Under a Presidential government, a nation has, except at the electing moment, no influence; it has not the ballot-box before it; its virtue is gone, and it must wait till its instant of despotism again returns.
Wilson adventured for the whole of the human race. Not as a servant, but as a champion. So pure was this motive, so unfrocked with anything that his worst enemies could find, except the mildest and most excusable, a personal vanity, practically the minimum to be human, that in a sense his adventure is that of humanity itself. In Wilson, the whole of mankind breaks camp, sets out from home and wrestles with the universe and its gods.
All Presidents start out to run a crusade but after a couple of years they find they are running something less heroic and much more intractable: namely the presidency. The people are well cured by then of election fever, during which they think they are choosing Moses. In the third year, they look on the man as a sinner and a bumble and begin to poke around for rumors of another Messiah.
The President has paid dear for his White House. It has commonly cost him all his peace, and the best of his manly attributes. To preserve for a short time so conspicuous an appearance before the world, he is content to eat dust before the real masters who stand erect behind the throne.
I don't have any problem with a reporter or a news person who says the President is uninformed on this issue or that issue. I don't think any of us would challenge that. I do have a problem with the singular focus on this, as if that's the only standard by which we ought to judge a president. What we learned in the last administration was how little having an encyclopedic grasp of all the facts has to do with governing.
As far as the job of President goes, its rewarding and I've given before this group the definition of happiness for the Greeks. I'll define it again: the full use of your powers along lines of excellence. I find, therefore, that the Presidency provides some happiness.
We want a president who is as much like an American tourist as possible. Someone with the same goofy grin, the same innocent intentions, the same naive trust; a president with no conception of foreign policy and no discernible connection to the U.S. government, whose Nice Guyism will narrow the gap between the U.S. and us until nobody can tell the difference.
In our brief national history we have shot four of our presidents, worried five of them to death, impeached one and hounded another out of office. And when all else fails, we hold an election and assassinate their character.
A president, however, must stand somewhat apart, as all great presidents have known instinctively. Then the language which has the power to survive its own utterance is the most likely to move those to whom it is immediately spoken.
All Coolidge had to do in 1924 was to keep his mean trap shut, to be elected. All Harding had to do in 1920 was repeat Avoid foreign entanglements. All Hoover had to do in 1928 was to endorse Coolidge. All Roosevelt had to do in 1932 was to point to Hoover.
From now on, I think it is safe to predict, neither the Democratic nor the Republican Party will ever nominate for President a candidate without good looks, stage presence, theatrical delivery, and a sense of timing.