Americans not obsessed with politics — that is, most Americans — will start paying serious attention to the 2020 presidential race after the February 3 Iowa caucuses and the February 11 New Hampshire primary — or perhaps after the March 3 Super Tuesday primaries winnow the Democratic field. So before the partisan din rises to ear-shattering volume, there’s some time left for Americans who aren’t entombed in ideological silos to ponder the qualities they would like to see in a president of the United States. I recently came across a description of such qualities.
Some historians regard Dean Acheson, who held the office under President Harry Truman, as the greatest secretary of state in American history. Be that as it may — and partisans of John Quincy Adams, William Seward, and John Hay would certainly enter caveats — I’m prepared to argue that Acheson’s 1969 memoir, Present at the Creation: My Years at the State Department, is the greatest American reminiscence of the author’s public service since the Personal Memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant were first published in two volumes in 1885-86. Grant wrote beautiful, clean English prose. For literary elegance and continual readability, though, I’d give Acheson the edge, not least because of his delightful habit of dropping a laugh-out-loud zinger into his narrative on occasion.