The principles that rule this blog

Principles that will govern my thoughts as I express them here (from my opening statement):

  • Freedom of the individual should be as total as possible, limited only by the fact that nobody should be free to cause physical injury to another, or to deprive another person of his freedoms.
  • Government is necessary primarily to provide those services that private enterprise won't, or won't at a price that people can afford.
  • No person has a right to have his own beliefs on religious, moral, political, or other controversial issues imposed on others who do not share those beliefs.

I believe that Abraham Lincoln expressed it very well:

“The legitimate object of government is to do for a community of people whatever they need to have done, but cannot do, at all, or cannot
so well do, for themselves — in their separate, individual capacities.”

Comments will be invited, and I will attempt to reply to any comments that are offered in a serious and non-abusive manner. However, I will not tolerate abusive or profane language (my reasoning is that this is my blog, and so I can control it; I wouldn't interfere with your using such language on your own!)

If anyone finds an opinion that I express to be contrary to my principles, they are welcome to point this out. I hope that I can make a rational case for my comments. Because, in fact, one label I'll happily accept is rationalist.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

My own rating of Presidents

Although the recent poll which I cited in yesterday's post covered the ten most recent Presidents, my own preference is to rate the last twelve. My reason is that these are the ones whose terms have been within my lifetime. (Oh, FDR lived for a couple of years after I was born, but I can't say I remember his Presidency, as he died before my third birthday. So Truman is the first President whose service was really within my lifetime, I would say.)

Harry Truman is one President I think better of than I did when he was in office. His management of the quarrel with Gen. Douglas MacArthur, when I was yet a child, is one factor: as a child I thought Truman was wrong, but as I said in another post, by now I've come to a different conclusion: insubordination is not to be tolerated. Truman did some bad things, like trying to nationalize the steel industry, but considering his handling the issue of the atomic bomb (it's hard to believe that, in those days, vice-presidents were so out-of-the-loop that when he succeeded to the Presidency he knew nothing about it!) and the aforementioned MacArthur incident, Truman showed more competence than I gave him credit for at the time. I'd not call him a great President, but actually he was better than average.

Dwight Eisenhower became president when I was ten. By the time his term ended, I was eighteen. So he was really the President I came to political maturity under. (In those days, you had to be twenty-one to vote. But I think I really reached political maturity at about age fourteen. I have changed a little since then, but not much.) I think he was by far a better President than many historian-types make him out to be, because rather than a flashy Kennedy-type he preferred to work in more subtle ways. It is partly because of Eisenhower's Presidency that I am a Republican; the Governorship of New York State by Nelson A. Rockefeller was the only other important influence that made me what I am politically. So need I say that my opinion of Eisenhower as President is extremely high?

On the other hand, everyone else seems to give a high rating to John Kennedy. Yet I can't see why. As I said in yesterday's post, he botched the Bay of Pigs invasion, and he couldn't get a thing through Congress that he wanted to, though his Democratic Party controlled that Congress. The fact that, like the current President, he had a glamorous wife and was himself photogenic seems to have meant a lot, and his assassination made him a martyr, I suppose. But objectively, what did he accomplish as President?

Lyndon B. Johnson was a powerful President. Because of him, many of Kennedy's ideas did get passed, including his civil rights proposals. So LBJ gets high marks in the department of getting things done. He was, however, one President with no integrity. As a Senator from Texas, he was a typical Southern segregationist; as a President, he did more for civil rights than just about any other President. Obviously, civil rights was an issue he'd take either side on, based on how it would affect his election prospects. In my first Presidential election vote, in 1964, I abstained: Goldwater was someone too extreme, I thought (though later I found that his ideas weren't nearly as bizarre as the newspaper I read made them out to be!) and Johnson was too unscrupulous. If I could do it over again, my vote would have been given to Goldwater (though, of course, it wouldn't have done much good!)

Then came Richard M. Nixon. Just about the most hated President, yet I believe in fact the best in my lifetime. (No, I'm not putting him in the category of a Lincoln. Note the "in my lifetime" qualification.) I could spend so much time on Nixon, but I will keep this paragraph short. I may post some more on him. But as far as I can see, he had only one flaw, as I said in yesterday's post: he was too loyal to underlings who violated the law to help re-elect him. But is loyalty to one's political supporters really that bad? One thing I dislike about Barack Obama is his stabbing Alice Palmer in the back. I think perhaps Nixon's loyalty was not entirely a bad thing.

When Nixon was forced to resign, the Presidency fell upon Gerald Ford, a genuinely nice person who never wanted more than the Speakership of the House. I cannot say much about him; he didn't serve long enough to accomplish much, but he didn't discredit the office.

Ford was succeeded by Jimmy Carter, the most incompetent President of my lifetime. He actually appointed a man in charge of his drug program that had been censured for improperly prescribing drugs, and his attempts to get our hostages out of the Middle East were laughable. He also turned Nixon's accomplishments in getting honorably out of Vietnam and establishing contact with China into defeats. (We no longer have an embassy in Taipei, because of Carter!)

After Carter, anyone would have been an improvement, and obviously Ronald Reagan was. I might have preferred someone a bit more moderate, but, again as I said in yeaterday's post, he recognized the need for moderates in the GOP to have some of their goals as well. I don't rank Reagan as high as Nixon or Eisenhower, but not far below them.

Reagan had offered his Vice-Presidency to one of his moderate opponents, George H. W. Bush. And on reaching the end of the two terms that the Twenty-Second Amendment permitted Reagan, Bush moved into the Presidency. Though Bush and Reagan had come from different factions of the GOP, there was a lot of continuity, but unfortunately, a Democratic Congress got in his way. He had promised "no new taxes," but he couldn't get the budget he wanted through Congress, and taxes did go up. I don't blame him for going back on his promise. It was politically necessary. But it cost him re-election, and set the stage for Bill Clinton.

Carter may have been the most incompetent President of my lifetime, but Clinton was, except for the current occupant of the office, the most unscrupulous. It seems he wanted to emulate JFK, and at least emulated one of JFK's worse traits, a skirt-chasing proclivity that Kennedy could keep more secret than Clinton could. But between Whitewater and his trying to cover up the sexual harassment of his subordinates, I consider him the worst, bar none, of the Presidents. He should have been removed from office by impeachment, but politics in the Congress saved his neck.

George W. Bush, the next President, got the country behind him in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks. But he let anti-war sentiment undermine his Iraq policy. I preferred his father's moderation to his more right-wing orientation, but I consider that again he is one who I rate higher than many other people. I'd have voted for him again if there hadn't been a Twenty-Second Amendment.

This takes us to the current President, Barack Obama. Our worst? No, that title I reserve for Bill Clinton. But only because his Presidency hasn't been corrupt. He's gone against the wishes of the people on health care, and tried to do so on other things, and generally violated the idea that this is a government by the consent of the governed.

That's all for now. But I may expand on some of these at a later date.

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