Magazine February 24, 2020, Issue

Has the Presidency Become Impossible?

(Roman Genn)
No, but it is too hard for the incumbent

At the conclusion of his 1994 book The American Presidency, Forrest McDonald, historian and occasional contributor to NR, surveyed the ways in which the job had become impossible. Presidents are “held totally responsible for situations that one is helpless to manage”; they lack “contact with ordinary humans”; they are “fair prey for every manner of vilification”; their inescapable tasks are often “self-defeating” (McDonald cited image-making: necessary to accumulate political and moral clout, yet apt to take on a life of its own). Their health suffers, and they die at younger ages than they once did. Some job.

Yet Donald Trump, a

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