The 4 Qualities of a True Statesman

by Brett & Kate McKay on January 30, 2012 · 216 comments

in A Man's Life

Here in the United States, the inauguration of our next president is a year away, and the Republican primary season is in full swing. Journalists and pundits dissect the candidates’ every speech, appearance, and debate, analyzing what they did right or wrong, and who is waxing and waning in the polls. These talking heads, along with the people watching and listening to them at home, evaluate the candidates on who seems the most “authentic,” had the best line of the evening, or released the hardest-hitting advertisement. The whole thing can oftentimes seem more like a sport or entertaining sideshow than the lead-up to an important election.

So what should the more serious-minded citizen be looking for in the next leader of the free world? What criteria beyond hair and quips might a man use to evaluate and judge candidates for office, or those already in office?

Opinions will certainly differ on such a significant and pressing question. But while I was in college, I was introduced to an excellent yardstick for measuring our leaders, one that has stuck with me ever since.

It was there I took a couple of courses with Dr. J. Rufus Fears, professor of an incredibly manly subject: the history of freedom. One of the things the good professor emphasized to us captivated students was that a politician and a statesman are not the same thing. A statesman, Fears argues, is not a tyrant; he is the free leader of a free people and he must possess four critical qualities:

  1. A bedrock of principles
  2. A moral compass
  3. A vision
  4. The ability to build a consensus to achieve that vision

Let us now explore these four criteria of a democratic statesman in greater depth.

1. A Bedrock of Principles

The statesman builds his platform on a foundation of firm, unchanging, fundamental truths. These are the things he believes at his very core, his overarching philosophy.  Just as in the foundation of a house, storms may buffet the structure, opposition and challenges may arise, times will change, but the foundation remains. A statesman may change the details of his policies and his methods for achieving those policies, but only inasmuch as those short-term tactics of expediency serve the purpose of furthering his bedrock of principles in the long run.

2.  A Moral Compass

Dr. Fears argues that the modern politician makes decisions by using “antennae.” He puts his feelers out there to gauge the public mood. Once he figures out which way the wind is blowing, he then shapes himself and his message to give the people exactly what they want. But as Dr. Fears would hammer home again and again to us: A statesman does not govern by public opinion polls.

No, the true statesman makes his decisions by following the dictates of his own moral compass. He is not a relativist; he believes in absolute truths, and his moral compass is rooted in a sense of absolute right and absolute wrong. When something is wrong, he plainly says it is wrong and does everything in his power to fight against it. When something is right, he is willing to overcome any opposition to preserve and spread it. The statesman is ambitious—he must be to obtain a position of power—but there are things he simply will and will not do to get to the top. He is a man of integrity; he speaks the truth. He leads by moral authority and represents all that is best in his countrymen.

3. A Vision

A statesman has a clear vision of what his country and his people can become. He knows where he wants to take them and what it will take to get there.

Fears argues that a statesman’s foresight is one of his most important qualities, as he must be able to recognize problems on the horizon and be able to come up with solutions that are good not only for the short-term, but for the long-term as well. The statesman keeps in mind not only the here and now, but the world future generations will inherit.

4.  The Ability to Build a Consensus to Achieve That Vision

A politician may have a bedrock of principles, a moral compass, and a vision, but if he lacks the ability to build a consensus around his vision, his efforts to change policies, laws, and the course of history will largely be in vain.

A statesman, who again is a free leader of a free people, must enlist those who serve with him in the government to support his initiatives, and their willingness to do so rests on the pressure they feel from their constituents to align themselves with the statesman’s vision. Thus, a statesman’s success in building a consensus ultimately hinges on his ability to convince his countrymen of the soundness of his philosophy.

To win their hearts, the statesman does not use slick advertisements and PR campaigns. Ads and propaganda, Fears argues, are the tools of the despot. Rather, the statesman harnesses the power of the written, and especially the spoken word. He is master orator. His lifelong study of great books and the lessons of history allow him to speak to the people in intelligent, potent, well-reasoned arguments.

Because a statesman follows his moral compass instead of opinion polls, his ideas are often initially out of step with the public mood. But instead of tailoring his rhetoric to that mood, he speaks to the very best within his countrymen. He understands that while their ideals may be deeply buried, powerful rhetoric can bring them forth and activate them. The strength of his words comes from the fact that he actually believes what he says. And he does not make his countrymen’s hearts soar and burn with empty promises; he keeps his word and does what he says he will do.

In considering these four qualities of a democratic statesman, it may seem like a real one has never existed, because if one had, surely everyone would be in agreement on his exalted place in history. But in truth, even those who agree on these criteria would have plenty of disagreement over what principles the statesman should espouse, what constitutes a moral right and wrong, and most importantly, what constitutes acceptable means in obtaining his vision.

Professor Fears believes that the three greatest statesmen in history are Pericles of Athens, Abraham Lincoln, and Winston Churchill. For all three men, their bedrock of principles rested on the ideal of freedom: democratic liberty, equality under the law, and individual freedom—the freedom to live as you choose. And these men had a vision of expanding this liberty further, out to the common man. And yet they all courted controversy in some of the measures they deemed necessary in order to achieve their vision. Churchill is criticized for things like the Bombing of Dresden and his advocacy of imperialism (he did not believe that national independence and freedom were the same thing, and thought that British colonists would have more freedom and liberty under colonial rule than if a country was turned over to a small clique of its own that would rule with tyranny). And Lincoln suspended the right to habeaus corpus during the Civil War.

Some feel that such actions cannot be justified, no matter the end goal. But Dr. Fears, who from what I gather from his lectures and books leans libertarian, sees the broader picture—he argues that every statesman must set priorities, and this can sometimes mean “saying no to the aspirations of one people for another.” In other words, even if the methods of the statesmen he admires were not always very savory in the short-term, what matters most in his estimation is that they ultimately led to more freedom for more people in the long-term.

So who do you personally think are the great statesmen from history? Do you think there are true statesmen among us now? If not, which of these qualities are the politicians out there lacking?

**Please note: Obviously this discussion will be political in nature, and while you are welcome to share your opinion in a calm, intelligent, civil, and gentlemanly manner, even the slightest whiff of snark, rancor, or any kind of unmanly silliness will get your comment deleted. Statesmen are great, but on this thread I will be a tyrant, ruling with an iron fist. All of which is to say: no nincompoops allowed.**

{ 216 comments… read them below or add one }

101 Noah January 31, 2012 at 12:10 pm

I wholeheartedly agree with those that name Ron Paul. He is the most honest man in public office that I have ever seen, and I feel that he definitely has the four qualities of a statesman listed in this article.

102 Thomas Brown January 31, 2012 at 12:38 pm

After reading this article I decided to write up a piece that points out the 4 Qualities of a Statesman as it relates to Ron Paul. If your interested you can check it out here

103 Chris January 31, 2012 at 12:45 pm

Alexander Hamilton

Abraham Lincoln


104 dango January 31, 2012 at 12:52 pm

#4 the ability to build consensus … this is an extremely difficult thing to do, when a large percentage of populace is desirous of bread and circuses from the government rather than a statesman. it takes incredible abilities to persuade a portion of the voting public that they need to question their motives.

@peter samuel-
you assert “I continue to uphold a woman’s right to her body regardless”. But it is not her body that she kills via abortion, it is the life of someone else, who has different DNA than she does. Your policy is akin to allowing a landlord to kill his tenants. ron paul is a statesman, as he tackles this difficult issue head on, based on vast personal experience. Unpopular with some, but he is loyal to his clear compass.

105 Isaac January 31, 2012 at 12:59 pm

Out of our current selection, and perhaps the last 30 years, Ron Paul is the best example of a principled statesman.

People who say he cannot create consensus need to look at the Blue Republican movement and the fact that our country is now looking very seriously at the monetary system in a way un-thought of 5-10 years ago.

Also, his books are much better than his speeches. This is not for a lack of thought, but simply a matter of gifting. He does not spoon feed you the ‘right’ answers but explains his position logically and using his principles instead of demagoguing a side to win one argument.

That being said, Newt/Mitt/Rick do not measure up in the slightest, not to mention Obama. Say one thing, do another.

106 Rocky January 31, 2012 at 1:02 pm

In Ron Paul we have a statesman who truly believes in his platform. He sticks to a certain set of ideals, his “bedrock of principles,” and that’s where he operates from. The same can’t be said for the likes of Mittens, who tends to pander to whoever he’s speaking to. I can’t vote for someone who doesn’t stick to their “bedrock…”

107 Robert Stump January 31, 2012 at 1:09 pm

My initial response was a double take on Lincoln. I know he is well loved, on the penny and the five. As men we like his beard and his stove pipe hat. But if one can bear to slosh through all of the hagiography the truth of the man himself falls short of the first two points in stripes.

For one his suspension of Habeas Corpus, suppression of newspapers, and other arguable failings in civil rights hardly betray the worst in his philosophical disposition. He was opposed to state sovereignty. He was in fact of point the American Caesar, and as great as Gaius was as a leader I doubt there are many who would put him in the realm of Pericles.

There is little doubt that the Unification of the Vassal States of America, as opposed to the United Sovereign States of America had far reaching implications beyond our own soil. The furthest reverberations being the Unification of the German Kingdoms which had a direct hand in WWI. . . Certainly a man who cherishes freedom is not the same who destroys the sovereign freedom of a variety of peoples.

Excellent Article.


108 Andrew January 31, 2012 at 1:11 pm

Past: George Washington, Otto von Bismarck, and Mustafa Kemal Atatürk. I would consider Reagan and FDR, but I’m reluctant to put them in the same company as the first three.

I think the best present example is Ahmet Davutoğlu, the Foreign Minister of Turkey.

109 Paul January 31, 2012 at 1:14 pm

The greatest statesman I remember is Ronald Reagan. He helped remind Americans of their greatness. John F. Kennedy was similarly a great leader.

110 Ted January 31, 2012 at 1:27 pm

I agree mostly with the comments but there is one thing that Statesmen of history had that we do not see today and that was selfless service. Statesmen took office to serve the country and when they were done they went back to their lives. Political service was never meant to be a career. Statesmen of the past would forgo personal gain while in office for the good of the country. We just don’t see that anymore. Today if “Mr. Smith Goes To Washington” he gets eaten alive.

111 dango January 31, 2012 at 1:31 pm

i forgot to say … in ancient history, Cincinnatus is hard to beat…
an impoverished statesman, minding his own business on the family farm, he was called by his country in war to be temporary ruler …
he took names, kicked ass, and (after victory) did not hold onto the position but went back to his farm.
>he actually was made dictator a second time to put down a rebellion, and upon success immediately resigned again.

he was a man of his times, protecting the aristocratic classes, but still … he rallied the country with vision and skill, and did not use his power for his own purposes.

112 Robert January 31, 2012 at 2:12 pm

“. He was in fact of point the American Caesar, and as great as Gaius was as a leader I doubt there are many who would put him in the realm of Pericles.”

Lincoln was hardly an American Caesar, and any attempt to compare the two shows a flawed understanding of history.

Lincoln is rightfully hailed as one of our best presidents; he squashed the illegal and treasonous slaveholder’s rebellion, keeping the nation strong and leading to the end of slavery in the process. Few presidents can match that list of achievements, among them Washington, both Roosevelts, and possibly Jefferson.

113 Heidi January 31, 2012 at 2:50 pm

Great article. Abraham Lincoln was the first man I thought of. He was assassinated. Ronald Reagan also had my consideration. There was an attempt on his life. I can also see why John F. Kennedy would be considered. He certainly had a vision for our country. He was also assassinated. What does this tell me? The majority of the people in this country do not want a statesman. Many prefer tyrants.
Thank you to those who shared their views on Ron Paul. I certainly will be exploring more who he is.

114 Joshua January 31, 2012 at 2:51 pm

I definitely think that Cincinnatus is a prime example of Statesmanship. While I would not want to be forced to live the humbly (for real men do it because it is the right way to live), I do yearn to be just as great of a leader. Victorious yet Humble!

115 Cole Bradburn January 31, 2012 at 3:08 pm

Great article, and I believe that we have a true statesman among us in Ron Paul. He has exhibited great vision, and has not once wavered from his principles.

The great challenge is for him to build a consensus around his vision of America relying on the Constitution.

116 Noah January 31, 2012 at 3:26 pm

I would argue that being a great orator is not necessarry in order to be a great statesman, but a bonus. What is indespncible is the ability to hold power. In order to truly understand that statement, one has has to have a solid understanding of the socilogical quantitative definition of power, which is not dissimilar for tennant #4. However, a key factor that hasn’t been mentioned is the use of charisma. Being a great orator is one way of demonstrating charisma, but there are certainly others. I could even argue that Ron Paul (who would not personally consider a true statesman) actually can use his lack of oration skill to demonstrate a certain level of honesty and therefore wind up coming across with an awkrard charimsa and therefore, ultimatel demonostrate power.

Lastly, and let me preface this with the fact that my Grandparents are Holocoust survivors, I would argue that Adolf Hitler may have been the most successful statesman of modern times. He clearly had a vision, his own (albeit completely messed up) moral compass, his own bedrock of principles, and he was able to gain the consensus of most of Europe. He was also phenominally charismatic and had an uncanny ability to give impassioned speaches that moved nations.

sorry for the awful spelling. It’s not my strong point and I’m on a computer that lacks spellcheck. I hope it doesn’t deter to greatly from my argument.

117 E. Peña January 31, 2012 at 4:28 pm


By your definition, a miscarriage would be considered manslaughter.

Everyone has strong opinions on this matter, and really it should not be something discussed at this particular juncture. Dr. Paul’s opinion on the matter though is in conflict with his beliefs of individual liberty. Obama’s view on the matter is the more statesman-like on this matter. Although he himself does not support abortion as an option, he accepts that other people do not agree with that belief or its roots in religion. It takes a principled person to stand up for something that is afforded by our laws/ interpretations of laws against staunch public opposition.

Keep it up Brett and Kate and thank you for this great post.

118 Ben January 31, 2012 at 4:51 pm

What the heck is up with Ron Paul folks? Why do they always spam the hell out of any topic like this?

Look, guys: by the criteria described above, Paul cannot possibly be a great statesman, because he has repeatedly proven incapable of developing a consensus necessary to achieve his vision. This is fact. A huge percentage of the population considers him to be a nutbar. A huge percentage of his supporters have no understanding of his economic and civil rights positions.

It’s OKAY, you guys can still LIKE him and all that. It’s just that the hyperbole is absurd and unreasoning and makes him look less like a statesman and more like a cult leader.

119 AK Engineer January 31, 2012 at 5:37 pm

Great article! I think every man, not just politicians should aspire to the first three.

On “building consensus” … I personally believe consensus is a buzz word and is really a dangerous thing. Consensus essentially means that everyone agrees (or is in harmony with), and, if you don’t agree, then something about your position is fundamentally flawed. for example, what happens if someone strongly disagrees with your bedrock principles or moral compass? Can you truly achieve consensus with those people? This can quickly degenerate into an “agree or else” situation. do you exclude those that don’t agree just so you can say you have consensus? Consensus doesn’t always value or respect minority views.

I suggest that in place of consensus the phrase should be “achieving informed consent”. Informed consent means that though I might have reservations and we disagree, I will listen to your point of view, am open to a solution, course of action, or at the very least dialogue. Informed consent considers the minority view, and seeks to achieve something more than an “over my dead body” position.

In politics, no matter what you do, someone is going to be affected. Achieving consensus may never be realistic without a knee knocker. However informed consent may just turn the “absolutely not in my back yard” into a “I can live with that” crowd.

120 Joshua January 31, 2012 at 5:50 pm

I too thought of Ron Paul, because, give the guy some credit, he is a man who is steadfast to his own principles. I don’t want to get bogged down in the abortion debate, but one thing I will point out that is a tad inconsistent (though I’m not sure if Ron Paul readily admits this or not): the president does not have the power to change abortion policy. Based on his strong views that the government’s and president’s powers should be limited by the constitution, I think this point should be rendered moot. Now to spend the next hour reading up on cincinattus….

121 Joshua January 31, 2012 at 5:56 pm

AK: quick point on consensus. I think consensus is more than a buzz word, it is a philosophy of focusing on points where we all do, in fact, agree. Abortion (I hate that this keeps coming up) is a great example. The two sides seem diametrically opposed (1 side: it should be illegal; the other: it should be legal). BUT both sides agree that ideally, there should be less abortions. Therefore a theoretical consensus would be policies that effectively reduce the number of abortions.

122 Rich January 31, 2012 at 6:24 pm

Robert Roy McGregor!

123 JB January 31, 2012 at 6:29 pm

Hard to argue with Reagan on this one. In spite of defying nearly every rule of public speaking he, outside of Churchill, is probably the most memorable of speakers of modern history. No one can argue with his ability to form a concensus – the Reagan Democrats being a great example of this. His principles were unwavering and his policies were certainly not based off polling data (which was not nearly as readily available in his term as it is now).

Currently…I do not see anyone who embodies a true statesman in our current political landscape.

E. Pena:

I have to point out your logic in your rebuttal to Dango was horribly flawed. Using the logic Dango presented a miscarriage would not be manslaughter at all, it would merely be an accident. Using his example of a landlord – if a building a landlord owns burns down the landlord is not arrested. Sometimes fires just happen with no one being at fault.

It is okay to disagree with someone but try to avoid comically warping their argument and then disagreeing with a point they never stated.

124 jaklumen January 31, 2012 at 7:34 pm

My favor is with George Washington, and as I consider myself politically independent as far as any partisan platform or sentiment, I hold great value in his words in his Farewell Address.

I realize that the Federalists of John Adams and Alexander Hamilton, and the Democratic Republicans of Thomas Jefferson laid the framework of political parties in the U.S.; so much that today’s divisiveness is compared to theirs. I do admit that Washington’s plea to be “knit in the bonds of fraternal affection” and his calls for unity and civility might be seen as idealistic, but I admire him nevertheless.

Furthermore, although he was quite popular as president, and could have been re-elected numerous times, he limited himself to two terms. Many here have already given other examples of statesmen that avoided political careers, and I think Washington is also a fine example.

125 Richard January 31, 2012 at 7:48 pm

I see the Ron Paul supporters are out in force! Something like one third of the comments nominate him as a True Statesman. Whether he is or not should be left for History to decide.

I note that the three Great Statesmen referred to all achieved their destiny in time of great national crisis. Before he became president in a hotly contested election, Lincoln had no political career to speak of. Churchill did have a long career before WWII, but it was rather undistinguished. Perhaps there are many more Great Statesmen (and stateswomen) out there who aren’t known simply because they didn’t have the opportunity to show their abilities?

As far as my own nominee, in the spirit of the aforementioned Henry Clay and Daniel Webster, how about Daniel Patrick Moynihan? You don’t have to run a country to be a Statesman, and Moynihan proved it with his long and notable public service.

126 Manasseh January 31, 2012 at 7:50 pm

Ladies and gents if this criteria ‘the true statesman makes his decisions by following the dictates of his own moral compass. He is not a relativist; he believes in absolute truths,’
Bespeakes of a true Statesman then it is wider in its geographical sphere than those written in the western historical books there are many a village chiefs in third world countries who fit this category unless the criteria only covers those in high places

127 Ladd January 31, 2012 at 8:02 pm

Propaganda is used by all forms of leaders, the good and bad. Jacques Ellul’s “Propaganda, Formation of men’s attitudes” gives a good overview on the subject.

128 AK Engineer January 31, 2012 at 9:03 pm

@Joshua – Good point. In my line of work I deal with the general public affected by public works projects (roads, water, sewer, etc.). Everyone agrees that overall improvements should be made (consensus). The problem is this is where consensus ends. As soon as an improvement strategy is identified, someone will be affected. Now try to gain consensus. I have seen many projects die because achieving consensus was not obtainable – yes, the same people that agreed improvements were needed could not agree to a solution or even a plan for a solution.

In the realm of politics, I think consensus is thrown around to make it sound like everyone agrees with a particular stance or plan of action. Using a the abortion example, you and I may have consensus that there should be less (ideally none), but the implication of saying we have consensus is that you agree to my way of achieving that goal. I think everyone has consensus that the U.S. economy needs fixing, but no consensus on how (is consensus even practical in that case). Another example, the founding fathers did not have consensus on several issues, but still worked together to form a more perfect union. Unfortunately, in regards to politics, someone saying they have achieved consensus implies that everyone agrees on EVERYTHING … no dissenting votes, no opposing views. If you have an opposing view you are said to be obstructionist, among other names. Essentially, my view is that if we are too busy trying to achieve consensus, then nothing happens.

Sorry for the rant. I have seen too many bad things happen and too many good things not happen in the name of consensus.

129 Marty B January 31, 2012 at 9:53 pm

Here in Australia, this article reminds me of watching ‘Question Time’ in my childhood. ‘Question Time’ was a televised part of the parliament process, in which some members of parliament would stand up and vocally ‘poke holes’, rebutt and in my view, mock the opposition’s policy or polititians. Other members of the party would bellow ‘Come on!’ or laugh sarcastically and try and drown out the member who ‘had the floor’. Cheap shots and spin seemed the order of the day. It was really hard to watch and seemed to portray our heads of government as the antithesis of the values and qualities outlined in this article. I believe it convinced a lot of youth (including myself) out of a future in politics. I guess it is an inevitable part of the partisan system, to an extent. Do they have anything like ‘Question Time’ in America?

Zealously supporting your member of parliament seems so ‘un-Australian’ here. We suffer from the ‘daisy-cutter’ syndrome quite severely.

Great article, Brett (& Kate?)! I also really enjoyed “Mr Smith Goes to Washington.”

130 Randall Robinson January 31, 2012 at 10:23 pm

I share Robert Stump’s reaction to Lincoln’s inclusion in Dr. Fears’ top three list of statesmen. I understand Dr. Fears’ rationale regarding the betimes necessity of taking unsavory short-term action for the sake of a long-term good. However, the kicker in this example is in the “necessity.” Were Lincoln’s suspension of habeas corpus and attempted imposition of an income tax necessary for his long-term goal of preserving the union (which was his original goal, not abolition of slavery)? Though Lincoln thought so, I’m sure the matter is worthy of much classroom discussion.

Also, since Dr. Fears’ action of creating a top-three list inevitably creates competition, I must suggest that another statesman should edge Lincoln for the spot: George Washington. I invite anyone to list the manly virtues of Washington, for they truly abound. The father of the United States of America could have availed himself of the kingship that was offered him, but he declined on principle. In the same vein he declined the more superficial flourishes of high office such as being addressed in such affectations as, “Your highness,” “Your majesty,” etc. He humbly said that “Mister President” would suffice. He knew that resting upon his shoulders was, among many things, the unique responsibility for setting the precedent for the conduct of the presidency. I could go on, but rest my nomination of Washington. I’d add that honorable mention for candidates for Dr. Fears’ four-point criteria could be extended to Andrew Jackson, Ronald Reagan, Lech Walesa, and a stateswoman, Margaret Thatcher.

131 Auria January 31, 2012 at 11:02 pm

Benjamin Franklin

132 Jonathan Logemann January 31, 2012 at 11:08 pm

When I read this article, I immediately thought of Teddy Roosevelt. Why is he not being spoken of more on this board? Any thoughts? VERY surprising to me!

On a side note, I also admire Andrew Jackson politically and am wondering if anyone else might give him any credit to enter into the club? Not in the top 3 of course, but perhaps in an Honorable Mention?

133 Rob Mackay January 31, 2012 at 11:22 pm

Great article. Completely agree on the 4 true qualities of a statesman… A solid moral compass is something a lot of these modern presidential candidates just don’t seem to have.

My favor is with George Washington. Though he avoided a political career, he certainly had the means to do so. Principles, principles…

134 Matt "Hype Mann" Herrmann February 1, 2012 at 1:27 am

Jefferson – While Washington led the Continental Army, and set a precedent for presidents by stepping down after two terms. I think Thomas Jefferson did much more to shape America as we know it today.

As controversial as this is: I’d have to put George W. Bush on the list of statesmen. He acted out of his moral beliefs (the ban on fetal stem cell research) but was willing to compromise (how he handled the “stimulus package”). You always knew where you stood with GW, and I know for a fact he cared about his staff. His “I’m the decider” faux pas is a prime example of shielding his staff from criticism and focusing it on himself, and yet through out his presidency he celebrated what his staff did. My old roommate worked at USTR, in a lower position, and GW made a point to invite his family to the White House, meet with them, talk with them, and take a photo with them. Scout’s honor.

Since we seem to be working in threes:

One could make a strong argument for Solon being a master statesman. Especially since the democracy he helped found, directly inspired the United States.

But for myself:

It’s gotta be Teddy. His establishing of the Federal Parks, for me, epitomizes statesmanship.

135 Kirk reeves February 1, 2012 at 2:52 am

One thing we might consider why we see so few statesman in politics is they go I think there are so few statesmen in politics because those with this abilitiy tend to go into business and are considered “Leaders” instead of “statesmen”

Consider as an example Steve Jobs.
Now is is known for his vision and the hordes of Apple devotees shows he could inspires others to follow. Did he have high morals – hard to say. But he did follow his own principals when I think meant he had a moral code of his own.

I think Ron Paul is a statesmen because he didn’t start as a politician but a businessman, his business of treating people and running a gold business and newsletter.

The only other person you mentioned as being as a statesmen would be Winston Churchill. I don’t know anything about the Athens guy but Lincoln to me was an opportunist. He tried to send a runaway slave back to slavery, from his written he seemed to be one of the worst types of racists. But,… he was smart enough to know when the rest of the world was opposed to human bondage, the smart thing was to cast his lot with the future wave. If you read the emancipation proclamation that document did not actually freed any slave. If he wanted to free slaves he would have issue a general order of mancipation or based on biblical principals – a termination of bondage such as when the Pharaoh released the slaves from bondage. Lincoln was a lawyer and a very good one. He knew of the other two methods of freeing slaves. The reasons he issued the proclamation was to a reason a lot of politicians do things was to look good in the history books. He had a vision of his death. If he died causing all the destruction he did North and South all just for a tariff, he would have been reviled as he was by many of his outspoken critics hated him. That is the reason he suspended habeas corpus. His critics were making him miserable so he might as well make them miserable as well by throwing them in jail.By issuing the proclamation there would be plenty who still hated him but from that moment to this days at least black people love and honor him and a lot of people like you at least respect him. slaves.

There are lots of other examples of statesmen in business. I believe Thomas Edison was one. (Although he was horrible at public speaking.)

John F Kennedy, if he lived, I think could have become a statesmen. He would have become a statesman like Churchill. Churchill started out as a politician, Most politicians have very good public speaking abilities. Being a good speaker does not make one a statesman. Three example. Both Franklin D Roosevelt and Bill Clinton and Barak Obama are among the best speakers I have ever seen. But they are also among the the dishonest politicians I have seen.

Churchill was a master politician which means he was a good speaker but also means he was mainly an opportunist. However several crises he went through, including losing his job as as politician grew him into the statesman we think of during World War Two. His firebombing Dresden while not pretty was like you said one of the many hard decisions he had to make along allowing the German to bomb London instead of revealing the Germany codes had been broken.

Anyway you might want to link this to some of your essays on leadership. Thank you.

136 EssDee February 1, 2012 at 3:43 am

I understand that this being an American site, the preponderance of American heroes is inevitable. But surprisingly, no one has mentioned Mahatma Gandhi and Nelson Mandela.

137 P.M.Lawrence February 1, 2012 at 4:13 am

Here in the United States, the inauguration of our next president is a year away, and the Republican primary season is in full swing… So what should the more serious-minded citizen be looking for in the next leader of the free world?

What has being the president of the United States got to do with being the leader of the free world, since there isn’t any such animal? He’s certainly not our leader, here where I am. Of course, that’s precisely because that office doesn’t confer any of those statesmanship qualities, and even if it did they wouldn’t be used in the furtherance of the interests of anything but the United States.

Professor Fears believes that the three greatest statesmen in history are Pericles of Athens, Abraham Lincoln, and Winston Churchill.

There were a lot of European contemporaries and near contemporaries of Abraham Lincoln who could knock him into a cocked hat in those stakes, if for no other reason than that they plied their trade successfully in a wider arena than a merely domestic one. In foreign affairs, Lincoln’s greatest achievement was keeping the business at hand domestic; important, to be sure, but without wider effect in his day or the generation after.

Churchill is criticized for things like the Bombing of Dresden and his advocacy of imperialism (he did not believe that national independence and freedom were the same thing, and thought that British colonists would have more freedom and liberty under colonial rule than if a country was turned over to a small clique of its own that would rule with tyranny).

No, he didn’t think that. He thought that British subjects would fare better that way, i.e. the natives. He was all in favour of the colonists, i.e. British immigrants, getting “responsible self gevernment” so they could serve as an example in places like Kenya and Southern Rhodesia.

Also, Richard wrote that “Churchill did have a long career before WWII, but it was rather undistinguished”; actually, it was very distinguished between about 1910 and 1926 or even later, and he was only sidelined between then and 1939.

138 Joseph Graziano February 1, 2012 at 8:17 am

I think that Kirk Reeve hit the nail on the head with Lincoln. Although Lincoln is lauded for the many great things that happened while he was in office, and rightfully so, he does not fit this definition of a true Statesman. He had a bedrock of principles and a moral compass, but he often would ignore them for the sake of the support of the people. I refer specifically to campaign speeches, where he had a tendency to flip-flop worse than any modern presidential candidate. He, however, was never caught because news did not travel fast enough in the 1850-60s.

Concerning the constant reference to Ron Paul, I agree that he is a true statesman. However, being a true Statesman does not mean that a man should be elected to a position of power. If his principles and moral compass are askew, he should be avoided like the plague. His honesty, however, is refreshing because it allows the people to see him for who he is and judge him appropriately. I hope that this refreshing honesty is not mistaken by the people as good policy on issues and elect him for it.

139 Moss February 1, 2012 at 8:31 am

Lincoln was a tyrant, not a statesman.

140 M February 1, 2012 at 9:34 am

I see lots of people in comments saying FDR was a great statesman,a man who had 10 million acres of cotton and crops plowed up,six million baby pigs killed while poor were starving,a man who made the great depression truly great.I know what we all learned in school about him but truth is he made situation worse,crises didn’t end with him crisis ended with WWII.

141 ExitTheMatrix February 1, 2012 at 10:48 am

Fabulous article… until I got to the part about Abe Lincoln. His presidency was the beginning of what we see coming to a head today. He was NOT a statesman. He was the ultimate despot, waging war on his own civilians. Bad, bad example. He is; however, the perfect example of what is going wrong in our country today. This article was awesome, until I got to that part. Please do not compare Ron Paul with Abe Lincoln. RP is oh, so much better.

142 Hilda February 1, 2012 at 10:59 am

AK Engineer, excellent point on the issue of “building consensus”. I will add that often times, in building consensus, the smallest minority is always forgotten, the individual. All we have to do is look at the overreach of the government to see how individual freedoms are trampled over for the sake of interests groups.

Robert Stump, thank you for pointing out the facts about Abraham Lincoln. Part of the reason Lincoln is so adored by most Americans is that early on in public schools students get a sanitized version of history so as to make it easier to indoctrinate them to revere tyrants like Lincoln, Wilson, and FDR.

When I think of a true statesman, I think of James Madison and Ron Paul. Ron Paul is lead by his principles and is incorruptible.

Excellent article.

143 Mike Lippens February 1, 2012 at 11:22 am

Very good article. I do not believe any American President can fit all 4 criterias. Our system of government requires compromise. You can can not have absolute rights and absolute wrongs. This is the problem with our current government- no compromise.

No President prior to Linclon fit the criteria based solely on allowing slavery. You can not call your country a free nation when a portion of your population is enslaved. Linclon would be very close. The 2nd President would be LBJ. He passed civil rights, Medicare, and did more for the dis-advantage then any other President. However the Vietnam war throws up a huge red flag.

No look at the current field. Romney will say anything and switch his position daily to get elected. This dismisses him. Newt has no moral compass. He believes in firing an adult with a job and giving it to children. Newt is probably the most racist person running for President since George Wallace. Ron Paul is close but I believe his moral. Compass is off. You cannot allow a country to run with zero regulation on business or help the dis-advantaged. Besides I have no idea what the vision for America from the current GOP field is.

President Obama definit has a vision for America. He believes is fairness for all. I believe hiis moral compass is in tact. However he can not build a consensus. Again this is due to the beliefs of absolute rights and wrongs.

144 Marc February 1, 2012 at 11:58 am

Great article, and so many thoughtful posts. Seeing Dr. Ron Paul in a list with the great Cincinnatus was quire remarkable.

I would add John Locke to this list, as he would seem to me to fit all 4 criteria. He had a bedrock of principles rooted in individual liberty and the natural law. He had a strong moral compass, acknowledging that our rights come from our Creator, and that reason (a gift from the Creator unique to human beings) could be applied to discern right from wrong and in turn, how to apply that discernment to man-made, positive law. This flows naturally into numbers 3 and 4. Locke’s Second Treatise on Civil Government laid the foundation and reasoning for the purpose of any government (his vision: to protect the unalienable rights of humankind) and was adopted by the Founding generation (the consensus) and transmuted into our founding documents that created the free nation of America and, following the adoption of the Constitution, the sovereign confederated Republic for the united States of America.

Three big cheers to the Art of Manliness for prompting yet another intellectually stimulating discussion!

145 Levon February 1, 2012 at 12:03 pm

In contemporary America no person fits the bill better than Dr. Ron Paul. Despite swimming against the current he has built a consensus that includes members from all political stripes. This consensus was built slowly thru time by means of education and arguing his principles and convictions. All this despite being ridiculed, ignored, and demeaned by the propoganda mouthpieces. His voting record speaks volumes about his commitment to his bedrock of principles. He has articulated his vision which is gaining popular support within the US. He is a true statesman.

146 dango February 1, 2012 at 12:21 pm

I love this topic!…

here is an unusual suggestion:
George Patton.
Yes, he wouldn’t make it in politics and had personal flaws but, within the universe of the military, he was effective on all 4 points.
Come to think of it Robert E Lee is a similar example.

147 Anon February 1, 2012 at 12:43 pm

Abraham Lincoln made all men The State’s Men… personally I prefer anti-Statesmen such as radical abolitionist Lysander Spooner. Spooner’s take on the civil war is the most accurate “The principle, on which the war was waged by the North, was simply this: That men may rightfully be compelled to submit to, and support, a government that they do not want; and that resistance, on their part, makes them traitors and criminals. No principle, that is possible to be named, can be more self-evidently false than this; or more self-evidently fatal to all political freedom. Yet it triumphed in the field, and is now assumed to be established. If it really be established, the number of slaves, instead of having been diminished by the war, has been greatly increased; for a man, thus subjected to a government that he does not want, is a slave. And there is no difference, in principle — but only in degree — between political and chattel slavery. The former, no less than the latter, denies a man’s ownership of himself and the products of his labor; and asserts that other men may own him, and dispose of him and his property, for their uses, and at their pleasure. “

148 Tom E. Snyder February 1, 2012 at 1:32 pm


Senator Tom Coburn of OK

When he ran for a House seat he said he would only serve two terms and return to his job as a doctor. He did.

Later when he ran for Senate he said the same thing. He currently is serving his last term.

He may not meet the fourth qualification but he does meet the other three.

149 Michael February 1, 2012 at 2:08 pm

It’s so funny seeing people recommend folks like Ron Paul or other conservatives whose guiding principle, for all their fervency, is the consignment of women, LBGTQ people, and persons of color to “non-person” status.

As I have come to understand the historical currents that created the society I live in, one name recurs constantly, and that is FDR. In many senses, the America we live in is FDR’s America, a place where political liberty is not restricted only to those fortunate enough to have been born into money, but spread out to the middle and even working class. FDR is a man who tamed the anarchist threat to the American social order, and he did it the same way he beat the Communists — by proving that capitalism, properly harnessed, could provide general prosperity both to the top and to the bottom.

He also did some terrible things; the internment of Japanese-Americans is inexcusable. But taken as a whole, he embodied the four qualities, especially that of coalition-building. Modern America is a place that FDR created.

150 James Marsh February 1, 2012 at 2:15 pm

@AK @Joshua

On the matter of abortion: both sides agree that there should be fewer abortions. Abortions have serious implications, both morally and physically for the mother. To some extent, yes, we can outlaw abortions, especially in the later terms. But in order to stop all abortions (the theoretical ideal) in a fair an just way, you have to change the mind of the doctors and parents in such a way that they don’t *want* to have an abortion. Anything else and you’ll have people fighting against you the whole time.

On that note, I wholeheartedly agree with the ideal of statesmen serving for a period of time and returning to their job. Campaigns are a rather wasteful process in terms of time and money spent, all to decide who shall run the country based upon propoganda. Let the candidates share their moral plans, and the public decide.

151 Mark February 1, 2012 at 3:04 pm

Regarding FDR…”FDR is a man who tamed the anarchist threat to the American social order, and he did it the same way he beat the Communists”
Anarchism is only a threat to social orders based on coercion. “Manliness” that is to say accepting responsibility for oneself, and respecting the rights/dignity of others is virtually indistinguishable from anarchism. I cannot imagine the threat that notable anarchist Leo Tolstoy posed to anyone. Actually I would like to nominate Count Tolstoy as the premier statesman as he ruled over himself and set all his serfs free. FDR in contrast engaged in a very childish court packing scheme to subvert the separation of powers and impose his will upon all Americans. Anarchists, such as Tolstoy reject the “Might makes Right” morality implicit in Communism/Socialism/Democracy.

152 Champion of Truth February 1, 2012 at 3:22 pm

Congressman Dr. Larry McDonald

President John F. Kennedy

President (Nov. 2012) Dr. Ron Paul

Very courageous champions!

153 Russell Sharp February 1, 2012 at 4:51 pm

I firmly believe that Rick Santorum embodies the four qualities of a true statesman. As did George Washington and Ronald Reagan.

154 dawny February 1, 2012 at 6:10 pm

I love the 4 qualities but not the men that Dr. Fears names as statesmen. Lincoln, Churchill and Pericles were actually tyrants by definition. It is hard to find leaders of nations who are not. Ron Paul is, of course, the one and only statesman in politics today.

155 dawny February 1, 2012 at 6:14 pm

Rick Santorum lacks a moral compass. He wants to ban contraceptives in America. In other words, you don’t get to decide the outcome of your actions–he does. So much for not using force to get your message across.

156 Texas Redneck February 1, 2012 at 6:43 pm

OK, so a third of us are using this as (yet) another opportunity to promote Ron Paul. Interesting, though, that none of the other current candidates, and certinaly not the current office holder, even come to mind in the discussion.

I’m just sayin’ . . . .

157 Scott Abrams February 1, 2012 at 7:22 pm

Dr. Fears is right on about Winston Churchill and Pericles of Athens.

He is dead wrong about Abraham Lincoln; Lincoln was a tyrant not a statesman. I don’t utter that in any dogmatic way. He was truly a tyrant.

Think about it. Lincoln threw people in prison with no cause and no trial (mostly Northern U.S. citizens who objected to his policies). He was in bed with the major railroad financiers and pledged to help them if elected (see his career as a lawyer).

He advocated then reneged on secession when it didn’t suit him politically (see his 1848 speech to Congress on secession).

He was the classic definition of what it means to be a populist; Lincoln’s views changed like the wind.


158 jacob February 1, 2012 at 9:00 pm


159 george February 1, 2012 at 9:03 pm

I would like to mention Steve Jobs. He may not be involved in politics, but he has all for principles.

Other non unlikely statesmen:
Karl Marx
George Bush
Woodrow Wilson: League of Nations

160 Walter February 1, 2012 at 9:20 pm

Ahmad Shah Massoud, leader of the Islamic State of Afghnistan and later the Northern Alliance. With almost no resources, he helped expel the Soviets, take out the Communist Afghan Government, and did it all by masterfully orchestrating an alliance between various tribal and ethnic groups in Afghanistan. The areas he controlled saw themselves flower with prosperity for freedom. He held himself and his men accountable to God. Not clerics or fundamentalist warriors, but actual God. When men under his command tried to kill a woman for not wearing the veil, he had them punished, and abolished the veil law. He only grudgingly accepted leadership after the fall of the Communists, and despite being attacked by dissidents and foreign-backed radicals, he never implemented any laws restricting freedom or over-empowering his own soldiers. He stretched his forces thin defending innocents when Kabul was attacked by the Taliban, and finally retreated to avoid bloody street to street fighting. That my friends, is a statesman

161 Ed Wilmot February 1, 2012 at 10:30 pm

One of the more common definitions of a politician is a seeker or holder of public office, who is more concerned about winning favor or retaining power than about maintaining principles. A less common definition of politician is a person skilled in political government or administration; statesman or stateswoman. A common definition of a statesman is a person who exhibits great wisdom and ability in directing the affairs of a government or in dealing with important public issues.

As the authors point out Fears argues that a statesman is the free leader of a free people. But I believe the best statesman we have seen have been those leading an unfortunate subvertient population to greater freedom and equality. And while doing so, generates a consensus that is violently opposed by ever dwindling minority.

Martin Luther King Jr.
Mahatma Gandhi
Nelson Mandela
The Dalai Lama

It would be extremely difficult to argue that they do not exhibit the four qualities. Some would say the Dalai Lama still has not gained the consensus to achieve his vision. The same can be said for Ron Paul.

There is one other that many would argue: Oprah. But she too embodies the four qualities of a stateswoman.

162 Joe February 1, 2012 at 11:11 pm

Taejo of Goryeo (Korea) around 900 a.d.

He was favored by the public because of his leadership in famous battles. The top leaders of the kingdom deposed the king who was a tyrant and he was put up to the throne for his virtue. He even refused their plan at first by loyalty. He showed uncommon compassion in his ruling for that time and finally realised the unification of the korean peninsula!

163 Ryan February 2, 2012 at 12:36 am

I have to agree with Noah here -

While the deeds and the vision he had were horrible, Adolf Hitler was probably one of the best statesman we have seen in recent history. If the qualities he possessed belonged to somebody who was interested in creating good (although Hitler was arguably trying to create good in his own twisted perspective), think of what that person would become.

164 Brian February 2, 2012 at 2:04 am

Thank you for perfectly describing NONE of the Republican candidates.

165 Jordan February 2, 2012 at 2:16 am

Sounds like Steve jobs would have been the perfect statesman!

166 DanielM February 2, 2012 at 6:06 pm

Ron Paul is most definitely a true statesman.

167 mark vidal February 2, 2012 at 9:38 pm

Its fun how obama and patton are on the same discusion topic. !


168 adrian February 3, 2012 at 12:35 am

Great article! I have to go along with all of those who said Ron Paul, I love the man! I’ve never been into politics before, but he has inspired me. I’ve read numerous books on history, philosophy, economics and the Constitution. I feel an excitement about our country like never before and I cannot wait to vote for this good man.

169 Derek February 3, 2012 at 12:55 am

The most difficult thing about building consensus within diverse populations, such as the United States, is that it almost requires the figure to be a secularist populist, which by their nature generally have “antennae”, seeking the common pulse of the people. The moral compass is generally therefore relativist. “Statesmanship” is more easily achieved within a homogenous population, where similar moral compasses are shared among the people, and most principles are also shared, therefore consensus can be built. In culturally diverse nations, this challenge becomes almost impossible to meet. Therefore I would suggest that the famous leaders of history, like Charlemagne, King Louis IX, Peter the Great, and so on, were much more effective at building consensus. Also, because religion was more inherently tied to their governments, they’re vision was molded within the framework of a shared moral compass.

170 Chris February 3, 2012 at 2:06 pm

Ron Paul.

171 Michael February 3, 2012 at 2:35 pm

For my money, Thomas Paine was one of the greatest “statesmen” of all time. I recently just read through “Common Sense” again, the first time since high school (and then it was only an abridged version), and after reading this article it strikes me how he completely he demonstrated each of the critera of a statesmen in it. His call for independence was considered not only controversial but even downright radical at a time when reconciliation was the word of the day, and yet he was able to win over a majority of his countrymen to his view. And he held true to these views even when they became unpopular (i.e. the French Revolution). But because of the person he was and the perserverance of his believes, he changed world history. As John Adams said of him, “Without the pen of the author of ‘Common Sense,’ the sword of Washington would have been raised in vain.” It’s people like him that make me proud to be an American.

172 Eric February 3, 2012 at 2:48 pm

I’ve been reading about, and listening to old speeches from, Pres. Ronald Reagan. I give him my vote for statesman.

173 MC February 3, 2012 at 7:36 pm

Per E. Peña, Paul’s position of opposition to abortion does not stand in contradiction to his promotion of individual liberty, in that he stands by, and behind, the liberty and right to life of the nascent human boy or girl in their mother’s womb.

With that said, this post brings up a grand topic. What about the Gracchi, Tiberius and Caius? Cicero–even with his faults–may fit the bill. In addition, he did want to be known as a philosopher, and I am rather drawn to philosopher-statesmen.

174 jrfg February 3, 2012 at 7:36 pm

My list contains an ideological mix:

Cato (the Younger)
Roger Sherman
John Adams
James Buchanan
Vladimir Lenin
Robert Taft
Barry Goldwater
Ron Paul

Not all are necessarily remembered favorably by history, but they all fit the qualifiers put forward.

I think it’s hard to say somebody can not build a consensus when they have been elected time and time again. Just a thought.

Final note: while it can be argued that Marx fits these qualifiers, he never held any public office as far as I’m aware. While not explicitly listed, this is a necessary to be considered a “statesman”.

175 Shane L. February 4, 2012 at 12:12 am

Ronald Reagan, aka Ronaldus Magnus. Most definitely. Shout-out to all the others on here who included Reagan as an example of a statesman. And thanks Brett and Kate for yet another thought-provoking article. I own both your books and visit the site at least once a week. Keep up the superb work!

176 Shane L. February 4, 2012 at 12:15 am

@ Russel Sharp:

Amen on Rick Santorum! And Washington and Reagan, of course.

177 Gere Stokoe February 4, 2012 at 1:55 am

Washington,Jefferson,Madison,Reagan, and Ron Paul. But according to the media pundits; “Ron Paul is unelectable”. Goes to show how the voters have been conned to accept lesser men as their only choices.

178 Chad February 4, 2012 at 7:48 pm

I, like many others, must disagree Lincoln being on this list. He did govern based on public opinion. Case in point, “If I could end this war without freeing a single slave, I would.” -Abraham Lincoln.
He championed the abolitionist cause only after people in the north began to lose interest the war. He also approved of sending immigrants to war straight off of the boat.
I would support those who suggested Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, and Teddy Roosevelt. I would also suggest David Crockett. I don’t mean the fictional, larger than life character that he and Walt Disney created. I mean the Congressman who’s career was torpedoed by Jackson because he would not support the Indian Removal Act.

179 Marc February 6, 2012 at 3:42 am

I don’t know enough about american history to comment, but I’d suggest:
*Francesc Macià: first president of Catalonia autonomous government.
*To a lesser extent, Manuel Azaña: first prime minister of the spanish republic. He wasn’t able to build a sufficient consensus for his reforms (however, the spanish right wing at that time was adamantly oposed to anything that contained the word “reformations”, and they didn’t help at all), but he started to turn Spain into a modern, democratic country.

180 Ben February 6, 2012 at 6:43 am

In response to those mentioning Ron Paul here, I would like to note that he has never expressed an interest in building any sort of consensus, neither with his words nor his actions. He has the first three qualities, but entirely lacks the fourth.

181 David S. February 6, 2012 at 8:47 am

These words truly hit home. It would seem our politicians of this day and age are more like “actors” than leaders. It is sad we do not have more “leaders” to chose from. Everything went down hill with the first televised political debate; remember: JFK-Nixon.
Nobody listens to the words anymore; its a popularity contest. Cool Prof.

182 E. Peña February 6, 2012 at 5:51 pm

@ JB:

I agree, this is terribly flawed. I rescind my past comment in regards to this since I did not adequately describe nor give a valid situation. It was done out of hand. My apologies to Dango.

@ MC:

The issue of Dr.Paul’s stance on on individual liberty is STILL not valid in this case.

Granted, I do not LIKE abortion in any way, shape, or form, but I do not believe that my belief in that should infringe on someone else legal right to use this as a means of family planning.
I do not believe that life begins at conception. I believe life begins when the woman is no longer necessary for the growth of the fetus. This is why I do not see Dr. Paul’s position as consistent when our laws allow for abortion to be an option for a person who is pregnant.

183 Richard February 6, 2012 at 6:27 pm

Another person, may I say, in world history has had those characteristics mentioned above. I’m talking aboaut Herr Hitler the last one of the statesmen. Obviously he had this twisted sort vision of the world but he was willingly to achieve his vision no matter the goal or the consequences. He did what he wanted not caring about world public opinion.

184 Harvey specter February 6, 2012 at 11:34 pm

Ron Paul- if not for his political views but for his straightforward no pandering way of looking at things

George Washington- Our nation owes him much so no need for explaining

Mustafa Kamel Ataturk-A clear view of his nation that is in efeect today

any religous characters Moses,Jesus, Muhammed,-truly anyone at all
Hitler-no need to explain

185 gambit293 February 7, 2012 at 1:55 pm

Okay, I’ll have to be blunt here: these factors overall describe an idealogue, not a “statesman” and certainly not an American stateman.

Which is precisely why Ron Paul is constantly mentioned in the comments. Yes, he is ideologically pure, but he simply could NOT lead a country as diverse as the USA.

In this country, we the people pick our leaders. And yes, we DO want our leaders to be politically responsive. The legislature and executive branches were intentionally set up to be political in nature.

The most critical component, at least here in the States, is point 4: the ability to build consensus. This ESPECIALLY holds true today, as politics becomes more divisive and bitter than ever before.

Americans pound their fists and say they want no-compromise, unyielding, hard-nosed politicians. Then they complain when Congress deadlocks month and month. Well, which is it?

Barack Obama does not lead the United States of the Democratic party, just as GWB did not lead the United States of the GOP. Likewise, if somehow elected, Ron Paul would not lead the United Libertarian States. He would be charged with leading and running a large, diverse country with many people and leaders who disagree with him. He would, by necessity, need to compromise his principles, his morals, and values. Otherwise, he would go down in history as the no-compromise President. Who. Achieved. NOTHING.

186 steve February 7, 2012 at 3:16 pm

What’s with all this consensus malarkey about Ron Paul not fitting current American values? A statesman does not adjust his principles to fit others values, he convinces others his are best. He is doing that slowly, but surely.
I’ll take NOTHING over more BAD and WORSE.

187 Marc February 7, 2012 at 4:26 pm


188 Marc February 7, 2012 at 4:31 pm

However, I think that the key point is the ability to achieve a balance between consensus building and ideologic principles.
When the spanish socialist government threw away all of its values in order to comply with the markets, it just made an unforgivable mistake. However, if it had negociated some points with conservative opposition, as long as his project had remained social-democrat (alas, I think that they wouldn’t have needed any economic crisis to go more to the liberal side), then, it would have been acceptable.

189 Bill February 7, 2012 at 5:06 pm

First, splendid read. Second, immediately George Washington comes to mind, as he did embody republican virtue to a point still unmatched today. As for other men or women who can be considered statesmen/women, I will need more time. And finally, for some time I was an admirer of Abraham Lincoln, he did after all, deliver the Gettysburg Address and the whole nine. But, make no mistake, he was not the great propioter of equality as most think. In fact, he did not believe in equality between whites and blacks, at all. I am in no way attempting to start a big name-calling free-for-all. I am simply stating the facts. If interested, please see Lincoln/Douglas debates, it is the 4th, I believe. Fair warning, you may be shocked and appalled.

190 Stan Francisco February 8, 2012 at 6:33 am

Christopher Hitchens and Ron Paul.

191 Tekena Travis February 8, 2012 at 5:38 pm

Although my understanding of politics is VERY limited, I think President Barack Obama has displayed these qualities. although, I think he ran too early. Only time will tell.

192 Leo February 8, 2012 at 9:01 pm

Statesmen or not you can measure any person by their fruits.

193 Justin February 8, 2012 at 9:22 pm

In response to those who believe that Ron Paul does not have the fourth principle, I think you could be confusing consensus with principle bending. Consensus does not mean changing your stance in order to become more “electable”, but persuading others.

Ron Paul has been fighting an incredibly uphill battle with a grass-roots campaign, against well-funded opponents and media and public opinion often ignoring him. Despite this, he has a lot of support in national polls.

According to national poll averages for general election, President Obama is ranked highest, and Paul is in third behind Romney. This is because many disgruntled democrats and independents will support him over Gingrich, Santorum and Romney. Paul has an amazing ability to build consensus without compromising.

194 Justin February 8, 2012 at 9:34 pm

I respect those of you who are making an informed decision to support a more mainstream politician over Ron Paul. Just make sure that your arguments against him do not sound like any of these!
This is a comically written piece by a best selling author that primarily makes fun of uninformed voters.

195 Ben February 9, 2012 at 4:36 am

Congressman Paul has only successfully passed one bill out of over 600 that he has sponsored while in office, which does not reflect an ability to persuade others. It’s impressive how he has managed to gain a following in spite of a hostile media (which hasn’t given him a fair shake considering how well he’s polling), but I question how many of his current supporters aren’t rallying behind him out of frustration or just a desire for change – any sort of change – rather than a sincere allegiance to his principles. I don’t mean to suggest that anyone who supports Paul is a blind follower – far from it – and I do agree there is something to be said for standing your ground when your convictions go against the grain of popular opinion, but that kind of inflexibility quickly becomes a detriment rather than a virtue if you display a consistent inability to work with other people and never get anything done.

196 Ben February 9, 2012 at 4:44 am

Also, as a member of the House, Paul only has to represent the views of a small portion of a very large state, so his ability to get re-elected time and again speaks little to his ability to build consensus.

197 John February 9, 2012 at 9:15 pm

Everyone should read this article. It handles a very serious subject matter very well.

Personally, I find modern politicians lacking conviction bred of real beliefs rather than the current political trends. It’s as if either they flip-flop continuously and then I naturally don’t trust them or they lack the conviction to move beyond their words acting as if they don’t believe themselves. But our candidates are simply the symptom.

Washington warned of its dangers. The real problem is the two party system. We, the people, are forced to vote for one of two increasingly extreme political machines instead of real people with sincere beliefs.

As for Ron Paul, he speaks from the heart, but those words ring true only to a small minority of fringe beliefs. He really functions more effectively as a means to balance the national discussion. I do believe however if people saw his vision as less dramatic he’d be more palatable to the voting public.

198 Christo February 10, 2012 at 12:38 am

As a life long lover of political history, and a Kentuckian born and bred, this article just makes me think of Henry Clay. The Great Compromiser and vice president (one of the vice presidents) of Andrew Jackson. He never made the office himself, but what an orator.

199 John February 10, 2012 at 1:59 am

In my personal opinion Otto von Bismarck was the greatest statesman to ever exist.

200 Jack Insley February 10, 2012 at 9:41 pm

Patrick Henry
John Taylor of Caroline
John Adams
George Washington
Charles Carroll of Carrollton
Dwight Eisenhower
Ronald Reagan

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