Every Presidents Day we suffer through the opinions of highly tendentious scholars who tell us who are the best and worst chief executives.
Today is no different, with the exception that this ranking will be the most valuable analysis you read because it’s being presented by the best presidential scholar you’re likely to come across in the next, oh…fifteen minutes. Namely, me. Here are the five best and worst and the reasons why:
1) Lincoln: Yeah, he suspended habeas corpus and didn’t start out with an all or nothing attitude on slavery. But he came around and kept this Union together. The alternative would have been astonishingly tragic. He saved us from that. Best in Show.
2) Reagan: Rescued us from the morass of Carter economic policies and won the Cold War. Really knew how to piss off Bolshies. Could read a speech like a pro. Went steady with Margaret Thatcher.
3) Coolidge: Knew to butt out and stay out of the way. That’s the best we can ask of a president when things aren’t too bad. Kickass strike breaker. Presided over the Jazz Age boom and very limited government, aside from idiotic Prohibition. The last decent Republican from Massachusetts. Cool beans.
4) Jackson: A murder machine of an individual, a helluva soldier, and a guy who made the first populist imprint in American politics. His tenure has very current parallels.
5) Truman: Last common sensical Dem elected to the office. Plain spoken, blew up Hiroshima and, for kicks, Nagasaki. Told Stalin to pound sand after FDR’s girlish crush on the Soviet butcher. Stood firm in Korea. Snappy dresser.
Honorable Mention: Polk, Teddy Roosevelt, Jefferson, Cleveland, Washington.
1) Wilson: Where to begin? With the imposition of the income tax and his handling of the Versailles Treaty negotiations, screwed millions here and abroad. A vicious racist, and with the Red Scare and other wartime authoritarianism, was a proto-caudillo. Became sickly and wife ran the nation at the end. A thorough educrat putz.
2) Obama: We suspected he hated America during his campaign and his administration proved it. Sucked up to our enemies, betrayed our friends, tried to completely socialize healthcare. Eventually failed on these counts and all others.
3) Carter: Another modern sob sister. First of the post-60s leftists in office. Cut and ran internationally and ran the country into the ground domestically. Fake down-to-earth image hides a nasty little Jew-baiting OCD tinpot.
4) Hoover: Know-it-all wunderkind engineer actually put into place many of the New Dealish policies that turned a course correction into a depression. Sent sabers against WWI vets. Coolidge despised him. That’s enough for me.
5) Buchanan: Dealt a bad hand and made it worse. Dithered while the South plotted and by that ushered in the greatest of American bloodbaths. Spineless and unfocused. A zero as a president.
Dishonorable Mention: FDR, LBJ, Teddy Roosevelt.
Play the game yourself at home! If the responses are different from mine, respond to the mistakes by horsewhipping the recalcitrants with a live horse.