Why American Presidents Matter [chapter]

Kishore Mahbubani
2022 China and Globalization  
The zeitgeist of the world is infused by the character of the US leader. Biden will bring back the civility and generosity that the American spirit is associated with. The first American president to enter my personal consciousness was John F. Kennedy. It wasn't his stirring rhetoric that reached me as a child in Singapore. It was the news of his assassination. The sense of loss was globally palpable. History has been kind to him. He was succeeded by Lyndon Baines Johnson. As a child, I was
more » ... led. How could someone so ugly succeed someone who was so attractive? Indeed, he was boorish. Legend has it that he would summon his staff to meetings while sitting on his toilet seat, doing his business. Still, history will be kind to him. His bold and massive civil rights legislation changed the course of US history. This may explain why he has the most voluminous and still unfinished biography of any recent American president, in the four volumes by Robert Caro. History has been unkind to Richard Nixon, his successor. Watergate killed him. The liberal media has not forgiven him. Yet there's no doubt that he changed the course of human history. Without Mr. Nixon, Henry Kissinger could not have gone to China. Mr. Lee Kuan Yew named Mr. Nixon as the greatest American president he had met, saying: "But for the misfortune of Watergate, I would say Richard Nixon. He had a realistic view of the world. He was a great analyst, realistic, but also a tactician to get things done." When Mr. Nixon stepped down, Mr. Lee lost a true friend in the White House, a major asset for the leader of a small country. This partially explained the contempt Mr. Lee had for Jimmy Carter, whom he considered naive. In Tom Plate's book, Giants Of Asia: Conversations With Lee Kuan Yew, Mr. Lee named Mr. Carter the worst president, saying of him: "Your job as a Originally published in The Straits Times,
doi:10.1007/978-981-16-6811-1_9 fatcat:sp4ng2i7w5aupjhqixopa7p2fu