When the American people elevated George Washington to the presidency, they knew that because of his achievements, character, and virtues, they were elevating the presidency to him. Just as music has degenerated from Mozart to rap, so has the presidency since the election of the last adult president 30 years ago, and now the final stages of competition for the highest office are given over to demagogues, dynastics, and dolts.

To paraphrase C.S. Lewis, the presidency rises to our standards when we improve, and sinks to them when we decay. Which is another way of saying that in a democracy and even a democratic republic the fish rots not from the head down but from the body up. Though likely hopeless—because the ability to become president diverges so radically from the ability to be president—it should not be unreasonable for citizens to demand a higher standard and lay out its elements. Among 330 million people, you would think there would be at least one in whom these two abilities would coincide.

The skill to politic, manipulate, obfuscate, and evade, and talent in raising money, using people, tossing them overboard, and eating one’s young are assumed—unless a president obtains his position after a turnip truck overturns on Pennsylvania Avenue or a circus cannon accidentally shoots him through a window of the Oval Office

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