Originally Posted by mrbaseball
I gotta go with Washington. He was the only guy who could pull off being numero uno. Things were very fragile at the time and "democracy experiment" could have easily failed miserably.
But for my money one/two being Washington/Lincoln or Lincoln/Washington works for me. FDR is waaaay down on my list for many of the reasons already stated by others.
Washington could have been King. He declined the role and lead the nation into a new era of politics. I vote him number 1.
Lincoln for all the faults of Hab.Corpus being suspended was brilliant in so many ways. I shutter to think were we would be today had he not been killed. The South would not have suffered the carpetbaggers, nor the black man the indentured servitude. Lincoln had an ability to Unite the Nation after the war in a way that neither Johnson nor Grant could ever do.
FDR deserves some of the credit thrown his way. I agree he was greatly helped by the Second World War, but Wars in and of themselves do not solve economic and social crisis as faced by our nation and the world in the 1930-40s. He served us for 16 tumultuous years. He had the rhetorical skills to make the nation feel secure and the moral urgency to lead the nation. While he was fortunate to mostly have a compliant Congress which didn't question him sufficiently especially in later years, he properly proceeded with the War, with the economy and in much of his social agenda. He did all of that while dealing with the pain and agony associated with Polio. He gets serious cred from most historians and deserves it even if we don't agree with all the policies.
Truman had to make the toughest decision of any President, and did so unflinchingly. His training for the job was nearly non-existent yet when he had to, he stepped up both in making the decision to bomb Japan with the A bomb and in supporting the Marshall plan. I am not sure but I think he selected Justice Jackson to lead the Nurenburg Trials and that too was an excellent appointment. Korea was a terrible error and it goes against him being the greatest but he is certainly in the next level.
While JFK did not serve long enough for consideration as the greatest, he had what I think was the Second hardest decision, and again he chose correctly. He DID NOT Fire nuclear weapons at Cuba or Russia but put together a brilliant strategy to avert nuclear war. Kruschev gets an assist there too from what I am hearing. He stood up to the hard liners but he paid the price. I guess JFK did too...
Nixon is so personally flawed that it is hard to think of him as a great president. That is sad. No one president has ever been as good as he was on Foreign Policy. I doubt we will ever see one as good again.
Gotta give kudos to L.Johnson for passage of the Civil Rights act, but he was stuck with Kennedy's Vietnam an never could get that right.
President Regan... He is looking better with each passing year. I do not think the wall in Germany would have come down without his moral leadership and his 100 percent American can do position. RR unlike Bush II had a certain air of confidence in our country that was not gringoistic and not snobby. He could appreciate the culture of foreigners yet be just as secure as John Wayne in his beliefs. I am looking forward to 30 or so years from now when some of his papers that are still classified come out. I think we will see a much more nuanced man than we gave him credit for. BTW it is not coincidence that he rose along with Solidarity in Poland, and the Rebirth of the Catholic Church under John Paul II. I don't think either of those two things happen without RR at the helm in the USA. I am positive they wouldn't have happened had he lost that election. I am looking forward to seeing the correspondence between Regan and JPII.
Finally my favorite, TR. Teddy Roosevelt. He single handedly brought America into the 20th Century nearly screaming and kicking. Old money, Harvard educated, Republican, Teddy was a trust busting- Foreign policy trailblazing one man show. Like Ronald Regan he too saw the potential of our whole nation. Educated in NY and Massachusetts Teddy had a love of the West and an understanding of the people who went west. He saw and experienced the Pioneer in each American. He also had the ability to accomplish whatever he set his mind to. We overlook him as he did not lead us in War, nor in economic hard times, however we never look to see that his leadership and personality kept us from war and economic hardship. He deserves consideration among the very best.
Maybe however we should over look our need to quantify, qualify, and rate every President. As a nation, we have had but a couple/three klunkers. We mostly choose our leaders well, and while we may not always get the best, we get close enough most of the time. Additionally, even those whom we may not look at all that kindly have a way of stepping up when the need arises.
It really irks me when some blow-hard like Rush Limbaugh roots for our President to fail. He is really rooting for us all to fail. I may not always agree or even like the POTUS but I prefer to take a lesson from John Wayne (the actor)
In speaking about President John F. Kennedy who Wayne ardently opposed in the tight 1960 presidential election. The Duke said:
"I didn't vote for him but he's my president, and I hope he does a good job."
They have all been my presidents, and I think they have each done the best job they could.