Don't Know How To Feel About This

I'm near the close of John Adams' presidency in the McCullough biography and struck by how everything new is old (not that I fancy this an original thought).

The first presidency after the universally admired Washington stepped down was hampered by financial crisis and the perpetual threat of war with France. Adams, the prudent man, sought to avoid war but also built up the navy, wanting to be prepared should France not be as pacific as the US. (He was the first President to pursue a policy of peace through strength).

For his pains he was denounced by hawks in his own party as a weakling and a traitor and by Francophiles in the opposite party as a monarchist and war-monger seeking to destroy liberty. His presidency was hampered at every turn by a disloyal cabinet; members of the opposition party (including Vice-President Thomas Jefferson!) undermining the nation's foreign policy by negotiating separately with a hostile nation; newspapers that printed wild rumors or simply invented things out of whole cloth; the Senate insisting on publishing secret foreign policy documents for the entire body to see (so they could be leaked to the press within about 20 seconds for political purposes); wild disputes over the Alien & Sedition acts, war-time measures the debates over which echo our own arguments about border control and the Patriot Act.

McCullough points out the supreme irony that in the election of 1800, Francophile, high-born, spendthrift, high-living, fancy-dressing, keep-to-himself slave owner Thomas Jefferson was seen as the defender of liberty and the man of the people, whereas plain-spoken, simple-living, farmer's son, live-within-his-means and among the people, hater of slavery John Adams was seen as a pretender to aristocracy with monarchical tendencies. Also in that election, the Federalists split their vote with a 3rd candidate, throwing the election to Jefferson. So let it be known that the party which would eventually morph into the GOP has been pulling that particular stunt literally since the Founding.

I should feel better, I suppose, realizing that liberty has always hung by a thread in this nation and that boofuses we have always with us.

Or I could be depressed that prudence is never recognized as such, but always denounced as bad character by lesser men.