Turning Doofus into Gold

Never underestimate the alchemy of the Oval Office

A Democrat sneered the other day that George W. Bush's only accomplishment by the age of 40 was to quit drinking. Suppose that were true. Would it matter?

Harry Truman seemed a dismal specimen right into middle age--a failed haberdasher condemned to live with his dreadnought mother-in-law, trapped in a W.C. Fields movie. Truman hardly looked much better by the time F.D.R.'s death made him President in 1945. Yet he did pretty well in the office.

Conversely, Herbert Hoover was a gleamingly successful citizen right up until the fall of 1929, when his reputation followed the economy downward in a...

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