And the Greatest President of All Time Is ...
C-SPAN has once again chosen to assemble a crack team of presidential historians and compile a comprehensive rating of American presidents. Viewing the results, I suppose one is forced to simply accept the premise that so many of our presidential historians do, in fact, smoke crack. Given the subjective nature of any such analysis, some allowance must be left for individual taste, but a few of the choices are truly startling.
The cable channel listed the presidents in order of greatness using several subjective criteria and included the rankings from nine years ago when C-Span last participated in this rather useless but entertaining exercise. As for the winners in this cage match, the one-two punch tag team of Lincoln-Washington took on all comers and smoked the competition right smartly either because they truly were great or because we see them everyday on our money. That kind of publicity you simply can't buy at any price.
In the rest of the top ten, a conspicuous item is the absence of one our most interesting -- and dare I say "fun" -- presidential figures. Andrew Jackson sank to number thirteen, and I throw myself upon the mercy of the public court to ask where the justice is in that. The American Lion was known to stalk the halls of the White House armed with both a pistol and a sword. He threatened to hang his own vice president, participated in a dozen duels, and is the only commander in chief known to have killed a man as a civilian.
What's not to like?
And who do we see taking Jackson's place among the best of the best? John Kennedy and Woodrow Wilson -- both vastly overrated in the American pantheon. And what in blue blazes is Eisenhower doing at number eight? Don't get me wrong. I still have an "I Like Ike" button in a cigar box of political memorabilia buried somewhere in my attic. He was a war hero and a fine leader. But let's face the facts here -- Ike took charge of a country flush with victory in a huge conflict, beloved by the free world, and fat with cash in a still booming wartime economy. We didn't call them "Happy Days" for nothing.
Who wouldn't want to take the helm at such a time? Other presidents have walked into a virtual buzz saw, with the country teetering on the brink of famine, war, depression, internecine conflict, or jetliners slamming into towers. I'm confident that any of them would have gladly traded their eyeteeth to switch places with Eisenhower. If adversity is the forge in which greatness is tempered, Ike's place in history was cured in an Easy Bake Oven. Surely his spot could be swapped with Jackson's without ruffling too many feathers.