To try to respond to your analysis of Washington’s character would be unnecessary. Not only do I agree with your insights, but all of your points line up exactly with my reasoning behind calling Washington humble. Perhaps the word humble was ill-advised in that case, but I was indeed meaning to make the point that Washington set a respectful example for how the office of the presidency should be handled.
Amidst your ruminations in regards to George Washington, you quickly mentioned something that immediately formulated a question in my mind. In your piece, Douglas McArthur was brought up. I agree with your assessment that General McArthur probably wanted to be President MacArthur, which most likely would have turned into President for Life MacArthur. Not only did he want that power and prestige, but there was indeed a window of time when his immense popularity would have allowed for it.
Now, onto my question. For a land such as the United States of America, which is inherently in opposition to the rule of tyranny, why is it so susceptible to electing generals to the position of president? Washington, Eisenhower, Grant, Jackson, both Harrisons, and the list goes on. Not only are generals used to having near complete control, but they are quite often the ones vested with the power of foreign dictatorships.
I understand that military service is seen as a virtuous undertaking, which it most definitely is. However, I do not believe it’s out of bounds to say that what makes a good general is not what makes a good president. The United States may have gotten lucky with Washington and Eisenhower, as they still rank highly in conversations concerning the greatest presidents. Unfortunately, someone like Grant did not fare nearly as well. Not only is Grant’s administration known as one of the most corrupt in American history, but it was his militaristic leadership style that caused the corruption.
So, what if a general were to be elected, who possessed the despotic tendencies of MacArthur? America’s fascination with generals would work in his favor, as his automatic status of hero would most certainly cover up any of his shortcomings as a presidential candidate. Could America’s love of the military and its leaders lead to the placement of a despot in the Oval Office? And, if so, how did that even become possible in the first place? Why does America aggrandize generals, as it has done since its founding?