Ranking reeking presidents

The latest presidential rankings suggest #metoo and a reckoning with the men’s prejudices affected several reputations, notably Andrew Jackson (out of the top ten and tumbling, thank the lord or Jon Meacham) and Woodrow Wilson’s (same). The late Poppy Bush, stretching his legs and aglow with the knowledge that obituary writers praised him as the Last Sane Republican, gets comfortable in the top twenty. 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 John Adams seventeen years ago. But why Warren Harding gets more shit than Calvin Coolidge (who actually did sleep while the fires were set for the burning of Rome) I’ll never know;  he needs the Meacham 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. Franklin Delano Roosevelt
3. George Washington
4. Lyndon Baines Johnson
5. Barack Obama
6. James Madison

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. Symbolism matters. His presidency often folded his achievements as a member of the Constitutional Convention and the first two Congresses, James Madison is the only Chief Executive who didn’t curtail civil liberties during war (a war foolishly conceived and maladroitly prosecuted, I might add). I’ve written thousands of words on FDR and Barack Obama; their legacies remain intact, their motives a muddle. LBJ’s commitment to black Americans and the old and the sick of every race must be weighed against his commitment to murdering thousands of young American men — mostly those selfsame poor and black — in Vietnam.

6 thoughts on “Ranking reeking presidents

    1. 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.

      1. 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.

  1. I have no idea of this. Sorry to interrupt insightful communication. But there were elections in my country last year. Incumbent take us back two centuries. What happened during the narrow election and during the campaign was the thing I was willing to talk: simply, Putin is the one who’s pulling the strings in liberal democracies.
    There’s no point in getting around this.
    He, as much as leaders of suspicios teocracies want Populists to destroy ancient institutions to corrupt liberal democracies from inside. To CORRUPT more, I,d add. To make it implode from inside.
    The worst the do, the better for them.

    They also select who,s the CONVENIENT one to oppose the Incumbent. It must be similar populist, with tendencies towards dividing the opposition and followers just AS RADICALIZED as the incumbent MUST have.

    Meaning. It, Sanders who they want. If not Trump, then him. Don,t tell I haven’ t warned.

    They need RADICALIZED candidates who divide the most democratic parties. Who can present a following as intolerant as the candidate himself. As weak for being able to walk the path that steers to autocracy. That undermines true representation. It doesn’t matter if he,s a leftist or otherwise. It matters he/she has a complicated personality, very unstable. Prone to autocracy and impulsiveness. A cult of personality-like figure. A Messiah. In an country with hyper-presidentialist history that counts even more.

    Believe there are people willing to use whatever parh to undermine Western liberal demovracies right now regardless who wins what.

    It happened in Brazil. It happened here. It will happen there. That,s what I’m seeing. Take care.

    1. I don’t know HOW but they also manipulate polls. Don,t believe everyrhing it,s been told so far. And vote, vote, vote.

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