I have taken a break from reading books about the two historical periods which most fascinate me of late, the collapse of the Roman Republic and the rise of our own to read Michael Barone’s Our First Revolution: The Remarkable British Upheaval That Inspired America’s Founding Fathers.
When Barone introduced one man who figured into the British Upheaval, a certain Robert Spencer, the Earl of Sutherland, one of the most remarkable characters of the period,” I thought I was reading about David Gergen. While temperamentally different from the man who now offers bland commentary on CNN, the ill-tempered Sutherland served James II and William III, two kings with very different governing philosophies at the close of the seventeenth century.
He had even voted to exclude the former from the throne.
Similarly, Gergen served two very different presidents (and a few others to boot) at the close of the twentieth. Barone writes that “Sunderland needed office for the money it would bring, and he had learned from his dismissal in 1681 never to oppose a king.”
Maybe Gergen didn’t need the money, but he seemed to long for the prestige of being associated with a President of the United States. And he does seem to have offered some opposition to the outgoing chief executive, though in terms more muted than many of his CNN colleagues.
It seems certain people delight in being close to power, no matter what the purpose of that power.
Sutherland, by the way, is ancestor of Diana, the late Princess of Wales.