Monday, February 20, 2006

Top 5 Favorite Presidents

On President’s Day, a lot of people create lists of who they think were the best presidents. I don’t claim to be enough of a presidential scholar to offer a meaningful ranking of presidents. But I will list my favorites as I think everyone who’s interested in American politics is, to a certain degree, influenced and motivated by admiration for past presidents. So, without further ado,

1) Theodore Roosevelt. Spirited and driven, TR was always more concerned with what was right than what was popular. Tough when strength was needed and compassionate when goodwill was needed, Roosevelt embodied my own personal view of what it is to be American. The progressive movement he helped start was rooted in a deep belief that the common man should have every opportunity for advancement, so long as he (or she) was willing to work hard. I sincerely believe the spirit of Teddy is what’s most needed in our modern times.

2) Thomas Jefferson. Has there ever been a wiser man as president? Jefferson embodied the clear vision and noble intentions of our founders and led with a combination of passion and intellect not often seen in our presidents. He was a man of science who nevertheless believed in the immeasurable, unquantifiable rights of mankind. He was a president who questioned the power of the presidency. He was truly a man of The Enlightenment. Not only a great president but a great American.

3) Abraham Lincoln. This man made more difficult choices during his presidency than most world leaders ever make in their entire career. Looking back, the righteousness of Lincoln’s actions seem so clear, but they must have seemed so cloudy, so covered in grey during his day. Hundreds if thousands of American lives could have been spared battlefield death had Lincoln let the South succeed in peace. But he understood that the greater good sometimes requires painful sacrifice. Such clarity of vision is rare, not only now, but throughout history.

4) Franklin Roosevelt. This was a man who never hemmed and hawed over the proper role of government. He understood, at his very core, that government is of the people and for the people and when the people are hurting and are desperate for help, the government has the obligation to step in. Roosevelt’s New Deal policies were right not because they are universally right (many of them would be misplaced or even disastrous today) but because they were right for the time. He marshaled the resources of government in a bold and virtuous attempt to save the people. And then he did it again as he took the nation to war and quite literally helped save the world.

5) Bill Clinton. Seems out of place, doesn’t he? Well, I said this wasn’t a list of the “best” presidents and it’s not. But I can’t leave off my list of favorites the only president I voted for twice. With personal failings no less severe than the other men on this list, Clinton put us on the right course both economically and socially. His welfare reform, his balancing of the budget, his decision to stop genocide in Bosnia were just a few of his good and proper decisions. He has been much maligned by many people, but Clinton led this nation well and I refuse to believe it was merely good luck that gave us such peace and prosperity. Sadly, I don’t see enough people seeking to revive Clinton’s tough but fair approach to governing. We have tough and unfair. We have fair and weak. But why have the convictions of the New Democrats fallen so far out of favor? That’s a shame.

4 Comments:

Anonymous Bill Jouris said...

I don't think any list of greatest presidents can be complete without George Washington for one simple reason: without him, there would be no Presidency.

He was offered the opportunity to be a monarch -- and refused. He could have been President for life, but stepped aside after two terms -- and until FDR nobody dared run for a third term, let alone more.

You can argue about what he actually DID as president, but there is no doubt that without him nobody else would have had a chance at the office.

12:30 PM  
Anonymous middleman said...

A pretty good list. I largely agree. As far as favorites,I'd go:

1. TR- Substantive Swagger is tough to pull off.
2. Thomas Jefferson- The soul of the nation. Can you imagine a philosopher winning the presidency today?
3. Abraham Lincoln- The greatest president.
4. George Washington- I agree with Bill's comment above. A week before Adams was to take office, King George III joked that there was no way GW would leave such power. Then Washington leaves on a white horse! Classic. No matter how you feel about Bush v. Gore, once 7 old men and 2 old women ruled on the case, we had a new president with no bloodshed. Such a peaceful resolution is a legacy of George Washington.

I guess now I have to pick a non-Rushmore president.

5. Harry Truman- Politics aside, the guy was a character. And talk about great quotes!

HM- Reagan, Eisenhower, FDR, William Henry Harrison (because no one else is gonna pick him.)

3:44 PM  
Anonymous Joe said...

The list for MVP...

1. Lincoln
2. FDR
3. Washington
4. TR
5. Truman

3 who could have made the list but fell short in different ways are Reagan, Jackson, and Jefferson. Reagan for Iran-Contra, Jackson for Trail of Tears and not chartering the Bank of the US, and Jefferson for that stupid self-imposed embargo.

3:57 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i think president kennedy should of been added to this list.

7:51 AM  

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