Rating the Presidents

I recently had the chance to particitate in C-SPAN’s new poll of historians to rate the Presidents, the “2009 Historians Survey of Presidential Leadership.” The overall group’s results will be released around Presidents Day 2009.

Here’s the list I submitted, with my cumulative raw score for each. (Ratings were based on ten elements: economic management, crisis leadership, vision, international relations, so on.) It’s certainly full of my own prejudice and bias, with many arguable points. George W. Bush appears only as 41st out of 43. I ranked two as worse: Andrew Johnson and James Buchanan. I gave the top spot to George Washington, narrowly edging out Abe Lincoln (downgraded for treatment of wartime dissent and choosing a lousy successor) and FDR (some of whose New Deal programs didn’t work very well).

Free free to disagree or haggle with any of it. All the best. –KenA

1. George Washington 90
2. Abraham Lincoln 88
3. F.D. Roosevelt 87
4. T. Roosevelt 76
5. Thomas Jefferson 70

6. Andrew Jackson 66
7. Dwight Eisenhower 63
8. James Monroe 62
9. Harry Truman 62
10. Gerald Ford 61

11. Ronald Reagan 61
12. George H.W. Bush 60
13. Bill Clinton 60
14. James Polk 60
15. Wm. McKinley 59

16. Woordow Wilson 59
17. J.F. Kennedy 58
18. James Garfield 57
19. Lyndon B. Johnson 56
20. Calvin Coolidge 56

21. James Madison 55
22/23. Grover Cleveland 53
24. Chester A. Arthur 53
25. John Quincy Adams 53

26. Benjamin Harrison 53
27. Ulysses Grant 52
28. Jimmy Carter 50
29. Zachary Taylor 51
30. Wm. Henry Harrison 51

31. John Adams 50
32. Rutherford Hayes 49
33. John Tyler 48
34. Wm.Howard Taft 48
35. Herbert Hoover 46

36. Martin Van Buren 45
37. Richard M. Nixon 44
38. Millard Fillmore 43
39. Warren G. Harding 42
40. Franklin Pierce 42

41. George W. Bush 40
42. James Buchanan 40
43. Andrew Johnson 36

My secret views about the Presidential campaign

So it came as quite a shock to me when I learned recently that there is a small group of people in this world who actually read this Blog.   Some even print off copies of my postings and pass them around. Please understand, I welcome you. But it did strike me as alarming. If people are reading what I write, then I actually need to be coherent and smart, and have something useful to say, like: Be good. Don’t do evil. Eat fiber.  Call your mother. So on.

So I’ve divided that, as a special treat for those intrepid few eyeballs that actually venture into this rarified cranny of the Web, today I will begin to reveal my secret, private thoughts about the current 2008 Presidential election campaign. Up till now, I’ve kept them secret. But inquiring minds want to know. And the demand has reached a crescendo, impossible to ignore.

So here goes:

First, I reject the view that George W. Bush is the single worst president in American history. It’s not that he hasn’t tried.  The problem for Bush is the competition. James Buchanan (1857-1861) and Andrew Johnson (1865-1869) were both so abysmal, so incompetent, so malicious, that even a president as bad as Bush falls short. With Buchanan, his mis-management of the 1860 secession crisis set the stage for oceans of blood to be in Civil War.  With Andrew Johnson, his naked racism undermined any chance for positive post-War reconstruction and improving the lot of freed African-American slaves for the next hundred years. It’s taken until Barack Obama (but more on that later…).

So I nominate George W. Bush as no better than third worst.  He has fewer redeeming virtures than Richard M. Nixon, a mean streak never shared by Warren G. Harding, and more destructive in his hard-headedness than Herbert Hoover.

Now, as for the active, serious candidates still standing for 2008: Hillary Clinton, John McCain, and Barack O’Bama (I prefer the Irish spelling). I like them all in different ways, and think the country would be better of with any of them in the top job. Perhaps best would be something like this: Obama as president, Hillary as WH chief of staff, and McCain as Secretary of War. (I think he’d enjoy using the traditional name).

I can’t imagine any of these three settling for Vice President.  Each probably would agree with John Nance Garner’s description of the job as “not worth a bucket of warm piss.” None, I think, would side with Chester Alan Arthur (VP to James A. Garfield who became president when Garfield was assassinated in 1881), who described the VP job truthfully as “a greater honor than I ever dreamed of attaining.”

In my ideal outcome, there might even be roles for the also-rans: say, Mike Huckabee as ambassador to the Vatican, John Edwards as Solicitor General, Dennis Kucinich as commander of Area 51, and Ralph Nader as Miss Congeniality.

So with that, I’m ready to sit down with a glass of wine and watch the Oscars. I had my coffee this morning. Thanks for reading this, you few, you strong, you intrepid souls. I hope your eyeballs prosper.

Till then, all the best. –KenA