Americans have come to expect a lot of their presidents, more perhaps than any can deliver. We say that the president runs the country, but in practice, presidents have trouble running large parts of the government. We hold the president responsible for the economy, even though he has few economic levers at his command. We expect the commander in chief to lead us to victory in war, and then we complain when we think he is micromanaging the military.
And we tend to think of the president as the personification of the nation he leads. Few other democracies combine the position of head of government and head of state. We do, and some of the bitterness of our politics spring from the conviction of many Americans that this of that president does not really represent their country. Yet as we look back at our presidents, we see them less as partisan politicians than as national leaders, who in different ways have helped develop the strengths and virtues of our nation.