From 1933 to 1960, America had nearly three decades of fairly successful presidencies — through the Great Depression, World War II, the Cold War and the threat of nuclear Armageddon.
Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman and Dwight Eisenhower were all re-elected. While contemporaries were critical of all three, they proved successful, stable executives.
In Roman times, the equivalent would have been the period of the "Five Good Emperors." The 18th-century historian Edward Gibbon famously remarked of the reigns of Nerva, Trajan, Hadrian, Antoninus Pius and Marcus Aurelius, between 96 A.D. and 180 A.D., that theirs was a time when "the condition of the human race was most happy and prosperous." This was lost with the succession of the erratic and unstable Emperor Commodus.
In contrast, there has been no such stability during the past 50 years in this country, even as we have become ever more wealthy.
Is the problem with recent administrations that our presidents do not measure up to a FDR, Truman or Eisenhower? Or have we the voters ourselves become more unstable than our grandfathers? Or is it that the world itself has radically changed what we look for — or need &mdashl in our presidents?
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