The author theorizes that presidents belong to four categories; passive-Negative aggressive-Negative, aggressive-Positive, and passive-positive (Barber, 2008) highlighting effort the presidents put into performing their job and how they feel about the role they play in the world. Barber explains different types of presidents, the category they belong to and how this influences their presidency. The ‘presidential character’ is a great historical source of the USA presidency and its office holders. Thus, revisiting this definitive work in today’s significant presidential election season requests a reexamination of Barber’s penetrating and enduring query, “What ought we gaze for in a president?"
Barber looks at individual personalities of presidents before they enter into office and believes that their behavior in office is predictable e.g. he categorizes Franklin D. Roosevelt as Active-Positive (affection), Harry s. Truman as active-Positive (Combat) and John F. Kennedy as Active-positive (Commitment). According to him, these three had a positive perception of the world and were of high activity while in office. He further classifies Taft, Reagan and Harding as Passive-Positive. He believes they did not put much effort into performing their duties but only tried to portray themselves positively to the world. Barber goes forth to categorize Ike and Coolidge as passive-Negative each viewing presidency as a duty.
However, postulating on two personality dimensions only, Barber talks of presidents of the Active-negative nature, all of whom he considers to be underperformers. They were very dedicated and denied themselves the fun of life. They did not want to show any sign of failure, and they could not take breaks to celebrate their victories in the name of risking failure. He notes that, to them discussing with the