Monday, February 20, 2012

My favorite presidents

Yes, today is Presidents Day, or as I prefer to call it, Washington's and Lincoln's Birthdays (Observed). Cause, you know, James Buchanan just ain't worthy.

So, I thought I'd have some fun and name you my 10 favorite commanders-in-chief. This is purely subjective, ruled by the heart instead of the head, no serious scholarly considerations. In other words, this is my list. I know you have yours, too.

1. Abraham Lincoln. No question here, really. My Southern Partisan friends (that title is capitalized for reasons they'll understand) will disagree and that's their prerogative. But, for me, Lincoln is the most human of all 44 presidents, in the very best of what that means. He was self-learned, wise beyond his years, decent and politically shrewd, finally found the right general to win the war. Oh, and he weaved wonders with words.

2. Theodore Roosevelt. Brash and bookish, Progressive and hawkish, TR was something for everybody. He's my kind of Republican, perhaps the true Eighth Wonder of the World, the likes of which we'll never see again.

3. George Washington. For the obvious reasons. Set the mold. Showed tenacity in the face of certain defeat. Didn't really have wooden teeth.

4. Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Unless you're just some serious ideologue, you can't leave FDR off the list. Elected to four terms, provided the steady voice during the Depression, showed personal courage while fighting polio. Had a fantastic cigarette holder.

5. John Adams. Got a bad rap until David McCullough resurrected his image. Perhaps the most decent of all the so-called Founding Fathers. Scholarly, tough, tenacious. His letters to his wife, Abigail, and to Thomas Jefferson are treasures.

6. Thomas Jefferson. Goes hand-in-hand with Adams.
Their friendship/hatred/friendship story is my favorite American saga. Hands down the most intelligent man to ever hold the office. Author of the Declaration of Independence. Had his faults, but so does every name on this list and every person who will read it. Both he and Adams died on the same day -- July 4, 1826. Still gives me chills.

7. Ronald Wilson Reagan. My personal favorite of the presidents in my lifetime.
Played his old lifeguard role and helped rescue us from drowning in the '70s malaise. Stood tall at home and abroad. Made us laugh. Made us believe again. God bless you, Gipper.

8. Richard Milhous Nixon. Go ahead and laugh. Crucify me if you will. I don't care. I've read more about Nixon than any other president and never once have been bored. He's my personal second favorite to Lincoln in a subjective sense simply because the Quaker from California is the American Enigma.

9. Harry S. Truman. The "S" may have stood for nothing, but Truman sure as hell did. Tough little haberdasher from Missouri who came into his own on the battlefield during World War I and escaped the corrupt state machine and FDR leaving him in the lurch to oversee victory in the Pacific during World War II. McCullough also helped resurrect his image.

10. Andrew Jackson. Yes, I know the guy was a bastard. And what he did to the Native Americans is inexcusable. But, he's a complex man, Old Hickory to the core, and I like his mettle and the fact he whipped a would-be assassin when Jackson was a crippled, old man. Plus, I love The Hermitage and the guy who played him in the "Davy Crockett" Disney series (Basil Ruysdael).

Bubbling under:

11. Dwight David Eisenhower The most underrated president of the 20th century. Much more engaged than the grandfatherly figure of the popular stereotype.
Warned us about the rise of the military-industrial complex before anybody knew what he was talking about. Don't miss Stephen Ambrose's excellent two-volume biography, even if he made up the part about interviewing Ike at Gettysburg.

Who are your favorites and why?



Blogger Spencer Solomon said...

1. Ronald Reagan: Reagan made Americans proud to be Americans again. You can't beat that.

2. Richard Nixon: Nixon's foreign policy was brilliant. He just hated people. He was an introvert in a business of extroverts. Definitely the most complicated and interesting in my opinion.

3. Harry Truman: "Give 'em Hell Harry" was a common man who became President. He always did what he thought was right. Hard to argue with that.

4. John Kennedy: JFK gave people hope and basically started the space race, which for a space nut like myself, is huge.

5. Lyndon Johnson: LBJ would have been one of the best Presidents we've ever had had it not been for Vietnam. I mean what's wrong with a "Great Society'?

Not saying I would have voted for all these men but definitely find them fascinating and love to learn all that I can about them. No one can argue the decisions they made while in office unless you lived through the times and in all these cases, I did not. Ha!

3:56 PM  

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