Cliff Bates

Our parochial news media seem only interested in reporting on the state of things here in the U.S. and in their favorite European vacation spots like France and Italy, but of course the COVID-19 pandemic extends into Eastern Europe as well, where most countries are also on some degree of quarantine or lockdown. I decided to check in with Clifford Angell Bates, a friend based in Warsaw who teaches political philosophy at the University of Warsaw. He is the author of Aristotle’s Best Regime: Kingship, Democracy, and the Rule of Law (LSU Press, 2003), as well as numerous articles and book reviews. Prof. Bates is currently working on a book on the crisis of modern sovereignty and how the crisis emerges from the Hobbesian foundation of modern theory of sovereignty.

Beyond describing the street scene and atmosphere in Warsaw, we also range widely across several other topics, including intellectual life in Polish universities, the character of Polish “populism,” Polish attitudes toward the European Union, and how Trump is regarded. Plus some good anti-Russian jokes, which Poles have in adundance. And as you can see from the nearby photo, Cliff is a man who enjoys a good cigar.

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  1. Tedley Member

    Great discussion, like!

    • #1
    • March 29, 2020, at 4:04 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  2. Taras Coolidge

    Given Poland’s geography and history, it’s easy to understand why the Polish government wants to stick to the European Union.

    The E.U. may be bad, but it’s still better than Russia.

    • #2
    • March 29, 2020, at 7:44 AM PDT
    • 5 likes
  3. colleenb Member
    colleenbJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Thanks for the interview. Interesting info on Anne Applebaum’s husband. I wonder if his situation has fed into her TDS which is too bad since her books on the Soviet Union and the Ukraine famine are excellent. I would expect her to recognize real totalitarianism v. the type of stuff that Trump is accused of but no.

    • #3
    • March 30, 2020, at 1:01 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  4. Chris Hutchinson Coolidge

    I love listening to podcasts and Power Line is definitely one of my favorites (due to both Steve AND now Lucretia) but since I tend to listen while driving I’m listening a lot less with all this physical distancing. So, I’m embarrassed to say I’m only just finding out about this episode with my friend, Clifford, today.

    Lots of good stuff in there for sure. It’s not always easy talking about Polish politics with friends back home because of some very different dynamics that were mentioned. The big thing I always try to point out, like what was mentioned in the episode, is that the current government is NOT actually anti-EU but only EU-skeptical, and rightly so. Rightly so, in my opinion, for specific reasons as well as just a matter of principle. It’s strange because I never thought I’d support a party like PiS but when I see some of the American and international media push this “threat to democracy” nonsense so intensely it’s hard not to move in their direction. Anyway, enjoyed the episode.

    Oh, by the way, I can say for a fact that the Polish government is also concerned with spending. Some significant spending reductions. I’m not at liberty to go into details at the moment but maybe in a few months.

    • #4
    • April 12, 2020, at 12:19 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  5. Chris Hutchinson Coolidge

    colleenb (View Comment):

    Thanks for the interview. Interesting info on Anne Applebaum’s husband. I wonder if his situation has fed into her TDS which is too bad since her books on the Soviet Union and the Ukraine famine are excellent. I would expect her to recognize real totalitarianism v. the type of stuff that Trump is accused of but no.

    It’s really a shame with her husband, Radek Sikorski. I was a fan of his long ago when he was associated with AEI. Clifford mentioned the 2008 or 2010 but it was actually 2007 when he left PiS for PO. I remember a really good conversation I had with him at the embassy 4th of July party that year. He was genuinely hurt Kaczynski took the side of Antoni Macierewicz (who was later a Defense Minister). By December 2007, he had switched parties to PO and was made Foreign Minister of the newly elected PO government.

    Another part of this story is that going into the 2005 elections which PiS won, it was widely expected that PiS and PO were going to form a coalition. Both had many members who fought together in the Solidarity movement. Egos got involved and it didn’t happen, and it was just as much Donald Tusk’s fault as it was Kaczynski’s. Sad for me because the coalition would have represented Republican Party beliefs well. Anyway, Sikorski’s party change was a major part in the ongoing conflict between parties. Sikorski, just like PO, did a lot of good things early on. I was present when him and Condoleezza Rice signed the missile defense agreement in 2008. He did a good job with that. Sikorski personally and Poland overall was furious with President Obama over changing that. It affected our relationship more than anything for years. Anyway, both Sikorski and the PO party overall became extremely power hungry and arrogant over the next seven or so years. My wife was a PO member and actually left the party during this time.

    Today, they’re the only two really important parties in Poland and it is incredibly sad how much they hate each other. It’s amazing Left-sided parties have not been able to take advantage of it.

    As far as Anne, it’s hard to say if it’s fed into her TDS at all. Indirectly, probably yeah, a little. They hung around in more Brussels friendly circles because of it for sure. This circle would have bought into the Russian collusion stuff. I don’t know, hard to say.

    • #5
    • April 12, 2020, at 1:03 PM PDT
    • 2 likes