OK, I'll be honest. I don't like the Democrats.
They're loud, they're arrogant, they talk too much about big government and high taxes. They dismiss places like my hometown as a "flyover state" and think the only places that matter are New York, Washington D.C. and Los Angeles. They stand for nothing except their own self-righteousness and haven't nominated a decent man for president in a half century.
(I can't say the same, incidentially, for the fictional Democrats on NBC's long-running "The West Wing." I rarely agree with the politics, but I love the show, both for its good-natured idealism and the sophisticated, sharp writing of Aaron Sorkin.)
OK, I'll be honest. I don't like the Republicans.
They're loud, they're arrogant, they throw bones to small government, but advocate for the goverment to dictate how you run your life. They take their conservative base for granted and the only decent man they've nominated for president in the last half century was a smiling former actor with great hair and an even better sense of humor.
Now is a bad time to be a political junkie in America. Neither party has any guts, the conventions are boring and the quality of the candidates are pitiful at best. The last American politician I felt certain could think and talk in complete sentences was former New York Gov. Mario Cuomo, and he was too chicken to run for the Oval Office. Oh, well. At least he once played professional baseball.
I tend to find my heroes buried amid the pages of my history books. Washington, certainly. And Adams. He never has received the credit he deserves for fanning the flames of the greatest revolution the world has known.
Jefferson is a god among men; Jackson gets a smile for his fighting spirit, especially the time he personally kicked the ass of a would-be assassin on the Capitol steps.
Lincoln is hands-down the best president we've ever known. If you doubt this, read David Herbert Donald's prose and Carl Sandburg's poetry. If you still disagree, you're an idiot.
Teddy Roosevelt is my favorite president for reasons that would take two or three blog posts to explain. He was a leader in the best sense of that word -- a decent man who loved his country, his wife, his children and nearly everything else in his life. ("Bully!" was a favorite exasperation.) In all the hours I've spent studying his life and administrations, I've found little in which to be disappointed.
His cousin Franklin is a bit more problematic for me to admire given my conservative roots. While I think the New Deal set the stage for the mistake that is the bloated central government, I've gained respect for the latter Roosevelt's foreign policy as well as his relationship with another hero, Winston Churchill. Newsweek editor Jon Meacham has written a great book on their friendship that I strongly recommend.
Truman was a shifty little bastard; but he had guts. Eisenhower was an extremely underrated president who gave us perhaps the most tangible legacy of any modern president -- we drive on the interstates he created nearly every day.
Kennedy didn't live long enough to provide a true assessment, Johnson was a tyrant whom I've always liked for some strange reason and Nixon was the great enigma.
Reagan is the shining star of the last five presidents; the others were petty, flawed or just plain incompetent.
The news magazines are already in full-throttle for 2008. Clinton, Obama, McCain and Rudy --- excuse me while I stifle a yawn.
The optimist in me is certain the next great leader will ride into the horizon like John Wayne in "Hondo;" the cynical reporter inside thinks we'll never again have an Eisenhower, much less a TR or a Lincoln.
So pardon me if I stayed glued to the presidents of the past, when big sticks and stovepipe hats make you forget all about the weak Southern governors who picked peanuts, bimbos or bad intelligence, depending on their persuasion.
Hail to the chief, indeed.