From the AP:

Some who don’t approve of Bush’s job performance admire him personally.

“I think he tries to be likable and I think he’s somewhat honest,” said Cindy Bashura, a Democratic-leaning resident of Seymour, Conn. “He tries to do what he thinks is right, but sometimes I think he takes the wrong advice from people in his circle.”

The “evil advisors who lead the ruler astray” narrative was a mainstay of not only Tsarist Russia, but of many European kingdoms. Unsurprisingly, it is also a common theme in high fantasy novels. A nice setup, from the perspective of rulers who want to maintain their legitimacy in the face of popular opposition to their policies.

Here’s Machiavelli on a rather extreme use of “plausible deniability” by a ruler:

When the duke occupied the Romagna he found it under the rule of weak masters, who rather plundered their subjects than ruled them, and gave them more cause for disunion than for union, so that the country was full of robbery, quarrels, and every kind of violence; and so, wishing to bring back peace and obedience to authority, he considered it necessary to give it a good governor. Thereupon he promoted Messer Ramiro d’Orco [de Lorqua], a swift and cruel man, to whom he gave the fullest power. This man in a short time restored peace and unity with the greatest success. Afterwards the duke considered that it was not advisable to confer such excessive authority, for he had no doubt but that he would become odious, so he set up a court of judgment in the country, under a most excellent president, wherein all cities had their advocates. And because he knew that the past severity had caused some hatred against himself, so, to clear himself in the minds of the people, and gain them entirely to himself, he desired to show that, if any cruelty had been practised, it had not originated with him, but in the natural sternness of the minister. Under this pretence he took Ramiro, and one morning caused him to be executed and left on the piazza at Cesena with the block and a bloody knife at his side. The barbarity of this spectacle caused the people to be at once satisfied and dismayed.

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