The Role of Podesta


PodestaObama.jpgNow I know why John Podesta is so unique — and how and why skillful princes use him. . .
New America Foundation/American Strategy Program research associate Sameer Lalwani and TWN blogger sent this to me this morning:

The search for an impartial and neutral tool to mitigate the disruptive effect of factionalism was an important feature of political life in Italian city republics.
As Waley (1991) maintains, the political scene in medieval Italy was characterized by factionalism fueled by intense competition for political office. The citizens were driven by an ardent desire to obtain the “honors and benefits” of office (Manin 1995).
To overcome factional strife, most Italian communes adopted the institution of podesta, a foreigner endowed with judicial and administrative powers.
The podesta was usually hired for a year and played the role of military leader, judge, and administrator. An important attribute of the podesta was that he had to be a foreigner so that he could be neutral to the internal “discords and conspiracies” (Waley 1991, 37).
— from Wantchekon, Leonard, “The Paradox of “Warlord” Democracy: A Theoretical Investigation,” American Political Science Review, Volume 98

John Podesta did an outstanding job leading the Obama transition team and is now back to heading the Center for American Progress. But I have no doubt he’ll be called on again when factionalism around President Obama becomes dangerously heated.
— Steve Clemons


7 comments on “The Role of Podesta

  1. Robert M says:

    How can you say Podesta did a good job. Geithner, Dashcle, Solis and Killhefer(sic?) all had tax problems and it is unclear outside of Daschle whether or not the vetters knew of them ahead of time. If he is the final guy he must surely haven’t recognized all the appointments were going to be held to “what we got on the nigger standards” AfricanAmericans are held to. That outrage aside how could Daschle not tell Podesta?


  2. Paul Norheim says:

    Enduring rules, captain?
    In “Animal Farm”, a satire about the Soviet Union, George Orwell
    famously broke the enduring rule concerning the use of “equal”,
    claiming that “some are more equal than others.”
    Translated to the American society, where everybody grow up
    being told that they are very special, what is more natural than
    saying that some people are more unique than others?


  3. captain dan says:

    The enduring rule concerning the use of unique is that there are no degrees of uniqueness! A writer of your stature should not border upon slang.


  4. Steve Clemons says:

    OK Don — I’ll hold out a bit longer. But a stable equilibrium can become peace.


  5. Don Bacon says:

    Please don’t give up on peace. Not you. That would really sadden me. If not you, then who? Please.


  6. Steve Clemons says:

    Don — you have a deal. I’m stopping at podesta.
    And as I have said before, I’ve grown disenchanted with “peace” and “pace”.
    I will settle for stable equilibria.
    best, steve


  7. Don Bacon says:

    Let’s not take this Italian word-game too far. The last Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the top US military war-maker, was General Pace, which is peace in Italian.


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