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Major League POTUS - The Hard Part, Part I

It's been an interesting few days, as readers come to grips with my outline of how Presidents may be compared to one another on something like even ground. A lot of off-topic sniping and character bashing has been going on, which I removed to clarify the discussion. I have to say again, that while expression of opinion is fine, for this topic the gutter stuff is not going to be allowed.

Which brings me to the really hard part of today's post, a condition which I suspect will sharply limit the number and depth of valid responses. It comes down to my contention that every single President, regardless of what else we can say about them, had certain qualities which helped them ascend to the office. They were also all human, meaning that they all had blind spots, weak areas, and personal foibles to some degree. Once again, this is not an attempt to say that all Presidents are the same, or that one given President may not soundly thump an opponent in a match-up; it is simply an observation that people tend to paint leaders in solid colors, bright or foul. Such glorification or demonization detracts from the worth of examining the Presidents, and diminishes these men to caricatures.

So, for this part, the instruction is this: Consider the five areas of Presidential Responsibility which I described yesterday.

[] Responsible Attention to Military Threats and Needs
[] Responsible Attention to the Economy
[] Responsible Attention to the Balance of Branch Authority
[] Responsible Attention to the U.S. Constitution
[] Responsible Attention to Advancing/Protecting American Interests

With those in mind now, for each President (or as many as you care to note) list the category where he was strongest and the one where he was weakest. It is possible that the "strongest" category could still be one where you are not impressed with the man, and in the "weakest" category you may happen to believe that this President was strong, simply not as amazing here as in the other areas. But this exercise, in addition to helping folks discover some of the more intricate details in evaluating Presidents, may also serve to help folks see the men in more than one dimension. As an example, one of the more commonly mocked Presidents, if he is remembered at all, is Millard Fillmore. Fillmore became President upon the death of Zachary Taylor in 1850, and he is often pilloried as a man who did not stand up against Slavery. However, on closer examination Fillmore, who opposed slavery but suffered from a lack of influence with Congress, understood better than most people the peril of his position. Even in 1850, the South was discussing the possibility of secession, or what amounted to the same thing, the refusal to follow Federal law. This was the reason for the drafting of the Compromise of 1850, which was tied to the crucial decision to admit California as a state to the Union. Fillmore understood that as things existed in 1850, the United States could not withstand a Civil War, and the Union could not hope to compel the South to remain in or rejoin the Union. He needed time, and a build-up of the Union Army. Few Whigs understood Fillmore's wisdom, and the decision helped break the party. But Daniel Webster, writing of Fillmore's resolve, wrote "I can now sleep of nights". Understanding this facet of a man unfairly considered ignoble, is a key step in comprehending the work done by all the Presidents.

Comments (26)

There's a fundamental flaw ... (Below threshold)

There's a fundamental flaw to your theory. Candidates are not selected by the public today on the basis of their qualifications, but rather how well they are marketed. Believe me, I *wish* that the public took elections seriously enough to vote for the best man for the job, but if you don't think those days are gone forever, just look at people like Obama and Thompson. It's fair to say that the public didn't know squat about what either of them stand for -- if, indeed, they stand for anything at all -- it's just the they present themselves well to their respective groups. The same could be said of GW Bush. He was the candidate that voters said they'd most like to have at a picnic with them. Of course that has nothing to do with how well he'd serve, but it makes him more attractive and today, that'a all it takes.

I am not talking about elec... (Below threshold)
DJ Drummond:

I am not talking about elections, blackcat, but performance in office.

And I trust the system to the degree that while we may not get the best man, we tend to get one of the best available, or at least a better man than his opponent is ever willing to admit.

Apparently I trust the people more than you do?

Unfortunately, the campaign... (Below threshold)

Unfortunately, the campaigns are what gives us our leaders, and ever since Lee Atwater, the qualifications of the candidate are downplayed for hot buttons, wedge issues and hype. And don't think that I only believe this to be true of Republicans, though generally they are better at it than the Democrats. The victory of Ned Lamont was a perfect example of how rationality can be tossed out the window by a clever campaign.

But let me provide an example. In 1968, Dick Nixon was elected president with the Southern Strategy and a lot of caricaturing of the issues. That year, I'd supported Bobby Kennedy, so I was no fan of Hubert Humphrey, but I still supported his candidacy over Nixon's. But Nixon had a MUCH better campaign and thus was elected narrowly. And what did we get?

[] Responsible Attention to Military Threats and Needs
Nixon was a typical cold warrior and that led to a number of moves which were terrible in retrospect such as support for dictators so long as they were OUR dictators. He also did nothing to reverse the mistakes which LBJ was making in Vietnam, at least until the war became politically untenable. The whole idea of these proxy wars whether in SE Asia or the mideast was foolish.

[] Responsible Attention to the Economy
He didn't do too badly here, but the economy was still fundamentally sound so it was a lot more difficult for Washington to mess things up than it is today.

[] Responsible Attention to the Balance of Branch Authority
Nixon was the personification of paranoia, and so he ran the White House with a bunker mentality and no cooperation from congress. (And yes, I do realize the feeling was mutual.)

[] Responsible Attention to the U.S. Constitution
He gave lip service to conservative values while operating in a manner totally opposite. IMHO, transparency is the cornerstone of our system of government and the more people have an obsession with secrecy, the worse it operates.

[] Responsible Attention to Advancing/Protecting American Interests
Vietnam was against our interests and he supported it for a long, long time. As I said earlier, he was willing to use extreme means to gain and control satellite states, and even though it may have been what appeared to be a short term victory, it defeated the principles that America is supposed to promote. I will give him credit for creating the first crack in the door with Red China. Prior to that, our policy was to act as if they didn't exist and that was counterproductive. That was a very risky move politically, but it worked out well.

So overall, Nixon, like every other president, is a mixed bag. The problem is that no matter how you score the five criteria, he will ultimately go down as one of our worst presidents because he betrayed the public trust. That's no on your scorecard, but it certainly matters.

blackcat; "The problem i... (Below threshold)
DJ Drummond:

blackcat; "The problem is that no matter how you score the five criteria, he will ultimately go down as one of our worst presidents because he betrayed the public trust"

Please think about your subjectivity in that statement. It assigns a whole value to Nixon that does not attempt to understand his intentions. He's "evil", and/or "corrupt", slap a label and call him done. And that's wrong.

Not because I agree with Nixon's actions in all cases, especially the Watergate scandal, which outraged Republicans just as as it did Democrats. But how does Nixon stand, say, measured against the poor temper of Andrew Johnson, the inability of Calvin Coolidge to consider his economic polices, or the economic and foreign policy mistakes by Carter? It's not that "A" is better or worse than "B", but to look at the areas of focus and critical need, to understand not only the man but the method. Because we will not see Richard Nixon again, but if we fail to understand how he came to act as he did, the method could recur.

As I said in past posts, part of this exercise is to apply what we learn to the candidates of today. To do that, however, we need to understand the principles in effect and purpose, to see why something worked or did not work. If we simply paint the presidents of History in gilt or silt, we lose the chance to understand our current candidates in context.

>>slap a label and call him... (Below threshold)

>>slap a label and call him done. And that's wrong.

It's oversimplistic, that's for sure, and yet these are the days of the soundbite. If you can't reduce an idea to ten seconds with a memorable catchphrase, the public seems to be unable to comprehend it. Yes, this is another case where I don't seem to have much faith in the public but the evidence backs me up -- compare Iran-Contra to Monicarama and see which one grabbed the public's attention...

Like I said, when Nixon opened relations with China, that was HUGE, but it got lost in all things Watergate. Carter got a peace treaty between Egypt and Israel that still works today, but all people can remember is the Iran hostage crisis. I could go on and on.

Ummm, folks, not to pick on... (Below threshold)
DJ Drummond:

Ummm, folks, not to pick on him, but Chris G's response is what we had earlier this week, not what is the task for today.

I will start off, just to set an example.

From our last 5 Presidents in the big 5 areas, GW Bush did best in the Military, and was weakest in the Constitution.

Clinton was strongest in the Economy, and weakest in Military.

GH Bush was strongest in Military, weakest in Branch of Government.

Reagan was strongest in Constitution, weakest (ironically) in Military.

Carter was strongest in Constitution, weakest in Advancing U.S. Interests.

From the first 5 Presidents:

Washington was strongest in Constitution, weakest in Military.

John Adams was strongest in Advancing U.S. Interests, weakest in Military.

Thomas Jefferson was strongest in Advancing U.S. Interests, weakest in Constitution.

Madison was strongest in Constitution, weakest in Military.

Monroe was strongest in Advancing U.S. Interests, weakest in Economy.

That's the idea, anyway.

Okay, I'll play. Let me to... (Below threshold)
Cousin Dave:

Okay, I'll play. Let me toss out a not-often-heard name: Chester Arthur. The circumstances under which Arthur becaome President were unusual, to say the least. After the Civil War, the Republican Party had broken into factions along lines generally having to do with Reconstruction and the shape of the post-war federal government. Up until this time, all civilian employees of the federal government were appointed by the President, and in fact Arthur had worked his way up through a succession of such appointments. A reform movement had emerged that wanted to eliminate this and establish a professional class of government employees, hopefully eliminating the corruption in government appointments that was rampant at the time. Another faction called the Stalwarts was opposed to this, arguing that a civil service would become unresponsive to the people and that the traditional spoils system must be preserved.

U.S. Grant, as President, had been a Stalwart. But his successor, Rutherford Hayes, had attempted to institute reforms in some appointments -- including the Collector of the Port of New York, a position held by Arthur. Using his existing powers, Hayes had fired Arthur. And so Arthur had sided with the Stalwarts, even though he harbored reformist tendencies himself. In the 1880 Republican convention, the Stalwarts had tried to win back power by nominating Grant for a third turn, while the reformers' choice was James Blaine. A third group which controlled a few votes wanted General William Sherman. The convention deadlocked, with neither being able to achieve a majority. After 36 ballots, a compromise ticket of reformer James Garfield for President, with Stalward Arthur in the Veep slot, was proposed and won the nomination and subsequent election.

While in Dallas(!) in 1881, Garfield was assassinated by a Stalwart supporter. It was the only assassination of a President for explicitly political purposes in U.S. history. The assassian made it clear that his purpose in committing the act was to make the Stalwart Arthur the President. But Arthur, shocked by the event and mistrusted by the public (who suspected him of involvement in the assassination), joined the reformers. He pushed through the Pendleton Act, which established the modern civil service system in the U.S. federal government.

Now, we complain a lot about civil service today, not entirely without justification. But imagine the alternative -- a federal government with millions of employees, all politically appointed! The only thing that would hold corruption in check in such a system would be the sheer impossibility of nominating and confirming the number of appointments that would be required for each Presidental term.

So let's evaluate Arthur against the criteria:

[] Responsible Attention to Military Threats and Needs

The U.S. engaged in no significant military involvements during Arthur's term, so assigning a grade is not possible. The Civil War had ended years before, and the Spanish-American War was not yet on the national radar.

[] Responsible Attention to the Economy

I give him a rating of Good. Arthur was fairly successful at resisting Congress' attempts to raise tariffs. And during his term, further spending on Reconstruction (which by this time had become a cesspool of corruption) was curtailed. The government wasn't as much of a factor in the economy then as it was today, so take this rating for what it's worth.

[] Responsible Attention to the Balance of Branch Authority

I don't know if I can assign a grade here. Republicans controlled the federal government to an extent that neither party has achieved since 1900, so disputes took the form of between party factions rather than between government branches. Nothing significant in terms of checks and balances happened during Arthur's term, as far as I know.

[] Responsible Attention to the U.S. Constitution

I give Arthur a rating of Excellent based on his pushing through the Pendleton Act. It probably saved the U.S. government from degenerating into something resembling the Mexican government of today. This may not appear to be a constitutional matter per se, but I claim that it was every bit as important to maintaining a meaningful Constitution as the First Amendment is.

[] Responsible Attention to Advancing/Protecting American Interests

I give Arthur a grade of Good. Keeping tariffs from rising gave American goods more presence in the international economy, such as it was in 1880. Under Arthur, the first immigration control laws were passed; the actual content of those laws was a mixed bag, but the principle was established. And Arthur's administration was an advocate of establishing worldwide standard time zones, which have since become crucial in international commerce and transportation.

DJ: To get it back on the i... (Below threshold)
Cousin Dave:

DJ: To get it back on the intended track, I'll pick five Presidents from the 20th Century: Harding, FDR, LBJ, Nixon, and Reagan. Here's how I rank them:

Harding was strongest in Constitution (he strongly supported the 19th Amendment, which granted the franchise to women, and he was an early civil rights supporter). He was weakest in Branch Authority (he made a number of poor appointments and his term was dogged by scandal).

FDR was strongest in Advancing American Interests (his prosecution of WWII, obviously. He was weakest in Balance of Authority (his Supreme Court-packing scheme, his numerous federal programs that were found unconstitional).

LBJ was stronest in Military Threats (his attention to Vietnam, the Cold War, and the space race / missile gap). He was weakest in Constitution (he ran roughshod over the Legislature, abused the FBI, and allowed the Civil Rights Act to become a vehicle for "remedial" discrimination, and let's not even get started on Abe Fortas).

Nixon was strongest in Advancing American Interests (Cold War, going to China). He was, rather obviously, weakest in Constitution (wage and price controls, expansions of federal regulation / unfunded mandates, spurious claims of executive privilege).

Reagan was strongest in Advancing American Interests (Cold War, SDI, supporting Britian in the Falklands War). I can't come up with any area where he was particularly weak, although if I had to pick something, I guess I'd go with Military Threats based on Lebannon. However, I don't think that's really fair; the Lebannon thing is more than compensated by Reagan's efforts to rebuild the military in the wake of the Carter destruction. And besides, Reagan admitted that he learned a lesson in Lebannon, and there were the successful operations in Panama and Grenada.

That's the thing, Dave. Yo... (Below threshold)
DJ Drummond:

That's the thing, Dave. You have to think about where each President was at his best, and where he might have missed something.

I'll put in my 2 cents, but... (Below threshold)
P. Bunyan:

I'll put in my 2 cents, but have 2 comments first. One, I don't believe it is possible to objectively rate the Presidents. What one may see as a good thing, another will see as a bad thing. And two, I'm not exactly using the format you suggested as I don't think that will yeild much useful data. So with that said, here is my take:

[] Responsible Attention to Military Threats and Needs
Best: (1) George W. Bush
(2) James Monroe
(3) Ronald Regan
(4) Thomas Jefferson
(5) John Kennedy

Worst: (1) Bill Clinton
(2) James Buchanan

[] Responsible Attention to the Economy
Best: (1) Ronald Regan
(2) George H.W. Bush
(3) George W. Bush
(4) Chester Arthur
(5) Benjamin Harrison

Worst (1) Franklin Roosevelt
(2) Jimmy Carter
(3) Herbert Hoover
(4) James Monroe
(5) Rutherford Hayes
(6) William Taft

[] Responsible Attention to the Balance of Branch Authority
Best: (1) George Washington
(2) Chester Arthur

Worst: (1) Andrew Jackson
(2) Bill Clinton
(3) James Madison
(4) Warren Harding

[] Responsible Attention to the U.S. Constitution
Best (1) Andrew Jackson
(2) Abraham Lincoln
(3) James Madison
(4) Rutherford Hayes

Worst: (1) Bill Clinton
(2) U.S. Grant

[] Responsible Attention to Advancing/Protecting American Interests
Best (1) Thomas Jefferson
(2) Abraham Lincoln
(3) Theodore Roosevelt
(4) George W. Bush
(5) Ronald W. Regan
(6) James Polk
(7) Millard Fillmore
(8) Andrew Johnson
(9) George H.W. Bush

Worst: (1) James Buchanan
(2) Franklin Pierce

And uh, the Panama campaign... (Below threshold)
DJ Drummond:

And uh, the Panama campaign was during GH Bush.

Okay here are the five cate... (Below threshold)

Okay here are the five categories and how I'd rank the five most recent presidents in terms of their performance in each, from best to worst.

[] Responsible Attention to Military Threats and Needs
B41, Reagan, Clinton, B43, Carter

[] Responsible Attention to the Economy
Clinton, B41, Reagan and B43 and Carter both get zeroes.

[] Responsible Attention to the Balance of Branch Authority
Carter, Reagan, B41, Clinton, B43

[] Responsible Attention to the U.S. Constitution
Carter, B41, Reagan, Clinton, B43

[] Responsible Attention to Advancing/Protecting American Interests
With the qualifier that I believe that this is NOT defined by military action alone....
B41, Clinton, Carter, Reagan, B43

And blackcat's 4:16 post pr... (Below threshold)
P. Bunyan:

And blackcat's 4:16 post proves my point that no matter how hard you try, D.J., you will not get objective results. Your attempt to do so is like the leftist's attempts at national security and world peace-- it's a wonderful dream but no where near reality.

He has a right to his opini... (Below threshold)
DJ Drummond:

He has a right to his opinion, P Bunyan.

Although blackcat, what I am asking for is, for each President, identify his strongest and weakest category.

[] Responsible Attention... (Below threshold)
Chris G:

[] Responsible Attention to Military Threats and Needs

Bush and Reagan hands down. They viewed threats to the US's security with swiftness, and were responsible for substantial increases in defense spending for personnel and equipment following periods of cuts (Clinton) or outright neglect (Carter). They also had a "line in the sand" mentality that left no doubt to their position concerning our response to agression againt US interests.

[] Responsible Attention to the Economy

Bush and Clinton. Opposite approaches with Bush's tax cuts to stimulate the economy, and Clinton's tax increases to capitalize on the economy's expansion and increase revenue. In truth, the economy has less to do with the White House and more to do with Wall Street or Walmart for that matter. Clinton knew the free market was a great way to boost government revenues, and was pretty fiscally sound and responsive to the economy's trend.

[] Responsible Attention to the Balance of Branch Authority

This is a misleading requirement. No branch operates sensitive to the balance of power of other branches. Bush runs the Executive branch like he owns it, as he should. I just Congress would spend more time running the Legislative branch like they should, and less time trying to be co-bosses of the Executive branch. Both the Republican and De congresses are guilty of either abusing their powers or being derilect to do their jobs.

[] Responsible Attention to the U.S. Constitution

Another misleaading question. The Constitution outlines the powers of each of the 3 branches expressly. This also includes interpreted powers not expressly stated. Ccongress can' send troops to war and the president can't cut checks, nor can judges create statutes. There maybe overlap in some cases, but in the grand scheme of things, it works.

[] Responsible Attention to Advancing/Protecting American Interests

While Bush is strong on military action and fighting terror, he has failed to end our dependence on oil and thus our being held hostage by the Middle East. This is the same reason Clinton did not respond to Islamic aggression. Reagan is the last president to properly balance both domestic and foriegn interests.

I can answer solidly for th... (Below threshold)

I can answer solidly for the first six presidents, and that's as far as I've gotten in a year and a half-long research project evaluating each president. (Started in January, will end in summer of 08)

[] Responsible Attention to Military Threats and Needs
Washington - Good. Washington laid down the nucleus of the U.S. Navy.
J Adams - good. Argued for expansion of Navy and establishment of standing Army. Fought Quasi-war with France.
Jefferson - Wretched for military needs. J fought against the formation of a standing army and Navy. Good in response to Barbary pirates.
Madison - wretched in poor preparation for War of 1812, better as war progressed.
Monroe - Excellent. Argued for vast military improvements (forts on the coasts and frontiers)
JQ Adams - negligible

[] Responsible Attention to the Economy
Washington - no opinion
J Adams - no opinion
Jefferson - Poor. Jefferson inflicted the embargo on the nation for 15 months in his attempt to get the British (and French) to stop impressments. Didn't work, and hurt the economy, esp. in New England.
Madison - Fair. Madison realized that his early position opposing a national bank was a mistake, when it came time to funding a war.
Monroe - Poor to fair. Did little to combat the Panic of 1819 (though this is a judgment through modern lenses.)
JQ Adams - Good. The "American System" of high tariffs actually works, and America was generally prosperous during his term.

[] Responsible Attention to the Balance of Branch Authority
Washington - no opinion
J Adams - no opinion
Jefferson - Good, but only because his attempts to get revenge against Federalists led to the SCOTUS decision creating judicial review--giving the high court parity with the other two branches.
Madison - no opinion
Monroe - no opinion
JQ Adams - no opinion

[] Responsible Attention to the U.S. Constitution
Washington - excellent. Very diligent and careful.
J Adams - Fair to poor. Adams' Federalist party's Sedition act was blatantly unconstitutional.
Jefferson - Mostly good. Expanded executive authority while staying within constitutional boundaries, even with the Louisiana Purchase.
Madison - Good. The author of the constitution made sure all of his actions remained within constitutional boundaries.
Monroe - Good.
JQ Adams - Good.

[] Responsible Attention to Advancing/Protecting American Interests
Washington - Good. Washington's men negotiated the highly unpopular Jay Treaty with England, which Washington wisely adopted to avoid a useless and probably losing war at that time.
J Adams - Fair to Good. America's troubles with the French consumed most of Adams' term, culminating in the Quasi-war.
Jefferson - Good. Louisiana Purchase, 1st Barbary Pirate War,
Madison - Excellent. War of 1812, even though it was a disaster, secured America from foreign attack for over 175 years. Also 2nd Barbary Pirate War.
Monroe - Excellent. Monroe Doctrine, Florida annexation. Treaty of Adams-Onis
JQ Adams - Fair to good. The "American System" of protectionism worked, and the administration established several free trade agreements. (But Adams rarely received credit.)

What, am I typing in Fre... (Below threshold)
DJ Drummond:

What, am I typing in French here?

For each President, please identify his strongest and weakest category.


DJ _ I don't read French. M... (Below threshold)

DJ _ I don't read French. My bad, my apologies.

If you want, delete that en... (Below threshold)

If you want, delete that entry (and this one) and I'll repost it correctly

>>identify his strongest an... (Below threshold)

>>identify his strongest and weakest category.

Carter Strongest would be advancing American interests through measures such as the mideast accords. The weakest would be his treatment of the military.

Reagan: Strongest would be his attention to the balance of the system, weakest would be advancing interests. He was very confrontational which reduced our stature with a good part of the world.

B41: He was the best, by far, at the proper response to threats against the country by bringing virtually the entire world together to deal with the invasion of Kuwait. And to be honest, he didn't really have any glaring weaknesses.

Clinton: Best at his handling of the economy, worst at respecting the constitution.

B43: You're going to hate me for this, but I really believe that just as Bush Sr had no glaring weaknesses, Bush Jr has done nothing competently during his time in office. This is not Bush-hatred, although I'm sure you think it is. He's simply totally out of his depth as president much as US Grant and Warren Harding were. All three were/are decent fellows in their own right, I suppose, but that alone doesn't make them presidential material.

I don;t hate you, blackcat.... (Below threshold)
DJ Drummond:

I don;t hate you, blackcat. I know this will probably anger you, but your inability to concede even the basic skills and accomplishments Dubya has shown, reflects your own limitations. There are, to be sure, Republicans who cannot bring themselves to admit that Bill Clinton had some ability and did some good in office. You simply fall into the other said of that canyon, those blinded by their hatred against Dubya.

I can't change your perspective, but hopefully as you have time to reflect on the historical record of all 42 men who have served, you will be better able to accept the things which made George W. Bush competent. Not that I have any intention of making pep0le see things my way on all points, but the ability to credit the good in your opponents is a hard but vital intellectuial skill, and a crucial element to political honesty.

DJ,As you wrote in... (Below threshold)
P. Bunyan:


As you wrote in the title, doing it according to your rules is the hard part. Very hard--especially for recent President's. For instance I'd give G. W. Bush high ratings in almost every category, be able to cite my reason's and have a hard time picking the best or worst. With Clinton, it'd be the opposite. That's why I posted what I did earlier. But, I have a lot of respect for your intellect, insight, and integrity, and since this is a multi-part thing you've probably got something planned that I haven't caught on to so I'll try it again following your rules. Also, since you likely do have some plan here, you can go ahead and delete my 4:11 post as it's probably a waste of bandwidth. Anyway, the only way I can see to be as objective as possible is by thinking of some President's from the longer ago (all were re-elected); and this is still my personal opinions, not how I think they were perceived by the majority of the voters at the time.

George Washington: strongest - branch authority
weakest - advancing/protecting interests

Thomas Jefferson: strongest- advancing/protecting interests
weakest - economy

Andrew Jackson: strongest- Constitution
weakest - advancing/protecting interests

Abraham Lincoln: strongest - advancing/protecting interests
weakest - constitution

US Grant: strongest - advancing/protecting interests
weakest - branch authority

Teddy Roosevelt: strongest - advancing/protecting interests
weakest - economy

Franklin Roosevelt: strongest - military threats & needs
weakest - economy

Again, these are my personal opinions from a perspective of many years gone by, not how I think the voters perceived them at the time. In many cases it was very, very hard to choose either the weakest, strongest, or both.

And for what it's worth,</p... (Below threshold)
P. Bunyan:

And for what it's worth,

Clinton: strongest - economy (Didn't pay attention it for the most part but due to dumb luck the economy did well for the first several years of his Presidency. NAFTA, rejecting Kyoto, and welfare reform were his best moves. Overall did more harm than good and left office with the economy in recession and over half a million jobs lost. Still this was his strongest point.)

Weakest - attention to military threats & needs (Iraq, Al Qauda, "peace dividend")

GW Bush: strongest - attention to military threats & needs (Accurately recognized the greatest threat in our time and acted accordingly to actually work towards solving it. Maybe he didn't have the best plan, but he most likely did. Time will tell.)

Weakest - branch authority (Didn't use it, for the most part. Well to be fair, the democrats obstructed a lot of the good that could have been done. But he let the leftist MSM define his presidency. I know it's hard when they have so much power and so much invested in his presidency being a failure, but I sure wish he'd done more and been a better communicator.)

Oh, and in explaining the C... (Below threshold)
P. Bunyan:

Oh, and in explaining the Clinton weakest category, I could've added Somolia. It wasn't a military threat but it was a military need at which he sorely failed. The need to not be defeated or perceived as weak.

I have all the respect in t... (Below threshold)

I have all the respect in the world for you, DJ. I just wish that you could concede that it's possible for a person to be rational and yet find nothing meritorious in the current administration. It's not partisanship. You'll notice that B41 is my highest-rated president. And I'll admit that I didn't think so at the time, but in retrospect, he handled the job very capably, especially the first Gulf War. And maybe a dozen years from now I'll think differently of this Bush. Who knows. But from the near perspective, I honestly don't see it.

blackcat, that's why I clai... (Below threshold)
Cousin Dave:

blackcat, that's why I claim that W's Presidency cannot be fairly judged at this close range. Consider that back in 2000 a pretty good number of conservatives (and some liberals) were rating Clinton as the Worst President Ever, with absolutely no redeeming values. But as P. Bunyan has just pointed out, he was actually pretty good on economic issues, much better than, say Nixon.






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