Looking at the pictures of yesterday’s gathering of all the living presidents at the White House for lunch, I believe one is supposed to reflect on the virtues of our system. Peaceful transitions follow more or less honest elections, and past leaders show up to offer advice and support to the incoming president with a certain amount of comity. To be sure, that is nothing to sneeze at — or even to take for granted. However, for those, like me, who are old enough to recall each of those administrations, it was hard to muster even a passing sense of reverence. Three of the four had their merits, but, on balance they seem like a pretty disappointing lot. You have to wonder — what about our system throws up these unprepared, unseasoned men, (that would be 4 of the 5), fueled only by ambition, to lead the world? (Bush 41 was certainly prepared and seasoned, but disappointing nonetheless.) On the other hand, maybe no one really could have done so much better. Is that possible?
It is, of course, entertaining that Jimmy Carter accepted George Bush’s invitation, after calling him, repeatedly and with vast bitterness, the worst president in his lifetime. While I disagree with Carter about Bush (and everything else), it is understandable that he would wish to pass on that title before his time is up.