Sunday, March 25, 2007

The I, Claudian theory of Modern Presidents

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Tonight was the last episode of Rome on HBO. Great show, great cast, the show understood the real history. If you follow history, the next series to follow is I, Claudius (the book or the miniseries). During this time, I re-read Suetonius' The Twelve Caesars to back up my theory of modern Presidents as representatives of the Julio-Claudian's. Here is the theory:

The Augustus: Augustan Presidents deal with civil strife, internal threats and defer the limits of the office as Augustus limited the Empire. They are controversial in their time because they change the structure of Government in some way (i.e. Augustus had his Triumvirates, then Empire). Augustans limit outside attacks to maintain the Republic.

The Tiberians: Tiberian Presidents maintain the Republic from their successors, yet go to war with the Political class. Tiberius almost allowed a coup by his Chief of Staff, Sejanus and allowed himself to fall into a decadent atmosphere on his island villa on Capri. The general public loves a Tiberius, but the political class knows (or is harmed) by his sins.

The Caligula: Caligula seemed like a relief for the political class after Tiberias, they were wrong. Caligula cared about neither Empire or civility. Where Tiberius' sin was to take from the political class by force, Caligula by madness. The public is also destroyed by a Caligula's madness. There have been no Caligula Presidents since FDR.

The Claudians: Literary and literate. Claudius expanded the Empire to Britain and kept the finances flush. A Claudian President re-builds the Republic after internal troubles and expands into the literary sphere as well. The Political Class looks down upon them as "not being good enough," These are the theoreticians of Presidents. Woodrow Wilson was one.

The Nero: Neros enjoy the stage. If their way is not accomplished, then hell literary breaks loose. The Republic teeters from Nero Presidents.

Now from FDR, here is how I see the theory play out:

Truman -- Claudian
Eisenhower -- Augustan
Kennedy -- Tiberian
Johnson -- Claudian
Nixon -- Claudian
Ford -- Augustan
Carter -- Nero
Reagan -- Augustan
Bush I -- Augustan
Clinton -- Tiberian
Bush II -- Claudian

Please tell me how this theory works in your worldview.....


  1. hehe great president comparasions. hope ya beat me in battle of blogs.

  2. I would argue that Nixon was actually Calligulan

  3. I think that this was a really interesting post. I expect nothing less of you however, my dear.

  4. I argue that Nixon was actually Calligulan for the following reasons.

    1. The opening months of the Nixon administration were seen as a respite from the turbulence that accompanied the end of the Lyndon Johnson administration. Although, the short term respite in hindsight was like calm seen in the eye of a hurricane in the sense that brief calm gave way to even more violent winds and storms.

    2. The policies and practices of the Nixon administration alienated four segements of society:

    First, the conduct of the Administration in dealing with the Pentagon Papers, Watergate, The Saturday Night Massacre and subsequent cover up alienated the Judicial Branch as illustrated by New York Times v. United States, 403 U.S. 713 (1971) and
    United States v. Nixon, 418 U.S. 683 (1974)

    Second, the positions taken by the Nixon administration especially in the aftermath of the Pentagon Papers, Watergate, The Saturday Night Massacre and Vice President Agnew's bribery and corruption scandals alienated the Legislative Branch.

    Third, the attitude of the Nixon adminstration that it was necessary to mislead the populace in general about the polices of the government gave rise to a heightened disaffection as the press revealed the conduct of the adminstration in regars to the scandals mentioned above.

    Fourth, the attempt by the administration to curb the First and Fourteenth amendments led to a general dissatisfaction among the press.

    The madness of that characterized the Nixon administration caused the government to lose sight of the noble vision of people like Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, and Charles Evans Hughes

    The greater the importance of safeguarding the community from incitements to the overthrow of our institutions by force and violence, the more imperative is the need to preserve inviolate the constitutional rights of free speech, free press and free assembly in order to maintain the opportunity for free political discussion, to the end that government may be responsive to the will of the people and that changes, if desired, may be obtained by peaceful means. Therein lies the security of the Republic, the very foundation of constitutional government. Chief Justice Charles Evans Hughes
    De Jonge v. Oregon 299 U.S. 353

  5. Wow, fascinating and well-thought out theory. I would add a comment. Do you notice that whenever something big happens externally (e.g. a war), a Hawkish government is put into place to implement it and whenever there is a policy which is designated to be radically changed internally, i.e. moral issues, a Liberal government is the one which seems to be in power in order to implement it.
    Right now there is a concerted effort to rid the world of rogue regimes so attention is focussed outwards. You watch internal laws and practices change next. The whole drama plays out on the big stage.
    By the way, would you mind if I quoted a large chunk of this for commentary on my own blog?

  6. Very interesting look at the different ceasars, yet your modern day comparisons are laughably partisan. Bush 2 is so obviously a Caligula for many of the same reasons that chessnovice used for Nixon, just change the names of a few scandals and amandments. It's a shame to see such research used so dishonestly, but such is the way of the partisan.

  7. Chess, Jason,

    Yes I am a partisan so the list would reflect the tastes of the theorist. But the reason I said Caligula did not exist post-FDR was simply because all the compalints said against Bush II today was said against Truman, Eisenhauer, Johnson and Nixon. Clearing away the detrietus, Nixon gave us Detante and China and Bush II gives us Wilsonian Idealism revisited. If you think Wilsonian Idealism is wrong (and mentioned as Claudian), then where does Realpolitick fit in the unipolar world?


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