Tuesday, February 17, 2009

My Thoughts on the recent historians rankings of the Presidents


Lincoln wins: Honest Abe tops new presidential survey - CNN.com. Go peek and then read.


I'm pretty good with Lincoln at #1. It's very hard to argue with the man (warts and all) who freed the slaves, held the nation together as a political entity and resisted (more or less) the urge to become a dictator. I do think it's funny how many similarities there are between this man and The Man Historians Despise, G.W. Bush. But that would be the subject of a much longer post.

I'm still puzzled why other historians love Harry Truman. My reading is that of a party hack who inherited the White House and did everything in his power to rebuild the political machine that his predecessor was building before WWII broke out. He was not terribly bipartisan, he did not inspire public confidence, and he allowed war in Korea to break out on his watch. Some historians even argue that Truman's belligerence towards Stalin exacerbated the Cold War. I am willing to give good marks for rebuilding Europe under the Marshall Plan, and to ensuring that Japan emerged from the war as a pro-West enclave.

Washington remains the Indispensable Man. The gravitas he exhibited as First President should be an example to us all.

I am quite pleased that Reagan has finally cracked the Top Ten. It's no secret that academic historians are a left-of-center bunch (come on, Brinkley, I've used your textbook before!) and they absolutely despised Reagan. Time is sobering them up on Reagan's role in ending the Cold War --that, and the emergence of Vladimir Putin in the absence of decisive American world leadership as a reminder that the Toquevillean rivalry was not a figment of the military-industrial complex.

And yes: Buchanan is the worst President we've ever had. I'm not wild about Carter, either, and would rank him somewhere in the 31-40 range.

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