Until Theodore Roosevelt was levitated to Office upon the assassination of William McKinley the Presidency was, except for the period of the Lincoln administration, essentially ceremonial. Listing the accomplishments of the Presidents between Jefferson and Roosevelt would be as challenging as listing the accomplishments of Hilliary Clinton which could be summed up as…she married Bill Clinton. It was Roosevelt who used the “bully pulpit” as a progressive and he understood how powerful the chief executive could be with an aggressive approach.
That said ranking the men who served at least one full term and excluding the best, the worst (see previous post) and the least competent can be easily undertaken. The best of the rest would include Polk, Jefferson, Truman, Cleveland and T Roosevelt. Polk was unique in that he announced before assuming office that he would not seek a second term. This stunning development may have postponed the birth of cable news by 150 years. The worst of the group would be Hoover, H.W. Bush, Nixon and Van Buren. It is of interest to note that Hoover and Nixon were two of the smartest men to occupy the White House.
The rest have their own particular idiosyncrasies that make them interesting individuals but as Presidents they can best be described as ciphers. John Adams, Madison and Monroe were founding fathers. J.Q. Adams was one of smartest of our Presidents and one of the most accomplished outside of his role as President. Grant was a remarkable leader during the Civil War but was out of his element in the White House. Taft went on to be the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court which had always been his career preference. Eisenhower and Coolidge were caretakers and they presided over fairly quiet times, historically speaking. Coolidge rode the rising economic tide that followed the Harding tax cuts. Eisenhower was accused of being a Communist by Robert Welch, founder of the John Birch Society. Russell Kirk observed that Ike was not a Communist, he was a golfer. In contradistinction to Obama Ike was actually a competent golfer. Nixon falls to the bottom of this group because of his corruption and his attempt to control wages and prices. He did, however, have some major foreign policy successes. George Will summed Bill Clinton up as follows: “He was not our worst President but he was the worst man who was ever President.” Apologies to those mediocrities that escaped comment.
There remain three Presidents who would objectively be described as incompetent meaning that they did not have the skills, the experience or the character to be successful in the White House. They are the poster children for the application of the Peter Principle.
James Buchanan was quite simply incapable of making a decision. Contrary to what most people believe seven of the Southern slave states seceded from the Union while Buchanan was still President. His reaction was to hide in the White House and count the days until Lincoln was sworn in. He was sympathetic to the slave states and was unable to challenge them, in part, because he was a member of the party of slavery.
James Earl “Jimmy” Carter was the author of the single most destabilizing event since the Holocaust. Carter decided the US would not support the Shah of Iran when the people of Iran rose against him. Then he turned a blind eye to the return of the Ayatollah Khomeini from exile in France. His rationale for the fiasco was that the Shah fell short of Carter’s rose colored glass view of human rights. Needless to say the Ayatollah made the Shah look like Mother Teresa. The return of the Ayatollah kick-started the rise of Islamist terrorism. Carter was the godfather of ISIS. On the home front Carter broke new ground. We had been told that low unemployment would drive inflation and that lowering inflation would give rise to higher unemployment. Carter proved them wrong by delivering both high unemployment and high inflation. He attributed the poor economic performance during his administration to a malaise among the US population. I think it was rather his complete ignorance of all things economic. He actually believed that the world would run out of oil by the end of the century. This delusion was quickly put to rest by Reagan when he deregulated the oil industry and, as if by magic, the world oil reserves skyrocketed. The best of his worst, however, relates to his inability to pronounce the word “nuclear” and he was allegedly a “nuclear engineer”. He vaulted right past nucular to “nookier.” Happily this was not a real problem because he deferred to his daughter on nookier policy.
No one could possibly have thought anyone could be worse than Carter but they simply did not foresee the arrival of Barack Obama. You can get a complete understanding of Obama from the comment he made at one of his political events recently. He was asked about his legacy to which he replied: I saved the world from a great depression. Comb the archives of presidential utterances and you will not find anything even close to this level of self-delusion. Sadly he may actually believe this idiotic statement. Apparently this sort of lunacy is contagious in the Obama administration. His spokeschild Josh “not so” Earnest, when faced with a tough question related to one of the cornucopia of international missteps by the President, directed the attention of the assembled lickspittles to the “tranquility” around the world brought to us by his employer. This while the Middle East is in flames, Libya has become an ISIS outpost, Egypt was international HQ for the Muslim Brotherhood (a social group like BPOE according to the administration), North Korea is lobbing missiles all over the Pacific (apparently they program their Dongs to hit only the Pacific Ocean, and only barely at that), China is sabre rattling across the Pacific rim and ISIS is on the march in Europe. It is safe to say the only tranquil area left under Obama is Tierra del Fuego.
But the best of the worst was the use of a new word by our fearless leader at a Marine ceremony. Corpsman Martinez was being acknowledged by the President. He twice referred to “Corpseman” Martinez. One might haveassumed Martinez was an undertaker. If George W. Bush had ever gotten tangled up with the word Corpsman it would have been fodder for SNL for five years.
The combination of Obama’s ignorance of all things necessary to be President and his narcissistic self-delusion has allowed him to blow past Carter as the worst of the worst.
Next post will address the pending Trump-Clinton campaign…prediction: the loser will be Bill Clinton because we are going to relive his endless trysts as part of what should be the worst mudslinging since the Jefferson campaign of 1800. James Callendar call your office.