Theodore Roosevelt knew he was the best man for the job. He knew it in his heart and soul. H. W. Brands wrote “T. R. The Last Romantic.” While reviewing the 1904 election Brands writes candidly about Roosevelt,:
“Like most great men, and like many who fancy themselves great, Roosevelt convinced himself that his own advancement was crucial to the public welfare. Ever impatient – not least from bad conscience – the mugwump types who placed principle above political efficacy, Roosevelt believed that his first job was to attain, or in this case keep. office. Safely past the election he would wade to his waist in the work that needed doing. Until then he would stick closer to shore.” Sounds like Hillary Clinton to me.
But Clinton is not unusual. As Brands points out, most great men convince themselves that their own advancement is crucial to the public welfare. We have the rare privilege in 2008 to watch several great people make their case for why their election is crucial to our welfare. Hillary Clinton is not playing some fanatical game with the Democratic nomination – she is sincere in her belief that she is the right person at the right time. If she did not believe this she would not have run in the first place.
The idea that a person believes in themselves is not elitist – perhaps a little arrogant or egotistical, but not elitist. To survive the office of the Presidency one must have some out-of-this-world self image. Harry Truman once said, when asked about the momentous decisions of his Presidency, “You make decisions, and then you make the most of them.”
So what about George W. Bush? There is an aura about this man that is unsettling – it is not self confidence that we feel – but rather a fundamental lack of understanding of the consequences of his decisions. Ronald Reagan had base values that drove all of his decisions. But these were values of integrity and courage and honesty. George W. Bush has values – but his values are rooted in support of the wealthy, support of big business, and defense of self. Bush the 43rd does not see himself as best for the public welfare – but rather best for his special interests – not least of which is his imaginary legacy of greatness.
Barack Obama sees himself as the best for the job. If this were 1996, I might believe that McCain was the more moderate of the two – but alas, this is 2008. And we are reeling from eight years of self promotion. Barack Obama offers the clear ideal of change that will bring this country back from the brink of Limbaughism.
John McCain is a man of extraordinary confidence. But like Roosevelt, he is staying close to the shore of his Republican base – all in the interest of his own advancement. This writer believes that McCain is not self absorbed – but rather that he truly believes that he is the right man – just like Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.
The issue of self image is important was we voters approach the final lap of this race. George W. Bush was interested in the legacy of the Bush dynasty – and the results have been disastrous for the public welfare. McCain and Obama strike me as two men who truly believe in themselves as the best men to lead this country in promoting the public welfare.