t deserve him. It likely doesn’t matter. Should such a noble soul exist, he would want nothing to do with the whole wretched affair.

–Ben Crystal

Ben Crystal

is a 1993 graduate of Davidson College and has burned the better part of the last two decades getting over the damage done by modern-day higher education. He now lives in Savannah, Ga., where he has hosted an award-winning radio talk show and been featured as a political analyst for television. Currently a principal at Saltymoss Productions—a media company specializing in concept television and campaign production, speechwriting and media strategy—Ben has written numerous articles on the subjects of municipal authoritarianism, the economic fallacy of sin taxes and analyses of congressional abuses of power.

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