If You Ask Me: A Global Banker Reflects on Our Times
Wriston, Walter B.
Lincoln Wouldn't Have Made It
The current President has a very low popularity rating at this time. The last elected President resigned. The one before that was afraid to run for re-election--
Sounds like a great opportunity, doesn't it?
Do you think that the men and women who run our governmental institutions today are capable of providing leadership for this country?
Just looking around this room, it's inconceivable to me, that there isn't a lot of leadership available. There is. There's no question about the skill of Americans and their leadership. To my mind, the real question is: Can leader survive the current media?
I don't say that just to criticize. It's my belief that Abraham Lincoln couldn't be elected today. The reason is very simple. When Ann Rutherford died, he went out in the wilderness, and he was nuttier than a fruitcake for three months. Josh Speed finally went out and got him. If you read Sandburg, it's described there. Well, Lincoln makes Eagleton look absolutely stable, and yet they knocked off Eagleton just like that because of a very minor thing.
Another example: Lincoln presided at cabinet meetings, so sick that he had to be carried in on his bed. We've gone from that to Lyndon Johnson showing you his scar, and publishing the report of the annual physical of the President. It's totally irrelevant to leadership.
So, I think the broader question is not whether we've got the people--we've got them by the dozens--but whether they will be allowed to exercise that leadership.
I'm a short-term pessimist and a long-term optimist because I believe the country will right itself. But today, the amount of nonsense that's written about anybody who's a leader stops people from going into public life.
 Senator Thomas F. Eagleton of Missouri was pressured to withdraw as vice presidential candidate in 1972, following allegations of mental instability.