Presidents Behaving Badly


Ron Suskind is a great journalist, but this seems like a dubious distinction to me:

George Walker Bush is not a stupid or a bad man. But in his conduct as president, he behaved stupidly and badly. He was constrained by neither the standards of conduct common to the average professional nor the Constitution. This was not ignorance but a willful rejection on Bush’s part, in the service of streamlining White House decision-making, eliminating complexity, and shutting out dissenting voices. This insular mind-set was and is dangerous. Rigorous thinking and hard-won expertise are both very good things, and our government for the past eight years has routinely debased and mocked these virtues.

Can we imagine making the reverse claim? Abraham Lincoln was neither an intelligent nor a good man, but in his conduct as president he behaved wisely and morally. That’s not quite right, is it? Lincoln’s wisdom and morality were, rather, revealed by the way he conducted himself as President.