Taking the Disraeli Test

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by Mark Shields

Benjamin Disraeli, a 19th-century British prime minister and writer, shrewdly advised that to be a successful political leader, a man (even though it was the Victorian era, it was still a man's game) must first know himself and then know and understand the times in which he lives.

Whether would-be national leaders can pass the Disraeli test is often first seen in the campaigns for public office they run. Remember Abraham Lincoln, an all-American leader who was running for re-election in 1864, while the bloodiest war this nation has ever endured raged between North and South, and made his own case to the voters: "It is not best to swap horses while crossing the river." He won.

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