In A Dangerous World

“I believe that it must be the policy of the United States to support free peoples who are resisting attempted subjugation by armed minorities or by outside pressures. I believe that we must assist free peoples to work out their own destinies in their own way.”


These are not the words of George W. Bush… Ronald Reagan, or even John Kennedy.  This is the essence of the Truman Doctrine- a clear outline for America’s strategic place in the world.  Though primarily written by Dean Acheson, Harry Truman’s plain spoken manner made the intent abundantly clear.  Our security at home was directly tied to our vigilance abroad.

Carry the battle to them...

Carry the battle to them…

Would such decisive language be welcomed… by Democrats today? Politicians on both sides of the aisle seem to be embracing the self-destructive tenants of isolationism.  They are deluded as were our early leaders that neutrality was not only desired, but possible.

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Nuanced to Death

The need for the Obama administration… to have a more “nuanced” approach to foreign policy is weakening our position in the world and killing innocents trapped in the middle.  ISIS represents a most serious national security threat, yet Obama and his state department refuse to recognize them for what they are- the new Islamic caliphate.  “Nuance” provides a different picture; disaffected Arab youth with limited job prospects are at the heart of the ISIS threat- find them jobs, and ISIS goes away…. Obama’s refusal to recognize religion as the ideological core of this group is putting the entire world in danger.  This “nuanced” approach is a poor excuse for true foreign policy initiative to combat a threat the late, great Christopher Hitchens predicted back in 2005.  History shows us the true nature and danger of a united, radical Islamic state…

What, me worry?

What, me worry?

Thomas Jefferson and John Adams were part of our first… diplomatic delegation   in London in 1785.  They were instructed to seek out Tripoli’s ambassador, Abdra-Rahman, and seek a maritime agreement.  The ambassador shocked the Americans with his exorbitant demands for ransom and tribute- even a fee for his personal attention. Jefferson protested the piracy by stating the facts: The US had no quarrel with the Muslim world, we had never been Crusaders, we took no part in the Spanish conquests of Muslim lands- what right did Tripoli have to exact such a toll?

Don't tread on me !

Don’t tread on me !

The response must have struck every reasoned bone… in Jefferson’s body- Abdra-Rahman claimed that the Koran gave Tripoli permission;  The US and Europeans were infidels, and therefore subject to war and slavery by the Holy Ottoman Empire.  Monarchy and theocracy combined to create terror and wickedness.  Jefferson immediately responded to the US Congress that no such payment should be made to such an objectionable form of tyranny and banditry.  He advised that a naval squadron  be outfitted and sent to the Mediterranean to enforce our commercial rights.


Our policy for this region of the world demands strong, definitive action-  not “nuance” 

I don't think they are looking for a jobs program.

I don’t think they are looking for a jobs program.

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In the Era of Big Government


Strange, that in this current era of bigger government… a popular TV show that tried its darndest to portray public service in a positive light, found an unlikely hero in a small government libertarian.  The Obama years have coexisted with the NBC sitcom “Parks and Recreation.”  The show’s protagonist, Leslie Knope, is a life-long bureaucrat and tireless supporter of the public sector.  It seemed a perfect fit for the Obama administration’s push for “shovel ready” projects and private sector regulatory control.    But, something strange happened as the show continued to feature cameos from Joe Biden and the First Lady, its viewers were connecting with staunch libertarian character, Ron Swanson- easily the show’s best creation.


Similar to the attempts of Norman Lear… to make Archie Bunker the foil of “All in the Family”, producers of “Parks and Rec” wanted Swanson to play the role of buffoon- Bunker triumphed in the end, as does the burly presence brought to life by Nick Offerman.  Audiences couldn’t get enough of Swanson’s meat eating, government hating, mustachioed persona.  The show worked best when Ron provided real world advice to the lofty, illogical whims of Leslie’s public servant.  A woodworking, whiskey drinking, outdoorsman providing the reality check on a show about the benefits of government action- a strange coexistence in an age of government activism.   The irony of a libertarian running a government agency he feels shouldn’t exist- not lost on the diverse audience that kept the show alive for seven seasons.


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Weekly History News Roundup

Buddha statue is actually a monk… mummified remains fit perfectly in sculpture


Japanese crown prince wants correct history… royal decree cautions hard-liners against white washing WW2 crimes


Sherlock Holmes story found in attic… lost story was written as a fundraiser to save a local bridge


Freud comforted mother of homosexual son… newly discovered letter shows Freud’s feelings on homosexuality


Renowned Civil War artist ends his career… Mort Kunstler paintings can be seen in all major Civil War publications


CT scan reveals all

CT scan reveals all

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Here are the Rankings !

Practically Historical finally gets around to… ranking the Presidents.  The criteria was laid out in an earlier post;

  • Meeting the issues of the day… how well did the President address the most pertinent concerns of the electorate– not the sanitized, politically correct concerns of the scholar.
  • Crisis leadership… could the President provide the necessary leadership during national crises– war is the ultimate crisis, but not the only one to be considered.
  • Fulfilling the duties of the office… did the President enforce the law, defend the Constitution, supervise the military, and promote our diplomatic interests?

Hail to the Chief

The Top 10                                 The Bottom 5              Oh so Close 5

  1. Lincoln                                   5.  Johnson                                 5.  Kennedy
  2. Washington                         4.  Hayes                                   4.  LBJ
  3. T. Roosevelt                        3.  Van Buren                         3.  Cleveland
  4. F. Roosevelt                        2.  Harding                             2.  McKinley
  5. Polk                                       1.  Buchanan                           1.  Monroe
  6. Truman
  7. Jefferson
  8. Jackson
  9. Eisenhower
  10. Reagan

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Evaluating Presidents Today

The highly subjective task of ranking US Presidents… is best left to historians.  But, there is no guarantee that an unbiased assessment will be produced by academics trained in the discipline of history.  Historians are human, subject to the same prejudices, passions, and notions that afflict those not considered ‘experts.’  The veil of ‘expertise’ shields historians after they produce the rankings, which often are published and accepted as fact.  The mistakes made in the assessments are readily identified:

  • Personal political beliefs… often leak into their judgement.  Presidents who share a particular political ideology with a historian tend to be ranked higher.  Historians often look past obvious shortcomings because of the political similarities.  Conversely, Presidents with differing ideologies are punished accordingly.   Liberal British historians ranked the Presidents and rated Franklin Roosevelt #1 and Jimmy Carter at #19
  • Connections… Presidential historians and/or commentators often have worked closely with their subjects.  The familiarity provides valuable insight, but it undoubtedly  clouds judgement. Arthur Schlesinger worked in the Kennedy White House.
  • Research (lack of)…  Many Presidential rankings are skewed by the ages or fields of expertise of the judges.   Younger judges closely scrutinize recent Presidents while relying on older analysis to rank those from the past.  Older historians tend to be more critical of recent examples while comparing them to the storied leadership of long ago.  Sienna College rated George W. Bush a failure in 2006…during his presidency. 

I want you….to rank me higher


Presidents should be rated according… to consistent and unbiased criteria.  To avoid the common errors in historical judgement, apply these simple tests:

  • Meeting the issues of the day… how well did the President address the most pertinent concerns of the electorate– not the sanitized, politically correct concerns of the scholar.
  • Crisis leadership… could the President provide the necessary leadership during national crises– war is the ultimate crisis, but not the only one to be considered.
  • Fulfilling the duties of the office… did the President enforce the law, defend the Constitution, supervise the military, and promote our diplomatic interests?

Care to reconsider my ranking?


Subjectivity should be influenced by scholarship… historians will play favorites, but such status must be earned.  The proof is in the proverbial pudding….go to the historical record and leave your political bias at the door.

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A Group of Historians Walk into a Bar

Great American historian Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr. formed a panelof 30 historians and two politicians to rank the Presidents, Washington-Clinton.  The Presidents were categorized as Great, near-great, high average, average, below average, and failure.  Academic historians tend to be Liberal in their politics and Presidents with progressive agendas fared quite well on the list.

Mr. Polk’s home, circa 1846

Great- Lincoln, Washington, F. Roosevelt

Near Great- Jefferson, Jackson, T. Roosevelt, Wilson, Truman , Polk

High Average- Eisenhower, J. Adams, Kennedy, Cleveland, L. Johnson, Monroe, McKinley

Average- Madison, JQ Adams, B. Harrison, Clinton, Van Buren, Taft, Hayes, GHW Bush, Reagan, Arthur, Carter, Ford

Below Average- Taylor, Coolidge, Fillmore, Tyler

Failure- Pierce, Grant, Hoover, Nixon, A. Johnson, Buchanan, Harding

** William Henry Harrison and James Garfield were excluded due to lack of data. 

Tippecanoe and that guy….


Ranking Presidents is highly subjective and this list does not represent the opinions of


More to come….

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