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.

Why Can’t We All Just Get Along?

I was reading a story today about an 89 year old lady who was arrested this week for keeping a football that had gone into her yard.  Of course, there was the requisite shaking of the head that was prompted by the words in front of me, but as I thought about it, I wondered “What was her motivation for keeping the ball?  What did she get out of it?”

I know some would like to turn this into a property rights issue.  Does she, as owner of the property, have the right to keep the ball when it comes into her yard uninvited?  Do the kids have the right to demand that she allow them onto her property to retrieve it, or do they have the right to compel her to retrieve it for them or give it back to them?  And, I’m sure the police did not go right to her house and arrest her upon receiving a complaint from a bunch of kids.  If any protocols were followed, they would have given her multiple opportunities to return the ball before she was actually arrested.  I’m sure she just refused to listen to reason or cooperate, and they were left with no choice.  Yeah, it’s pretty sad.

But the question of “Why?” still remains.  I think that I actually stumbled upon the answer on the way to work this morning.  It happened while I and everyone else on this particular road were being slowed down by unusually heavy traffic.  When the state authorities redesigned that part of the highway a few years ago, they did so with a view to the future.  There is actually room for four lanes (on each side of the road) to fit easily through this stretch of road, but unfortunately a couple of miles on either side of this stretch, there are areas that are still two lanes wide, and expansion would require massive engineering projects to ever get to the desired four lanes.  As a result, the area of the road that could hold four lanes, still has only two to keep from having a bottle-neck at the other end.  As I sat in traffic this morning, I saw two vehicles pull out into the huge shoulder area and simply drive about a mile down ahead of the other cars.  It was complete sorry-ness, and I found myself wondering “Why?” once again.  Why would they do this?  It shows a complete lack of regard for the law, and the other people who are being forced to wait their turn, and in the end, when they get to the point where they have to join the rest of the pack, they end up slowing traffic even further to let their sorry selves back in.

These people and the old lady from the first story reflect the attitude that they only care about themselves.  They have no regard for others around them or people that they might come into contact with.  Their greatest personal achievements involve elevating themselves above those around them (at least in their own minds). 

The answer is a reflection of the fact that there has been a removal of social mores, and it shows the death of the personal moral compass that has been encouraged by the cultural relativists in our land has begun to bear fruit.  People have been encouraged by schools, society, television, and psychologists to do what feels good to them regardless of how it affects other people.  There is no corporate desire to make our society a better, nicer place, and as result, it is not.

I finally got around to watching HBO’s John Adams this week.  It was great.  I noticed that there was indeed a corporate sense of honor and duty that led men to fight and to give their lives without pay, and without even being ordered or asked to.  During those times, a person could strongly disagree with another person.  He could even say that his ideas were ridiculous in print.  But, I also noticed that when they spoke face to face, they always spoke cordially to one another, and referred to the other person as ‘Sir’ even if they were skewering each other at the time.  They might question the man’s sanity or ability to reason, but they never questioned the motives of the other person because, if they did this, they might end up dead.  See Alexander Hamilton for a good example of what happened when people acted without decorum during this time.

People had expectations of other people during this time, and society reacted negatively when a person failed to live up to those expectations.  A good example of these attitudes could also be found in the Adams series.  In it he, John Adams, refused to help his son-in-law, and disowned his own son because they failed to live up to societal expectations.  Later generations still felt the pull of duty and a sense of corporate responsibility.  You only have to go back to WWII to find a time when Americans offered up their sons and themselves to fight in a war.  This was not a war where there might be a chance of getting killed by an insurgent (please do not think I am taking anything away from the bravery and sacrifices made by servicemen today).  It was a war where, if you were in the military, there was a strong likelihood of you suffering death or serious injury.  If you were able-bodied and you did not serve during WWII, you and your family were stigmatized by this decision.

During the 1940s and 1950s people were still expected to perform up to societal standards, and families that did not were also rightly stigmatized.  This corporate societal expectation motivated people to act in a way that was mutually beneficial to all.  It is not so today.  The adoption of the welfare state in cooperation with the elevation of the individual and the advocating of the ideas espoused by relativists have deprived Americans of the corporate disdain that would beneficially keep us all in line (sometimes literally).

Persons without a religion to assist them in attaining a moral compass today, often have no way of attaining any sense that they have a duty to the rest of the people around them to at least treat these people as they would like to be treated.

On this subject, I have no answers, only complaints.  Popular religions continue to cut off their collective noses to spite their faces (see the Baptists boycotting Disney for a good example, but they are not alone).  They seem to drive more people away with the self-serving rants than they bring in.  I believe many young parents would use a church as a good way to instill good morals and mores in their children if the churches would actually stay on message and not veer off to attack Miley Cyrus, for instance, whenever they get bored.  As far as society getting a handle on itself and reestablishing its own set of social mores to help encourage decorum, this would be impossible at this point.  Not only is that horse out of the barn, but that barn has long since burned down.

In the end, we are left with individual choices to do the right thing or not.  Those of us who choose to act with decorum and respect for others while teaching it to or children will be the ones that keep society from completely falling apart.

You still have a choice.  You can be the mean old lady at the end of the block that keeps the ball, and no one will mourn you when you die, or you can be the old lady who gets the ball for the kids along with a cookie.  Which one of these makes more of a mark?