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May 4 2015

The Spirit of Cincinnatus: George, Harry, and Bill

Charlotte Hays

Today's must-read compares Lucius Qunctius Cincinnatus, the Roman general, to the Clintons.

Their ideas of post-public service careers are quite different.

Lucius Qunctius Cincinnatus, as you recall, was the Roman general who left private life when his country called. As soon as Cincinnatus had triumphed over Rome’s enemy , he returned to his plow.

George Washington, who returned to private life after serving as president, was a great admirer of Cincinnatus. The Society of the Cincinnati, founded in 1783 by officers who had served under Washington in the Continental Army, took its name from the virtuous general.

But, according to Robert W. Merry, who has an article headlined "The Spirit of Cincinnatus," the Clintons do not follow in the footsteps of Cincinnatus. They are more like Gaius Marius, a Roman official who got rich from public service, and whose doing so signaled a certain decadence in the Roman republic. Merry writes:

Looking back on the 500-year history of the Roman Republic, it can be seen that one sign of its decline was when its great leaders no longer toiled for their country but rather for themselves. A man of modest origins such as Gaius Marius (157-86 B.C.) could parlay a political career into great financial benefit. …

Marius comes to mind with a perusal of the recent New York Times article titled “Cash Flowed to Clinton Foundation Amid Russian Uranium Deal.” Much has been written about the appearance of a conflict of interest that emerges from the details of the story.

Even if there was no quid pro quo for this deal, it was rotten for the country and disgraceful of officials to sign off on it:

The newspaper emphasizes that it never found evidence of a clear quid pro quo. If this doesn’t constitute the appearance of a conflict, though, the term has no meaning.

But let’s focus for a moment on the merits of the case — whether the United States should relinquish its control over uranium mines within its own borders. Then the matter takes on an even more troublesome aspect. …

Canadian businessmen have no stake in whether the United States maintains control over strategic minerals such as uranium. Neither, certainly, do Russian officials bent on cornering as much of the global uranium market as possible. …

But Americans do have a stake in that question, since uranium clearly is a strategic asset, with implications for national security. Thus, one might ask: What is a former U.S. president doing hobnobbing with executives of foreign companies bent on transferring U.S. uranium interests, located on American soil, to Russian bureaucrats? …

It’s heartbreaking to see a former U.S. president so blithely associating himself with such developments, taking masses of money for himself and his foundation from people whose financial interests seem contrary to American strategic interests.

When Harry Truman relinquished the presidency in 1953, he headed back to Independence, Missouri, in his Chrysler New Yorker, with 11 suitcases jammed in the car . He had no pension from his White House or congressional years, and took from his military pension only $112.56 a month. He stayed at $5-a-night motels and ate lunches that cost just 70 cents. He had no intention of “commercializing” the presidency, as he put it, by accepting lucrative business deals or speaking fees.

His great hero was the Roman Cincinnatus, the patriot farmer who assumed command in his country’s hour of peril, then returned to his plow when the emergency had passed. Truman revered George Washington as the quintessential American Cincinnatus.

Somehow, if asked to name their heroes, the Clintons might not come up with Cincinnatus.

And more is the pity.



Independent Women's Forum is an educational 501(c)(3) dedicated to developing and advancing policies that aren’t just well intended, but actually enhance people’s freedom, choices, and opportunities. IWF is the sister organization of the Independent Women’s Voice.​
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