Saturday, November 11, 2006

What it Means to be IN THE ARENA

"It's easier to throw rocks at a house than build one"
Congressman Matthew Santos

I just heard this quote just now on an episode of the West Wing and it sums up to me the difference between commentating on politics and getting your hands dirty and taking part. Richard Nixon wrote a superb book called IN THE ARENA in which he wrote about what it takes for someone to make a difference in politics. Politics is hard. Devising political strategies is difficult. Building a political coalition is a nightmare. Writing, or commentating about anything is a cakewalk by comparison.

There is only one way of effecting change, and that is to be IN THE ARENA. So if you're an aspirant political candidate who gets frustrated at not getting selected, or thinks about throwing in the towel, just remember why you're in it in the first place. You're IN THE ARENA because you want to change things, get things done, make life better - for others, not yourself. You don't just talk about what SHOULD be done and complain about what's NOT being done. You're a CAN DO person. You ACHIEVE. The word CAN'T isn't one you like using. As Matthew Santos might put it, you prefer BUILDING a house, to throwing rocks at it.

If you read only one book this year, read IN THE ARENA. Click HERE to buy a secondhand copy through Abebooks.

28 comments:

raincoaster said...

Right. By all means buy it now, because that malevolent, alcoholic thug is dead and won't be getting any of your money.

Surely we aim higher than to learn life lessons from Richard Nixon?

Tim Worstall said...

'You're IN THE ARENA because you want to change things, get things done, make life better - for others, not yourself. '

So you've not read much public choice economics then Iain?

The gist of which is that you're in the arena to make life better for yourself?

They've given Nobel Prizes out for that little insight.

Philipa said...

Building a house is all very well if you get planning permission. What I mean is that you have to be selected or on one of these barmy PC lists to get a chance of being voted for. When you lot select someone on the basis of knowledge, enthusiasm and ability rather than sexual inclination, religious preference, gender or skin colour, then I'll have more respect for the entire political process.

I'm sorry Iain but you can never convince me that half of Westminster is less bonkers than Peter Hitchens and he can't get on a list. What annoys me is that if he wore a dress and insisted we all called him 'Loretta' he might have more of a chance!

Anonymous said...

You are too fond of The West Wing, Iain. I always find it absurdly sentimental. Except for when John Goodman briefly became the Pres. Now that was drama.

Geo's Autistci Cat said...

5:13pm Raincoaster "that malevolent, alcoholic thug is dead .... Surely we aim higher than to learn life lessons from Richard Nixon?"

Miaow, Maoiw, Mioaw

This Cat is not in a position (epsecailly when struggling to be in "charge" of a Computer after the 5th wine glass) to criticize anyone for excessive drinking

but I flatter myself that Mr Nixon is perhaps one issue on which I have a gentler view than Regen=Coaster

Was Richard so entirely malevolent - could it be that Richard got something right from which we might learn how to make the World a better place

G a Chat

Anonymous said...

Nixon was much misunderstood - true, he authorised internal breaches of US law and sent in armed gangsters to intimidate the Democrats - and he lied repeatedly on TV about Cambodia. But apart from that, and the drug habit, and the alleged orders to kill people he didn't like, and the wiretapping of more than 45,000 political opponents - apart from that - he was a great guy! And obviously a role model for today's promising young Tory. I can feel Alan B'astard tugging at my ear. "Piers - time to throw teddy out of the window". "Oh please don't Alan".

CityUnslicker said...

Keep trying for a seat Iain, this is the right mantra to be working too.

Anonymous said...

What an odd little tory chap you are Iain, and how sad and pathetic your misunderstandings. Do you honestly think that the scriptwriters of the West Wing had Nixon in mind when they put those words in Matt Santos' mouth? I feel quite sorry for you that you are so easily self-deluding. As a starting point, can I suggest you try reading "The Arrogance of Power: The Secret World of Richard Nixon" by Anthony Summers - then come back and tell us if you still think Nixon was someone worth following. At the very least it is intriguing that the Tory cutting edge is holding up this monomaniac, twisted commie-basher and ruthless maniac as a role model.

raincoaster said...

The single greatest thing Richard Nixon ever did to make the world a better place was die.

Let's review the record, shall we? I'll post a link to perhaps the greatest obituary in history. If you really want to be IN THE ARENA, if you really want to make a change, if you really want to be inspired, read this.

Quote: Richard Nixon is gone now and I am poorer for it. He was the real thing–a political monster straight out of Grendel and a very dangerous enemy. He could shake your hand and stab you in the back at the same time. He lied to his friends and betrayed the trust of his family. Not even Gerald Ford, the unhappy ex-president who pardoned Nixon and kept him out of prison, was immune to the evil fallout. Ford, who believes strongly in Heaven and Hell, has told more than one of his celebrity golf partners that I know Iwill go to hell, because I pardoned Richard Nixon…”

Anonymous said...

It just goes to show. I thought I recognised your values. I thought I saw a wannabe politician who was in touch with the real world outside Westminster.You won't make a difference to anyone but yourself if you believe this claptrap. We "throw stones" because we are completely alienated from government at all levels. Try doing something about that the root causes ot that alienation instead of whinging about it.

Anonymous said...

Iain, any credibility you may have had just went out of the window sonny. Puhleease - Richard Nixon as a role model ? Hey, what are a few thousand dead Cambodians between friends ? If it helps rid the world of those godawful commies. Next you will be standing up for Bliar's adventures in Iraq.

If you love American politics so much, why not push off over there before the bloody yanks turn our country into the 51st state under our noses.

If Cameron is going to pick you, a stone-thrower, as a candidate, he has far bigger problems than the fact he has no policies to sell.

verity said...

anonymous 9:27 - "If you love American politics so much, why not push off over there before the bloody yanks turn our country into the 51st state under our noses."

We should be so lucky. People who have never been to the United States are so easy to identify. Bitterness. Jealousy. A wealth of misconceptions and misinformation. Spite. Malice. As Britain is so well-populated with people like you, no wonder the US doesn't want us.

Conversely, we could become the 27th state in India. I've always thought that might be rather fun.

verity said...

(I meant 28th, before anyone races in with his hair on fire. Or his feet on fire if he was running across hot coals.)

Iain Dale said...

I really cannot believe some of the stupid comments here.

Has anyone ever actually read any of Nixon's writings? He has written some fantastic books and IN THE ARENA is the best of them. I don't recall ever saying Nixon was perfect, but if you just judge his presidency by Watergate you're deluded.

verity said...

D'accord, Iain. He had a great political mind.

And I don't think for one instant that Watergate was his idea, or even that he approved it. That was Gordon Liddy & Co. Even then, it was hardly a high crime and misdemeanour. It was the petty jiggery-pokerie that political minions - of all political parties, although I'm sure they're much more circumspect after Watergate than they were before - engage in to try to get an advantage.

As always, it was the destructive left that managed to tar a whole political tribe with the malfeasance of a few political operators. Strange that they never went to Chicago to investigate how Daley won elections ... "Vote early, vote often. No discrimination against the dead."

raincoaster said...

I have certainly read some of Charles M. Lichtenstein's writings, as well as those of some of Nixon's other ghostwriters.

Listen not to what Nixon had published in his name, but rather to what the man himself actually said.

You should not be surprised at these comments; you should be abashed.

"The true crime of Richard Nixon was simple: he destroyed the myth that binds America together, and for that he was driven from office." - Theodore White

Anonymous said...

verity - of course, the rantings could just be a cunning ploy to get us to go and see the 'frost vs nixon interviews' show being acted out in the west end at the moment.

Patrick Schneider-Sikorsky said...

My father met Nixon in the lift of The Hotel Bristol in Warsaw a few years before his death. After shaking his hand in admiration, he was shocked to hear that it was the first time someone had done this in over 10 years.

I'm too young (24) to remember him, but from what I've read and seen, he was a brilliant man who tried too hard and destroyed what could have been a great legacy.

Bill Clinton said something along the lines of your quote Iain at a speaking event. He said it saddened him that if someone announces that they want to be super rich, a film star, a great scientist or a sportsman, everyone will encourage them. If, on the other hand, you tell people you want to pursue a career in politics, they look at you as if you were from another planet. When did public life become so disreputable?

verity said...

anonymous 11:41 - I don't keep up with London's West End or theatrical happenings anywhere in Britain.

And if I did, it would never occur to me, I assure you, that David Frost had ever been fit to interview the President of The United States, so I wouldn't be interested in promoting a socialist-skewed replay.

Even a real life David Frost would be ghastly enough.

raincoaster said...

Verity, David Frost's interview with Nixon was the key event in resucitating his reputation to the point where someone like Iain could quote him without irony. It was nothing less than a seminal event in American politics, and in Frost's career as far as North America went.

Philipa said...

After watching the Lib Dem manifesto spouted on Hard Talk last night I couldn't care less who you all read in bed, there's no way I'm voting Lib Dem. And the jury's still out on the Tories. With Labour making their option a certain tragedy then I reckon you could put Jessica Rabbit up as a candidate and there'd be a landslide in favour of a toon.

Anonymous said...

Don't care what any of you say. These ARE wise words and many people especially some in politics far too easily throw rocks at anything and anyone.

Just because you may not like or admire someone, it doesn't necessarily mean you should 'diss' everything they say or write just as one needs to be careful when talking about tolerance. To be truly tolerant means being tolerant of things you yourself would never contemplate whilst not throwing away your values.

Good on you Iain and yes, some of the comments here are very stupid indeed.

Frost/Nixon is one of the best plays in London. Get a ticket while you can.

verity said...

Yes,Raincoaster, I'm aware of that. I don't know how David Frost, who is not a bright person, ever blagued his way into that interview. He must have had a bright agent.

His stupid, bovine face - like a cow with a smirk - and that whiney voice literally curdle my stomach.

macles said...

Ah well, tricky dicky did have one use. Here's his departing whinge in a slightly different, and more pleasing context ;-)

Anonymous said...

Iain / Verity - have you ever actually listened to the Watergate tapes? Liddy and his pals were specifically authorised to proceed by Nixon. Nixon regretted in a different meeting that he could not simply have his opponents shot. And he suggested that they bomb the Washington Post only half-joking. Kissenger ordered the CIA to dump baby milk down the drains in Chile as part of the campaign against the "dangerous commie" elected social democrat Allende; Nixon argues in that phone call that they should also set bombs in schools and other public places to pin them on the Marxists - Kissenger demurs only because it is hard at this late stage to organise. I could go on.

We get to the heart of this blog here though. Behind the nice-guy posturing and friendly cosying with some other party politicians, Iain and his pals are still strongly influenced by the neo-Nazi state apparatus of the cold war, Thatcherism and Nixon-Reaganism. Red in tooth and claw and devil take the opposition. It's in a way quite relieving to have it out in the open here.

raincoaster said...

Verity, David Frost paid a great deal of money to secure that interview. Simple Republicanism.

Whatever happened to the belief that actions speak louder than words? Always consider the source, particularly in politics.

The Chocolate Orange Inspector said...

Raincoaster - Yes, we all know that, thanks.

To the poster hiding behind the mask of Anonymouse 11:42 - Reagan and Thatcher defeated communism, which is a vile tyranny, sadly only to see it sprout sinister little shoots a little further West, in the EUSSR.

The left needs to be destroyed right down to the roots. They are the greatest force for evil in the world. Whatever it takes.

(This is why David Cameron is no good. He shares the same leftist, bossy, prescriptive outlook as Herr Blair. He would not destroy socialism. He would co-opt the philosphy and weaken the Conservative cause.)

Geo's Autistci Cat said...

8:41pm Regen=coaster "The single greatest thing Richard Nixon ever did to make the world a better place was die"

Miaow, Maoiw, Mioaw

Steady the ship, Regen=Coaster - this seems a bit harsh

Somewhere, I seem to have read about some guy who really did make the World a better place by dying and just before he became late, he made a remark along these lines :

Let he (I think this includes "she", unless in those days shes did not drop Bricks) who is Innocent drop the first Brick"

Sorry about lapsing into Botswanan Englisch - "late" = "Dead"

G a Chat