Okay, so as we saw with Romney’s off-the-cuff disaster about not being concerned about poor people last week, he’s not exactly another Great Communicator. But if he wins, maybe he could do America and the presidency a service by shutting up. From The Politically Incorrect Guide to the Presidents:
There are two main reasons for the development of the presidency as we know it today. The first is that the theorists of the Progressive Era, especially Woodrow Wilson, sought deliberately to eliminate the Constitution’s limits on government power, and especially to inflate the power and status of the president. But also, presidents simply started talking too much.
Today it is forgotten that presidents before the twentieth century spoke publicly very seldom, and then usually in the most general terms, such as greetings or “information about the state of the union.” Our first twenty-five presidents gave an average of just twelve speeches a year. And even this low average is skewed upward by late-nineteenth-century presidents, who began giving more speeches around the country after the spread of the railroads made presidential travel more feasible. George Washington averaged three public speeches a year; John Adams only one; Thomas Jefferson five; and James Madison—zero. Even President Andrew Jackson, thought with good reason to have introduced a measure of populism into presidential politics, was reticent about making too many speeches. He averaged only one public speech a year as president.
Two of the nineteenth-century exceptions to this pattern of rhetorical modesty are exceptions that prove the rule. It is nearly forgotten today that one of the charges of impeachment brought against President Andrew Johnson in 1868 was that he simply talked too much, and in a manner that we would today call “divisive.” In contrast to all of his predecessors, President Johnson toured the nation giving campaign-style speeches to drum up support for his policy proposals and to attack the Republican Congress. One of the articles of impeachment read, in part:
“That said Andrew Johnson, President of the United States, unmindful of the high duties of his office and the dignity and propriety thereof … did … make and deliver with a loud voice certain intemperate, inflammatory, and scandalous harangues, and did therein utter loud threats and bitter menaces as well against Congress as the laws of the United States . . . . Which said utterances, declarations, threats, and harangues, highly censurable in any, are peculiarly indecent and unbecoming of the Chief Magistrate of the United States, by means whereof … Andrew Johnson has brought the high office of the President of the United States into contempt, ridicule, and disgrace, to the great scandal of all good citizens.”
Come to think of it, maybe we should dust off this article of impeachment and apply it to the current occupant of the White House?