“We are in a media culture where we are buried in information but we know nothing,” said Burns. “Because of that superficiality, we expect heroes to be perfect, but they’re not. They are a strange combination of strengths and weaknesses.” He points to two of his main characters as examples. “Franklin and Theodore couldn’t get out of the Iowa caucuses [today]. Franklin is too infirm. CNN and Fox would be vying for the worst images of him unlocking the braces, the sweat pouring off his brow, the obvious pain and that kind of pity that it would engender would be political poison. And Theodore is just too hot for the new medium of television. There would be 10 ‘Howard Dean’ moments a day.”
It’s impossible not to think about these two presidents in the modern context, because the issues of the last century are the issues of today. What is the role of government? What can a citizen expect from that government? What is the right balance between idealism and pragmatism? How does character shape leadership? How does adversity shape character?