Monday, March 26, 2007

Making the Grade 2007

George W. Bush, in my opinion, has done a fine job as President, certainly top ten in terms of meeting his duties of the office and accomplishing the most important jobs. Some folks would agree with me, though to a different degree, while others would disagree with me. And some brain-dead vipers would be so consumed by their hatred of Dubya, that they would be unable to accept even the slightest of his successes.

Why mention this? Those people who have known me for years, know that every so often I like to compare Presidents in ranks, usually by a form of competition. And as the NCAA Basketball Tournaments wind down, my mind has once again found itself pondering POTUS match-ups. I do not intend to inflict that condition on anyone unasked, which is to say I will have the competition up on Stolen Thunder later this spring, but for now I am simply asking the reader, once again, to consider what it is that makes a President a failure or success.

The test is not one of popularity. I like whom I like, but that proves nothing in any objective sense. And it should be obvious that politicians in general seek to do what will make them popular, which is one serious reason why significant challenges go unanswered for so long – it takes real guts to try to address what has no easy answer, what does not promise immediate rewards, and which can usually only succeed where the leader in charge is selfless and humble to a degree scarcely found in people who run for elected office.

I would also say that accomplishments are not of even weight. A good President will understand that what solves the day’s problems is not as good an answer as one which solves threats to the generation. This is one reason why Reagan is properly acknowledged as so much greater a President than many who came before him; his actions – though controversial at the time – strengthened America and advanced her interests far beyond the moment. This is also why Clinton’s legacy will stand against him – he sought what worked for the season, never considering long-term effects of his decisions.

What I am throwing out for today, is discussion about which five Presidents you think have done the best job (let’s leave off failures for this discussion) and why, and then note which people today seem to have the most qualities in common with the great Presidents. If you see no such contender worthy of comparison, please note what you think might be useful in bringing such a person to consideration. This could be a useful tool is helping filter the dreck from the quality candidate, and less than a year from the primaries, such an exercise could be vital for both parties.


DJ Drummond said...

REMINDER - This is for positive comments. I will remove insults and slime posted in this thread, regardless of the target.

State your opinion, please, according to the virtues your value and the person who best represents them.

Try to smear someone, Republican, Democrat or whatever, and your comment will not be around.

Jeanette said...


I'm not so much of a history buff to be able to name five good presidents and tell you why.

Washington and Lincoln come to mind for obvious reasons.

Reagan is outstanding and not enough can be said about him. He had a vision and he stuck with it. If congress didn't want to go along he went over their heads to the people, explained his case and won congressional approval.

He brought us out of the malaise of the Carter years and gave us faith in America again.

For all the attacks on President Bush I am amazed he can make it through a day. It has to be with the help of God or otherwise he would have thrown up his hands in despair.

The only thing I wish he had done was to show Congress who was president from the beginning and not let the democrats define him.

He's a good president who is doing what he feels is right for our country and we are prospering economically because of his policies.

Most of all he is a sincere and genuine person. That's what makes people hate him.

Dan said...

DJ - no smear or slime intended. It's just that if you are trying to rank presidents without regard to popularity or accomplishments, you've kind of left everything other than great sideburns out of the picture.

Seems to me you put on your censor hat because I got too much fun out of laughing at ranking presidents without regard to popularity or accomplishments.

DJ Drummond said...

Make an effort, dan. I am serious about only allowing positives here.

You're smart enough to make your case, and no it's not just one side. And I never said don't consider accomplishments, just be able to explain your position in terms of qualities.

The premise is easy enough - either there are candidates with greatness about them, or there are not. Either way, you can explain why you beleive someone is qualified, or you can explain why you think we need to look further.

But for this post, do not expect me to put up with garbage talk. That's not censorship, btw, since this is my place. The 1st Amendment limits government, not my own code of conduct. There's planty of places for venting and insult-fests, if that's you thing, but this place is going to be based on more positive ideals.

Jeanette said...


I only half answered your question.

I like Fred Thompson most of all and hope and pray he will run. He's not perfect but he's the most conservative of the bunch now running.

Next I would pick Giuliani because he has proven himself in a time of crisis, clean up the crime in NYC. The downside is he is liberal on social issues, but my hot button is national security and the GWOT.

McCain, no. He has not proven himself to be either conservative nor liberal, but seems to go whichever way the wind blows at the time.

Romney, no for personal religious reasons.

Dan said...

With all due respect, DJ, you're mistaken about what censorship means. Censorship is the deletion of materials deemed objectionable to the censor. Censorship by you does not violate the 1st Amendment - you are correct that you are within your legal rights to censor the opinions of others, but you are mistaken if you believe that is not censorship.

DJ Drummond said...

dan, do yourself a favor and look up context and connotation.

This is hardly 'censorship' as you have used the word. Much less as it has been applied where the word has far more draconian implications.

Mark L. said...

Picking the greatest President of their century is easy:

18th: Washington
19th: Lincoln
20th: Reagan

Washington is still our greatest President. He created the institution -- insisted he be called "Mr. President," not "His Excellency." He also had the courage to step away from power -- not once, but twice.

He could have become America's Cromwell after the Revolution, setting himself up as a military dictator. It happened many times over the next century in the New World. But he sent those urging him to take that step home -- and back the civil government. He was the only leader in the Revolutionary Army with that authority, and he used it wisely.

Then, after coming out of retirement to help develop the Constitution, he again lead America for two terms as President. At the end of the second term he did something few would have been able to -- he walked away from the job establishing a tradition that we keep today -- that Presidents are disposable and replaceable. Had he chosen to remain President for Life, it would have done irreparable damage.

As for Lincoln -- he preserved the Union. He did what he had to do that. He stuck with the task, when everyone was urging him to quit. Had he not gone that route, the 20th century would have been much different. What is now the United States would likely be six or seven smaller nations (Texas and the Mormons would likely have established independent nations, and the west coast would have gone its way, and Oklahoma would be an independent Indian nation or nations.

Reagan won the Cold War -- and more than that, restored people's faith in free markets. Socialism was winning until Reagan came along. Without him, the world would be a lot grimmer, a lot grayer place. We would have collectivized in ways that would hurt many now living.

That leaves two more. I would need to do some thinking about them. Maybe Eisenhower would be one, or Truman. Jackson is another great, despite equally great flaws. FDR was a great wartime President, but against that, his economic policies prolonged the Great Depression, and his selfishness in running for a fourth term hurt both the end of WWII and this country (by destroying the two-term tradition and creating the need for an Amendment that turns every President into a lame duck the day after his second inaugeration). Polk doubled the size of the nation.

I'd need to think some though. "W" has potential to be one of the greats, but it will be 20-30 years before we know, one way or the other.

Dan said...

Look up context?! Hah - you're the one who didn't know that the word applies outside of government activity, as you would have been able to pick up if you had known anything about "context". Why would I use a word only applicable to government action on this, a private site? I'm smarter than that.

But, on to the presidents who have done the best job.

First would be George Washington. His humility and willingness to refuse the imperial presidency made this country what it is.

Second would be Lincoln. Talk about being willing to walk the unpopular path!

Third would be FDR. He was the last good war president - competent and reliant on skilled people. His social programs helped create the booming economy that secured our country's place as a super power.

Fourth would be Chester Arthur, because accomplishments and popularity don't count in this contest, and he went to my undergrad school.

Fifth would be Thomas Jefferson, because of the Louisiana Purchase. Gutsy move that paid off big-time.

Of today's candidates, I think Edwards and Obama probably have the most of these qualities (well, neither went to Union College . . .). Edwards is a self-made man with the guts and drive to be great. Obama does, as well. Both have the humility to work within instead of against the Constitution, which we will be needing.

What they both lack, however, might be Lincoln's willingness to walk the unpopular path. It seems rare among today's politicians, with the exeption of a few heroes like Murtha.

Big Mo said...

DJ - you might be interested in the project I've undertaken in evaluating each president in the context of their times. Rather than rank each president and try to comapre each to the other, I'm looking at whether each one was a success or failure at what he tried to do.

I don't much care for ranking presidents, because you rally don't know how well one man would do given a set of circumstances compared to another man. We can guess, of course, but that's it.

Sure, Washington, Lincoln, FDR and Reagan invariably rise to the top of the heap. But despite Dan's snark about Arthur, each man faced his own unique set of circumstances: how did he meet them? What course did he set? Was he a success? A failure? Mediocre? A bench warmer? A bold visionary who couldn't quite get his vision to work? Etc.

Anyway, I'll be posting about John Quincy Adams this Sunday. I write at the rate of one every two weeks, and should be finished next summer. My resources are usually two bios of each man, augmented by other sources, including my own knowledge (I'm a fast reader). Check it out if you want.