In The American Commonwealth, his book of 1888, Lord Bryce, considering American political institutions, provided an early chapter titled "Why Great Men Are Not Chosen Presidents." Most Americans, without needing to hear the argument, are likely to agree with the chapter's premises. The planetarkhis, the modern Greek word for ruler of the planet, the President of the United States may well be, but we can all be assured that, whoever he is, nowadays he is almost certainly likely to be a mediocrity. "Besides," Bryce wrote, "the ordinary American voter does not object to mediocrity. He has a lower conception of the qualities requisite to make a statesman than those who direct public opinion in Europe have. He likes his candidate to be sensible, vigorous, and, above all, what he calls 'magnetic,' and does not value, because he sees no need for, originality, or profundity, a fine culture or a wide knowledge." Mr. Ford, Mr. Carter, Mr. Reagan, Messrs. Bush, Mr. Clinton, and Mr. Obama - take a bow, please.
-Joseph Epstein, as excerpted on his essay on George Washington in Essays in Biography