Both sound ridiculous, but do any Democrats ever retire to private life today? They always are taking on noble causes, which is to say illusory causes. Harry Truman retired to private life and Lyndon Johnson, but not Bill Clinton or Al Gore or, for that matter, Jimmy Carter. The other day, Jimmy wrote an op-ed piece in The New York Times, saying we have lost the drug war and he is now smoking while listening to the Grateful Dead onto death. Perhaps he is not listening to the Grateful Dead and possibly he is not smoking marijuana, but I lost interest at about the third sentence. He might well have said almost anything. He has been latching onto fads for 30 years, anything that will keep him in the ink. The reflective life is not for him. It might cause him to become aware of what a miserable president he was.
His miserable presidency is key to any summation I make of current American politics. The standards of leadership have declined abysmally, especially in the Democratic Party. In its upper tiers, there is not a person who could match Truman, Adlai Stevenson, John Kennedy or Hubert Humphrey, to say nothing of Roosevelt II. The 1960s generation -- the Clintons, Gore, John Kerry, et al. -- was a bust. Its members quite possibly set the stage for an even more inferior generation, the one led by Obama. Think of it! From Carter to Obama, the Democrats have led a motley string of trivial figures onto the national stage.
The Republicans have done markedly better. Richard Nixon, though flawed, led the opening to China, a tremendous achievement worth revisiting for those who have forgotten, and they can do it by reading Henry Kissinger's new book, "On China." What is more, Nixon and Kissinger managed affairs with the prickly Soviet Union remarkably well, until along came Ronald Reagan to finish the job without firing a shot. Reagan was a giant (known to liberals as a bumbling clown), and the two Bushes who followed him did not do badly, either. They were in the tradition of Truman and Dwight Eisenhower, prudent stewards of American interests.