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New Prince: Machiavelli Updated for the 21st Century

New Prince: Machiavelli Updated for the 21st Century

by Dick Morris

Editorial Reviews

Jonathan Alter
Maybe he has a Mephistopheles effect on me, but I still think the guy is very smart about the subtleties of American politics....Morris' little volume is the kind of book where you find something to underline on practically every page. —The Washington Monthly
Noemie Emery
In Clinton's view, fear and power are to be used for his own survival, not that of his country; and to Morris, strength means high polls....To Clinton and Morris, at least from the evidence of The New Prince, morals are relative, and war is simply politics by other means.
National Review
A few months ago, in the fallow news cycle between the impeachment trial and the bombing of Serbia, there was a lot of media chatter about how the President would be viewed by future historians. Charismatic pioneer of "Third Way' politics or deceitful waffler? Effective domestic leader or neutered commander in need of some foreign policy Viagra? Brilliant policy wonk or hick governor caught unzippin' his doo-dah?

What always gets overlooked in this sort of speculation is an accomplishment that may prove to be Clinton's greatest legacy: his entertainment value. Imagine how boring the past seven years might have been without the unending intrigue that the entertainer-in-chief and his supporting cast have brought us. It's been a drama of operatic dimension, starting with that first weasely 60 Minutes interview during the '92 campaign and building up to Monica Lewinsky's appearance with Barbara Walters, when the fat lady sang. Throughout it all, Clinton has proven himself to be a bold new type of celebrity that no star-hungry citizen can resist. Any student of the Madonna school of fame knows that if you lack talent, you tweak your persona every few years to hold the public's attention. What's so brilliant about Clinton as a performer is that he embodies several personas simultaneously. The president's multiple-identity disorder becomes apparent after rifling through three new books that feature him.

Take Uncovering Clinton, Newsweek reporter Michael Isikoff's account of how he survived a one-man journalistic sally through the minefield that is the chief executive's sex life. Here, Clinton comes across as a dangerous shadowpresence, plotting and manipulating from a throne of treachery to cover his stains. As the reporter spins an entertaining investigative yarn out of the way he snagged the first interview with Paula Jones, hunted down several women who felt the president's pain, and sniffed out Linda Tripp (first impression: "a somewhat annoyed-looking, heavyset woman with disheveled hair') only to be upstaged by gossip hound Matt Drudge, Clinton emerges as a deeply flawed leader with no compunction about abusing his authority. Suspecting Clinton is a sexual predator allows the author to justify delving into such tawdry subject matter, one of many ethical dilemmas he mulls over for all of two seconds before resuming the hunt. Isikoff's compulsion to defend his dogged pursuit of a hot story reaches its hilarious nadir when he rebuts Lucianne Goldberg's complaint in her testimony that he ate more than his share of her gourmet pistachios at their first meeting: "It was late in the day and I was hungry.' Mostly, though, he spares us his whining and concentrates on presenting only the facts behind Slick Willy's indiscretions.

That's why Joyce Milton's The First Partner: Hillary Rodham Clinton is ultimately more fun to read—she's not afraid to dish. Trying to understand the freak show that is the Clintons' marriage from its shaky beginnings to its frigid present, the writer who previously has written biographies of Charlie Chaplin and Martin Luther King Jr. draws on a number of substantiated and unsubstantiated sources, like the juicy Arkansas state trooper stories. "I need to get fucked more than twice a year!' one of the troopers recalls Hillary shouting in an argument, and that seems to have been one of her better days. Her hubby comes across about the only way he can in the context of his married life—a bumbling, horny oaf. A far cry from Isikoff's schemer, this bubba couldn't finagle his way out of a Happy Meal.

Hillary is the brains of the operation, though she jeopardizes Bill's rise to power as much as she helps it. The ice maiden presented in Milton's pages is partially culpable for nearly every controversy of the Clintons' joint political life. When she's not mercilessly picking apart anything and everything about the First Lady, from her liberal activist roots to her White House Christmas tree decorations, Milton even blames her subject for helping to cover up the sexual indiscretions she's known about from the start of her relationship. A marriage of convenience? In a moment of rare sympathy for these two law-school grads brought and stuck together by measureless ambition, Milton points out all the damage they've done to each other and those around them, noting that there is "very little that could be called 'convenient' about the Clintons' marriage.'

After wallowing in the eight hundred pages of Arkansan depravity between these tomes, Dick Morris' guide to modern political survival, The New Prince, surprisingly proves to be the most upbeat of the three. Clinton's former political consultant uses his most famous client as his shining exemplar of the perfect politician—one who understands what the people want and gives it to them. While it seems unavoidable that sleaze would creep into the musings of a confirmed whoremonger updating Machiavelli by citing the career moves of the most publicly disgraced standing president of all time, the book takes a higher road.

Morris makes the assertion that the twenty-first century politician can only succeed by embracing idealism, being honest when faced with scandal, and stressing issues over image. However dubious his assertions, his predominately glowing references to that which Clinton has done right (balancing the budget, reforming welfare, ushering in an age of micro-proposals for improving the everyday minutiae of our lives) are pleasant reminders that there's no need to feel guilty about enjoying the Clinton Show.

The president, after all, has more or less done his job as effectively as any other chief executive, with an added bonus. Running the country well enough to keep his audience comfortable, Clinton has ensured we can enjoy his living theater of passion, betrayal and stupidity without distraction and free of charge. —Steve Wilson
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Who better than the political guru castigated as both amoral (for his willingness to advise both Democrats and Republicans) and immoral (for his tryst with a prostitute on the eve of the 1996 election) to take up the mantle of Machiavelli? For three years, after the Republicans took control of Congress in the 1994 midterm election, Morris plotted President Clinton's political course, steering him to the middle of the political spectrum and propelling the word triangulation into the nation's vocabulary. In this sharply written book, Morris draws on 20 years of work in the political trenches to produce a candid how-to guide for politicians. In chapters like "How to Raise Money and Keep Your Virtue" and "The Irrelevance of the Undecided Voter," Morris describes what candidates need to do to win elections and govern successfully. Morris tells politicians when they should start campaigning ("Early. Very early. Today, for example"), how they can win independent voters ("Transcend party and appeal to the middle") and why they should ignore special-interest groups ("It's good for the soul and not all that bad for winning voter support"). His approach is surprisingly devoid of cynicism. Morris bases his arguments on a simple but radical premise: the American people are smart. They dislike scandal, partisanship and negativity; they want substance, not style. Lest this sound like a Dick Morris that no one has ever heard of, readers will find that he also advocates incessant polling and constant focus groups to maintain what he calls a "daily majority." Such tactics are not pandering to the electorate, Morris believes: they are simply good politics. Regardless of whether readers agree with every point Morris makes, they will find him an entertaining and highly instructive guide to the mechanics of modern political life. (June) Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
Morris has been a political commentator for Fox TV since resigning in disgrace as President Clinton's pollster-in-chief in 1996. He rebounds here with a credible, practical guide for political success, loosely based on Machiavelli's The Prince. Dramatic technological improvements, including interactive Internet web sites and 24-hour cable news channels, have created a new breed of well-informed voters who are too sophisticated to fall for the hype and attack journalism of recent campaigns, Morris posits. Candidates must provide issue-oriented platforms that will benefit the 40 percent of the electorate who vote independent and ultimately decide who is elected. Morris displays a maturity not found in his Clinton expos , Behind the Oval Office (LJ 4/1/97), and despite crediting voters with more information and less apathy than they may posses, he offers a bare-knuckled, perceptive view of the political terrain that all candidates and elected officials would do well to consider. Recommended for public libraries.--Karl Helicher, Upper Merion Twp. Lib., King of Prussia, PA Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
Andrew Sullivan
...[A] candid book about the machinery of professional politics....[I]f Morris' book is sometimes chilling, it is also often acute. Many of his micro-observations, like many of his master's micro-policies, are on the mark.
The New York Times Book Review

Product Details

Renaissance Books
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
6.33(w) x 9.33(h) x 0.89(d)

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

The Transition from Madisonian to
Jeffersonian Democracy

The fundamental paradigm that dominates our politics is the shift from representational (Madisonian) to direct (Jeffersonian) democracy. Voters want to run the show directly and are impatient with all forms of intermediaries between their opinions and public policy. This basic shift stems from a profusion of information on the one hand, and a determined distrust of institutions and politicians on the other.

    While the media has noted decreasing voter turnout, the corollary is that those who do vote are becoming better and better informed. Americans are now an electorate of information junkies. Through the CNN, Fox News Channel, CNBC, CFN, MSNBC, and C-SPAN TV networks, talk radio, all-news radio, news magazines, the Internet, prime-time TV shows like 60 Minutes and 20/20, and the nightly news on the major TV networks, voters are fed an overwhelming diet of information about the political process. Even entertainment shows focus on public-sector issues, as the cops-and-robbers programs explore the subtleties of the exclusionary rule and attorney-client privilege. Taxi drivers who watch congressional hearings on C-SPAN are better informed about public policy than they have ever been.

    With this level of information has come a certitude about political opinions. Where once voters were inclined to subordinate their own views to those of wiser heads, they now feel capable of analyzing public-policy issues themselves. In the 1960s, it was common to hear people say that their leaders had access to more information, that it was wrong to judge them without knowing all the facts. Now, we would laugh at anyone who said that on television.

    Impatient with representative assemblies, voters take lawmaking into their own hands when the politicians let them. For example, ever since referenda became popular in California, the state legislature has increasingly become a ministerial body, executing the broad policy decisions made by voters themselves, through the ten or twelve ballot issues they decide each election day.

    As the electorate has become more opinionated and self-confident, its distrust of politicians, parties, and all institutions has become more profound. Watergate was the original scandal of modern American political life. But since then, each institution has had its own scandal: doctors have had malpractice scandals; evangelicals have had the Bakker and Swaggert scandals; the intelligence community has had the Aldrich Ames scandal; journalists have had plagiarism scandals; labor unions have had corruption and mob scandals; lawyers have had malpractice scandals; churches have had child sex-abuse scandals; the military has had the Pentagon procurement scandals; police departments have had local corruption scandals and the Rodney King beating. No institution remains unscathed. Voters trust themselves ... and nobody else.

    This underlying shift in our electorate's mood, away from blind faith and toward self-reliance, is combining with a new technology which empowers voters as never before. Political polling now rates politicians every day of their term and broadcasts the findings for all to see. Referenda, initiatives, and even recalls of elected officials increasingly dominate policy-making. The proliferation of TV channels and the growth of talk radio offer forums for political debate never before available in such length or depth. Soon, interactive TV-computers will allow national town meetings with direct balloting by tens of millions of people—the very core of the Jeffersonian vision of small-town democracy at work.

    One by-product of this shift in power from politicians to voters is the decline of ideology. Voters want to think for themselves and will not buy the prefabricated, predictable opinions of either left- or right-wing ideologues. Men of affairs who respond to each new situation with practical, specific ideas unfettered by ideological constructs increasingly dominate our political process.

    Felix Rohayten described the difference between French and American politics when he said, "The French respect ideas over facts. Americans respect facts over ideas."

    Once, American voters didn't really have access to the facts. News information was sharply limited and controlled by the three networks. Without an impressive array of facts at their disposal, voters had no choice but to rely on ideologies or "ideas." It was easier to learn one point of view which provided a formula for analysis of all issues than it was to gather data about each question and think it through on its own merits.

    But now that the information is practically force-fed to the voters, ideology becomes an unnecessary guide. Rather than try to fit the facts into preconceived opinions, voters would rather change their preconceptions as they learn new facts. As Winston Churchill once told a woman who criticized him for changing his position on an issue: "When the facts change, I change my opinions. What is it, madam, that you do?" Ideas, the preconceived formulas of the ideologies, matter less to Americans than do the facts of each specific situation. Voters want what works, no matter whose ideological label it bears.

    Americans are more and more independent politically. A plurality—40 percent of the electorate—now does not profess allegiance to either political party or vote a party line. Increasingly unwilling to trust Democrats or Republicans, they believe that the executive branch and the Congress should be controlled by different political parties. These independent voters do not care about party labels. They insist on examining each candidate on his or her own merits, irrespective of party. Even when the public opinion shifts support from one party to another, it is voters who were once loyal to one of the parties who switch to the other. Independents remain independent.

    The trend from Madisonian to Jeffersonian governance is changing all the rules. Few realize how fundamentally the rules have changed. In most cases, a pessimism stops them from celebrating the transformation which is underway. In the next ten chapters, we will explore how this transition to direct democracy is changing everything.

    The right wing liked to say, years ago, that America was a republic, not a democracy. Now it is a democracy.

Meet the Author

Dick Morris served as Bill Clinton's political consultant for twenty years. A regular political commentator on Fox News, he is the author of ten New York Times bestsellers (all with Eileen McGann) and one Washington Post bestseller.

Eileen McGann is an attorney who, with her husband, Dick, writes columns for the New York Post and for their website, dickmorris.com. She has written extensively about the abuses of Congress and the need for reform.

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