John Adams, second president of the United States, believed that politicians should refrain from talking too much in political settings:
“A public speaker who inserts himself, or was urged by others into the conduct of affairs, by daily exertions to justify his measures and answer the objections of opponents, makes himself too familiar with the public, and unavoidably makes himself enemies.”
An interesting idea, and one that raises serious questions about the powers of the bully pulpit. Adams goes on, though, to add some even more insightful thoughts:
“Few persons can bear to be outdone in reasoning or declamation or whit, or sarcasm or repartee or satire, and all these things are very apt to grow out of public debate. In this way in a course of years, a nation becomes full of a man’s enemies, or at least of such as have been galled in some controversy, and take a secret pleasure in assisting to humble and mortify him.”
If Adams is right, then good politics may depend as much on shutting your mouth as being a brilliant debater and orator.
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