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Saturday, July 26, 2014

The American Leadership Tradition: Moral Vision from Washington to Clinton

The American Leadership Tradition: Moral Vision from Washington to ClintonThe American Leadership Tradition: Moral Vision from Washington to Clinton by Marvin Olasky
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book written by Marvin Olasky is a great book for those who like to learn about historical figures. He covers thirteen of some of the prominent people in American history. The book is an insight on how their moral character affected them as leaders. I have some quotes below that intrigued me and thought they might be helpful to others If you desire to read about history from a conservative worldview then this is a great read for you!


  George Washington
Publicly, Washington continued to emphasize the thoughts of his farewell address in 1796: “Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion, and morality are indispensable supports.” The fear of the Lord is the beginning of sound public policy, he declared: “Where is the security for property, for reputation, for life, if the sense of religious obligation desert the oaths, which are the instruments of investigation in Courts of Justice?” Political works without faith were dead, Washington insisted, for there was no evidence “that morality can be maintained without religion.”

  Thomas Jefferson
Pro-Jefferson Baptists in Danbury, Connecticut, sent him [Jefferson] a letter protesting the continued preferences that Congregationalists received from the Connecticut state government.  Jefferson responded to these political allies with a king letter similar to those politicians write by the hundreds each year: I agree with you. My hands are tied, but I’m with you and I hope you succeed. Jefferson thanked the Danbury folks for “affectionate sentiments of esteem and approbation,” and told them, “My duties dictate a faithful and zealous pursuit of the interests of my constituents.”  Then came the “I’m sorry” line: “I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should ‘make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,’ thus building a wall of separation between church and State.” In other words, Jefferson was noting, Congress – the American legislature – can make no law in this instance.

Jefferson was not at all saying that the Connecticut establishment of religion was unconstitutional. Everyone in those days knew that was perfectly proper. Everyone knew that the purpose of the First Amendment was to keep the federal government from doing anything to interfere with whatever local arrangements were made. Jefferson could merely conclude his letter with words of hope: “I shall see with sincere satisfaction the progress of those sentiments which tend to restore to man all his natural rights. …”

The Jefferson Memorial displays a line from Jefferson’s autobiography concerning slaves: “Nothing is more certainly written in the book of fate that these people are to be free.” The memorial leaves off the next two sentences: “Nor is it less certain that the two races, equally free, cannot live in the same government. Native habit, opinion has drawn indelible lines of distinction between them.” Blacks were one day to be free – and the next day deported. Jefferson, like other leaders of his time, favored African colonization.

  Andrew Jackson
Jackson was the most Bible-rooted, principled, and combative of our nineteenth-century presidents. (Ironically, many among the conventional eastern clergy opposed his candidacy).

During the weeks leading up to the Battle of New Orleans, while others panicked at the thought of fighting British regulars who had defeated Napoleon, Jackson prayed ardently and told others, during and after the battle, that they should fear neither life nor death because “the unerring hand of Providence” is always active amidst the “shower of Balls, bombs, and Rockets. …”

Jackson continued the practice he had followed for two decades of reading three chapters of the Bible daily. That immersion in Scripture had not kept Jackson from fighting duels, but it did show when Jackson wrote to Secretary of State James Monroe following the New Orleans rout. Rather than taking credit for the victory, Jackson wrote, “Heaven, to be sure, has interposed most wonderfully in our behalf, and I am filled with gratitude.”

When his wife, Rachel, sickened and died following Jackson’s election to the presidency but before his inauguration. Jackson wrote, “We who are frequently visited by this chastening rod, have the consolation to read in the Scriptures that whomsoever He chasteneth He loveth, and does it for their good to make them mindful of their mortality and that this earth is not our abiding place; and afflicts us that we may prepare for a better world, a happy immortality.”

Jackson also bequeathed a legacy to his successors in government: Like Washington he raised the bar of presidential expectations. He understood sin – his own and others – and the need to war against it. In marrying Rachel and remaining faithful to her for thirty-seven years, he learned to control his lust; he spent a lifetime to control his anger. His strict constitutionalism suggests that Jackson was willing to be a man under authority, and his worship of God while president showed that he was not making an idol of governmental power. A post-Jackson president was to be not only a benign presider over state affairs, but also a vigorous defender of citizens and opponent of haughty bureaucrats.

  Henry Clay
Clay dominated Washington legislative pursuits for decades. From the War of 1812 through his death forty years later, Clay was first Speaker of the House, then the Senate’s most influential leader, and throughout a perennial presidential candidate. He was often the person journalists predicted was most likely to succeed to the presidency, yet Americans never gave him their full confidence. Clay apparently freed himself from sexual restraints and undermined constitutional restraints, but he learned that most American voters trusted the Constitution, not him. Why Clay never made it to the presidency reveals much about the early-nineteenth-century electorate’s view of character and statesmanship.

Clay became expert at what later would be known as the salami strategy: getting what he wanted, one slice at a time.

  Abraham Lincoln [one of my least favorite presidents]
Lincoln followed Clay on not only economic issues but social and foreign policy ones as well. Like Clay, he favored schemes to transport blacks to Africa, and he opposed the Mexican War. But Lincoln, like Clay, primarily emphasized breaching the wall of separation between federal expenditure and private interests – a wall established by the Constitution, bulwarked by Madison and Monroe vetoes, and reinforced by Jackson.

In 1837, after Lincoln had questioned the accuracy of the Bible and the divinity of Christ, one local politician, James Adams, called Lincoln a “deist,” and therefore untrustworthy. Religious accusations plagued Lincoln again in 1843 when an opponent in the race for a congressional seat noted that Lincoln was a deist who “belonged to no church.”

Several long talks with Phineas Gurley [around 1862], pastor of the New York Avenue Presbyterian Church in Washington, helped him go through “a process of crystallization,” which Gurley described as a conversion to Christ. “I have been driven many times upon my knees by the overwhelming conviction that I have nowhere else to go,” Lincoln explained to Brooks. “My own wisdom, and that of all about me, seemed insufficient for that day.”

Lincoln needed the church and the Bible. By 1864, Lincoln was even recommending Scripture reading to Joshua Speed, his fellow skeptic from Springfield days. When Speed said he was surprised to see Lincoln reading a Bible, Lincoln earnestly told him, “Take all that you can of this book upon reason, and the balance on faith, and you will live and die a happier man.” When the Committee of Colored People in 1864 gave Lincoln a Bible, he responded, “But for this book we could not know right from wrong.”

The conquest of Atlanta probably made the difference between Union victory and defeat. Had elections occurred in August 1864 rather than November, Democratic candidate McClellan likely would have been elected, and the war probably would have ended with negotiations and southern independence.

Journalist James Gilmore, interviewing Lincoln after the Atlanta victory, came away thinking that the president saw himself as God’s agent “led infallibly in the right direction.”

Curiously, that speech [Lincoln’s second inaugural address], with its call to “bind up the nation’s wounds,” is often cited as evidence of Lincoln’s emphasis on reconciliation. But the address also showed Lincoln’s theological changes during the war. “Fondly do we hope – fervently do we pray – that this mighty scourge of war might speedily pass away,” he said. “Yet if God wills that it continue, until all the wealth piled by the bond-man’s two hundred years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash, shall be paid with another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago so still it must be said, ‘the judgments of the Lord, are true and righteous altogether.’”

What is often ignored when we think of Lincoln as a monument is that he went to Washington as a Clay-lover but found that wheeling and dealing did not answer deeper issues of meaning as the Civil War raged. Profane as a youth, he became devout during the war as he realized its enormity was too big for him to comprehend. His wartime devotion tended to be fatalistic: God ordains whatever happens, and thus whatever happens is right. The Bible, however, teaches that whatever God ordains is right, yet man has the responsibility to choose the right by studying the Bible in order to think like God’s thought after Him. The subtle but important difference between Biblical and Lincolnesque faiths raises many questions: Because the Union won the war by breaking with constitutional restraints and traditions of humane warfare, were those policies right? Did Lincoln ever put himself under God’s authority, or did he come to believe that his high-minded ends justified hellish means? There are many mysteries, but one thing is clear: When Lincoln’s assassination left Americans overlooking his disunities and remembering his willingness to give all he had for Union, the bar for presidential successors was raised.

  Booker T. Washington  [one of my most favorite people in history]
Booker T. Washington’s critics never liked his essential agreement with Andrew Johnson that education and hard work would pave the road to political rights. Some also thought it strange that religion was more important than politics in his life; as Washington’s daughter, Portia, said, “We never at home began the day without prayer, and we closed the day with prayer in the evening. He read the Bible to us each day at breakfast and prayed; that was never missed. Really he prayed all the time.”

He spoke of how Christians should remember not only God’s love but also God’s holiness, realizing that “If we would live happily, live honored and useful lives, modeled after our perfect leader, Christ, we must conform to law, and learn that there is no possible escape from punishment that follows the breaking of law.”

He wanted students to do everything, corm deo, “in the sight of God”: “A student should not be satisfied with himself until he has grown to the point where, when simply sweeping a room, he can go into the corners and crevices and remove the hidden trash which, altogether it should be left, would not be seen.”

He also saw that formal education by itself did not change live unless there was the will to work hard in economically productive tasks.

Booker T. Washington would have made a great president. Like Andrew Jackson, he was a fully integrated personality who set a course and stuck to it, without distraction or double0mindedness. He expressed faith in God and refused to turn to what some believed was a higher power, government. Like George Washington, he did not write or speak much about the indwelling nature of sin and the need for a Savior, so it is hard to know how deep his Christian faith went, but from all appearances there was bedrock. Whether he saw religion primarily as external good or internal necessity, Booker T. Washington showed no contrast between his public and private duties, and no willingness to concede that the ends of racial equality could justify anything other than the means of statesmanlike uprightness and perseverance.

  John D. Rockefeller
Rockefeller was baptized at the Erie Street Baptist Church in Cleveland in 1854, quickly started teaching Sunday school, and “was contented and happy … with the work in the church. That was my environment, and I thank God for it!” In no other place besides home, Rockefeller said, did he feel so at ease.

Love and discipline are both needed in the raising of a child who feels comfortable with himself but not so comfortable that aspirations disappear. It is not clear how much love Rockefeller received, but he did receive discipline and later disciplined himself by, among other things, abstaining from tobacco, alcohol, caffeinated products, and – from all available evidence – prostitutes. Rockefeller avoided debt and bought inexpensive “clothing such as I could pay for, and it was a good deal better than buying clothes that I could not pay for.”

The life-styles of Rockefeller and some of the tycoons of our era could not be more different. Rockefeller was in church every Sunday, unless traveling, and frequently went to church suppers and picnics, but not to theaters.

When Rockefeller moved to New York in 1884 he maintained patterns of domesticity, leading family prayers at seven-thirty sharp each morning. His children grew up wealthy but generally unspoiled. Once, when spending requests were too high, Rockefeller said, “Who do you think we are, Vanderbilts?” He taught a Sunday school class, “Don’t let good fellowship get the least hold on you. … [E]very downfall is traceable directly or indirectly to the victim’s good fellowship, his good cheer among his friends, who come as quickly as they go.” Family remained.

Rockefeller’s Christianity, as it turned out, did not go very deep. He liked a precise listing of dos and don’ts in church. He believed in and practiced family values. But there is no indication that he ever developed a clear sense that God – and not man’s work, however meticulous – saves sinners. Nor is there evidence of Rockefeller developing a Christian worldview, a sense of how the Bible can be applied thoughtfully not only in church and family devotions, but in all aspects of life and within every department of a university.

Rockefeller had built a university (University of Chicago) that would teach anti-biblical ideas, but he could take comfort in not endorsing the theater in general.

Rockefeller was a man who gained great wealth by paying attention to small things; a world now sliding on oil owes debts of economic gratitude to him. By making it possible for poor as well as rich people to have light at night in the nineteenth century and mobility in the twentieth, he was one of the great philanthropists of his age. In his philanthropy through contributions, however, Rockefeller did not pay attention to critical matters. Foundations he set up with much of his money, like his university, eventually turned his attention to undermining the market system that he had mastered.

  Grover Cleveland
Cleveland brought a sense of honor back into the national government.

Cleveland had practiced being out of the swing of things while serving his apprenticeships as mayor of Buffalo and governor of New York. In Buffalo, because he stood against raids on the public treasury, he gained the nickname “Veto Mayor.” In Washington, opponents called him the “Veto President.”

But if what Cleveland did during his six busy workdays did not trouble him, it was because on the seventh he worshipped at the First Presbyterian Church.

He worshipped the God of Scripture, saying, “the Bible is good enough for me, just the old book under which I was brought up. I do not want notes, or criticism, or explanations about authorship or origin.”

Cleveland believed in a Lord who proclaimed objective truth and challenged men to do their duty.

In 1893, when he fought off cancer by having his left upper jaw removed, Cleveland wrote to Thomas Bayard, ambassador to England, “I see in a new light the necessity of doing my allotted work in the full apprehension of the coming night.”

Young Cleveland studied the Westminster Shorter Catechism and found some of the memorization difficult, but as president he told reporters that he could recite it from beginning to end. He wryly commented, “those are not apt to be the worst citizens who were early taught, ‘what is the chief end of man?’” (The catechism answer is, “To glorify God and to enjoy Him forever.”)

In 1853 and 1854, Cleveland was an assistant teacher at the Institution for the Blind in New York City. Fanny Crosby, the blind writer of hymns such as “To God Be the Glory,” was another assistant.

Cleveland was the first incumbent president to be married in the White House.

Cleveland defeated Harrison in another very close contest, becoming the first president to return to office after a four-year furlough.

Grover Cleveland died in 1908. His last words were, “I have tried so hard to do right.” He had. A prodigal son who fathered a child out of wedlock, he tried to do right in making sure that his son grew up in a strong adoptive family. A rocklike constitutionalist, he fought those who planned to stretch the Constitution’s meaning by transferring tax money to influential individuals and groups. Cleveland provided integrity at a time it was desperately needed, but had trouble holding the allegiance of those who wanted not good government but a government that would feel their pain. He had many of the qualities of a George Washington but not the stature gained by successful military leadership. Cleveland thus could start the second age of the presidency down the right road, but his route could readily be abandoned by those who would follow.

Theodore Roosevelt
Six months after Roosevelt became vice president, President McKinley was shot while working a reception line in Buffalo. Roosevelt and his family were vacationing in the Adirondack Mountains when news that McKinley was dying arrived. Roosevelt rode a swaying wagon down a narrow mountain trail, boarded a train waiting at the county station, and took the oath of office on September 14, 1901, in one room of a house, with McKinley’s body in another room. Roosevelt at age forty-two was the youngest man ever to become president.

Governmental aid, he stated, should be limited and “extended very cautiously, and so far as possible only where it will not crush out healthy individual initiative.”

Mere economic redistribution would not help. It might be politically popular, but the leader who appealed to covetousness “is not, and never can be, aught but an enemy of the very people he professes to befriend.”

In 1907, Roosevelt had a large navy to show off, so he sent sixteen battleships on a fourteen-month round-the-world trip described as a goodwill tour, which it was: Countries saw that if they did not bear goodwill toward the United States, they might suffer.)

Roosevelt’s greatest triumph of the campaign came when he was shot in the chest on his way to an auditorium to give a speech. Coughing and putting a hand to his mouth to see if there was any blood, he saw no red and decided the bullet had not hit a lung. He then walked onto the stage, raised his hand to silence the crowd, and announced he had just been shot. He even held up the metal eyeglasses case and the folded manuscript that had slowed down the bullet on its way to his chest and probably kept it from killing him. He then delivered a stemwinder: If Taft Republicans slanted laws to favor the rich, and Wilson Democrats slanted laws supposedly to favor the poor, Americans would become divided, haves against have-nots, one nationality against another. Roosevelt said, “When that day comes then such incidents as this tonight will be common-place in our history.” He then headed to the hospital, and electoral defeat.

Theodore Roosevelt was mourned not only for his vibrant personality, but also because he followed in the Jackson and Cleveland tradition of taking stands in defense of ordinary people against what appeared to be special interests. Roosevelt never seemed a humble man in his statesmanship, but he energetically followed the biblical precepts of fair play and honesty. Broken by his first wife’s death, Roosevelt renewed his life in the Badlands and for the next quarter century set a pace in devotion to his new family and his new public roles that few others have equaled. Both publicly and privately he put into practice his professions of faith, and when he put the lives of others on the line he did the same with his own. He became a president who addressed not only questions of economics but difficult social issues as well, upgrading the presidential podium into a bully pulpit.

Woodrow Wilson
Joseph Wilson [Woodrow’s Dad] moved to an Augusta, Georgia [my hometown], pulpit in 1858, the church ladies gave Mrs. Wilson small welcoming presents of fruits and preserves, until they realized that such gifts hurt her pride.

Tommy [Wilson], like Teedie Roosevelt, was tutored mainly at home, but young Wilson did not learn to read until he was twelve. He later said that he was not taught to read because his father wanted to teach him whatever was important to know about the outside world, and did not want him to learn about it from others. I
t also appears that Wilson was dyslexia; throughout his adult life he remained a slow reader, making up in academic doggedness what he lacked in speed.

At age seventeen, Wilson entered Davidson College [just outside Charlotte where
I currently live], in North Carolina, he was still spending much time in an imaginary world he created, where he was Commodore Lord (sometimes Vice Admiral) Thomas W. Wilson, Duke of Carlton (sometimes Eagleton), responsible for writing rules and regulations for the Royal United Kingdom Yacht Club, and reports to the Navy Department about his war against pirates.

Wilson transferred from Davidson to Princeton, at that time still a country college to which many southern scions came.

At age twenty-three Wilson fell in love with his nineteen-year-old cousin, Harriet Woodrow, a talented singer. She was reluctant to marry a cousin and rejected him.


In 1883, after study at the University of Virginia Law School, and while suffering through boredom as a lawyer in Atlanta, Wilson found a sweetheart in Ellen Axson, a Georgian lady expressed total devotion for him.

Even though he was ordained a Presbyterian ruling elder in 1897, [as president of Princeton] Wilson eliminated Bible classes at Princeton soon after becoming president.

Wilson began to sneer at orthodox Christians who proclaimed a unity of fact and faith, and told one of his daughters that hell was only “a state of mind.” Soon he began twisting Scripture during his Princeton chapel talks.

Up to Wilson’s time citizens believed that a president was bound by his word. Wilson lowered expectations. At a time when schoolchildren still learned about young George Washington’s suppose words, “I cannot tell a lie,” their parents began wondering whether presidential practice had changed.

Franklin Roosevelt
He sat with the high and mighty, not the lowly. (on a trip to Washington, Franklin’s father took him to shake hands with a weary Grover Cleveland, who said, “I’m making a strange wish for you, little man, a wish I suppose no one else would make. I wish for you that you may never be President of the United States.”)

In 1937 the economy collapsed again, with unemployment in 1938 reaching that of 1933, despite the continuation of programs such as the WPA and the CCC. Some of those programs may even have prolonged the depression by soaking up resources that otherwise would have been used in the private sector, and some programs even created unemployment.

Under Roosevelt income redistribution became a Democratic Party staple. The political party that in Cleveland’s day was known for saying “no” became the party of “happy days are here again.”

Roosevelt’s success at glossing over problems and twisting data established a low bar for his successors. He raised expectations in exactly the manner that Jackson and Cleveland feared: The president would be the great bellhop, and citizens could demand that he come to their relief. But as to presidential faith and conduct, Roosevelt continued the trend of lowering expectations to half-mast: He saw utility in Scripture, but certainly wasn’t bound by it either in his private life or in his public policy innovations. Yet, harsh judgments of Roosevelt should always be softened by remembrance of high degrees of difficulty in place in 1933 when he began his high dives in public policy. When a wallowing-in-depression America was sorrowing early in 1933, Roosevelt’s confidence – even though it grew out of the view from a train window, the theology of a toothless god, and the ability to escape scandal – did help for a time.

John F. Kennedy
The Kennedy story begins with the development of his beliefs concerning God and sex. For John Kennedy, born in 1917, attendance at Sunday mass was an obligation as he was growing up. But his father, Joseph, also taught his sons that real men ignored most of God’s ten suggestions during the week. Joseph Kennedy modeled a concept of marriage by maintaining his wife, Rose, in homes and clothes, but skipping fidelity or affection. He brought mistresses into the family home (one for several months) and propositioned his son’s girlfriends. He also provided explicit teaching: John Kennedy once recalled, “Dad told all the boys to get laid as often as possible.”

Like Franklin Roosevelt, John Kennedy had it easy in other ways as well. He graduated from Harvard in 1940, after writing a senior thesis on British appeasement that he finished with the help of a personal secretary and five stenographers. The thesis was marred by poor writing and faulty analysis, according to faculty readers, but Joseph Kennedy thought it important that his son be an author: “You would be surprised how a book that really makes the grade with high-class people stands you in good stead for years to come.” Ambassador Kennedy hired New York Times columnist Arthur Krock to restructure the senior thesis, and a ghostwriter to knock into shape what the ghost called “a mishmash, ungrammatical … sentences without subjects and verbs … a very sloppy job, mostly magazine and newspaper clippings stuck together.”


In the Pacific, Kennedy incompetently had his ship sunk, but through heroic swimming saved the life of one crewman and perhaps more. His father’s dollars covered up the incompetence and publicized the valor in a way that catapulted incompetence and publicized the valor in a way that catapulted Kennedy to Congress and beyond.

Kennedy, according to historian and aide Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., believed that religion was man-made. That belief freed him from “black-and-white moralism.”

Kennedy’s pledge to put an American on the moon by the end of the decade became a symbol of U.S. ability to win a race with the Soviet Union. On the other hand, the Kennedy battle against organized crime was undercut by the debts he owed to mobsters such as Sam Giancana, who had provided money to help Kennedy win the electoral votes of Illinois in 1960, and who shared a girlfriend, Judith Campbell, with Kennedy.

The White House itself was a beehive of adulterous activity when Jacqueline was away – and she was away most of the time, staying four days a week at Glen-Ora and taking foreign trips that lasted up to three weeks. Three groups of women – staffers, regulars, and one-timers – serviced President Kennedy sexually.

Judith Campbell once brought six marijuana cigarettes to the White House. When she offered Kennedy one, he said, “Let’s try it,” and they did. After smoking the first, Kennedy laughed and said, “We’re having a White House conference on narcotics here in two weeks.” But marijuana use apparently was a rarity; more common was Kennedy’s corruption of Secret Service agents who had to lead him through tunnels from the Carlyle Hotel in New York so he could get to nearby hotels and apartments for sexual interludes without attracting attention.

In a peculiar fashion President Kennedy’s sexual practices even contributed to his death. Time magazine correspondent Hugh Sidey reported in May 1987 that Kennedy was wearing his back brace while motorcading through Dallas on the fatal day because he had thrown out his back while engaged in energetic adultery several months earlier. Had he not been wearing the brace, the impact of the first bullet that struck him would have pushed him to the floor of the limousine, with his cranium out of the line of fire of a second bullet. The brace, however, kept him up, a sitting duck for the fatal shot. Journalists, had they exposed his extramarital activity and forced him to stop, would have done him a favor.

Bill Clinton and Beyond
Clinton had called in Hybels, Campolo, and two other ministers, Gordon McDonald from Massachusetts and Rex Horne from Clinton’s church in Little Rock [this was just after November 1994, when voters voted in a Republican Congress].  The evening meeting in the private study on the second floor of the White House centered on a discussion of the problems Clinton was having in gaining acceptance among evangelical Christians. As one meeting participant recalled and another verified, one of the ministers said that members of his congregation were asking “a very simple question: ‘Is the president a good man?’” The minister then asked Clinton, “What can you tell us that would convince them that you’re a good man?” According to the participants, Clinton insisted that he was good, and when pressed for specific detail about his personal life responded even more strongly, in blanket terms. One of the ministers then said quietly, “I don’t think any of us can say that, that we’re good.” He had in mind the biblical understanding that “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God,” and was pleading with Clinton to confess sin and then rely on God’s grace rather than his own pride. Clinton would not buy that; he responded by pointing the finger at others, arguing that some unfair and evil Republicans were trying to bring him down. One of the ministers told the president that he tended to worry about “people out to get you,” but should instead pay attention to his own actions that created animosity. Clinton responded by again attacking Republicans. Several hours later, after a break to allow the president to meet visiting governors, the discussion resumed. One minister noted, “the president started up again with they, they, they. We kept saying, ‘We’re focusing on you.’” But there was no balm at the end of the tunnel.

Just as many citizens early in 1998 seemed so satisfied with the state of the Union that they did not want to deal with the issues of presidential adultery and perjury, so journalists often insisted that private action has no effect on public policy. Some went even further, arguing that immorality makes for more creative leaders. Newsweek’s Joe Klein declared on Face the Nation that presidents with “interesting sexual history” have made better leaders.


American’s of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries generally understood that if great Solomon’s reign could disintegrate, how much more readily could the tarnished lives of lesser leaders send their lands spiraling downward! Voters at first took into account the religious beliefs and sexual practices of prospective statesmen, generally electing men like Andrew Jackson and turning down those like Henry Clay when they went head-to-head. But the common sense of past generations has become uncommon. Novelist Larry McMurtry wrote in 1975 that “one seldom, nowadays, hears anyone described as ‘a person of character.’ The concept goes with an ideal of maturity, discipline and integration that strongly implies repression: people of character, after all, cannot do just anything, and an ability to do just about anything with just about anyone – in the name, perhaps of Human Potential – is certainly one of the most moderne abilities.”


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