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And the truly best are ...
February 19, 2009 - Lee Smith
C-SPAN recently came out with a list of the U.S. presidents, from best to worst. I couldn't agree with it. Some are unbelievably overrated (John Kennedy at No. 6). Others, like the hapless James Buchanan who came in last, are blamed for things they could not control. In his case, the Civil War.
In any case, I thought I'd offer some improvements:
Best presidents, in no particular order:
Abe Lincoln, whom C-SPAN put first. I don't agree with everything Lincoln did, but imagine the horror of Civil War that he was forced to manage and win. Oh, and he freed the slaves.
James Polk, a Tennessee Democrat often overlooked. He said he would serve one term and did. Under Polk, the U.S. fought a war with Mexico and thus acquired California. He also peacefully settled the boundaries of the Oregon territory with Britain.
Calvin Coolidge, who presided over a decade of prosperity in the 1920s. He was a government minimalist who lowered taxes. His brevity is legend. He believed government and business should be independent and separate.
Thomas Jefferson. I don't care what he did as president. He wrote the Declaration of Independence.
Dwight Eisenhower. Ended the Korean War. Avoided war in Vietnam. Although one of our famous generals, warned against the military-industrial complex. Ran balanced budgets and loathed the welfare state. (Compare and contrast to Lyndon Johnson.)
Ronald Reagan. Not perfect, but finally offered leadership and optimism after 16 years of LBJ, Nixon, Ford and Carter. Revived American spirit and capitalism.
Lyndon Johnson. No surprise. Fought unnecessary Vietnam war. Saddled U.S. with "Great Society" welfare state. This man was little more than an ignorant bully. A total politician, in worse sense of the word.
Jimmy Carter. A complete failure. Weakness personfied.
Republican Herbert Hoover and Democrat Franklin Roosevelt. Tandem that meddled and tinkered with the greatest economy the world had ever seen, turning a financial crisis into the worst depression the nation has known. FDR rates as third best in the C-SPAN rankings. He should be third from the bottom. No previous depression lasted longer than a few years. His lasted more than 10.
Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford. Nixon WAS a crook. And he imposed ridiculous controls on the economy, such as wage and price "freezes." He instituted the EPA, which has imposed incredible burdens on American industry. Ford wore a "WIN" button. It stood for "Whip Inflation Now." A great economic mind. Not. He fell down on the job. Literally.
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