My lasagna loving brother suggests to me today -- the day after president's day -- that perhaps I should post my presidential rankings.
The thought hadn't really occurred to me, but given how I dedicate four chapters in President's Most Wanted to rankings, maybe he has spandex pants from the eighties a point.
To much fanfare, C-Span released their rankings, which was "guided by a team of academic advisors" (translation: a bunch of tweed-wearing liberals). Ok, so their team included Richard Norton Smith and Douglass Brinkley; my team included me, Frankie, and Frankie's Sponge Bob doll.
In the book, I divide the rankings into four chapters:
Great and Near Great
1. Abe Lincoln; 2. George Washington; 3. FDR; 4. Teddy Roosevelt; 5. Harry Truman; 6. Thomas Jefferson; 7. Andrew Jackson; 8. Ronald Reagan; 9. Dwight Eisenhower; 10. John F. Kennedy
11. James Polk; 12. James Monroe; 13. Woodrow Wilson; 14. William McKinley; 15. Grover Cleveland; 16. James Madison; 17. Chester Arthur; 18. John Adams; 19. Bill Clinton; 20. George H.W. Bush
21. William Howard Taft; 22. Calvin Coolidge; 23. Marvin van Buren; 24. John Quincy Adams; 25. Gerald Ford; 26. Zachary Taylor; 27. Benjamin Harrison; 28. Lyndon Johnson; 29. Jimmy Carter; 30. John Tyler
The Bad & the Ugly
31. Rutherford B. Hayes; 32. Franlkin Pierce; 33. Millard Fillmore; 34. George W. Bush; 35. Warren G. Harding; 36. Ulysses Grant; 37. Herbert Hoover; 38. Andrew Johnson; 39. James Buchanan; 40 Richard Nixon. I didn't rank Garfield (the president, not the cat) and William Henry Harrison because their terms were so short.
Keep in mind, my rankings were published two+ years ago. The first five we got exactly the same, which was interesting. Not surprisingly, I have Reagan higher; they have Wilson higher. I was shocked, however, to see Andrew Jackson at 13; I had him at 7.
The rest of the top-20 is pretty similar, with one HUGE exception: Lyndon Johnson ... the pointy heads had him at 11 (WTF? WTF? WTF? WTF?), while I correctly had him at 28. Let's see: HE LIED TO GET US INTO A NEEDLESS WAR AND IN THE PROCESS TORE THE COUNTRY ASUNDER. Sound familiar? This is where the academic historians show their liberal bias. For the love of the peace sign, I can't figure out how anyone could consider LBJ anything but a miserable failure; to rank him as a near great is patently absurd. I absolutely don't get it. I'd love to interview one of these historians and talk this through. In fact, I'm going to make that a goal next year -- to cross examine a few of the C-Span historians and figure out how they concluded that Lydon Johnson should be a near great.
The rest of it is pretty similar, too. I ranked George W. Bush at 34 (again, two years ago), while they had him at 36. Of course, if I had known that the economy was going to fall off a cliff, I probably would have ranked him lower. The other big difference is Chester Arthur. I think he's the most underrated president in history, and deserves to be in the top-20. The C-Span gang unimaginatively dumped him near the bottom, which I think is wrong. We had Nixon different, too: I have him last because he was emotionally unfit to be president, and posed a real threat to the Republic. I don't think you can segregate out the good things -- China, detente, etc -- from the criminal behavior.
Anyway, that's my list. What's yours ...