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Successful Presidents Are the Exception

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SOME to think of it, I've not seen many highly successful presidents in my lifetime. The first president I was aware of was Harding, most definitely not a giant among those who have occupied the White House. Then came Coolidge, with a don't-shake-the-boat approach that, indeed, caused no waves. Next was Hoover who, I think, was better than he was accounted to be. But who can argue with history?

Then, in succession, came three winners - Roosevelt, Truman, and Eisenhower. The first two are being ranked near the top of our nation's best, and more-recent assessments of Ike have moved him into the top fifth.

Next, Jack Kennedy lit up the sky. But his tenure was of too short a duration to earn him a presidential ranking, though some have claimed it for him. He was an inspiring president. But the Bay of Pigs episode was seen as a failure, even by him. And there is emerging evidence that his "standing up to Khruschev" during the Cuban missile crisis may not have been quite as heroic as it was viewed at the time.

Then came Lyndon Johnson, who stained his otherwise successful career as president by engulfing the United States in the Vietnam War. No need to discuss Richard Nixon. Whatever else he did was overshadowed by Watergate. He exited a dishonored president.

Jerry Ford was able to bring back credibility to the presidency, but the voters didn't want to keep him on.

Similarly, the voters fired Jimmy Carter, and now they have done the same to George Bush. I happen to think that they both deserved better treatment. But the verdict was clear. The people weren't satisfied with the way they were doing their jobs.

In between, of course, was Ronald Reagan, who probably will not be ranked very high simply because liberal Democrats among historians - of whom there are many - are already marking him up as an "accident," someone who used his acting ability to attract people to his side regardless of his performance in office. According to this assessment, the country suffered from this lazy, inattentive president.


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