John Quincy Adams may have been the most modest American president in history, even having refused to campaign for election in 1824 and 1828, writes Harlow Unger, author of a new biography of John Quincy Adams. “He believed it was beneath the dignity of a presidential candidate to campaign — to make speeches containing promises he would never be able to keep.”
In an interview, Unger ponders what the former statesman would say to Obama and Romney if he “were to slip into this dimension and have a moment or two with each of the leading presidential candidates”:
The first thing John Quincy Adams would tell both President Obama and Governor Romney is, “Get an education! Learn the languages and histories of the people you have to deal with overseas!” He would echo—indeed, thunder—the precepts of Presidents George Washington and John Adams to stay out of the affairs of foreign nations and remain neutral in the conflicts of the rest of the world and focus on building our own nation into the most prosperous, best-educated nation in the world. He would cite The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire and Napoleon’s experiences in Egypt and the Middle East as examples of how the Middle East has been the graveyard of Western empires. John Quincy Adams would urge the president to withdraw the American military from the Middle East as quickly as possible, and he would urge Governor Romney to learn the difference between a consulate and an embassy.