Tuesday, May 08, 2007

President Bush and King John

I saw a cartoon the other day in which unidentified pols beseech Queen Elizabeth, "Ma'am, help save us from the madness of King George." Very apropos--I would call the difficulty intransigence and obtuseness, compounded by delusional thinking, but nevermind. In today's Boston Globe, H.D.S. Greenaway finds more similarities between the President and British monarchs, namely King John, the man who signed the Magna Carta in l215. He sets the stage thus:

"This has not been a good spring for the president. Democrats, and even some Republicans, are beginning to think about choking off the war in Iraq; the Supreme Court didn't like his closing down environmental regulations; his Justice Department is under scrutiny as never before for conducting politically motivated purges. The dark prince, Vice President Dick Cheney, mutters repeatedly that the president is all powerful, and that Congress should have little to say about war. One couldn't help but think of the peevishness of King John in 13th-century England, beset with troubles at home and mismanaged wars abroad, desperately unpopular, a king who suffered in comparison to both his father, Henry II, and his brother, Richard I. John also had a strong and much admired mother, Eleanor of Aquitaine."

Greenaway goes on to review the looming conflict the intransigent king faced with his fed-up subjects:

John is best remembered for his confrontation with his rebellious barons who had simply had enough of his high-handed ways -- leading to the king's capitulation at Runnymede , outside London, and the signing of the Magna Carta in 1215 , which curtailed some of the king's powers, and enhanced those of the barons.
The barons had many grievances, but if there was an immediate incitement it was John's efforts to obtain men and money for a lost war across the channel which stirred resentment. His efforts to collect scutage (shield money) to pay for war was the last straw. And, as my encyclopedia puts it, an accompanying "collapse of the judicial administration must have done more than anything else to bring the masses of men over to the baronial side."

In short, Greenaway concludes,

"The rebellious barons grew sick of the king's abuse of power and decided to do something about it. Harry of Nevada and Nancy of San Francisco had their counterparts in the 13th-century earls of England."

Let's hope our modern Congressional grandees will take serious steps to check their leader, as their predecessors did in England many centuries ago. They got precedent.


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