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Thursday, June 30, 2005

# Posted 11:52 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

OUR LESS THAN INTELLIGENT PRESIDENT: His experience as a politician was limited before he made it to the White House. According to one imperious professor from Harvard, "Never did a President enter upon office with less means at his command." A newspaper observed that he "cannot speak good grammar".

All of his rivals for the Republican nomination were far more accomplished and knowledgeable. He sought to compensate for his lack of expertise by appointing political veterans to his cabinet, but this only resulted in widespread perceptions of the president as a figurehead. Then with utter confidence, he led the nation into a major war that millions of Americans considered to be totally unnecessary and pointlessly destructive.

But enough about Abe Lincoln. He's been dead for a long time, so why rehash old debates about his presidency? By the way, the source for the material cited above is an essay by Doris Kearns Goodwin in the current issue of Time.

Strangely, Goodwin doesn't seem to notice the remarkable parallels between the first Republican president and his current successor. But if you take a closer like at the reasons why Goodwin thinks Lincoln was so great, you'll get a sense of why she is no fan of Bush.

According to Goodwin, Lincoln had eight critical virtues that made him a great president in spite of his inexperience. They were: Empathy, Humor, Magnanimity, Generosity of Spirit, Perspective, Self-Control, A Sense of Balance and A Social Conscience.

Although I don't think Bush scores all that badly on those fronts, you won't find many Americans who think of him as the president that embodies those values. If anything, Goodwin's list seems to reflect a certain desire to put Franklin Roosevelt or perhaps even Jimmy Carter back in office.

Anyhow, while I don't doubt that Lincoln had the virtues mentioned above, I would also speculate that Lincoln's most important virtues included: Moral Clarity, Dogged Determination, and A Willingness to Use Force in Defense of Principle. Then again, such qualities are often overrated.
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