Tag Archives: Presidents

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.  Grant
  2. Washington                         4.  Hayes                                 4.  LBJ
  3. T. Roosevelt                         3.  Van Buren                         3.  Wilson
  4. F. Roosevelt                         2.  Buchanan                         2.  McKinley
  5. Polk                                       1.  Harding                           1.  Monroe
  6. Truman
  7. Jefferson
  8. Madison
  9. Eisenhower
  10. Jackson

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Always Take a Second Look

Presidents long viewed as below average… or failures tend to be associated with significant historical events.  Actions taken during these events can be overlooked due to hindsight; historians possess the benefit of knowing the paths actually traveled.  Ineffective policy is easily tossed aside in historical assessments because hindsight provides the student of history with an alternate and possibly more effective course.  Executive action is also overlooked in the context of significant history.  Events that change the course of history are often analyzed with little thought afforded the actions of the President.  Take these examples….

A tax and spend Liberal? According to John Nance Garner, YES !

Herbert Hoover did nothing about the Great Depression… The Great Depression was a transformative historical event and Hoover’s attempts to stem the coming flood have been long overlooked.  His policies did not prevent the deepening of the Depression, so they are discarded so historians can prepare students for the coming of the New Deal.   Hoover often misspoke about the state of the economy, like encouraging Americans to “work harder”  when work was more difficult to find.

  • Hoover signed bills creating the National Finance Corporation and the Emergency Relief Act.  These two laws gave huge government building contracts to select businesses around the country.  The laws pumped $4 Billion dollars to American economy.
  • Hoover signed two tax increases that raised the top marginal rate from 24% -63%  and the corporate rate from 11%-18%.  These were the first tax hikes in over 20 years.
  • Hoover was lambasted by the Roosevelt campaign in 1932 for taxing and spending the country into socialism.   New Deal Democrats later admitted that many of their programs were simply boosts to bills signed by Hoover.

How do you say ‘hippie’ in French?

Richard Nixon was a war criminal… The Vietnam war changed America in countless ways.  The New Left school of historic thought dominated the scholarship about Vietnam with anti-government rhetoric and a firm belief that grass-roots activism trumped strategic policy.  Nixon’s decision to attack NVA bases in Cambodia put him near the top of their list of villains.

Consider the policies enacted by these two Presidents… in terms of the issues that faced the American people.  Should they be considered failures?

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Review of “FDR: A Biography” by Ted Morgan

“FDR: A Biography” is French-American biographer, historian and journalist Ted Morgan’s 1985 biography of the 32nd president. Morgan was born Comte St. Charles Armand Gabriel de Gramont but changed his name (to an anagram of “de Gramont”) after becoming an American citizen in 1977. Morgan won a 1961 Pulitzer Prize in journalism and his 1982 […]

http://bestpresidentialbios.com/2016/04/07/review-of-fdr-a-biography-by-ted-morgan/

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Can’t Get Enough of James Garfield?!?

Few American presidents were as unknown to me as James Garfield before I started this journey through the best presidential biographies. Even fewer proved as unexpectedly interesting or as potentially compelling. President for just 200 days before succumbing to an assassin’s bullet, Garfield was poised to make a lasting impression on his country…and on the […]

http://bestpresidentialbios.com/2016/01/28/cant-get-enough-of-james-garfield/

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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.  Wilson
  4. Polk                                      2.  Buchanan                             2.  McKinley
  5. F.Roosevelt                            1.  Harding                           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 PracticallyHistorical.net

 

More to come….

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