Nero, Obama and Aquino: Three of a kind

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What do these three leaders have in common?  Why did I unceremoniously lump them together, after just two days of the new year?

Here’s why:

1. Nero, emperor of Rome from 54-68 A.D., Nero played his harp while Rome was burning in 64 A.D.

2. Barack Obama, president of the United States of America (from 2008 to the present), played golf weekly while forces of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) rampaged  in the Middle East killing and beheading combatants, civilians and journalists and reducing towns and cities to rubble.


3. Benigno Aquino 3rd, president of the Republic of the Philippines (from 2010 to the present), went to the movies and attended an ostentatious show-business (real not make-believe) wedding, while thousands of the Filipino people and countless communities were drowning from torrential floods and mudslides.

The common thread linking all three in this column is the theme: How did they behave and act in the crucible of crisis and leadership during difficult periods in their respective nations’ histories?

Nero and the burning of Rome

For six days and seven nights the citizens of ancient Rome watched helplessly as their city burned. The great fire that consumed Rome in A.D. 64 spread quickly and savagely. After it was over, 70 percent of the city had been destroyed. “Of Rome’s 14 districts, only four remained intact. Three were leveled to the ground. The other seven were reduced to a few scorched and mangled ruins,” wrote the contemporary Roman historian Tacitus. Of Rome’s one million population, half  were rendered homeless by the fire.

As is usual in such mass tragedies, rumors were rife in the immediate aftermath. Reports emerged that some men were seen fanning the flames while the fires were raging. the Roman people, feeling the effects of paranoia, looked for someone who might be responsible for the fire. They blamed their emperor — Nero.

The most interesting and persistent rumor that emerged from the great fire was the tale that Nero played the fiddle while Rome burned.

In the face of such charges, Nero searched for a scapegoat for the fire. He chose the Christians and persecuted them ruthlessly, torturing and executing them in hideous ways. But the fiddling tale persisted and survives to this day.

The idea that Nero fiddled while Rome burned is, in fact, a myth. A mad tyrant who preferred to play music rather than offer succor to his people is not believable, although Nero was unquestionably cruel. The story is a myth because  the violin wasn’t invented until 1,500 years later.

But it is historically known that Nero actually considered himself a serious musician. He did play another stringed instrument, the harp-like cithara, for which he had a real passion. In conquered lands, Nero coordinated festivals that featured musical competitions and he competed in them all with predictable success.

Obama, the golfer and anti-president

President Obama has played so much golf since his election to the US presidency that journalists and media organizations compete in counting and reporting the number of times he has been on the golf course.

During more than half of the weeks he’s been president, mostly on weekends, President Obama has gone golfing. He’s hit the links so many times that the US press is comparing him to the last presidential hyper-golfer, Dwight Eisenhower. That has led reporters to coin a new phrase for the weekend golf pool coverage: “Eisenhower duty.”

The cost on presidential performance is huge. According to Mort Zuckerman, editor of  US news and World Report, Obama has had over 195 golf outings, in addition to over 130 vacation days. “It seems like he spends as little time as humanly possible doing his job as president. Governing seems to be secondary to being a celebrity.”

Meanwhile, his administration has faltered badly in the conduct of foreign policy. While crisis has stalked Ukraine and the Middle East, Obama has been missing in providing leadership.

In a devastating analysis, Zuckerman calls Obama “the anti-president.” He wrote: “He sometimes acts in manners at odds with the framers of the Constitution. Obama is responsible for the long painful slide from hope and change to partisan gridlock. He turns out to be the odd case of a pragmatist who can’t learn from his mistakes. He has failed to fill the leadership void. He doesn’t lead, and he doesn’t understand why we [Americans] don’t feel led.”

Aquino, the show-biz president

The social media website “Showbiz Government” (on Facebook) hit the bull’s-eye when it suggested that we Filipinos are living today under a show-business government. It’s so popular and naughty that one daily (not the Times) made the mistake of copying one Showbiz Gov mock photo of President Aquino and run it on its front page.

During the recent holidays, in the run-up to Christmas and the New Year,  President Aquino confirmed vividly and emphatically that he’s a true believer in show business, or showbiz for short. Kris Aquino is not the only show-biz fanatic  in the family left behind by Cory and Ninoy Aquino.

In the short span of just a little over a week, while the Philippine South was being battered by Typhoon Seniang, the President squeezed the following show-biz activities into the presidential calendar:

1.Aquino sat through screenings of movies entered in the Metro Manila Film Festival, in particular the film featuring Kris’ son Bimby, “Praybet Benjamin,” and the film starring and produced by Kris Aquino, “Feng Shui 2.” The other sisters and their families dutifully joined in the special screenings.

Aquino did not review the films, but it was plainly hoped that the special screening would boost the films’ performance at the box office.  2. Aquino attended the highly publicized show-biz wedding of Dingdong Dantes and Marian Rivera, serving as witness-of-honor.

Everyone who is anyone in show-biz was there. And the event was predictably covered end-to-end by the TV networks.

The wedding has been criticized heavily for its thoughtless extravagance at a time of distress in the land.

The cake and the bridal gown were the most expensive ever invented in this country.

3. Aquino granted a one-on-one  interview with comedian Vice Ganda for the latter’s program “Ganda Gabi Vice” to be aired by ABS-CBN tomorrow, January 4.

This was a direct slap against the regular press covering Malacanang. Aquino makes no bones about his disdain for all media that report and criticize the shortcomings of the administration.

The presidential choices would not have generated so much controversy if not for the glaring reality of Typhoon Seniang.

Seniang, which everyone expected to be comparatively tame and mild, turned out to be more destructive and deadly than the earlier and highly feared Typhoon Ruby. It caught the administration and most responders by surprise. The administration was again caught with its pants down.

By the time Seniang receded, the toll was grim: 54 dead, hundreds injured and missing, millions of damage to public works and property.

DILG Secretary Mar Roxas, the usual disaster troubleshooter of the government, was nowhere to be found this time around.

yenmakabenta@yahoo.com

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16 Comments

  1. Understanding Person on

    Umaasa pa ba talaga kayo sa gunggong na naging malas na presidente ng Pilipnas? Come on guys, walang pag-asa kapag ang pangulo mo ay tanga! Ano ba kayo? Tanga nga eh! Meron pa bang masasabi diyan? Ma-gimmick din eh! May aasaha pa ba kayo?
    Kasinungalingan – oo! Meron. Tsk tsk tsk!

  2. I was relieved to see a couple of respondents challenging your Republican style criticism of Obama. Of course he has made mistakes, but what a contrast to W.H Bush! He has solid achievements to his name, both in social policy and in foreign affairs, including the recent moves on Cuba. He prevented the American economy stalling, and all despite opposition at all turns from the selfish and hawkish republicans.

  3. Nero didn’t play the violin; various accounts say he played either the lute or the lyre — one of those plucked instruments….

  4. Gee I understand the quality of this article-it’s the new year and it’s hard to crank up the juices again, maybe too much lechon and that affected the brain. But this one does not come up to the level of past pieces. I am sure you can come back soon.

  5. en nuestras islas adoradas, showbiz is the opium of the people. we forget dirty politics, graft and corruption, poverty, bad governance, etc. once the jesters dance on stage. ganyan tayo mga taga pinas.

    • Showbiz and capitalist TV and Radio is the opium of the people. They dish out escapism and hallucinations to the people so they forget about pork barrel, Yolanda victims, traffic jams, soaring prices and Noynoy’s mental retardation. Do not underestimate the opium of the people … it is very effective !!!

  6. “If Nero actually did play a stringed instrument—and there’s no evidence that he did, whether during the burning of Rome or otherwise—it was probably a lyre or cithara.”

  7. I can understand why the author has to compare the three because it is politically motivated. First of all our country is prone to typhoon, flooding, fire, traffic, etc.It is coincidence at the time that PNoy was watching movie when the typhoon and flooding were happening in the south. It does not make the President less sensitive to the disaster hitting our country. We all know that he has in the past visited all the disaster hit areas. I believe everyone including the President is entitled to wind down or relax from hectic schedule. Besides the President has cabinet secretaries to delegate or look after the events. The same was the case of Nero and Obama who were both seen and reported to be relaxing during the events in Rome and ME respectively. Both these events were negatively reported which in my opinion are politically motivated.

  8. Leodegardo Pruna on

    What else can be said but a series of dots. But hope springs eternal and our “HOPE” is in GOD. God bless the Philippines.

  9. Yen, once again you hit the nail on the head! The behavior of Nero, Obama, and Aquino is strikingly similar to another fictitious nut case, Mad Magazine’s own Alfred E. Newman of “What, Me Worry?” fame. Until the electorate of each country stops acting like Alfred E. Newman, grows up in civic responsibility and demands their government reflect the will of the People, and holds clowns like Obama and Aquino accountable to them, their elected leaders will continue to act like spoiled rotten toddlers.

  10. Everyone who will be able to get close enough to the Holy Father, Pope Francis, should ask him to pray for our country because our country is presently governed by one illegitimate usurper president and a very bad one at that.

    Never in the history of our country has a president performed so shabbily and so cheaply. Never in our history has a president sat to be interviewed by a foul-mouth low-rate comedian. I cannot imagine Presidents Quezon, Osmena, Quirino, et al, to behave as cheaply as this lunatic president. It seems he is being put down by the show biz gimmicks of his equally cheap sister for the money take of the latter.

    Que lastima really for our country! We are not only poor because we are governed illegally by a corrupt lunatic, we also have no dignity as a nation and as a people. It is obvious these Aquinos never know the meaning of DIGNITY.

  11. Mr. Macabenta, to compare US President Barack Obama to the foolish Nero and to the inept and corrupt BS Aquino is a complete distortion of the true image of a smart American President. To unfairly criticize Obama based on his sports of golf shows your Republican leaning.

    Let me enumerate some of the accomplishments of Obama: 1) He passed the Heath Care Reform which now covers 32 million formerly uninsured Americans; 2) He passed the stimulus $787 billion American and Reinvestment Act in 2009 to spur economic growth amid the greatest recession since the Great Depression; 3) Passed Wall Street Reform; 4) Ended the War in Iraq that had resulted thousands in military deaths and tens of thousands in collateral damage costing the US hundreds of billions of dollars in spending. 5) Ended the war in Afghanistan; 6) Eliminated Osama Bin laden; 7) Turned the ailing US Auto Industry and saved hundreds of thousands of American jobs; 8) Toppled Moammar Gaddaffi of Libya; 9) Told Mubarak of Egypt to go and ended his 30 year rule; 10) Reversed Bush’s torture policy; 11) Expanded Health Care for children to cover 4 million more children paid for by the tax increase on cigarettes; 12) Improved School Nutrition by mandating $4.5 billion spending boost to double the amount of fruits, vegetables and whole grains fed to school children. 13) While other Western economies are in doldrums, the US stock market has just just reached a new high, its housing market is on its way to full recovery and the US economy is at its strongest under this great American President.

    What about the inept and unfit BS Aquino? He has raided the Malampaya Funds and got nothing to show for it. Filipinos still have no free health care nor free education like in Cuba and Costa Rica, while Aquino and his corrupt allies fatten their pockets with people’s money. Kawawang bayan.

  12. Talagang iyang si Noynoy, talaga naman pambihirang presidente.

    Ngayon, kapag si Bise Binay na ang nasa Malakanyang, hintayin na lang ng Pilipinas kung ano ang mangyayari. Mas matatag na gusali ang itatayo ng gobyerno. World class high school buildings, world class parking garage, at iba pa. Yehey eleksiyon ay darating na!!!!

  13. AMONG THE THREE, PORK KING-DAP/PDAF KING AQUINO IS THE WORST!
    NERO WAS A LUNATIC LEADING HIS NATION AS THE WORLD’S SUPERPOWER.
    OBAMA IS THE ANTICHRIST LEADING HIS NATION AS THE SUPERPOWER.
    AQUINO IS BRAIN DAMAGE LEADING HIS NATION ROTTEN AND DECAYING!
    AKLAS BAYAN!!!

  14. P. Akialamiro@yahoo.com on

    So, what else is new; just the New year, perhaps, as far as the one who wants to be called “Ama Ng Bayan”: is concerned. .

    Congratulations to the principals.I just hope the wedding and reception attended by Pres. B.S. Aquino, The Third, or The Last, will live up to its affluent description to become a model or example of a lasting and successful union. One to reckon with brought about by its grand celebration in the real world and not one for ‘Hollywood’, seeking dissolution later on. This way, at least, the famous witness-of-honor’s attendance is not totally in vain.

    Bottomline: The PR man of Pres. B. S. Aquino, is doing him a “disservice” and so with his spokesperson with his “logic”.

  15. Beg to disagree about how you describe Obama. Obviously Mr. Yen is being influenced too much by the Republican side of U.S. politics. Mr. Yen should have talked about past Pres. George W. Bush who is a much more golfer than Barak Obama. Just looking at a comparison of the 2 is clearly favoring Obama as the more successful. Republicans will never accept facts known in the U.S. as what my son was informing me, that Obama as President did many things that his predecessor have never accomplished. One example is the economy. When George W. Bush came into office, President Clinton left the U.S. economy with a 3 trillon surplus which Bush spent in just 2 years of his first administration. Bush economic policies wasted the surplus mainly because of tax breaks for the rich without economic plan where to source other taxes. It is during the 2nd term of the Bush administration when U.S. economy free-falled. And Obama is the one who raised U.S. economy from the grave. If I am a U.S. voter, I would not care if Obama plays golf as often as he wants as long as he does his job and we can see results. As a Filipino voter and citizen, I would not care how often PNoy goes to the shooting range and go out every night to unload his masculinity or play video games with his nephews and enjoy his karaoke singing sessions as long as we can see positive results of his policies and projects, if any. Problem is, we see none in PNoy.