Lewis H. Lapham's "Ordinary Isn't Bad for a President" (Op-Ed, Dec. 27) rightly points out that in "American politics mediocrity is the norm, not the exception." In discussing presidential mediocrity, however, he mentions Warren G. Harding and James Garfield to prove his point, perhaps counting on the fact that nobody remembers who they were. Why not bring up John Kennedy or Ronald Reagan each of whom, it may be strongly argued, are clearly in the class "mediocre."
Perhaps the "illiterate mob" to which Lapham refers still remembers and makes judgments? The reason, we are told, that mediocrity abounds is that the "elite" can manipulate and control in such an environment. Since "mediocrity is the common clay of the human condition," Lapham concludes that "the dealers in influence can exact the tribute of patronage, and the media can sell a fairy tale."
First, let us recall that our present form of government based on the Constitution was put together by an elite, not the man on the street who certainly would not have worked out the inherent compromises.
Second, the days of James Garfield were a lot simpler than now where each presidential decision has potential worldwide consequence.
There is no excuse today for mediocrity or for those who imply that it's OK for a President to be ordinary. We are all responsible for the mediocrity that abounds and it is up to us all to modify this perennial attitude.
HENRY J. SCHULTZ