In the 1950s, during one of his two campaigns as the Democrats’ presidential nominee, Adlai Stevenson was invited to address a gathering of Baptists in Houston, where in 1960 John Kennedy would address a group of Protestant ministers to refute charges that his Catholicism rendered him unfit to be president. This was an opinion vociferously promulgated by Norman Vincent Peale, a broadcast preacher and author of “The Power of Positive Thinking.” The man introducing Stevenson said the candidate had been invited only “as a courtesy” because Peale “has instructed us to vote for your opponent.” In response, Stevenson repeated a quip he had made when, in 1952, Peale said Stevenson was unfit to be president because he was divorced. Stevenson said: “I find the Apostle Paul appealing and the Apostle Peale appalling.”
In 1947, U.S. historian Wilfred E. Binkley took stock of the 13 men who had been president since the end of the Civil War and reached a stark conclusion: Governorship was “a training school for successful presidents.” The seven ex-governors on the list — including both Roosevelts, Theodore and Franklin — were far more effective chief executives than the six others.
“If Reince Priebus from Kenosha, Wisconsin, is the Republican ‘establishment,’ God help us,” says the chairman of the Republican National Committee, Reince Priebus. His physical presence is almost as unprepossessing as James Madison’s was, and his demeanor is self-deprecating. But with meticulous — Madisonian, actually — subtlety, he is working to ameliorate a difficulty that has existed for two centuries and in 2012 wounded the GOP.
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