Monday, February 20, 2006

Presidents' Day

Since it is "Presidents' Day" (that is, the combining of Lincoln and Washington's birthdays into a single vague holiday), who's your favorite president? Least favorite? Most inspiring? Here's my list:

Favorites:

The giants:

Theodore Roosevelt: An incredible character who used the overwhelming force of his personality to do what he thought was right.

George Washington: I recently read an excellent biography of Washington, and am constantly amazed at just how much we owe him. He was a giant.

Abraham Lincoln: Probably the best example of a man who was exactly right for his time. It's very interesting to see his evolving attitudes towards slavery and, then, ex-slaves as his term progressed. I often wonder what would have happened if he had lived.

Franklin Roosevelt: He led the nation through its worst period since the Civil War, and gave people hope.

Others:

William Howard Taft: No, he wasn't that great of a president. But I am always struck by just how human a figure he was. He hated the presidency, and was glad to be rid of it in 1913. He was also absolutely crushed by Roosevelt's turn against him in 1912. He was somehow guileless, and couldn't believe that a man who was his friend could hurt him so. He was a much better chief justice than a president.

Gerald Ford: He was also a very good, decent sort of man. He was clueless in certain areas, and his choice of staffers still haunts us, but he himself was a good man.

The Worst:

Warren Harding: He was not bright, and he let his friends do all sorts of terrible things. His death was probably a mercy.

James Buchanan: He did nothing while the Civil War approached.

Andrew Johnson: Lincoln's successor, he was a spiteful man who allowed a lot of the progress Lincoln had hoped for disappear.

I'll reserve historical judgement on George W. Bush until at least a decade has passed. That seems fair.

What do you think? Any favorites? Least favorites? Post them here.

49 comments:

Anonymous said...

Reagan for R's

JFK for D's

Understood the greatest power of the Presidency is the power to inspire

Anonymous said...

GC ford wasnt a giant...and you forgot the most scandel plagued administration erver...Grant

Frank said...

Boooooooooooooooooooooring.

DeanFan84 said...

Woodrow Wilson, Harry Truman, Andrew Jackson, Jimmy Carter! (yeah, despite the October Surprise that the R's engineeered).

And Shrub will go down as one of the worst ever. Here are his latest approval ratings. In Connecticut, 66% disapprove, and only 32% approve, which has got to trouble every Republican office holder.

Chris MC said...

Dick Cheney. LOL

DeanFan84 said...

The New Haven Independent has a Dick Blumenthal story worth reading:

"AG in the Lion's Den".

"Dick Blumenthal, protoypical liberal activist attorney general, ventured to the tables down at Mory's to make the case that conservatives, too, should applaud his crusades against greedy, polluting corporate crooks."

Chris MC said...

Impeach 'em both.
During the run-up to the invasion of Iraq, writes the intelligence community's former senior analyst for the Middle East, the Bush administration disregarded the community's expertise, politicized the intelligence process, and selected unrepresentative raw intelligence to make its public case.

DeanFan84 said...

The wikipedia has a great entry on
"Best and Worst Presidents".

It has a compendium of public surveys done over the years, and a separate section in which scholars rank their favorites.

DeanFan84 said...

My new favorite bumpersticker!

Would Somebody Please Give
Bush a Blow-job,
So we can Impeach Him!

Chris MC said...

Really solid, useful reportage from Bass on that Blumenthal lunch at Yale. Thanks for pointing that out DF84.

Blumenthal is right on the mark. I continue to be impressed by the combination of political savvy, activism in the public interest, and intellectual depth to his work. Extraodinary integrity. I think the guy is a treasure. Really.

sanity said...

Genghis - what is the name of the George Washington biography you read?

Genghis Conn said...

It was His Excellency by Joseph Ellis.

Anonymous said...

Sad to see that even on President's Day the right-wing continues smearing Jimmy Carter.

From BullDogPundit via Ex-Donkey,
"Is Jimmy Carter on the Hamas Payroll?"

A Different Anonymous (No! Really!) said...

A little history quiz, especially for those who think the Bush presidency represents the
death knell of all things 'Merican:

Which President:

* Said he "won’t make the mistakes" as Lincoln who, he felt, had not gone far enough in merely suspending habeas corpus ...
* Ordered the Librarian of Congress to turn over the names of people who asked for certain books ...
* Sought permission to completely censor the mails and had to settle for having his Postmaster General refuse to deliver “un-American” literature ...

Anonymous said...

bill curry is about to make a decision to primary or not..anyone wishing to talk to him may call 860-306-0300

Anonymous said...

"Jenny, I got your number, I need to make you mine

867-5309, 867-5309"

Paul Vance said...

How about Truman? He is getting no respect on today's blog. You have to love a prez that made tough decisions and was proved by history to be a solid president. His approval rating was very low when he left office, but he is one of our great leaders.

Paul Vance said...

Although as an Irish-Catholic, in many grandparent's houses were two pictures on the wall. One was usually religious, Jesus or Mary and the other was often times John Kennedy.

So I guess my ethnic pride always keeps a soft spot for JFK.

Anonymous said...

Paul, you know a cold warrior from the Red States doen;t appeal to yuppie blue state liberals

Max said...

Washington, Lincoln, FDR, Kennedy.

DeanFan84 said...

anon3:02--

Check my post upthread to see how wrong you are blue state liberals and Harry Truman.

(p.s. any chance you could quit the stupid stereotypical thinking?)

Paul Vance said...

You may be right, anonymous 3:02, but after reading the Truman biography- I have a whole new respect for the man and his character.

I suppose if I were trying to curry favor I would let people know that I bought a book recently about FDR.

A great book to celebrate the American Presidents is "My Fellow Americans" by Michael Waldman, a former Clinton speechwriter. It comes with a CD that will inspire even the most cynical political hearts.

ctkeith said...

IKE and LBJ

IKE for seeing the Dangers in the military industrial complex and LBJ for civil rights,the war on poverty and the shear power of his personality.

LBJ actually had sleepless nights because of his biggest blunder,Vietnam.Anyone think W's lost a wink of sleep?

CTKnows said...

Interesting.... as an Irish Catholic R, I also place Kennendy high on the list, but a great deal of what he started was finnished by Johnson, who I think is often short changed.

I wondered what our view of him would have been had LBJ not continued the Kennedy agenda.

Genghis Conn said...

CTKnows,

I think we tend to view LBJ through the lens of Vietnam, which eclipses a lot of the civil rights and anti-poverty work he did.

I have a great deal of respect for Truman, as well.

Paul Vance said...

Ok, last book recommendation-- for those who are interested in LBJ and his Vietnam decision-making:

Uncertain Warriors: Lyndon Johnson and His Vietnam Advisers by David Barrett

It is an excellent book by a Villanova Professor.

disgruntled_republican said...

GC-

Truman was the greatest President of the modern area. As was said in a previous posting, his biography shows what an amazing man he was. Took some big ball$ to drop 2 nucs. Best part...no college, only the school of hard knocks...we could only wish for that to happen again.

Runners up...

FDR; had the greatest impact on his time but not the greatest of all time.

JFK; how can I not put anyone that cut taxes in here. After all, I am republican.

Lincoln; Abolishing slavery alone is reason enough but the man did so much more. Too bad it was cut short. Plus he is the father of the GOP.

Reagan; For his foreign policy and no BS attitude. It's OK to admit it guys.

Greatest of all time is still the first, George Washington. How can it not be? The more I read about the man, the more amazed I become.

Anonymous said...

Martin Van Buren! He was the meanest of all the presidents.

Anonymous said...

LBJ also doesn't get the credit he deserves for his role as a Senator. America has not seen quite as brilliant and powerful a Senator as LBJ was. Read "Master of the Senate."

Anonymous said...

What, Truman didn't graduate from college? Not even Western Connecticut State University? Man, what a light weight! ;)

Anonymous History buff said...

Since I've been around (Nixon onward) the President who brought the greatest amount of optimism to the times is Clinton. I always felt good about America while Clinton was President.

In order of greatest, I would rate them as follows:

1. Washington - He created the presidency without a map and led the country when there was so much uncertainty.

2. FDR - He gave the country hope when it had none.

3. TR - He was simply a great and inspiring man.

4. Jefferson - His expansion of America's boundaries set the stage for our economic and international expansion.

5. Reagan - He ended communism.

In my lifetime, I think we've seen three of the worst:

1. W. Lies, a lack of vision, and an erosion of America's standing in the world.

2. Carter - a "malaise" of a presidency.

3. Nixon - his presidency was a prelude to Carter's malaise.

DeanFan84 said...

4:17Anon--

There is a difference between Truman and Rell.

Truman made his own way in the world, while we all know that Jodi Rell was Rowland's lapdog.

Anonymous said...

Deano ... touchy, touchy, touchy...

disgruntled_republican said...

Deanfan-

No difference. In fact, if we said that, then I guess you feel that Truman was FDR's lapdog.

Fact is Jodi and Rowland have nothing in common aside from the party affiliation and they were on a ticket together.

Ask any Democrat in the legislature and they will tell you the same thing...in fact, I challenge you to do so.

Maybe that will shut you up once and for all.

DeanFan84 said...

For the record, I might have even voted for Rowland back when. (I can't completely remember, believe it or not.)

Rowland was at least a leader. Albeit a crook, but a leader.

Rell on the other hand is the farthest thing from it. Look at how few votes she delivered on CFR. How few real ideas she has for CT's future....

The only thing to Rell's credit is that she has a strong political team around here. And oh yeah, the Dems' Hartford "leadership" is embarassingly weak.
------------------------------------------
Disgruntled Republican--

Read Harry Truman's bio, here.

FDR did nothing to help make Harry Truman's career. Truman earned his rise up the ladder.

The same cannot be said about Rell. Take away Jodi's twenty year relationship with Rowland, and she would be nuthing.
I repeat, nuthing.

And quit telling me to shut up. You sound like Bill O'Reilly. lol.

Anonymous said...

Ever noticed how thin-skinned Republican bloggers are?

I called CT Conservative a joke for calling the Lamont/Lieberman race before it even started, and the wussy took down my post.

Anonymous said...

It is telling that now the Democrats have nothing to attack Rell for during her 20 months of strong performance as Governor, so they are reduced to attack her for what they claim she was doing for 20 eyars when she wasn't Governor

RE: "standing in the world" and W.

Wonder why all of W's overseas critics (Chirac, Schroeder, Martin) are losing elections (and Blair and Howard re-elected) if we've taken such a hit?

disgruntled_republican said...

Deanfan-

We obviously disagree on Rell. While I agree that she wouldn't be where she is without him, she is a leader. CFR..she took what she could because the Dem leadership is inept, not weak, inept.

I will however admit that when I saw Rowland ion TV coming home I longed for the days he told the D's to pound sand over budgets.

Fact is, this discussion on Rell is irrelevant, the race is nothing close to a race.

As for Truman, if you look back at my posting at 357pm I called him the greatest President of the modern era...I absolutely love the man! Used it an analogy, an admitedly bad one, but an analaogy none the less.

2 more things...NUthing is correctly spelt NOthing and my apologies for telling you to shut up...not like me, kinda felt bad after I posted it and made me feel worse by comparing me to that twit O'Reilly.

Onward...

Anonymous said...

The folks over at the Family Institute of CT argue that we nutmeggers: Share in a Culture of Death, and that Marriage Was Under Attack last week.

Anyone agree with these Loons of the Radical Right? Also any truth to the rumor that the FIC's Brian Brown is going to run against Ed Meyer?
-----------------------------------------
D.R.--
1). nuthing is obviously an emphatic spelling of nothing.

2). I am glad you don't take ownership of O'Reilly. All is forgiven.

Anonymous said...

I'm still waiting for the big news on Curry. Anybody? Anybody? Bueller?

And let's not get ahead of ourselves here by saying that Rell has a "great political team" around her. Typical day:

Wake up (sun is shining and birds are chirping, even in winter, in blissful Brookfield).

Escape the house before Mikey can ask for a new state job.

Read Hartford Courant to find out today's "agenda."

Talk to Sullivan & LeShane to find out what the Democrats want.

Nicely ask Lisa Moody to give them whatever they want.

Sleepy time.

mod.dem.like.jfk said...

Often unmentioned in the discussion of bests is James K. Polk who campaigned on 4 promises and got them all accomplished in 1 term (another promise).

Anonymous said...

RE: B;ue State lieberal and Truman. They libs of the time wanted FDR succeeded by VP Henry Wallace. From Wikipedia

In 1944, as FDR's health began to fail, there was a growing likelihood that Wallace, as his running-mate in the upcoming presidential election, would succeed him. There were serious concerns over Wallace's far left beliefs and moderate position regarding Joseph Stalin. The Democratic Party bumped Wallace from its ticket in 1944 and FDR substituted a surprised Missouri Senator Harry S. Truman as the new Vice Presidential candiate for 1944.


from the U.S. Senate website

The pivotal person at the convention was Bob Hannegan, a St. Louis political leader serving as commissioner of internal revenue and tapped as the next Democratic National Committee chairman. Hannegan, Bronx boss Ed Flynn, Chicago mayor Ed Kelly, key labor leaders, and other party movers and shakers viewed Wallace as a liability for his leftist leanings

Wallace ran as a 3rd Party candidate in 1948 against Truman. As Arthur Schlesigner wrote

The onset of the Cold War had divided American liberals. Most New Dealers believed that liberalism and communism had nothing in common, either as to means or as to ends, and joined Americans for Democratic Action, a new liberal organization that excluded Communists. On the other hand, the Progressive Party represented the last hurrah of the Popular Front of the 1930s. As the radical journalist I.F. Stone wrote in 1950, "The Communists have been the dominant influence in the Progressive Party. . . . If it had not been for the Communists, there would have been no Progressive Party."

Wallace, in a messianic mood, saw himself as the designated savior of the republic. Naively oblivious to the Communist role in his campaign, he roundly attacked the Marshall Plan, blamed Truman for Stalin's takeover of Czechoslovakia and predicted that Truman's "bipartisan reactionary war policy" would end with American soldiers "lying in their Arctic suits in the Russian snow." The United States, Wallace said, was heading into fascism: "We recognize Hitlerite methods when we see them in our own land." He became in effect a Soviet apologist.

Wallace almost threw the election to Dewey by taking 509,000 votes in NY, putting 47 electoral votes in his columm

Only a 7,000 vote edge in Ohio, a 33,000 edge in Illinois, and an 18,000 vote edge in Califormia saved Truman's keester. Dewey sought no recount although the combined margin in all three states was half of Bush's 2004 margin in Ohio.

So, those liberals eager to claim Trumna ought to remember he was the Lieberman of that era

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 5:25

WOW,scary how accurate you are!

A Different Anonymous (No! Really!) said...

Hey DeanFan -

That President who said Lincoln didn't go far enough in "only" suspending habeas corpus ... who demanded the names of library patrons reading certain books ... who sought to censor the mails and barred the delivery of un-American reading material?

That would be your nominee for one of the greatest ever, that famous Progressive, Woodrow Wilson.

That same president created a force of "Secret Service" agents who monitored fellow Americans for un-American speech -- a precursor, one might say, to today's NSA wiretapping.

That same president created a team of "Four Minute Men" who propagandized all -- repeat all -- public gatherings with patriotic songs and speeches.

In fact, the parallels between Wilson and the current Administration are striking. You might want to check them out. The source is The Great Influenza, by John M. Barry.

And yet, somehow here we are nearly 100 years later, debating whether George W. Bush will be the end of America as we know it.

A final note: Wilson did damn all to prepare for or deal with the great influenza outbreak of 1918-19, which killed millions more than the "accepted" estimate of 20 million. The likely death toll was propbably closer to 50 million and may have been higher still.

Can anyone say "bird flu"?

DeanFan84 said...

What is your source?

Newsmax?

And certainly you aren't comparing World War I to World War IV?

Conn-Tiki said...

Washington: Without him, we'd still be members of the Empire.

Reagan: Took the country from a serious identity crisis post-Jimmy Carter and beat the communist dictatorships without a major confligration.

Roosevelt: Same as Reagan except it took 250,000 dead Americans to accomplish it.

Lincoln: Made the tough decisions and held the nation together.

I don't understand the affinity for Truman.

Chris MC said...

Truman, in my view, may have made Reagan possible. If you follow the lineage the way I see it, it starts with Truman, goes through JFK, and emerges with the Reagan Democrats, without whom the Reagan "Revolution" wouldn't have been possible.

Now, watch absolutely nobody agree with me. The lineage continues with, wait for it, Bill Clinton.

With the neocons running amok, there is an ENORMOUS opportunity for the lineage to re-emerge. Could come from the Republicans, but it should come from the Democrats.

Think Mark Warner, Barak Obama.

Quinn said...

No, ChrisMC, I agree with you. Note how many Republicans here are big fans of JFK, myself included. Clinton himself wasn't that bad either. A Democrat President in that line, however, that is both willing to take a strong stance in world affairs and in defending his country, and is willing to take sensible economic actions rather than pandering to liberal special interests, is unlikely to be approved by Democrat primary voters.

Mark Warner? Sure. Barack Obama is, so far as I can see so far, a feel-good candidate for the Democrats. And he is not quite in the same vein as Truman or JFk - he is more similar to Johnson, who very liberal domestic agenda was a shame, in my opinion. I would adopt a policy of wait-and-see with Obama, I could end up being wrong and he could end up being an excellent candidate.

Anonymous said...

Quinn--

LBJ's poverty programs were a response to real social revolution. You should read some history about what went on across America.

In New Haven, there were actual riots, and the National Guard had to be brought in.