Tuesday, October 26, 2010

They Really Are Different

Kevin Drum flags an anecdote about Bill Clinton's superhuman ability to work a room, and concludes:
The man is truly a freak of nature. I hope his brain is preserved for science when he dies.
Fair enough -- but what it also reminds me of is Richard Ben Cramer's portrait of George H.W. Bush cranking out mountains of thank-you notes,  making friends with every human soul he encounters, and (with Barabara) keeping that (pre-computerized) Christmas card list and willing themselves to like Ron & Nancy.  It's hard to write about these sorts of things, or Richard Nixon's work ethic, or LBJ's...I don't even know what to call it...without using some fairly extreme adjectives.  Such as, oh: obsessive.  Or: maniacal.

One must always be careful about these things...we can't quite draw causal lines between those extreme behaviors and the White House.  There are many examples of pols who would fit comfortably into the above paragraph who never advanced beyond lower office, and not every president is, in Drum's words, a "freak of nature."  Still, I think more are than are not, and it's probably worth keeping that in mind when we try to think along with our presidents -- or as we think about how much independent authority we really want them to have.

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