Today is Presidents' Day. The holiday that started out honoring Washington and Lincoln and somehow morphed into paying tribute to all of the men who have been elected to the position--whether they deserve accolades or not. Here is my Top Five list of Presidents who are worthy of honor today.
Number One--Abraham Lincoln. Preserved the Union, freed the slaves and gave his life for the cause of freedom. Not bad for a home-schooled kid from the frontiers of Illinois and Indiana who lost more elections than he ever won. Fighting the Civil War was not an easy decision for him. As a member of Congress from Illinois he had spoken out against the Mexican-American war as a grasp for military glory by President Polk (who is one of those deserving little accolade today). But Lincoln knew his was the time to fight the war for freedom and preservation of the union. Maybe a few partisan politicians in Washington should heed his warning "A house divided against itself cannot stand."
Numer Two--George Washington. Won the War for Independence then turned over control of the military to Congress--just as he had promised to do. Established most everything it means to be Presidential. Refused to be called His Excellency (can you imagine using that term for Presidents now?) Focused his entire first term on domestic affairs. Quit after two terms knowing eight years in power was enough. My favorite part, in his farewll speech he warned of the dangers of political parties and tying the country's interests to foreign powers.
Number Three--Thomas Jefferson. Wrote the Declaration of Independence--spelling out in brilliant detail why America should not have been bound by Colonial rule. Got the Louisana Purchase from the French at a huge bargain--opening the West to exploration and settlement. Staunch supporter of the separation of church and state and the right to bear arms. Felt power should not be centralized in the Federal Government. I know Democrats like to claim him as their "first President" but he would be more of a Libertarian today. Founded a University in his spare time after being President.
Number Four--Teddy Roosevelt. He's on Mount Rushmore, but TR never seems to get the respect and honor he deserves. Made the US a global superpower in the early part of the 20th century. Built the Panama Canal, founded the National Parks System, broke up the trusts--guaranteeing fair competition in the US free economy. His best advice on foreign policy: "Speak softly--but carry a big stick".
Number Five: Ronald Reagan. Let the historians and the liberals howl--but can you point to a politician that has had a bigger effect on your life today? Founded the economic policy that led to the longest sustained period of economic growth in the country's history. Three of his successors have basically coasted on his success by not changing the game plan. Laid the ground work for winning the Cold War. More people owe their freedom to the actions of Ronald Reagan than anyone else in history. His greatest achievement: restoring America's pride in itself. Reagan would tell you it was Americans themselves who turned things around on their own. Everyone was just sick of feeling bad about Vietnam, Watergate and disco.
Worst President of all time: Jimmy Carter. You know how the Clinton camp likes to say Barack Obama isn't "ready" to be President? Well Carter was totally unprepared for the job. His economic polilcies were so bad they had to create a new measurement tool called the "Misery Index"--a combination of the unemployment rate and the rate of inflation. For most of Carter's term it was above 25. You think this "recession" now is bad? The misery index would be about 7 today. And don't forget about the 18% interest rates on mortgages in the late seventies if you think the "mortgage crisis" is so bad right now. And then there was the energy crunch (wear another sweater folks) and the Iran Hostage Situation that made the US look weak. A dismal time.
So where would I put our most recent Presidents? George W Bush would go in the bottom one-third. Expansion of Federal powers and programs is disturbing for a so-called conservative. Good response to attacks by militant Islam but poor execution in fighting the real enemy.
Bill Clinton I would put somewhere in the middle of the pack--along with the other "just riding along" Presidents like James Buchanon and Calvin Coolidge. On the job during boom times and no major crises. Gave him plenty of time for less-Presidential activities. Also docked points for failing to respond to the growing threat of militant Islam as it gained international power.
Oh, and as far as the three serious candidates still in the running for this election--I wouldn't be reserving any space on the side of Mount Rushmore for this trio.