While many historians have always pointed out that history is cyclical, a rather unnerving (probably coincidental) correlation occurred to me the other day. In reading Tacitus’ Annals, I started seeing some similarities between the earliest Roman emperors and the Presidents of the USA since the Age of Reagan.
The Roman Emperors started with Augustus. A great leader, one considered by most Roman historians to be the greatest of the emperors. His reign corresponds to the Reagan administration. A wise leader, beloved of the people, crusader against her enemies, missed dearly after his departure.
Next up was Tiberius, a capable but unaffectionate leader. A career military man and an able administrator who won military victories in various regions. However, his mishandling of the succession process led to a near disaster. His reign corresponds to the George H.W. Bush administration. A capable, proven leader; a military veteran; a career in government. The Persian Gulf War was a brilliant achievement. However, his mishandling of the economy led to a near disaster in the form of the subsequent administration.
Tiberius was succeeded by Caligula, a depraved, lust-filled psychopath, whose ambitions knew no bounds, and who would not hesitate to lie, cheat, steal or murder to achieve his goals. Bill Clinton was able to parlay Bush’s lackluster economy into a pair of terms in which the only thing that grew faster than the economy (thanks to Republican legislative action) was the list of victims of his voracious sexual appetites – Paula Jones, Gennifer Flowers, Kathleen Willey, Juanita Broaddrick, Monica Lewinsky – to name a few (appetites of course, from which his wife Hillary was spared).
After Caligula was assassinated by his troops (or Impeached by Congress, I can’t remember which), Claudius, a previously overlooked member of the Augustine family rose to power. A well-read and proficient leader, he achieved military victories, published a well-regarded historical treatise and generally ruled fairly and well. George W. Bush rose to the Presidency midway through his second term as Texas Governor. As a return to normalcy following the wild and crazy Clinton years, Bush brought stability and honor back to the Oval Office. His well-regarded memoir “Decision Points” was the most highly regarded Presidential memoir since Reagan’s. The War on Terror carried out in Afghanistan and Iraq devastated the terrorist networks of Al-Qaeda and the Taliban. While most pundits expected that his brother, Jeb would have been the more likely of the two to become President, George W. proved to be an effective and competent leader.
The emperor Claudius was assassinated by Nero, a psychopathic narcissist who held singing contests in which he was the only participant to received votes. He was an aggressive bully who charged his opponents with committing the crimes of which he himself was guilty. He ruthlessly punished all criticism of his person and his policies, arresting his opponents on trumped-up charges, and executing them summarily. He is believed by historians to have been solely responsible for setting the fire that destroyed much of Rome in an effort to clear property in order to build massive monuments to himself – a fire which he blamed on radical evangelical Christians.
And thus we arrive at Barack Obama. Is Obama another Nero, fiddling while Rome burns down? A self-centered narcissist whose favorite words are “Me” and “I”? A hate-filled demagogue who blames people of faith and principle for his problems? A vicious partisan who attacks his political opponents with vitriol and malevolence? It’s hard to say. Only time can tell.