If you think back over the past 20 years, can you name more than one or two statesmen that ran for the presidency? I was thinking about this the other day and to be honest, I can’t remember any.
Oh, we’ve had decent campaigners, we’ve had decent presidents, a couple of them anyway, but we’ve languished in mediocrity for most of the last two decades. So, I went back and tried to figure out who was really great. To be honest, I went back to 1960, which was the first presidential election of my life.
1960: Kennedy vs. Nixon: Kennedy was a great orator. That was it. As we learned now, Camelot was more glitz and glitter than reality, and he never really was a “great” president.
1964: Johnson vs. Goldwater: One of the biggest whitewashes in history. Neither was a great campaigner. Johnson was a deal maker, and Goldwater was the “father of modern conservatism”. We deserved better than either of them.
1968: Nixon vs. Humphrey: Again, neither was really electric. Neither was a good orator, nor a good politician. Nixon did a couple of good things and a lot of bad things as president, but wasn’t anything to write home about.
1972: Nixon vs. McGovern: Talk about a lopsided race! I think McGovern may have taken his home state of South Dakota, and that was it.
1976: Carter vs. Ford: On one hand, you had Ford hitting golf balls into a crowd, and on the other, a peanut farmer from Georgia. Neither was impressive.
1980: Reagan vs. Carter: Ronald Reagan was undoubtedly the best president we’ve had since 1960. And he may very well qualify as the best statesman. Certainly better than anyone we’ve seen since 1980! Carter? He lost it by taking advice from Amy on nuclear weapons. And he forgot Poland was a communist country back then!
1984: Reagan vs. Mondale: Fritz Mondale was a Vice President under Carter. And that was about as exciting as it got for him.
1988: HW Bush vs. Dukakis: Talk about watching paint dry! Neither could excite a crowd. Dukakis was so bad, he had to drive a tank to show the world he cared about the military. It didn’t work.
1992: Clinton vs. HW Bush: Clinton was probably one of the best campaigners in recent history. His presidency will always be shrouded with his extra-marital affairs. But Bush couldn’t hold a candle to a much younger and hipper Clinton, who played the saxophone and “tried marijuana but didn’t inhale” (I thought that was the point!).
1996: Clinton vs. Dole: Another mismatch. Dole got the GOP nod because it “was his turn”. Turned out, he would have been better off staying in the Senate and not campaigning.
2000: W Bush vs. Gore: George W. was one of the worst orators in history. Al Gore one of the smarmiest politicians ever. In the end, it came down to a 500 vote win in Florida.
2004: W Bush vs. Kerry: I wouldn’t have thought anyone could have topped Al Gore in the smarmy department. But John Kerry did. And he lost because of it.
2008: Obama vs. McCain: Obama was a great campaigner. He was a decent orator and a lousy president. McCain gave his concession speech at the Republican convention.
2012: Obama vs. Romney: Mitt Romney is not a national politician and it showed in this campaign. Again, Obama, with a 42% approval rating tore into a very weak Republican candidate.
2016: Trump vs. Clinton: The two worst candidates in American history faced off. Both had enough baggage to fill the ritziest hotel in New York City. Neither was qualified to become president. And both had been embroiled in scandals. But Trump’s down-home style resonated with the voters in enough states to send Clinton to her Chardonnay!
2018: Trump vs. Biden: Is this going to be Round 2 of the Worst Candidates Ever? So far, it’s looking like it. Not only does Biden have the baggage that Clinton had as far as the scandals in his past, he is a perennial gaffe machine. Trump seems to get a lead, then blow it because he can’t stop telling the world how great he is. Trump is a much better president than he is either an orator or a campaigner. I don’t think he’s that great at either of those things.
And there you have it. Besides Reagan, no one fit the bill as being a great orator, a great campaigner, and a great president! Where have all the statesmen gone?
Carry on world…you’re dismissed!