So I’ve decided on something I think could be interesting to post, my favorite Presidents. Before I present this list I have to make a few concessions. First, Barack Obama cannot be included in this list, because he is currently President. I don’t like the fact that people rate current Presidents among the best or worst. Until their term is complete we do not truly know how to rank them. Second, this is not a list of the best presidents, just my favorites, for various reasons. They may not have had the most successful terms. So here we go.
Grover Cleveland is possibly the United States’ most unusual president. He is the only President to serve two non-consecutive terms. In his first term he used his veto power more than all his predecessors combined. He saw the Presidency as the one blockade to congressional overreach. That record held until FDR. In a fact I recently learned, he is also one of only six Presidents whose official portraits show them with facial hair. He happens to be the only Democrat.
It is hard to argue about Jimmy Carter. Again, I have to reiterate that I’m not talking about the best Presidents. His presidential term has never been considered among the most successful. We should consider a few things though. One, the Iranian hostage crisis was not really forseeable. It is difficult to gauge the temperament of another country. When the U.S. embassy in Tehran was stormed Pres. Carter could have done little to prevent it. Here at home he made one very good decision that proved highly unpopular. With the U.S. economy in recession, he appointed Paul Volcker to the Federal Reserve. Against the opinion of his political advisors, he told Volcker to do what it took to restore the economy. He never really got credit for that unpopular decision. Volcker’s actions did restore the economy. After his Presidency, Carter has continued to be the class act he always was. He and his wife Roslyn are an example to us all. This is a President of the United States, who after being the most powerful man in the world, used his bare hands to build houses for the poor. Perhaps no better man has ever held the office.
Madison has a very solid reputation in the legend of this country. He was the principal author of the Constitution. He was a major contributor to the Federalist Papers. Madison was more than that however. It is famously described that his wife, Dolly, rescued the portrait of George Washington during the fall of the Executive Mansion, and Washington, D.C. That battle lead to one of Madison’s lesser known distinctions. While many American Presidents have been military leaders, Madison is the only serving President to lead American troops into combat. That has to gain you respect, even if you didn’t write the most important document in the formation of our nation. Which he did.
It’s tough as a liberal not to include FDR. He was undoubtedly a man of vision. At a time of crisis, he knew what needed to happen and was willing to do whatever it took to accomplish it. The United States has never come closer to having a dictator than FDR. He came to the Presidency in one of a few times when this nation could have disintegrated and he was willing to do anything to prevent that. Many Presidents may have had convictions as strong as FDR, but none was as convincing. None faced the deep problems that he did, and yet he became the longest-serving President ever. He was truly a giant among men.
My favorite President could have been a tie with #2. In fact, they are related. Teddy Roosevelt was by every measure of the phrase, larger than life. He was a war hero, a politician, and a man who saw the United States and the American President, as a world power, 20-40 years before it was actually true. He was a Republican, a Progressive, and the Father of our National Parks. One of his great accomplishments was the construction of the Panama Canal. The canal is one of the most significant achievements of the 20th century. He undoubtedly possessed a once in a lifetime mind.
This was a quick list, but I think it shows what I consider important about the Presidency. Presidents need to be considered for much more than the outcomes of their actions, but for the intentions and convictions. If we continue to elect people of brilliant capacity, people in the mold of these five, will we endure as a country.