How presidential rankings can rankle and reek

The latest presidential rankings suggest #metoo and racial tumult have affected several reputations, notably Andrew Jackson (out of the top ten and tumbling, thank the lord or Jon Meacham) and Woodrow Wilson’s (same). Poppy Bush is solidly in the top twenty; expect him to rise when the obit writers eulogize him as the Last Sane Republican. Andrew Johnson remains as reviled as ever, perhaps more so as we re-examine the catastrophe of the abandonment of Reconstruction. Ron Chernow’s superb bio has rehabilitated Ulysses Grant’s reputation much as David McCullough’s did for John Adams seventeen years ago. But why Warren Harding gets more shit than the incorruptible Calvin Coolidge (who actually did sleep while the fires were set for the burning of Rome) I’ll never know;  he needs the Chernow-McCullough treatment, I suspect. But what the bloody hell is George W. Bush doing above Chester Arthur and Benjamin Harrison?

At the bottom, chewing on James Buchanan and Franklin Pierce while trapped in ice, is the current occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

Here is the aforementioned top ten:

1. Abraham Lincoln
2. George Washington
3. Franklin D. Roosevelt
4. Theodore Roosevelt
5. Thomas Jefferson
6. Harry Truman
7. Dwight D. Eisenhower
8. Barack Obama
9. Ronald Reagan
10. Lyndon Baines Johnson

A couple friends asked, so here is my brief history of infamous men:

1. Abraham Lincoln
2. FDR
3. George Washington
4. Lyndon Baines Johnson
5. Barack Obama

I’m not interested in the empty signifier “Did Important Things.” I’m interested only in what they, in collaboration with Congress, pushed legislatively or alone by executive order that benefited the most Americans during moments of crisis. I’ve written thousands of words on FDR and Barack Obama; their legacies remain intact. And LBJ’s commitment to black Americans and the old and the sick must be weighted against his commitment to murdering thousands of young American men — mostly those selfsame poor and black — in Vietnam.

3 thoughts on “How presidential rankings can rankle and reek

    1. humanizingthevacuum Post author

      Thank you for the kind words. I have serious qualms with your defense of the Mayaguez Incident in the Ford entry. We lost men for the sake of a prestige that didn’t deserve restoring, not after Vietnam and the horrors we learned about during the Church hearings.

      Reply
      1. sdu754

        We needed to show the world that we weren’t afraid to defend ourselves after Vietnam, and that we wouldn’t pushed around by third world countries. Especially in light of the weak and feckless responses to the Pueblo incident and the Iranian hostage crisis.

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