Monday, February 20, 2012

President's Day - Best and Worst Presidents

It's not a real President's birthday (Lincoln was the 12th, Washington is the 22nd), but everyone wants a day off, so sorry Abe and George, but we're taking it today.  But in the spirit intended for the holiday, let me offer up Borepatch's bestest and worstest lists for Presidents.

Top Five:

#5: Calvin Coolidge

Nothing To Report is a fine epitaph for a President, in this day of unbridled expansion of Leviathan.

#4. Thomas Jefferson.

Jefferson is perhaps the last (and first) President who exercised extra-Constitutional power in a manner that was unambiguously beneficial for the Republic (the Louisiana Purchase).  He repealed Adam's noxious Alien and Sedition Acts and pardoned those convicted under them.

#3. Grover Cleveland. 

He didn't like the pomp and circumstance of the office, and he hated the payoffs so common then and now.  He continually vetoed pork spending (including for veterans of the War Between the States), so much so that he was defeated for re-election, but unusually won a second term later.  This quote is priceless (would that Latter Day Presidents rise so high), on vetoing a farm relief bill: "Federal aid in such cases encourages the expectation of paternal care on the part of the Government and weakens the sturdiness of our national character."

#2. Ronald Reagan

He at least tried to slow down the growth of Leviathan, the first President to do so in over half a century (see entry #5, above).  He would have reduced it further, except that his opposition to the Soviet fascist state and determination to end it cost boatloads of cash.  It also caused outrage among the home grown fascists in the Media and Universities, but was wildly popular among the general population which was (and hopefully still remains) sane.

#1. George Washington

Could have been King.  Wasn't.  Q.E.D.

Bottom Five:

#5. John Adams.

There's no way to read the Alien and Sedition Acts as anything other than a blatant violation of the First Amendment.  It's a sad statement that the first violation of a Presidential Oath of Office was with President #2.

#4. Woodrow Wilson.

Not only did he revive the spirit of Adams' Sedition Acts, he caused a Presidential opponent to be imprisoned under the terms of his grotesque Sedition Act of 1918.  He was Progressivism incarnate: he lied us into war, he jailed the anti-war opposition, he instituted a draft, and he was entirely soft-headed when it came to foreign policy.  The fact that Progressives love him (and hate George W. Bush) says all you need to know about them.

#3 Lyndon Johnson.

An able legislator who was able to get bills passed without having any real idea what they would do once enacted, he is responsible for more Americans living in poverty and despair than any occupant of the White House, and that says a lot.

#2. Franklin Roosevelt.

America's Mussolini - ruling extra-Constitutionally fixing wages and prices, packing the Supreme Court, and transforming the country into a bunch of takers who would sell their votes for a trifle.  At least Mussolini met an honorable end.

#1. Abraham Lincoln.

There's no doubt that the Constitution never would have been ratified if the States hadn't thought they could leave if they needed to.  Lincoln saw to it that 10% of the military-age male population was killed or wounded preventing that in an extra-Constitutional debacle unequaled in the Republic's history.  Along the way, he suspended Habeas Corpus, instituted the first ever draft on these shores, and jailed political opponents as he saw fit.  Needless to say, Progressives adore him.

So happy President's Day.  Thankfully, the recent occupants of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue haven't gotten this bad.  Yet.


Brock Townsend said...

Good list and kudos on the Tyrant coming in last.:)

Rick C said...

You know, Lincoln preserved the Union, although at great cost. Still, after reading the likes of Harry Turtledove, I'm not sanguine about what could have happened had he let the South leave, or had the war ended differently.

Borepatch said...

Rick, what might have happened might have been bad, admittedly. But Lincoln was responsible for 10% of military age males to take a bullet for his ideals.

ambisinistral said...

Well, aside from Lincoln, there may have been one or two other folks itching for that war...

I'm curious, what do you think about James Polk? I think he always gets slighted when lists of important American Presidents are drawn up, probably because he was pro-slavery at a rather late date.

Still, he defined the southern and northwestern boarders of the U.S., which is to say he put the finishing touches on Manifest Destiny.

bluesun said...

It's hard to separate the love of the man from the hatred for what he did for many of the traditionally named "greats." But it's good to do so.

The Czar of Muscovy said...

Ambisinistral is right on the money with Polk: had 3 goals as president, achieved them, and refused to run again because he believed 4 years is enough for any president. Wow. Also popularized the notion that any man who wants to be president should be defeated; we should only elect those who are called upon to serve.

Also, BP, great job on Cleveland. One of the most honest, uncorrupt, straight up men who ever did the job. Took a bunch of hard hits in the MSM, but was innocent of all of them. Nice guy who didn't finish last.

Borepatch said...

Ambisinitral, he seems like a Jefferson in a minor key. Hard to place him in the top 5, although he did indeed finish the job Jefferson started.

Differ said...

Your comments on LBJ reminded me of a visit to the LBJ presidential library in Austin...I was astounded that several of the exhibits didn't even try to hide incidents of blatant fraud during his early political career. Perhaps you should check it out while you're there...or, for your blood pressure, perhaps not!

ambisinistral said...

Polk was a Jacksonian.

Borepatch said...

Polk was a Jacksonian.

Yeah, I know, but he finished the land grab that Jefferson started. The lower 48 at least were pretty much what they are now.

Tai said...

Didn't Lincoln also institute the first income tax as well?

Brock Townsend said...

Didn't Lincoln also institute the first income tax as well?

Good point or should I say, extremely bad?!:)

libertyman said...

Very thought provoking, and you didn't mention FDR rounding up Americans of Japanese descent for internment. When we are at the war, the Constitution means what we say it does, so get on the train.

Borepatch said...

libertyman, I was saving the FDR bit for today's post about fascists. But you are entirely correct - no warrant, no probably cause, just round 'em up and screw the Fourth Amendment. Because he wanted to.

Joel said...

I can forgive him for the Louisiana Purchase, which made good sense even though he had no authority to do it. But the Embargo Act takes Jefferson off my "best presidents" list.

Weetabix said...

Interesting aside - I'm reading Churchill's "The Gathering Storm." He wasn't too impressed with Coolidge's continuation of requiring war debt payments from England in the runup to WWII. He also thought that the US's raised tariffs reduced the efficacy of debt payments.

England had said what they'd do is collect their war debts and reparations from Germany to the amount necessary to pay their debt to the US.

Churchill had concerns that reparations and war debt payments would disrupt the world economy, and he attributes it to causing, in large part, the Great Depression.

I'm not enough of an economist to confirm or refute that, but it's interesting to think about.