Monday, February 16, 2009

Presidents’ Day

As a boy, we had two holidays in February. The 12th was devoted to the birth of Abraham Lincoln, the 22nd to that of George Washington. At some point Congress decided to combine them into one holiday, and so the Monday that falls somewhere between the two is designated "Presidents' Day," and we get the honor all of them, even the lousy ones. Forty-two men can now be said to have occupied this office in the past. (No, not forty-three; Grover Cleveland was both the 22nd and 24th to hold the office.) C-SPAN decided to gather a group of historians to rate them periodically. A chart has been compiled to show how they fare now...

  1. Abraham Lincoln
  2. George Washington
  3. FDR
  4. Teddy Roosevelt
  5. Harry Truman
  6. JFK
  7. Thomas Jefferson
  8. Dwight Eisenhower
  9. Woodrow Wilson
10. Ronald Reagan

...compared to 2000. Ed Morrissey of Hot Air provides his usual astute analysis:

I find it terribly ironic that Harry Truman gets ranked as #5 now. I don’t have a big issue with that ranking, but when he left office, he was less popular than George W Bush, who comes in at #36 in this survey. It was Truman more important than Thomas Jefferson, who doubled the size of the nation with the Louisiana Purchase and set the stage for Manifest Destiny? I know JFK wasn’t a better President than Jefferson, which alone makes this survey deeply suspect.

It is interesting to see how well JFK fared, but hardly surprising given the gullibility of an ill-informed American public. While recognized even in his time as a charming and charismatic figure, he was sharply criticized for a number of foreign policy blunders. More people blame LBJ and Nixon for our involvement in Vietnam, yet it was Kennedy who put us there, LBJ who back then advised against a land war in Asia, and Nixon who got us out.

At least Reagan did well. Somebody was using their head.

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