Sunday, July 9, 2017

Thoughts on the Presidency

Our presidents are complicated individuals. Very few are "plain vanilla" folks where what you see is what you get. Some examples from the years when I was paying attention.

JFK was elegant and polished in public, a philandering cad in private. Johnson was crude and ruthless, but a superb legislator and someone who knew when to leave the stage.

Nixon was privately paranoid and nasty, one of the best foreign policy presidents we've had, and couldn't finish his second term. Ford wasn't elected to the office, so let's skip him as he's basically a historical footnote.

Carter, a demonstrably smart man, tried his darnedest to be a Christian president, and was mostly a cheek-turning flop. Reagan played the role of president better than most, as he understood its many "performance" aspects as most do not. Bush I won a war (Gulf I) and couldn't get reelected in spite of it.

Clinton was both lucky and a natural politician, but what my grandmother would have called "a masher" who pushed himself at women who weren't interested in sex with him. Bush II was very likely a decent man but not entirely up to such a big job including the ill-omened Gulf II. Obama was personally elegant and smooth, but revealed his basic dislike for most things American entirely too often, and gave up our gains in Iraq.

That brings us to the current occupant, Trump is both crude and polished, a bully and a salesman, and a much-married family man seemingly popular with his five kids. Like many entrepreneurs he has failed more often than he's succeeded, but succeeded enough to breeze past the start-ups that didn't make it.

Spending time in show biz has given Trump practice in selling himself. And he is able to monopolize media attention like no one since, perhaps, FDR. He is able to both give brilliant speeches and tweet ugly put-downs. A complicated man, indeed, in good company with other complicated men who've held the office.