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Archive for November 8th, 2016

Anyway, I don’t think Washington’s and Lincoln’s commanding height had much to do with why they were respected.  I think their leadership came from what was inside them.  Of course, a wonderful appearance of a public leader is a great asset if he has something behind that public appearance to go with it.  Otherwise, it isn’t worth anything; otherwise, it’s just deceptive like Harding’s handsomeness or Eisenhower’s smile.  A president has got to have qualifications to do the job that he’s supposed to do.  He has got to be honest.  Particularly, he’s got to be intellectually honest, and if he isn’t, it doesn’t make any difference what kind of appearance he makes.  In the long run, his good looks or good public presence doesn’t amount to anything because he’ll do a bad job, and he’ll be found out.  Or even worse, as I’ve been pointing out in this book, some presidents go into the presidency and don’t do any kind of job at all.  A good president has to be a man – or as will come in time, a woman – who works for the people in a way that makes a great impression of the period in which he lives, and so far, there have only been about seven or eight presidents who’ve done that.  The others have, to some extent, been presidents who were not truly interested in the events that were taking place and their part in it.  In a sense, they retired from active life into the presidency, and that doesn’t work.
The thing most people wonder about when you start discussing good presidents and bad presidents is how to find the best available man.  How, people ask, do you know if you’re voting for the right man, or if you’re someone like me and get to the point where you have some power in a political party, how do you know if the fellow you’re pushing to be your party’s candidate is the best man in your party at that time for the job.  Those are difficult, possibly impossible, things to answer.  You never can tell what’s going to happen to a man until he gets to a place of responsibility.  You just can’t tell in advance, whether you’re talking about a general in the field in a military situation or the manager of a large farm or a bank officer or a president of the United States.  You can never tell if a man is going to be a figurehead or a leader when you nominate him and elect him president.  You’ve just got to pick the man you think is best on the basis of his past history and the views he expresses on present events and situations, and then you sit and do a lot of hoping and if you’re inclined that way, a certain amount of praying.
You’ve just got to think hard and make your choice and not look back later on and wonder if you should have voted for Mr. Smith instead of having voted for Mr. Jones the way you did.  When you contemplate things like what another man would have done as president, the plain truth is that just never can tell.  You never can tell what anybody else would have done as president until he’s in there and has a chance to act, so you’ve got to live with what you’ve got and hope for the best.
The one comforting factor in this whole question of the selection of presidents is that I feel absolutely sure that the vast majority of past presidents wanted to do the right thing, and that this will be the case with the majority of future presidents as well.  But in honestly think that most presidents really try.
  —  President Harry S. Truman
From his book: “Where the Buck Stops: The Personal and Private Writings of Harry S. Truman
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On This Day In:
2015 It Is Another Beautiful Day At The Red Pony Bar And Continual Soiree…
2014 Days And Years
2013 Currency And Transport
2012 Something Which Did Not Exist Before
2011 True Magic

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