master of the game the political genius of Abraham Lincoln
The Master of the Game
By Doris Kearns Goodwin
Lincoln 's political resume was meager, his learning derided, and his election considered a stroke of luck. And yet the prairie lawyer from Springfield would emerge the undisputed captain of his distinguished Cabinet, earning the respect of colleagues who had originally disdained him, and become, as Whitman wrote, "the grandest figure yet, on all the crowded canvas of the Nineteenth Century."
As it turned out, unbeknownst to the country at the time, Lincoln was a towering political genius--not because he had mastered the traditional rules of the game, but because he possessed a remarkable array of emotional strengths that are rarely found in political life. He had what we would call today a first-class emotional intelligence.
To appreciate the magnitude of Lincoln 's political success, it helps to understand just how slight a figure he appeared to be when he arrived in Washington. "Never did a
President enter upon office with less means at his command," Harvard professor
James Russell Lowell wrote in 1863. "All that was known of him was that he was a good stump-speaker, nominated for his availability--that is, because he had no history." His entire national political experience consisted of a single term in
Congress that had come to an end nearly a dozen years earlier and two failed Senate races. He had absolutely no administrative experience and only one year of formal schooling. Newspapers described him as "a third-rate Western lawyer" and a "fourthrate lecturer, who cannot speak good grammar."
In contrast, his three chief rivals for the Republican nomination were household names in Republican circles. William Henry Seward had been a celebrated Senator from New York for more than a decade and Governor of his state for two terms before he went to Washington. Ohio 's Salmon P. Chase, too, had been both Senator and Governor, and had played a central role in the