Friday, March 26, 2004

Ranking the Presidents

They're at it again, this time at Opinion Journal. Here are the rankings, with my commentary:

1 George Washington. First in war, first in peace, always first in the rankings.

2 Abraham Lincoln. Still the tallest of the lot. Someday a president may stand taller physically (pray it's not Kerry), but none will ever stand taller morally.

3 Franklin D. Roosevelt. He had the good "luck" to inherit a depression and stumble into a popular war. If he had been president in a different era he would have been considered a philandering failure.

4 Thomas Jefferson. His greatness cannot be negated by historical revisionism.

5 Theodore Roosevelt. A hyperactive nut-case with good press.

6 Andrew Jackson. Another nut-case, with bad hair.

7 Harry S Truman. The right man in the right place at the right time.

8 Ronald W. Reagan. He ended the cold war, licked inflation, set the stage for the boom of the 1990s, and made anti-government rhetoric respectable. But that's not enough for some people.

9 Dwight D. Eisenhower. The most cunning of the lot. His decade looks better all the time.

10 James K. Polk. Who? What?

11 Woodrow Wilson. The first of the pointy-headed ineffectuals to hold the job. Maybe he'd have done better if he'd kept his first name (Thomas).

12 Grover Cleveland. Great name and one of the last small-government Democrats. Would we remember him at all if he went by his first name (Stephen)?

13 John Adams. Belongs with Truman in the greatest crotchety president category.

14 William McKinley. Too bad he was shot while TR was his vice president.

15 James Madison. Sold "short"?

16 James Monroe. Excellent doctrine. Too bad JFK didn't adhere to it.

17 Lyndon B. Johnson. Terrible foreign policy, terrible domestic policy, other than that, who's complaining?

18 John F. Kennedy. Spent most of his time in bed (sick or with mistresses), so how can he be ranked?

19 William Howard Taft. Best of the super heavyweights.

20 John Quincy Adams. Better in Congress than in the presidency.

21 George H. W. Bush. Stopped short of deposing Saddam, raised taxes, lost to Clinton. A three-time loser. But he leads the pack in names.

22 Rutherford B. Hayes. Replaced Grant's bourbon with lemonade. Boo.

23 Martin Van Buren. The original Who? What?

24 William J(efferson) Clinton. Belongs with Nixon. Doesn't deserve his middle name.

25 Calvin Coolidge. Most under-rated by far. He knew exactly how to be president: Keep your hands off the economy and out of taxpayers' pockets. Another one who dropped his first name (John).

26 Chester A. Arthur. Another Who? What?

27 Benjamin Harrison. Ditto to Arthur.

28 Gerald R. Ford. And double ditto. Could have been worse, though, he was born Leslie King Jr.

29 Herbert C. Hoover. FDR without the oratory.

30 James Earl (just call me Jimmy) Carter. Ford would have been better, which isn't saying much.

31 Zachary Taylor. Yet another Who? What? The 19th century was replete with them.

32 Ulysses S. Grant. Bourbon drinkers can't be all bad.

33 Richard M. Nixon. He and Clinton belong in a separate sleaze category.

34 John Tyler. Fathered the most children, and not even Catholic.

35 Millard Fillmore. I don't "Know-Nothing" about him.

36 Andrew Johnson. Had the bad luck to succeed Lincoln and be a drunk, to boot.

37 Franklin Pierce. Another drinking president -- seems like a trend.

38 Warren Gamaliel Harding. Who really killed WGH? Maybe he should have gone by his middle name, like Cleveland, Wilson, and Coolidge.

39 James Buchanan. Lincoln's stepping-stone to immortality. Ranked last because he failed to prevent an unpreventable war. LBJ, Nixon, Carter, and Clinton were worse.