Mayberry Machiavelli

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"Mayberry Machiavelli" is a satirically pejorative phrase coined by John J. DiIulio Jr., Ph.D., who ran President George W. Bush's Faith-based Initiative. After he quickly resigned from his White House post in late 2001, DiIulio told journalist Ron Suskind, "What you've got is everything--and I mean everything--being run by the political arm. It's the reign of the Mayberry Machiavellis." "This [an "us" vs "them" attitude] gave rise to what you might call Mayberry Machiavellis — staff, senior and junior, who consistently talked and acted as if the height of political sophistication consisted in reducing every issue to its simplest, black-and-white terms for public consumption, then steering legislative initiatives or policy proposals as far right as possible."[1] To an extent unseen in modern administrations, DiIulio believes that Bush's political arm (i.e., the Mayberry Machiavellis) were substitutes for a policy apparatus.[2]

The phrase is derisively meant to invoke infamous Machiavellian-style power politics coupled with a supposed sense of incompetent regional backwardness exemplified by the fictional rural town of Mayberry, R.F.D., from The Andy Griffith Show which ran on the American television network, CBS, from 1960 - 1968. The show's character, deputy sheriff Barney Fife (played by Don Knotts) is the epitome of such ineptness as to what DiIulio referred.


Mayberry Machiavelli (plural Mayberry Machiavellis)

  1. (pejorative) A person who furthers his cause by "reducing every issue to its simplest, black-and-white terms for public consumption", i.e., denying nuance by using stark, but false, choices. For example, if you did not support the Iraq war, you were a Saddam Hussein supporter.


  1. ^ Dilulio, John. John Dilulio's Letter. Esquire (May 2007) access date 2009-12-11
  2. ^ Suskind, Ron. Why Are These Men Laughing?. Esquire (January 2007). access date 2009-12-11