Thursday, November 1, 2012

Wise leaders

Evaluations of American Presidents can change quite a bit over time. Few think as well of JFK as they did just a few years ago. US Grant's reputation has improved. And my opinion of Calvin Coolidge gets better the more I know about his character and life.

Via Steven Hayward and George Will, President Coolidge:
It is a great advantage to a President, and a major source of safety to the country, for him to know that he is not a great man.

When a man begins to feel that he is the only one who can lead in this republic, he is guilty of treason to the spirit of our institutions.

It is difficult for men in high office to avoid the malady of self-delusion. They are always surrounded by worshipers. They are constantly, and for the most part sincerely, assured of their greatness. They live in an artificial atmosphere of adulation and exaltation which sooner or later impairs their judgment. They are in grave danger of becoming careless and arrogant. ....

A sound and wise statesmanship which recognizes and attempts to abide by its limitations will undoubtedly find itself displaced by that type of public official who promises much, talks much, legislates much, expends much, but accomplishes little.
Hayward also notes a new biography of Calvin Coolidge by Amity Shlaes to be published in February: Coolidge. Shlaes is the author of a fine history of the Great Depression, The Forgotten Man, which book is already on my Kindle.