Top 20 United States Presidents

A few years ago I ranked the top 20 presidents in the history of the U.S.  I went back recently, and looked at the list again.  I decided that it just did not look right, so I opened a spreadsheet, and began to rank the presidents on several criteria.  These included: Popularity, Character, Number of Terms, the Issues that they had to deal with, their Legacy, the Legislation that they pushed through, their Effectiveness, and their Leadership, and their Negatives.  I gave more weight to: Issues, Legacy, Legislation and Effectiveness.

In the end, my list looked mostly as it had before, but some things looked much better.  Enjoy.

  1. Abraham Lincoln– He had it all: the biggest issue (the Civil War), the best rhetoric, an impeccable character, and was unafraid to take the wheel if it was needed.   He died in office before making any large mistakes.  He tried to choose Lee.  He fired incompetent generals at will, and chose Grant in the end.  He delivered the Gettysburg Address.  He signed the Emancipation Proclamation.  He preferred an easy peace with the South at the end of the war.  On the downside, he did suspend habeas corpus during the war.
  2. George Washington– The first.  He was extremely popular.  He was very careful to set proper precedents for the office.  He had been General of the armies during revolution.  He showed his character by refusing to be king.
  3. Franklin Delano Roosevelt– He had the big events: WWII, the Great Depression.  He is and will be the only four “termer.”  He overcame Polio, and he was an excellent orator.
  4. Thomas Jefferson– He was the author of Declaration of Independence.  He was a Founding Father, and he made the Louisiana Purchase.  However, he did disband the National Bank, and was a somewhat divisive figure.
  5. Theodore Roosevelt II– TR, a true man’s man.  He was a sportsman, and one of the first true American naturalists.  He established many of the National Parks that we have today.  He led the charge up San Juan Hill.  He is a symbol of American Imperialism (“Speak softly and carry a big stick).
  6. Ronald Wilson Reagan– He brought America out of a recession.  He proved the greatness of conservative fiscal and social ideals.  He proved the greatness of capitalism using its principals to economically bring down the greatest threat to America in its history.  He is still known as the Great Communicator.  He won 49 0f 50 states.
  7. James Monroe– Probably the most popular President ever while in office.  His presidency is still known as “the Era of Good Feelings.”  He instituted the Monroe Doctrine which established the attitude that the U.S. did not support European involvement in the Americas.
  8. James Madison– He was president during the war of 1812.  He was a Founding Father, and he was the designer and author of the Constitution.
  9. Harry S. Truman– Two termer.  He had the big event (WWII).  He made what may have been the hardest decision ever made by a president, and it was the right one (the atomic bomb).
  10. Andrew Jackson– He is a two termer.  He was a war hero.  He stood up to the Supreme Court.  He was very popular.
  11. Thomas Woodrow Wilson– He was a two termer who led the U.S. during WWI and started the League of Nations, the precursor to the United Nations.
  12. William Jefferson Clinton– He was very popular.  He was a two termer.  He served during a time of economic growth.  He was fiscally conservative, and was able to get his economic policies passed even though he did not have a sympathetic Congress.  His positives will probably outweigh the negatives caused by his personal problems and impeachment.
  13. George Walker Bush   He has the big events: 911 and the war.  His 911 speech will go down as one of the greatest of any president.  He had a sympathetic congress, and pretty much passes any legislation that he liked during his first two years.  He effectively prosecuted a war against an enemy that could not be easily seen.  He did hot do enough to get his message out there, and as a result, his second term was a failure highlighted by the loss of the Congress, and eventually the Presidency for his party.
  14. Dwight David Eisenhower– He was general of the allied armies during WWII.  He was a two termer who served during a very happy time for America, the 50s.
  15. James Knox Polk  He expanded America more than any president except Jefferson.  Took in the Oregon Territory, and the California Territory.  He annexed Texas (this should get him a couple of more points).  He signed The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo.  He ran on the slogan of 54-40 or Fight.  His policies stalled the Civil War for a few years.  He did not want to be President, and only served because he was asked to.
  16. John Adams– One of the most important of the Founding Fathers, he stood on his principles and kept America out of an unnecessary war even though it hurt him politically and probably cost him reelection.  He was disliked politically and arrogant.  Also, he signed the Alien and Sedition Acts which were alter declared unconstitutional.  These things pushed him down the list.
  17. John Fitzgerald Kennedy– He was extremely popular.  He faced down the Soviets.  He pushed the Space Program.  He was a good orator.  He was a war hero.  On the downside, there was the Bay of Pigs, the War in Vietnam, and his social life.  Also, his Presidency was cut short. 
  18. William McKinley– He was President during the Spanish American War.  He acquired, Guam, The Philippines and Puerto Rico from Spain.  He also advocated annexation of Hawaii.
  19. George Herbert Walker Bush– He presided over the fall of Communism and Desert Storm.  He was a war hero.  He was the former head of the CIA and former Ambassador to the UN.  On the downside, “No new Taxes” and only one term.
  20. Lyndon B. Johnson– His social policies were largely responsible for the success of the American Civil Rights movement in the 1960s.  However, his welfare state was a big issue.  He got America further involved in Vietnam, and he bowed-out after only one term.

I was recently dismayed to learn that someone actually believed in the 911 conspiracy theories

I was at my In-law’s house recently, and I was floored by a subject that was brought up.  Another relative was also visiting, and as I stepped outside for a moment, I saw him smoking in front of the house.  He spoke to me, and I decided to take a moment, and make a little small talk with him.

It should be noted that I have met this gentlemen on a couple of other occasions, and that both other times he and his wife were staying with my in-laws on the same weekend that I was there for family related activities. He comes across as a quiet, unassuming type who does not carry a lot of opinions around with him because he does not want to put the effort into forming the ideas.  He does read a lot, but the books are westerns which are hardly different from Harlequin Romances, except that someone always has to die in them (I know these books because my father read them all).

I was very surprised and a little dismayed when he broached an unexpected topic completely out of the blue.  He asked me what I thought about the events of 911 and the secondary ‘explosions’ on the ground in other buildings.  I thought I knew what he was getting at, but asked for a little clarification, and he told me that he was referencing the fact that the owners of the property surrounding the World Trade Center were in financial trouble, and might have somehow been involved with the situation (It is making me sick at my stomach to even type this drivel).

First, I was pleased that he asked what I thought about it, instead of telling me what he thought about it, because it gave me the opportunity right off the bat to tell him my opinion of the situation.  I told him, “I put absolutely no stock in any of this nonsense.  I believe that the Internet is a place where people can say anything they believe regardless of whether it is true or not, and there are some things that should just be ignored.”   I think he got the message, and quickly moved on to of all things, the War in Iraq.  I calmly told him my feelings of that also, but I will reserve that conversation for another post.  I want to deal with the conspiracy theorists in this one.

I do not plan to waste my time dealing with the conspiracy theory itself, or refuting it.  Just as I do not write posts refuting the Flat Earth Society and its beliefs, I do not think the theories proposed by these people deserve or require an argument in order to be dismissed.  Some things are just ludicrous, but if you must have the facts, you can find them here.

What I would like to deal with today is how people receive, react to, and respond to these theories.  As I see it, there are several types of possibilities.  The first group I want to look at is those who these theories hurt.  Obviously, the victims (who survived) and their families (also victims) of the attacks are made to suffer undue pain by the making up of such theories.  People in their situation may be looking for real answers to help give them closure, but they are faced with these lies that can only confuse and hurt them.  For no other reason than this, the people who think this stuff up should stop.

It also hurts our government which has to actually deal with these nutty theories, and refute them.  And, it hurts the government when people like Hugo Chavez and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad are given fodder for their disingenuous speeches.

Who does it help?  Some might feel that it helps the opposition, and this may be a twisted motive for the creation of these theories, but it is not a realistic one, because most members of the voting public who would actually entertain them, would never have voted for Bush (or McCain) in the first place.

The next group I would like to look at is the people that make this up.  It is difficult to fathom their sadistic and sick motivations.  Surely there are a few clinically demented people who actually believe these conspiracies, and they probably should be locked up for their safety and the safety of others.  Others, as was stated above, may be motivated by hatred of the Bush administration.  Shame on them.  Legitimate criticism exists, and does not cause the type of indiscriminant harm that this does.  Some may just do it for attention, and that is just sick also.  I find it hard to even come up with words for the revulsion that this causes me to feel.

The next group I would like to look at are those who allow themselves to read these theories and actually formulate questions in their minds as to the legitimacy of them.  Some may want to believe this due to political affiliation.  These people are no different than those who forward emails purporting the fact that Obama is a Muslim with terrorist ties.  Shame on them also.  Others on this group may be simplistic and easily influenced which causes them to actually think it might be possible.  These people, if they truly question the possibilities are responsible for following up and seeing if what they have been told has any truth in it, especially before they repeat it to anyone else.  The truth is out there for those who look for it.

Another group is those who ignore it.  There is something to be said for this.  If you run across this on the web, just close the page.  If you are watching television, and someone spouts this nonsense, change the channel. And, if you are in a place where you do not feel it is safe to respond to these accusations, then just leave.  Prudence is a good characteristic.

However, there are some times when you will be able to respond.  This brings me to the last group, those who speak out.  As I said before, prudence is the best course.  It is never worth it to get into an altercation with someone over something like this, and remember, these people may actually be unstable.  But, if you are in a situation where you feel that you can give your opinion, then you should tell them what you think about it.  Often, a person will sit by meekly and allow some numbskull to run off at the mouth about something like this.  You are under no obligation to ever listen to this.  You can walk away.  You can politely state that you do not care for their point of view, and would like to talk about something else, or you can tell them exactly what you think about it.  Perhaps if more people did this, we would have to put up with this nonsense a lot less.  Peer pressure can have its advantages.  For me, there is no moral difference in sitting by and listening to this as if it deserved to be listened to, and listening to someone tell a racial joke.  A person with true character does not just let it go.

In the early years of America, John Jay went to negotiate a treaty with the British and came back with what everyone agrees was probably the best treaty that we could have gotten, considering our weak bargaining position. Washington, Hamilton and most of the federalists were happy with it, but Jefferson, Madison and the Democrats were very upset about it. In New York City, where anti-Anglo sentiment ran high, a man painted the following statement on the side of his two story office building in letters large enough to fill the entire side of the building:  “Damn John Jay. Damn anyone who won’t damn John Jay. Damn anyone who won’t sit up all night with a candle in his window damning John Jay.”

The same could easily be said of those who made up this conspiracy theory, those who listen to it and repeat it, and those who sit idly by and listen as so someone spouts it to them.