Fit for the Presidency? Winners, Losers, What-Ifs, and Also-Rans

Fit for the Presidency? Winners, Losers, What-Ifs, and Also-Rans

Fit for the Presidency? Winners, Losers, What-Ifs, and Also-Rans

Fit for the Presidency? Winners, Losers, What-Ifs, and Also-Rans


Every four years Americans embark on the ultimate carnival, the Super Bowl of democracy: a presidential election campaign filled with endless speeches, debates, handshakes, and passion.

But what about the candidates themselves?

In Fit for the Presidency? Seymour Morris Jr. applies an executive recruiter's approach to fifteen presidential prospects from 1789 to 1980, analyzing their resumes and references to determine their fitness for the job. Were they qualified? How real were their actual accomplishments? Could they be trusted, or were their campaign promises unrealistic?

The result is a fresh and original look at a host of contenders from George Washington to William McAdoo, from DeWitt Clinton to Ronald Reagan. Gone is the fluff of presidential campaigns, replaced by broad perspective and new insights on candidates seeking the nation's highest office.


The story of U.S. presidents begins when they take the oath of office. Yet a key part of their lives took place before they reached the pinnacle, when they were candidates. What had they accomplished? What signals were there to suggest their future performance? How impressive were their résumés?

More than almost any other country, the United States has perfected the art of personnel selection. We apply stringent criteria when selecting a leader for a corporation or nonprofit institution: we require a detailed résumé and carefully check personal and professional references, a process known as “due diligence”; when the candidate comes in for an interview we ask difficult, probing questions. We want complete and accurate information, and we want to be objective and make a decision free of personal bias.

Electing a president is not the same as choosing a ceo, yet in many ways the process is comparable to the sorts of hiring decisions made every day by top managers and boards of directors of companies and nonprofits. It therefore seems reasonable to apply the same degree of discipline and analysis to filling elective offices. in Fit for the Presidency? I examine résumés and perform due diligence for the office of president just as a professional recruiter would do to fill a company’s executive position. How does the candidate measure up on key criteria such as integrity and judgment? What in the candidate’s past suggests his potential success or failure as a president? Is there a good fit between the candidate’s skills and the needs of the country at the time? Is there anything in his . . .

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