An excerpt from Gabriel García Márquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude:
He sat in a chair between his political advisers and, wrapped in his woolen blanket, he listened in silence to the brief proposals of the emissaries. They asked first that he renounce the revision of property titles in order to get back the support of the Liberal landowners. They asked, secondly, that he renounce the fight against clerical influence in order to obtain the support of the Catholic masses. They asked, finally, that he renounce the aim of equal rights for natural and illegitimate children in order to preserve the integrity of the home.
“That means,” Colonel Aureliano Buendía said, smiling when the reading was over, “that all we’re fighting for is power.”
“They’re tactical changes,” one of the delegates replied. “Right now the main thing is to broaden the popular base of the war. Then we’ll have another look.”
One of Colonel Aureliano Buendía’s political advisers hastened to intervene.
“It’s a contradiction,” he said. “If these changes are good, it means that the Conservative regime is good. If we succeed in broadening the popular base of the war with them, as you people say, it means that the regime has a broad popular base. It means, in short, that for almost twenty years we’ve been fighting against the sentiments of the nation.”
He was going to go on, but Colonel Aureliano Buendía stopped him with a signal. “Don’t waste your time, doctor,” he said. “The important thing is that from now on we’ll be fighting only for power.”
Barack Obama, speaking to a group of college students back in March:
[Lincoln’s] first priority was preserving the Union. I’ve got the Emancipation Proclamation hanging up in my office. And if you read through it, turns out that most of the document is – those states and areas where the emancipation doesn’t apply because those states are allied with the Union, so they can keep their slaves. Think about that. That’s the Emancipation Proclamation. Right?
So here you’ve got a wartime president who’s making a compromise around probably the greatest moral issue that the country ever faced because he understood that right now my job is to win the war and to maintain the union.
Well can you imagine how the Huffington Post would have reported on that? It would have been blistering. Think about it. “Lincoln sells out slaves.” There would be protests. They’d run a third-party guy.
Moral integrity is for losers. And you want to win, right?