Monday, February 15, 2021

President's Day - Best and Worst Presidents

I've posted this each President's Day for ten years but have found no reason to adjust the rankings.

It's not a real President's birthday (Lincoln's was the 12th, Washington's 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  He repealed Adam's noxious Alien and Sedition Acts and pardoned those convicted under them.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, reinstituted segregation in the Civil Service, 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.  He also rounded up a bunch of Americans and sent them to Concentration Camps.  But they were nice Concentration Camps - at least we're told that by his admirers.  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. 


Eric Wilner said...

Funny how Sedition Acts, so recently regarded as shameful episodes in our nation's history, have suddenly come back into fashion.

Old NFO said...

Interesting rankings...

Beans said...

#1 Worst? Honest Abe doesn't even make the top 5.

#1 is Barry the Lighthbringer. Who turned the Oval Office into a dictatorship. Spying and getting caught spying on opponents. Weaponizing the whole of the Federal Bureaucracy to attack his enemies (not the enemies of the US, his enemies.) Acting all Mao regarding being deified by the media and children being indoctrinated into his cult.

#2 The Clintons (for those out there who think Bill did anything besides interns without Hillary's involvement, think again.) Domestic spying. Destruction of the US military. Separation of the FBI from the CIA and turning terrorists from military problems to a law enforcement problem. Everything that Barky the Lightbringer did, the Clintons pioneered.

#3 Woodrow Wilson - he was bad, really bad, and his policies are what FDR built on. Few remember, or learned, that he did the sticking of German-Americans into concentration camps. His admin pushed abortion. Sterilization and medical murder of 'undesirables' including the insane, gay, minorities (including... Jews.) Look at his administrative policies and it reads like the basis for the NAZI party. Hitler was a fan of Woody. Seriously.

#4 FDR - he was basically WW the Second.

#5 LBJ - he was basically a cheap knockoff of Woodrow.

Honest Abe was a horrible president if you were Southern or wanted a national confederacy. Yes, he built up the FedGov. But he would have, and historical readings of his post-CivWar plans show, that he was "terrible in war, a friend in peace" and his peace plans would have never included the shellacking we in the South got post-war by the FedGov.

libertyman said...

I always enjoy the shocked look on friends' faces when I tell them that you rank Abe Lincoln as the worst. Almost everyone thinks he was marvelous, and your comments have provoked a lot of thought and comment.

Let's see if Joe Biden will make the worst roster, he has a head start on it already.

Roy said...

"...instituted the first ever draft on these shores,"

Nope, sorry. That was the CSA government which passed their conscription act on April 16, 1862. The USA didn't start drafting until Congress passed the Enrollment Act of 1863.

I disagree with your opinion on Lincoln for multiple reasons, but this error alone will suffice for now.

FredLewers said...

And where do Jimmy Carter and Barak Obama rate? I thought they would be top five material...

ProudHillbilly said...

Interesting. Where would you put Andrew Johnson and Buchanan?

Just finished biography of Cleveland. Really fine man. I'm sorry this era gets so little attention.

Beans said...

Proud Hillbilly, that era gets no attention because it's boring. Nothing earth-shattering happens.

Which, come to think of it, is great praise for that Era. Oh, to live in boring times...

Aesop said...

Anyone who can't intuit that the best president EVAH was William Henry Harrison, by a yuuuuuge margin, and for reasons which casual research will make self-apparent, doesn't know his presidential history well enough.

And Coolidge and Reagan should be flipped, for similar reasons. If Reagan had been more like Coolidge and less like FDR, the nation would have been the better for it. Tell me what primary language the day workers at your local Homeless Depot speak, and get back to me.

Borepatch said...

Eric, that's pretty insightful.

Beans and Fred, I've intentionally excluded recent presidents from this list. But I have not seen any reason to move Lincoln from his position. It's the single largest butcher's bill in the Republic's history, and he basically re-wrote the Constitution at the point of the bayonet.

Libertyman, it's an interesting discussion, isn't it?

Roy, we'll have to agree to disagree with that. Certainly the draft was very controversial in the Confederate states, but Seward's comment to the British Ambassador that he could ring the bell on his desk and have anyone in the country imprisoned - and that the Queen herself couldn't say the same - makes "Honest Abe's" administration into a class by itself.

ProudHillbilly, Cleveland is a fascinating person, and the era is also fascinating. It's perhaps more fascinating because historians shy away from it. Maybe this is because Reconstruction and the Robber Baron age doesn't fit into the "ever more progress, ever more advancement" paradigm that they like to teach. Oh, and Buchanan was completely out of his depth (put him in the bottom 10) and Jackson is maybe in the top 10 but probably not.

Aesop, LOL. His death made a place for a President who still has a living grandson, so that's something.

Kurt said...

For worst, I think you have to make room somewhere for Teddy. Warmonger, trust buster and all the rest.

But I agree with Lincoln on the list.

Reagan should be removed from the list of best - his boosting of government spending disqualifies him from the best list all by itself, but his gun control actions before he was President should also mark him off the list (CA's Mulford act). After that, it got worse. While in office he didn't veto FOPA, which banned full auto firearms, and after his term didn't fight the Brady bill, nor the AWB of '94


Richard said...

It never ceases to amaze me the adulation that Lincoln gets from conservatives. I think it is just because of the R after his name and the fact that modern conservatives are Republicans.

In addition to your list of particulars, I would add: instituted the first income tax, greatly expanded the scope of the non-military side of government, including (shudder) public education, (Both the Homestead Act with the school sections and land grant colleges were a product of his administration.), gave away vast tracts of the country to the railroad barons, and completely bungled the war effort until he lucked out and found Grant.

As to what he gets credit for, he really didn't give a crap about the slaves. Freeing them was an act of economic war against the South. This doesn't really take much interpretation as he said so. He was long against slavery but he wanted freed slaves sent back to Africa. So he didn't unleash the rivers of blood to free the slaves, he did it to preserve the Union for reasons that I have never seen explained. See

So the only objection I have to your ranking is that there is no position beyond #1 Worst.

Richard said...

btw, I agree with you not including any of the recent Presidents on either list. As Zhou Enlai, said about the French Revolution, it's too soon to tell. It's been 32 years since Reagan left office and that barely qualifies. Give it another 30 years and I think arguments could be made that all Presidents since Reagan would qualify on one list or the other.

Unknown said...

How Jimmy Carter doesn't make the list is beyond me.


Roy said...

Borepatch, of course we can agree to disagree (...and still be internet friends.) It just needed to be pointed out that the statement that Lincoln "...instituted the first ever draft on these shores", was factually wrong. And it doesn't matter how controversial it was in the Confederate states. The draft was also controversial in the Union.

Both sides instituted the draft at the point of the bayonet. But the CSA government did it almost a full year before the Union did. Now, if you wanted to change it to "...instituted the first ever draft in the *USA*", then I would tend to agree only with the caveat that it actually took an act of Congress to get it done.

By the way, I am not trying to insinuate that Lincoln was the *best* president. I do not worship the man. But I also do not think him the worst.

I also do not go with the theory that everything that happens during a president's term of office is his credit or fault. The president of the US is not a king. Reagan, for example, was always at loggerheads with a House of Representatives that was under the control of the Democrats during his entire two terms. (Tip O'Neil was the speaker during that entire time.) Read the Constitution. All spending bills originate in the House.

I could go on, but I won't. This thread is already stale.

Roy said...

Aesop, the primary language the workers at *my* local Homeless Depot speak... English.

Considering where you are, I am certain that your experience is somewhat different.

Weetabix said...

Joe Biden mumbles, "Hold my pudding...."

Gorges Smythe said...

Despite not agreeing with you entirely about Lincoln, I have to admit that he was far from being the saint he's made out to be. Also, though I would probably fought for the south, if I'd had today's knowledge, I have to wonder about the outcome of either of the world wars had there been no UNITED States.

Aesop said...


I'm not talking about the employees, I'm talking about the dayworker layabouts outside.

While AFAIK it was never part of Aztlan, I observed the same local illegal Mexicans in New Hampster, 10' south of Maine, when I visited there for the memorial service for WeaponsMan, as what I see here in Alta California.

Given the numbers regularly rounded up in every US plant north of Laredo, if you have none thereabouts, please, let the other 47 states in CONUS know how you do that. The only thing keeping them out of AK and HI is arctic snow and airfare.

Reagan opened those floodgates. He deserves to own that.

Roy said...

Okay, Aesop. Now that you've made yourself clear, I get what you were saying. However... Around these parts, we don't seem to have a lot of "dayworker layabouts" as you call them - of either the Hispanic or English variety. I never see them either at Homeless Depot nor at the big blue box. I don't know why. Maybe it's because the management of those places keep the rif-raf out, or maybe we just don't have a lot of layabouts. I don't know.

I do know that nearly every roofer has several hard working Hispanic guys to do the hot work, and there are also a lot of Hispanic lawn-care guys around. We also have a lot of Mexican restaurants that have a nearly 100% Hispanic employee base. (Find one where there are also a lot of Hispanic *customers*, and you will not be disappointed in their cuisine.)

And yes, I agree with you that Reagan has to own *part* of that - but certainly not all of it. Mostly it was his failure for trusting Democrats to keep up their part of a bargain.