Inflexible, Rigid Presidencies: Major Problems For Woodrow Wilson, Lyndon B. Johnson, And Richard Nixon

One of the most important personality characteristics needed for a successful Presidency, and to avoid a tragic end to a leader’s time in power, is his ability to be flexible and open minded to new ideas other than his own, and not to be outraged by criticism.

This does not mean, however, that a President should not have courage, guts, and decisiveness, but still flexibility and openness to others and their ideas is essential.

Going by this standard, America has had three Presidents in the past hundred years, who, despite some of their great accomplishments, were ultimately tragedies in office.

These three Presidents would include the following:

Woodrow Wilson
Lyndon B. Johnson
Richard Nixon

Woodrow Wilson was never good at negotiating with his critics in Congress, and his moment of great failure was when he lost the battle for ratification of the Versailles Treaty and American membership in the League of Nations in 1919-1920. While things were going well for him in domestic affairs, he was very effective, but lost it all once there was strong opposition. He never fully recovered from a stroke, which incapacitated him in his last 18 months, and only had three short years of retirement in bad health before his death in 1924.

Lyndon B. Johnson had brilliance as a legislative strategist, with his Great Society programs, but again, as with Wilson, he fell apart and became defensive and stubborn when opposition developed over the escalation of the Vietnam War, and he left office beaten, and only had four unhappy years of retirement before his death in 1973.

Richard Nixon, on the other hand, had great foreign policy ability, but despite his great foreign policy and some domestic policy accomplishments, he reacted defensively, and with a sense of being persecuted and mistreated, brought about by his own psychological demons. So he ended up pursuing his “enemies”, who criticized his Vietnam War policies and his use of his executive authority in an illegal and unethical manner, and he became saddled with the Watergate scandal, which brought him down by resignation in 1974, with his mission being to rehabilitate himself during the last 20 years of his life, but never quite accomplishing that goal.

All three men were brilliant and talented, but each had an inflexible and rigid personality that trapped them in tragedy they could not escape!