Friday, February 25, 2011

Presidential Pardon

Even though I am conservative, I have never understood the love affair with Ronald Reagan. Yes, he came across at times as a humble man who loved his country. But the greatest? Debatable, especially if one lived during his days in the White House or have read accounts of his administration. Recently, I finally got around to reading historian Michael Beschloss' Presidential Courage, languishing on my bookshelf for a few years now, which chronicles major issues and decisions presidents since Washington have had to face. The final chapters discuss Reagan, an objective and critical analysis of his administration in dealing with the Soviet Union and the “end” of the Cold War. Certain points Beschloss raise are indeed frightening, including indicators that Reagan indeed suffered from the onset of Alzheimer's while still in office.       

Americans Say Reagan Is the Greatest U.S. President (Gallup)

Embarrassed Republicans Admit They've Been Thinking Of Eisenhower Whole Time They've Been Praising Reagan (The Onion)

Of course, the overall point is that it is a stressful and, at times, pitiless job being president. As Beschloss’ title suggests, it takes courage. Currently, 44 men have held the distinction; a plethora of others have declined even running for the position. As our second president, John Adams, said, “No man who ever held the office of president would congratulate a friend on obtaining it.” His own son, John Quincy Adams, preferred a return to Congress than to seek the presidency again – a sentiment Lyndon Johnson also hailed when he became president.

Who is the greatest president? I have my favorites, and I am glad to see that all five make Gallup's poll. In no particular order:

      1. George Washington
      2. Abraham Lincoln
      3. Theodore Roosevelt
      4. Dwight D. Eisenhower
      5. George W. Bush

Why these five? All leaders who withstood pressures from the opposition concerning their policies, and all maligned during their presidencies. Yet, three (Washington, Lincoln, Roosevelt) overlook the Dakotas from atop Mount Rushmore in tribute of their greatness. Two (Eisenhower, Bush) were considered aloof and affable during their presidencies, yet one (Eisenhower) has since been vindicated by history as a not-so-aloof effective leader during multiple crises. Undoubtedly, it will not be long before the tide of history turns for the other, whose due credit for influencing current events in formerly oppressed regions has been eschewed by mainstream media and revisionists solely in favor of the current administration. The fact that love ‘em-or-hate ‘em George W. Bush comes in at #10 on Gallup's poll – out of 44, and higher than his more admired, and latest Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient, dad George H.W. Bush – seems at least an indicator.

©2011 Steve Sagarra

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