February 18, 2013

Most overrated presidents

Happy Presidents’ Day! Meet The Five Most Overrated American Presidents

By Ian MillhiserAmericans love to rank things. So lists of the best presidents in American history frequently allow historians to duke it out over whether George Washington, Abraham Lincoln or Franklin Delano Roosevelt should be remembered as our nation’s greatest leader. Meanwhile, recently departed President George W. Bush already ranks close to the top in polls of historians asked to rank the worst president in American history. Rather than wade into the thicket of which men best or worst served their nation during their time in the White House, we would like to offer a different kind of list. Here are five presidents who routinely rank far above what their performance in office deserves in surveys considering presidential performance:

1. Andrew Jackson

The Democratic Party frequently hosts Jefferson-Jackson Dinners honoring President Jackson and another historic president who is also on this list. It should reconsider this practice, as Jackson’s policy towards Native Americans was only a few steps shy of genocidal. In theory, President Jackson’s Indian Removal Act, permitted him to negotiate voluntary agreements with tribes in the southeastern United States encouraging them to exchange their eastern lands for new territory in the west. In reality, Jackson’s forced migration policy was anything but voluntary. By his last year in office, 46,000 Native Americans were removed from their lands, opening up tens of millions of acres to white settlement and slave-worked agriculture. As many as a quarter of the southeastern Cherokee people died of cold, hunger, and disease in the Trail of Tears march that began shortly after Jackson left the White House.

2. Ronald Reagan

3. Woodrow Wilson

4. Thomas Jefferson

Like Wilson, Jefferson’s legacy is far more mixed than malign, as no one can question the significance of his contributions to American history—beginning with the document that declared us an independent nation. Yet Jefferson’s most important accomplishment as president was also the most important flip-flop in American history. During the Washington Administration, Jefferson led a losing faction seeking to constrain federal power to foster the nation’s economic growth far beyond the limits contained in the Constitution’s text. This narrow vision of the Constitution initially led him to oppose the Louisiana Purchase as president, although he eventually relented and doubled the size of the United States in the process.

5. James Madison
Comment:  The comments about the Louisiana Purchase ignore the fact that the land belonged to the Indians, not the French or Spanish. The comments also ignore the many unfortunate consequences. Here's a summary of them:

The Louisiana PurchaseOn April 30, 1803, the United States government made one of the greatest land transactions of all time when it purchased from the French Republic for $15 million dollars, a piece of real estate extending from the Gulf of Mexico north to Canada, and from the Mississippi River Basin west to the Rocky Mountains. Called the Louisiana Purchase, this transaction added 830,000 square miles of uncharted wilderness to the territory of the United States.

The Louisiana Purchase opened the west for settlement by Europeans and Americans and had grave implications for American Indians, who would soon find their ancestral homelands taken from them. It allowed for the extension of slavery, brought an end to French and Spanish domination in Arkansas and allowed a diversity of settlers to develop and perpetuate their own cultures in the six distinct geographic regions of the state.
For more on the subject, see "Most Terrifying Man Ever Elected President" and Best and Worst Presidents for Indians.


Anonymous said...

In fairness to Reagan, the man was clearly insane from the minute he started falsely claiming his fellow actors were Russian spies back in the 40s. Everything after that makes sense in context.

dmarks said...

There were a bunch in Hollywood who were Soviet agents, but Reagan was indeed wrong if he claimed someone was involved with the CP and there was no evidence that they were.

I'd like to see the list of names at issue.