Sunday, June 20, 2004


Presidential Audiences

Carl Sandburg, Abraham Lincoln, The War Years, Vol. 2 (New York: Harcourt, Brace & Company, 1939), p. 236, quoting words spoken by Lincoln to Major General Charles G. Halpine:
Men moving only in an official circle are apt to become merely official -- not to say arbitrary -- in their ideas, and are apter with each passing day, to forget that they only hold power in a representative capacity. Now this is all wrong. I go into these promiscuous receptions of all who claim to have business with me, twice each week, and every applicant for audience has to take his turn, as if waiting to be shaved in a barber shop. Many of the matters brought to my notice are utterly frivolous, but others are of more or less importance, and all serve to renew in me a clearer and more vivid image of that great popular assemblage out of which I sprung.
One problem with the current blue-blooded, prep-schooled, Yale-educated crop of presidential candidates is that they did not spring from "that great popular assemblage," and consequently have little practical knowledge of the everyday difficulties faced by the ordinary folk they pretend to represent.

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