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.
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Lincoln’s Bixby Letter

When I saw a story about the Bixby Letter being found in Dallas, I was intrigued.  I had never heard of the document, and I am a big Lincoln fan.  So, after finding the text of the letter, I decided that I would reprint it so that others who were looking might be able to read it as well.  Enjoy.

Executive Mansion,
Washington, Nov. 21, 1864.

Dear Madam,

I have been shown in the files of the War Department a statement of the Adjutant General of Massachusetts that you are the mother of five sons who have died gloriously on the field of battle.

I feel how weak and fruitless must be any word of mine which should attempt to beguile you from the grief of a loss so overwhelming. But I cannot refrain from tendering you the consolation that may be found in the thanks of the Republic they died to save.

I pray that our Heavenly Father may assuage the anguish of your bereavement, and leave you only the cherished memory of the loved and lost, and the solemn pride that must be yours to have laid so costly a sacrifice upon the altar of freedom.

Yours, very sincerely and respectfully,

A. Lincoln

Fears Going into Thursday Night’s Vice Presidential Debate

I want to preface this by saying that I am a Republican, I will vote for McCain (though he would not have been my first choice), and I was thrilled with the Sarah Palin pick. 

This morning I read a story on foxnews.com.  It seems that choice of Gwen Ifill, who by the way is black, to fill the role of moderator in Thursday night’s Vice Presidential debate is being questioned.  She has written a book (The Breakthrough), and its premise is that ‘the civil rights movement has cleared the way for post-racial politicians to ascend to new heights.’  In layman’s terms, it is a book that chronicles the rise of African Americans in American politics since the civil right’s movement began.  Obama’s success, among that of others, is discussed in the book.

The point made by Foxnews and the National Review is that her appropriateness as an unbiased debate moderator is now being called into question because of this.  While I can understand why a person would be given pause when presented with the basic facts of the issue, I do not believe that it is fair to assume that because she is black, and wants to write a book that spotlights the recent political successes of African American, then she must be pro-Obama, and as a consequence is not professional enough to moderate a VP candidate debate.  Considering the subject of the book, it has to include Obama, just as it has to include Clarence Thomas (I am just assuming that it does).  At this point, I do not think it is realistic to think a person could find an intelligent person in the media who is not already leaning one way or another (Personally, I am convinced that 95% of media personalities wear ankle weights on their right legs to keep them from toppling over).

When Sarah was chosen as the VP candidate, some were questioning the vetting process in the McCain camp.  I think they would vet the moderator of the VP debate with almost the same scrutiny as they did the actual VP, considering the weight that the VP choice has been given in this campaign.  As a result, I am now beginning to question the McCain camp’s vetting process also.  I am less concerned with the book than I am that Ifill is an anchor for PBS, the home of Bill Moyers.  If they did not vet Ifill well enough to determine that she is ‘pro-Obama,’ then that is their problem.  I’m sure that it would have been easy enough to discover that she was publishing a book!  In the end, I still do not think that there is enough evidence of her perceived ‘bias’ to recuse her from consideration as a moderator, and I will even give her credit for not pushing her book to press before the election.  She could obviously make more money, and hedge her bets in the case of an Obama loss, if she were to release the book during the election.

In truth, I believe that this, unfortunately, is an example of the newest strategy regarding Palin to come out of the McCain camp.  They have observed the fact that the public has risen to her defense in the wake of the flood of unwarranted attacks on her coming from the left.  This has been good for her, up to this point, but as it begins to look like a strategy, it will quickly wear thin.

The current cry coming from the National Review and other conservative publications that Ifill cannot be objective, begins to ring hollow in the light of all of this.  It looks like a preemptive strike to make Ifill look bad if she asks Palin any tough questions, calls het to the carpet on an answer, or lets Biden savage her.  I believe this is being floated to force Ifill to water-down her approach to Palin in the hope that she will not want to even give the appearance of any bias.  Mark my words, the McCain campaign will not ask her to recuse herself from the debate.  They want her there, and they want her (Ifill) on the defensive.

I believe the McCain strategy of making Palin look like a victim is a mistake.  I do not have a lot of faith in the American public to be able to understand what is going on in general, but at this point they have been conditioned by recent events to be aware of unfair attacks on Palin.  If Ifill is an unfair moderator, and if Biden attempts to savage Palin, it will be readily apparent.  The McCain camp and the National Review do not need to do the attempt to set the stage for it.

I have a friend (www.exploded.wordpress.net) who has called on the McCain camp to let Sarah be herself, and take her off the leash.  He is absolutely right.  She needs to be allowed to go back to the Sarah we saw bowing-up to Charlie Gibson. 

Unfortunately, I have a bad feeling about this debate.  I am afraid that she is going to be given a list of talking points and a script by her McCain handlers in the hope that she will be able to stay on message while Biden makes an ass of himself.  If this is the case, she will look off-balance, and she will indeed be savaged by Biden.  You cannot be a ‘pit bull’ and a victim at the same time, and remember by definition victims are losers.  My greatest fear is that she breaks down and we will have a Ferarro incident.  If that happens we all might as well vote Obama because it will be over.