Washington Blade Profile: America’s Gay Machiavelli?


Brian Till is author of the forthcoming Conversations with Power: What Great Presidents and Prime Ministers Can Teach Us about Leadership — and when he read my answer to a question in a profile of yours truly in The Washington Blade, he said that he “choked on his Coke.” Laughing, of course, with the fizzy brown stuff spraying all over my desk where he was seated.
I had some fun in answering 20 questions posed by the Blade‘s Joey DiGuglielmo and enjoyed doing a pic shoot with Blade photographer Michael Key who I met right after the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell Repeal signing ceremony, which he also shot.
The line Brian Till choked over? Well, won’t surprise most of you:

DiGuglielmo: If your life were a book, what would the title be?
Clemons: “America’s Gay Machiavelli”

All the best for a great new year — and hope you enjoy the Q&A!
— Steve Clemons
(photo credit: Michael Key, Washington Blade)


6 comments on “Washington Blade Profile: America’s Gay Machiavelli?

  1. Steve Clemons says:

    Interesting and useful note ManOutOfTime (love your moniker by
    the way) — I don’t think that Machiavelli was ever about naked
    power. He was about greater ends than that in my view but was
    open on the means and methods to achieve these ends. I’ve taken
    some heat for mentioning him, but in my view Machiavelli was a
    progressive in very complicated, illiberal times and thus I don’t hold
    him to the same litmus tests today that some do. I try to remain
    open on means and methods to achieving progressive ends as well.
    To some degree, this is what I had in mind as I helped build the
    New America Foundation.
    all best — and happy new year,
    Steve Clemons


  2. ManOutOfTime says:

    Gay Machicavelli? I thought that was Matt Drudge …
    It’s a cute and clever answer to the question, but I’m not sure our host’s moderate and practical worldview would be described as Machivellian. By my admittedly limited understanding of Machiavelli’s philosophy, the nub is an expediency where the ends justify the means; further those ends would be the aggrandizement and maximazation of power / wealth of country, in the service of the aggrandizement and maximazation of power/wealth of the statesman — without moral judgment of those ends.
    I think Steve acknowledges the primacy of the self interest of nations, but I think he does have an outlook that values healthy moral and ethical ends beyond naked power. I hope I’m not wrong about that!


  3. Patrick Hasburgh says:

    The Gay Mac! Very funny… I have enjoyed your blog for years…
    Thank you. Happy New Year.
    Patrick Hasburgh


  4. Nick says:

    “Q: What do you wish you


  5. questions says:

    Mike Konczal, in his own words….
    I think what he misses, perhaps, is what I perceive to be a deliberate moderating force Obama brings to bear the way that one places large hydraulic-supported slabs on the tops of tall buildings in earthquake zones.
    The ultimate goal isn’t a stone on a building, it’s softening the swaying through the use of countervailing momentum so that the building stands closer to still.
    If you take a long look at the radicalization of the Senate as an institution, you start to fear for the country’s future. The waves must be stilled, good policy really does need to win out over quadrennial insanity. Tit-for-tat can be problematic if there’s no peacemaker, and escalation dominance is not a game we need to be playing domestically.
    Obama has cultivated some actual expertise in nuclear proliferation issues, he gets the game theory side of things, he’s worked with enough activists to see the passionate side and the kind of crazy side of activism, and I would guess that his ultimate goal is a long term soothing of the power of factions over our political system.
    Really spend a few minutes pondering the Wall St. whining, the Mankiw whining, the rich law prof’s whining, the PAIN over a fucking 4% marginal increase in taxes on people who honestly, seriously, really, truly, profoundly, deeply and absolutely do have enough. Once you have it in your head that enormously wealthy people are acting like 2 year olds, that some of the most privileged people in this country, the most educated, the most wealthy, the most pampered, the least likely ever to suffer, the ones with the longest life span and the happiest and most inheriting grandchildren — these people FLIP OUT at the thought that they owe anything to the collective, let alone a 4% marginal tax rate increase on money that sees no SoSec taxation at all.
    If those with the most can’t be convinced to give up a fucking thing for the rest of humanity and they fight with subtle and obvious weapons, chances are Obama is going to have to do some fancy footwork to get the oligarchy back under some kind of control and get it to think in moderate tones.
    Having the pitchforks wielded at the gate is not going to help this administration push back at the oligarchic structures and those who identify with the oligarchy despite themselves being peasants.
    It makes sense, from my view of things at any rate, to get the pitchforks locked up in the barn, to make it a little easier on people to survive on what they earn (community health centers, adult kids on parents’ policies, and the like, SoSec discount for a year, the Ledbetter pay act and so on), and then slowly and carefully try to rebalance the oligarchic pull.
    Oligarchs don’t give up power. And they probably don’t let the government seize that power, which means that the moves have to be much more subtle. And which means that whatever the admin accomplishes will likely be small and tentative. And that in turn means that plenty of commenters will write up complaints about how little the admin has done regarding the economy.
    It’s only half true, at least as far as I see it.


  6. questions says:

    Happy New Year to you and yours, and for good measure, add this to your reading list….
    Great Ezra Klein:
    “I think the White House’s reply would look something like this: Successful governance is about getting 60 votes for things that move the ball forward. The people who tend to control the 55th through 60th votes on any given issue are not like you and me. They are driven by a baffling combination of raging egomania and crippling terror. They want to be treated like statesmen even as their decisions are based on a paralyzing fear of contested elections, primary challenges, Fox News and party pressure. They have few opinions on what good policy looks like, what opinions they do have on the subject change frequently, and they’re not willing to risk very much on them anyway. Taking a pound of flesh from these people — or even their allies — would mean never getting their votes. Want to see what we mean? Look at Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. In the end, it got done because Murkowski, Brown and Collins let it get done. Alienating them would’ve been satisfying, but unwise.”
    Indeed, this is a good read of the situation, though I might not always locate the divide at numbers 55-60. I would guess that any reduction in the filibustery number would simple alter this calculation, by the way. These are the people who can afford to occupy that bizarro land betwixt and between.
    (Found via Brad DeLong.)


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