Michael Lind of Salon suggests President Obama could have taken a page from The Prince in approaching health care reform. Lind pulls a quote from Machiavelli that's fantastically relevant, given the problems Obama is running into at the moment:
It must be considered that there is nothing more difficult to carry out, nor more doubtful of success, nor more dangerous to handle, than to initiate a new order of things. For the reformer has enemies in all those who profit by the old order, and only lukewarm defenders in all those who would profit by the new order, this lukewarmness arising partly from fear of their adversaries, who have the laws in their favor; and partly from the incredulity of mankind, who do not truly believe in anything new until they have had actual experience of it. Thus it arises that on every opportunity for attacking the reformer, his opponents do so with the zeal of partisans, the others only defend him half-heartedly, so that between them he runs great danger.
After a close reading and comparison, Lind concludes that "If Machiavelli were around today, he would not give the Obama administration and the Democratic Congress high marks for Machiavellianism."
Obama campaigned on non-Machiavellianism, more or less. He deftly outmaneuvered rivals, but he did so while promoting an image of transparency and post-politics, which were a big part of his sell--a reason Americans found him so refreshing. And often his political maneuvers actually did involve transparency (like the Jeremiah Wright-instigated speech on race in Philadelphia), a not-so-Machiavellian attribute akin to announcing the deadline for passing a health care plan before said plan exists.
Perhaps health care reformers and Obama's supporters are with Lind, wishing the president was a bit more crafty and devious in pursuing the goal.