Democracy Dies in Darkness

On Leadership

What makes a good person wrong for the presidency?

July 3, 2016 at 10:00 AM

(Backgrounds by Craig & Karl for The Washington Post; Photo by Amy King/The Washington Post)

"Part of the problem was that he had really never loved politics, per se. He loved executing public policy, but that's different from loving politics."

Those are biographer Doris Kearns Goodwin's words about William Howard Taft, who served as U.S. president from 1909 to 1913 following Theodore Roosevelt. In the newest episode of the Presidential podcast, Goodwin and Library of Congress historian Michelle Krowl unpack Taft's character and presidential legacy to reveal how a good public servant can be ill suited for the White House.

Washington Post Supreme Court reporter Robert Barnes also joins the episode to discuss Taft's legacy as the only former U.S. president to serve as chief justice.

Listen to the podcast here or on iTunes:

In previous episodes of the Presidential podcast, we've explored topics like the violent life of Andrew Jackson and why John Quincy Adams made an effective congressman but an ineffective president. The podcast is hosted by Lillian Cunningham, editor of The Washington Post's On Leadership section.

As listeners tune in each week, the podcast reveals the ways in which our collective sense of what's 'presidential' has evolved over the years and how each president—esteemed, loathed or nearly forgotten—has something to tell us about what it takes to hold the nation's highest office.

A new episode comes out every Sunday. Here's how to follow along:

Subscribe for free on iTunes to automatically get new episodes when they launch
Check out our Presidential page on the Washington Post site for new episodes and the full series archive
* Follow us on Twitter for discussion about the episodes and upcoming teasers
* Follow us on Instagram for images from history and from behind the scenes of the podcast


Lillian Cunningham is the creator and host of the "Presidential" and "Constitutional" podcasts. She was previously a feature writer for and editor of The Washington Post's On Leadership section, for which she received two Emmy Awards for her interviews with leaders in politics, business and the arts.

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