This post today is inspired by an article I read in Foreign Policy regarding the President’s day holiday. The author, Aaron David Miller, argues that since FDR we have not seen a great president, linking him with the likes of Lincoln and Washington as the greatest of all time. Miller argues that Americans have come to scrutinize the presidency through the media in such an extravagant manner that we are unable to possess a truly great president. After 9/11, the possibility of a great president existed but instead the US was led into two unpopular wars. For Obama and the poor economy, the unemployment is not nearly close to the 25% unemployment of the Great Depression.
Washington, Lincoln, and Roosevelt were involved in major wars and turning points in American history: The Revolution, The Civil War, and WWII. Have we even had a chance as momentous as these to allow a great president? Miller writes that the media plays a major role in how our presidency is portrayed today which is undoubtedly true. For example, when JFK spoke on television, he simply gave his speech and then the television returned to its normal programming. There was not an audience with cables hooked up to their bodies to see if their speech provided a positive or negative outcome.
In essence, Miller concludes that American presidents are no “super heroes” (true). He also writes, “Americans need to get a grip and dial down what they expect of the presidency and those who occupy it. Maybe then Americans can allow their presidents to be good without expecting them always to be great.” I strongly disagree with the conclusion of an otherwise interesting and thought-provoking article. Holding the American president to a higher standard and “those who occupy it” is absolutely and completely necessary. By not holding politicians accountable and expecting them to be great is what has created the mess we are in over the last three decades. For the most powerful individual in the world, we should expect him to be one of the greatest individuals in the world, and nothing less.
Happy President’s Day, folks!