Patriotby Gary Hart
Reflecting the experience and wisdom Gary Hart has accumulated during a lifetime of public service, The Patriot addresses the fundamental challenges to democratic leadership posed by a new century and a new millennium. Written as a handbook of advice to an aspiring younger politician in the tradition of Machiavelli's The Prince, Hart's compact and incisive book
Reflecting the experience and wisdom Gary Hart has accumulated during a lifetime of public service, The Patriot addresses the fundamental challenges to democratic leadership posed by a new century and a new millennium. Written as a handbook of advice to an aspiring younger politician in the tradition of Machiavelli's The Prince, Hart's compact and incisive book identifies the primary challenge facing American leaders today as the restoration of trust between the people and their government. The healthy skepticism Americans have historically held toward politics has been replaced by enervating cynicism, which breeds suspicion, anger, systematic alienation, and ultimately cultural dis-integration. Hart lays the blame for this problem squarely at the feet of today's political leaders, whose mistrust of the people themselves has inspired a like mistrust of the people for their government. Such an atmosphere, Hart argues, is conductive to the flourishing success of new "barbarians" - found today on both left and right - who denigrate our culture and heritage, divide our society, and utilize the political process to bludgeon and destroy their opponents at any price. Speaking the language of revolution and violence, these new barbarians coarsen political discourse and cheapen the moral capital required to maintain our democratic republic - a healthy sense of public spirit and a patriotic pride in our accomplishments and history. The tools of leadership espoused by Machiavelli - mystery, force, and fraud - gave us four centuries of realpolitik. But the conditions of modern governance in a media-saturated society require openness and candor from our leaders, Hart maintains, and in a powerful and persuasive collection of short, interconnected essays, he sets forth new principles for leadership and counsels citizens and politicians alike in the art of democratic renewal. Unlike other politicians whose youthful idealism has been corrupted by actual political experience, Hart remains an optimist. Believing that our politics can still be ennobled by great leadership, he looks to the rising generation to create a political culture that is both idealistic and practical. Hart has witnessed the brutality of politics up close. Yet he has risen above the bitterness of his own reversals to light the way to a new kind of political probity for the next generation.
The arguable righteousness of the source apart, Hart's (The Good Fight, 1993, etc.) grandiloquent pronouncements, which range from the self-serving through the self-evident, amount to little more than a mawkish and pretentious rehash of the neoliberal agenda. In 26 short chapters driven by an abiding hatred of the media (notably its putative bent for making and breaking celebrities, which he blames for his own fall from grace), Hart offers superficial guidance on affairs of state. Early on, he cautions the aspiring chief executive to be wary of elite groups who care more for their own selfish interests than for the common good. He urges him to trust the people. Hart then touches without dwelling on the supranational agencies or institutions that could be created not only to spread the creed of democracy throughout the Global Village but also to deal with the manifold problems that have emerged in the wake of the Cold War's end. Considered as well (albeit with appreciably more piety than wit) are such issues as the limits of US influence on newly independent states, equipping the military for the battlefields of the future (on a greatly reduced budget), setting an inspiring example for the electorate, breaking the "degrading mold" of empty campaign promises, and encouraging the domestic populace to make quality, not quantity, its principal focus.
Derivative, utopian precepts from an inch-deep political observer who bears precious little resemblance to the subtle intellectual heavyweight he recklessly chose as a model.
- Free Press
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