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June 12, 2017

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PaulB

Steve, disagree with you about Taylor/Fillmore. Taylor despite being a Louisiana slaveowner took a hard line against the South which led to the crisis of 1850. Would the South have seceded had he not died? Impossible to say but there's no question that with him as president and a much smaller Northern economy than would be the case ten years later that dissolution of the union would have been inevitable.

Upon Taylor's death, Fillmore deftly worked with Steven Douglas to push through Clay's failed compromise plan by breaking it up into individual pieces. Whigs and Democrats from the lower North and upper South voted for each segment, sometimes with solid Southern support (Fugitive Slave Act, pay for Republic of Texas bonds etc.) and sometimes with Northern support (California admitted as a free state etc..). 195 years later, it's no problem for us to decry the Fugitive Slave Act but the Compromise of 1850 probably saved the Union then.

If you wish to criticize Fillmore, you can point out that upon the dissolution of the Whigs that he became the candidate of the American (Know Nothing) Party in 1856 rather than joining the newly formed Republicans who emphasized anti-slavery more than nativism.

Orin Kerr

From the CBS News page: "Coolidge is rated poorly for crisis leadership and failing to work for equal justice for all Americans. He refused to use the country’s economic boom to help struggling farmers and workers in other flailing industries."

Does that mean he was too libertarian to be what historians think of as a good President? I thought he was considered a progressive on race issues based on the standards of the day, as the below Wikipedia text suggests.

"Coolidge repeatedly called for laws to make lynching a federal crime (it was already a state crime). Congress refused to pass any such legislation. On June 2, 1924, Coolidge signed the Indian Citizenship Act, which granted U.S. citizenship to all American Indians living on reservations (Indians off reservations had long been citizens). [129] On June 6, 1924, Coolidge delivered a commencement address at historically black, non-segregated Howard University, in which he thanked and commended African-Americans for their rapid advances in education and their contributions to U.S. society over the years, as well as their eagerness to render their services as soldiers in the World War, all while being faced with discrimination and prejudices at home.[130]
In a speech in October 1924, Coolidge stressed tolerance of differences as an American value and thanked immigrants for their contributions to U.S. society, saying that they have "contributed much to making our country what it is." He stated that although the diversity of peoples was a detrimental source of conflict and tension in Europe, it was peculiar for the United States that it was a "harmonious" benefit for the country. Coolidge further stated the United States should assist and help immigrants who come to the country, and urged immigrants to reject "race hatreds" and "prejudices"."

Steve Lubet

Coolidge's vice president (for his elected term) was Charles Dawes of Evanston, whose home was a few blocks from Northwestern's main campus.

anon

These rankings are akin to Congressional "scorecards" ... the NRA's comes to mind.

Using contemporary left wing political sensibilities (including the "cool Prez" criterion for someone like Kennedy), these ratings, like USNWR, use click bait tactics to lure folks to sit there clicking away. The authors claim the authority to contend that Polk, for example, should score at the level he did (ask "Spotty Lincoln" about that one).

Absolute nonsense with a few exceptions.

Ian Holloway

I have a relative who did some genealogical research, and who discovered that we are descendants of Martin van Buren. So my view is that he clearly should rank in the top 5. Washington, Lincoln, Roosevelt, Jefferson and van Buren. That seems about right, huh?

Anon JD/MD

How can historians rate Lyndon Johnson as the 10th greatest president? Millions of Vietnamese, and tens of thousands of Americans died because of Johnson’s arrogance, lies, and gross imbecility.

Johnson misled the American people after the Gulf of Tonkin incident, to gain support for his policy in Vietnam. He promised that he would not commit American boys to fight a war that ought to be fought by the boys of Asia. Yet that is exactly what he did. Lieutenant General H.R. McMaster wrote in “Dereliction of Duty,” that Johnson and McNamara regularly ignored the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Johnson distrusted the military, and wanted yes men who agreed with him. These decisions resulted in a catastrophe for our country and Vietnam.

Johnson and McNamara believed they could defeat an insurgency by pursuing a supposedly low risk strategy of “graduated pressure.” They began by attempting to deter North Vietnam from supporting the insurgency through an escalating bombing campaign. When that failed, they escalated the ground war. Johnson and McNamara believed they could destroy the Vietcong in a battle of attrition. They obsessed over body counts. As the war dragged on, the Johnson administration lied to the American people that the military was making progress toward victory. They claimed the end was supposedly near, until the Tet offensive exposed the truth.

Fighting insurgencies was not a conundrum at that time. The French military officer David Galula, published two books in the early 1960s on the practice of counterinsurgency warfare, based on French colonial warfare. Victory in Vietnam would have required a long term commitment of U.S. troops to protect villages and cities, in order to isolate the Vietcong from the people. Victory would also have required developing long term relationships with the people, and earning their trust and respect by investing in infrastructure projects. But Johnson and McNamara thought they knew more than the military. So U.S. troops were sent into the jungles of Vietnam to hunt and kill the elusive Vietcong. Rather than build, Johnson destroyed, by dropping millions of tons of bombs. Johnson is a disgrace.

anon

Anon JD/MD

That was my point about Polk.

Apparently, the "Experts" on this survey measured every President by a modern standard of "civil rights," and mostly ignored misconduct in war making (except, of course with respect to Bush Jr.; Sr. got a pass in this regard, further demonstrating the sort of worthlessness of this survey) because it seems those doing the ranking didn't understand this topic in even the most basic sense.

Anon 2

Steve's sole basis seems to be civil rights, which is problematic. Massive presentism bias. All people are creatures of their time, not ours.

Michael Lewyn

On Arthur: he signed the Pendleton Civil Service Act, which helped to create the modern civil service. So every time you benefit from some anonymous federal employee doing something right, thank Arthur. He didn't do much else, but for this alone he belongs in the top half.

anymouse

I agree about Kennedy - way way overrated.

Deep State Special Legal Counsel

I hereby use this blog as the AUTHORIZED and OFFICIAL forum to declare President Donald J. Trump is #1. He can now resign ON TOP! As a thank you from an adoring America made Great again, we'll give him a parade, a Hickory Farms cheese and salami basket (after Dec 25th) and an Amazon Gift card.

any mouse

Deep State, you never disappoint in your unfunniness. You are quickly approaching a Cal Ripken Jr. record for consecutively unamusing posts.

Deep State Special Legal Counsel

any mouse,

Your right. Trump's departing gifts are inappropriate. Maybe a gift card to Olive Garden. He's an unlimited bread sticks and soup kind of guy.

Deep State Special Legal Counsel

The scholarly journal, Mad Magazine in its April issue compared our leader Trump to President John Kennedy. It noted that JFK had a beautiful and glamorous wife. Trump had many. They gave "the edge" to Trump.

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