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.

Top 50 War Movies #10-1

10) Platoon– (87/100)- This is the best movie ever made concerning the War in Vietnam.  This film was written and directed by Oliver Stone, and won the 1986 Academy Award for best picture.  Though it is fictional, it is one of the best portrayals of battle from a soldier’s perspective that can be found.  It shows both the good and the bad side of individual soldiers which is refreshing for something directed by Oliver Stone.

9) Saving Private Ryan– (87/100)- This fictionalized account of a platoon (led by Tom Hanks) on a ‘special mission’ in post D-Day Europe is undeniably the best movie ever made from the soldier’s point of view.  The first twenty minutes of the film recounts the D-Day landings on Omaha Beach from a soldier’s point of view in a way that could not be topped.  Sheer gold.  It has everything, and if it had just been a true story, it may have been #1.

8 ) Patton– (90-100)- Argue with the greatness of this movie,…and fail.  This is a great movie about a great man.  It may not be big on battles, but it makes up for that by exposing us to sheer military genius.

7) Braveheart– (90/100)- This also could have been #1, if it had not taken a little too much license with history.  The battle scenes are unrivaled in medieval genre.  However, having the Battle of Falkirk Bridge without a bridge is more than a slight oversight.  With all of these criticisms, this is still my personal all-time favorite movie.  It’s just not the best ‘war movie.’

6) Tora! Tora! Tora!– Many of the movies in the tops six have something in common.  They are very historically accurate, and tell the complete story of a very important battle.   They are definitely epics, have memorable scores and extensive casts full of some of the best actors of their eras.  Tora! Tora! Tora! is a fair example of these.  It was one of the first major Hollywood films that showed a battle from the Japanese perspective (at least their commanders).  The effects reflect the time in which it was made, but respect has to be made to the effort which resulted in building replica, flying examples of Japanese warplanes, some of which are the only such flying examples of these planes still found today.  I’ll take that kind of effort over CG any day.

5) Midway– (92/100)- This movie is a lot like Tora! Tora! Tora!.  The stock battle footage does not always match well with the actual film, but it reflects the era in which it was made (before CG), and shows the director’s reticence to use models that look like toy boats in a movie about aircraft carriers.  It would be hard to determine whether this movie or Tora! Tora! Tora! is better, but I gave the nod to Midway because it was the Pacific equal of D-Day in importance, and it was an American victory.

4) A Bridge Too Far– (92/100)- This is one of the two great war movies based on the two great books by author Cornelius Ryan.  The books are an exhaustive and great read full of asides and first person history.  A Bridge Too Far does a great job of following the book, and it does an admirable job of getting a good deal of the history and issues involved in this huge Allied undertaking across to the viewer.  The battle for the bridge at Arnhem is very realistic, and was done so without the aid of CG.  Check out this cast:  Anthony Hopkins, Michael Caine, Elliot Gould, Sean Connery, James Caan, Dirk Bogarde, Gene Hackman, Ryan O’Neal, Lawrence Olivier, Robert Redford, Maximilian Schell, Liv Ullman, Colin Farrell (odd), John Ratzenberger (even odder), and many others.

3) Glory– (93/100)- This is a great movie that tells the important story of the Fighting 54th, the first black regiment to see combat during the Civil War.  It has a great message, and a great score.  The script and acting are superb, including: Matthew Broderick, Denzel Washington, Cary Ewels, and Morgan Freeman.  The movie has the odd ability to point out racial issues in America while at the same time making you feel patriotic.  Simply great.

2) Gettysburg– (95/100)- Easily the best movie that has been made about the Civil War.  It tackles the most important battle of the war by using the novel The Killer Angels, a great work of historical fiction that itself drew heavily on first person accounts of the battle and is very accurate as far as detailing the order and events of the battle.  It has a great score, and a great cast including, Jeff Daniels, Martin Sheen, Tom Berenger, Sam Elloit, and C. Thomas Howell.  The battle scenes in the movie are great, and accurately portray the tactical issues facing everyone involved in the conflict.

This movie suffered because it was originally going to be a TNT miniseries.  At some point, the powers that be at the network, decided that it was too big for television, and decided to release it widely as a feature film.  The problem was that many of the battles scenes had already been shot on video, and video does not transfer as well cinematically to film as film does to video.  As a result, the film was passed-over by the Academy.

1) The Longest Day– (95-100)- The first of the great WWII books by Cornelius Ryan to be turned into a movie.  It accurately portrays the entirety of Operation Overlord, also know as D-Day.  The battle is still the greatest sea-born invasion in history, and is one of the most important battles in WWII (possible all of history).  The book itself is a history of the battle, and the movie follows the book very well.  The score is good, as is the cinematography.  The battle scenes considering the time that they were made are great.  Like A Bridge Too Far, the movie does a great job of explaining the big picture strategy of the battle while at the same time focusing on the trials and tribulation of individual soldiers (and heroes) involved in the battle something that a movie like Saving Private Ryan does not accomplish as well.  It would be hard to assemble as great a group of actors outside of Oscar Night as appears in this film.  It includes: John Wayne, Sean Connery, Henry Fonda, Richard Burton, Robert Mitchum, Rod Streiger, Rober Wagoner, Peter Lawford, Roddy McDowell, Eddie Albert, Sal Mineo, Red Buttons, Paul Anka, and Fabian among others.

 

Feel free to post a comment and to disagree (tastefully) with anything I have here.  I’m sure I left out some very important films so left me know, and I will correct the list, maybe.

Top 50 War Movies Criteria

Top 50 War Movies 10-1

Top 50 War Movies 20-11

Top 50 War Movies 30-21

Top 50 War Movies 40-31

Top 50 War Movies 45-41

Lists

 

Like Father…

Jesus Barragan has added a whole new demension to “Take Your Child to Work Day,” but I dod not think this is going to get him any Father of the Year nominations.  Funny,

I Love Peanut Butter, as Any Good American Should

I did not need to have Obama come along with his quick-witted repartee in order to know the greatness and potential of black people as a race.  I knew the first time that I heard that a black man, the great George Washington Carver, had invented peanut butter that they had something.

I have always been a big fan of peanut butter, and if I know there is peanut butter in something, I’m probably going to try it.  Some of my earliest memories of my father are of him mixing up some peanut butter and syrup, and then eating it scooped up on some Wonder Bread with a glass of milk.  Yummm….  I, personally, have always been a fan of the Elvis- Peanut butter and banana on white bread with a glass of milk.  Ohhh Yeah.

Of course, everyone knows that the best peanut butter is Jif (creamy).  Though, almost any peanut butter will do in a pinch.  However, I’m sure everyone remembers the time when they were kids, and their mother decided to get that nutritional crap that purports itself to be peanut butter.  You know, the stuff that has to be refrigerated, and separates, and when you try to spread it on a piece of bread, it simply tears the bread up so badly that it can no longer be used in a decent PB&J.  Disgusting.

Of course, the pinnacle of peanut butter came when those two lovers ran into each other.  She got chocolate in his peanut butter, and he got peanut butter on her chocolate.  The greatness of the Reese’s peanut butter cup was born.  The original cup is still the best, though Reese’s has come out with a plethora of variations that are not as good in recent years.  That perfect blend of sweet chocolate and salty peanut butter is great.  Too many candies and cookies (especially chocolate chip cookies) do not realize that it is that little bit of salt that puts it over the top.  You can usually tell when you have a peanut butter candy that is not made by Reese’s.  They are the sickly sweet ones.

As I said before, if it has peanut butter in it, then I will probably try it.  I have had some great peanut butter cookies of all sorts, but I still am in search of a truly great peanut butter pie or cake.  A few years ago, when I moved to the Fort Worth area, I found a frozen custard (ice cream to the masses) place that would mix peanut butter in their ice cream.  I swear it tastes like real peanut butter on a ratio of one to one with the ice cream.  You can even order an Elvis there where they mix in some banana along with the peanut butter in the frozen custard.  Greatness.

The other day when I was having an Elvis at Sheridan’s, I was remarking to myself once again that no one (at least no one that I have tried) makes peanut butter ice cream that tastes this good and this much like peanut butter.  Suddenly, a memory flickered.  I was brought back to my college days when I discovered the greatest peanut butter treat that I have ever purchased.  For a few years, in the early 1990’s Mar Inc. produced a candy bar it called the PB MAX.  All apologies to Reese’s, but this was better.  It consisted of a crunchy cookie about two inches square.  On top of this was what looked like a heaping tablespoon of real (possibly even Jif) peanut butter.  On top of the peanut butter, several small pieces of cookie were sprinkled.  And, finally the whole thing was covered in chocolate.  Unfortunately, the PB Max only lasted a few years, but it will always have a found place in my heart.

Hey Mars, bring it back!