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The Bigmouth Tradition of American Leadership


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To everything, there is a season.

A
merica has always enjoyed two antithetical traditions in its political and military heroes.
The preferred style is the reticent, sober, and competent executive planner as president or general, from Herbert Hoover to Gerald Ford to Jimmy Carter.


George Marshall remains the epitome of understated and quiet competence.
The alternate and more controversial sorts are the loud, often reckless, and profane pile drivers. Think Andrew Jackson of Teddy Roosevelt. Both types have been appreciated, and at given times and in particular landscapes both profiles have proven uniquely invaluable.


Both Ulysses S. Grant and William Tecumseh Sherman were military geniuses. Grant was quiet and reflective — at least in his public persona, which gave scant hint that he struggled with alcohol and often displayed poor judgement about those who surrounded him.
Sherman was loud. He was often petty, and certainly ready in a heartbeat to engage in frequent feuds, many of them cul de sacs and counter-productive.
Sherman threatened to imprison or even hang critical journalists and waged a bitter feud with the secretary of war, Edwin Stanton.
Too few, then or now, have appreciated that the uncouth Sherman, in fact, displayed both a prescient genius and an uncanny understanding of human nature. Whereas Grant could brilliantly envision how his armies might beat the enemy along a battle line or capture a key fortress or open a river, Sherman’s insight encompassed whole regions and theaters, in calibrating how both economics and sociology might mesh with military strategy to crush an entire people.:snip:

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