“The office is kinda like the little country boy found a hoochie coochie show at the carnival. Once he paid his dime and got inside the tent: it ain’t exactly as it was advertised.” — Lyndon Johnson
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How many problems can a president solve with a really stinging insult? How important is it that a president give good speeches? What do we mean when we talk about character? What is the skill no one talks about?
The Hardest Job in the World, now a New York Times best-seller, offers readers some ideas to help them come up with answers to these questions. It is a study of the presidency and what the job actually requires. By looking at a wide range of presidents, it argues for a shift in thinking about how we think about its duties. It is informed by the work of, and interviews with, historians, political scientists, staffers in administrations going back to LBJ and some of the men who have held the job.
That we should think of the presidency as a hard job is not an excuse. It’s a warning. Presidents must face high-stakes challenges requiring temperament, foresight, decisiveness, but also attention to team-building and a capacity for restraint. The latter two qualities are just some of the attributes that get almost no discussion, because in many public discussions the job is conceived and treated like a show rather than serious task. Or, the qualities of the job are defined by purely political passions.
The military and private sector spend millions thinking about how to leaders can do their job better, but presidential campaigns avoid these conversations or actively promote qualities that have nothing to do with the job, or, worse, that actively train candidates to be bad at the job.
We should think of the job’s requirements when picking presidents and evaluating those who have the job. The job is too hard and too serious not to.