My budget includes the largest increase in defense spending in two decades-because while the price of freedom and security is high, it is never too high. Whatever it costs to defend our country, we will pay.
George W. Bush, State of the Union Address, January 29, 2002
John Adams, America's second president and a considerable political theorist, defined a republic as “a government of laws, and not of men.” 1 Government, he implied, should be administered without special favor to any individual or interest; it should embody the good of society as a whole and not any one portion of it. In a republic, the law was king. This became a key principle on which American constitutionalism was built. The US Constitution itself was designed to distribute power throughout the political system and to control its effects irrespective of whoever happened to be in power. The genius of the American Constitution was precisely that it rendered the effects of personality neutral.
Curious, then, that judgments about American politics and foreign affairs should focus so sharply on the personalities of presidents. 2 There are few modern presidents of note who do not have a “doctrine” to their name-from Monroe through Theodore Roosevelt to Truman, Eisenhower, Nixon, Carter, Reagan, and Clinton-testimony to a public predisposition to personalize the remote abstractions of foreign policy. Presidents themselves know that to make their policies count, they must have brand recognition. Monroe may not have conceived of his own policy as a doctrine-it came to be referred to as such only in the 1850s 3 -but later presidents evidently strove to give their own foreign policies doctrinal status, and political scientists and historians willingly obliged. Notoriously, elections seem to turn on little but personality or, more accurately, image. Modern electoral politics, television,