How Are Presidents Rated?

History Q & A

Mr. Thompson, professor of public administration, University of Nevada, teaches about the presidents.

Suffering through the Y2K litany of"The Greatest" this and that of the Millennium and the Century, I was not impressed with the discussion of American leaders. Show after show featured historians expounding the same drivel we have been fed ever since we opened our high school history books. Franklin Delano Roosevelt"saved the free enterprise system" (although panels admitted our economic distress was as great in 1939 as it was in 1933 when he took office). Franklin Delano Roosevelt"humanized" government (with programs such as public housing). Franklin Delano Roosevelt saved Democracy both here and in the world (although the panels admitted he gave eastern Europe to Stalin).

Albert Einstein was seen as the greatest man of the century because he helped give us the"Bomb," the accomplishment that was"the greatest." And of course Harry Truman remained a"great one," with his forceful decision making, such as using the"Bomb," albeit there was no mention of the civilians who were on the ground to receive the greatest gift. And, of course, we heard again of Woodrow Wilson, who gave us the League of Nations (no mention that the Iroquois Nations came up with the same idea four centuries ago).

Lincoln, Jefferson, Washington--nothing new, no serious questioning, no insights beyond half-truths and false myths we have had shoved down our throats as part of our public school" civic" education since early childhood. Clearly, the millennium assessments presented to us by our major media sources qualified to be labeled ones by"Presidential Cults and Cultists."--the title of the first chapter of Thomas Bailey's 1966 book, Presidential Greatness. In the book, Bailey reviews the attempts of historians to make lists of our presidents from best to worse, from the greatest to near great, to average, to failures.

Bailey reveals the" cults" surrounding the darlings of biased panelists, noting that liberals, Democrats, and the Harvard educated are disproportionately represented. Ergo: in 1945 a general public poll of"greatest" Americans overlooks Andrew Jackson, but in the same year Arthur Schlesinger Jr. writes a glowing history of Jackson and wins the Pulitzer Prize. Arthur Schlesinger, Sr., conducts a poll of historians in 1948 and Jackson is now listed as a"Great." The Jackson cult emerges.

Bailey makes a strong case against the listings, offering insights overlooked by myth-makers, and exposing their obvious biases--thrashing Republicans for personal moral shortcomings, and completely overlooking the same character deficiencies in their"favorites"; deploring conditions of the downtrodden, but applauding those leading us in wars to expand slavery; loving civil liberties, but praising those who have most destroyed freedoms of individuals. Bailey's book was never referred to by the Y2K historians. I think he made a fatal admission in his second chapter. He indicated that since 1966 he had voted for presidential candidates of one party five times and the other party six times. He certainly failed the historians'"litmus test" of qualifications for rating our leaders. He simply was not a yellow-dog Democrat. Unfortunately, Bailey succumbs to the historians' premise that presidents can be ranked, and he too engages in the exercise.

The polls and the discussions and not just media exercises, they are fodder for our schools to use to brain-wash the public. Criticism of the efforts (whether Schlesinger's or Bailey's) is essential. One president does not have to be better than another. They are not in a tournament. In fact one, William Howard Taft, refused to participate in a survey of the greatest Americans taken in the 1920s. Enough cultism. We are a civic culture, and our number one virtue should be truth, and this number one game has been played outside of the boundaries of truth long enough. Courtesey of TomPaine.com

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Keneau n/a Arnet - 11/4/2004

Until further notice... a xord to the xise.

Be hereby notified that I am suspending use of all "W's" in my xriting for 48 months or until such other time as the defamed 23rd letter falls out of disrepute. -Keneau Arnet