And I'm still laughing. OK, so anyone who goes to Newsweek for almost anything at this point has to be suspect. I mean, folks who still trust the media in general have some explaining to do, but Newsweek? Are you kidding me? Anyway, this issue has Newsweek finally solving that age old mystery: who are America's greatest presidents, at least of the modern era? Not to waste my money, I didn't actually buy the magazine Instead, I skimmed over it in the checkout line at the grocery store. In just a brief overview, I noticed a few things.
First, as can be expected, 7 of the top 10 mentioned were Democrats. Eisenhower, Teddy Roosevelt, and Reagan were the three Republicans. Reagan came in dangling at number 9. Eisenhower, who has never really been more than mid-ground in most presidential lists, beats him handily.
Second, Teddy Roosevelt gets kudos for his emphasis on 'progressive legislation and his works on the National Parks, natural resources, and Trust busting. Of course many moderns bemoan his involvement in the Panama Canal and his chest thumping American Exceptionalism. But for being a progressive in terms of nature and finances, he gets high-fives just the same.
Third, Lyndon Johnson, who was for the longest time considered at the bottom because of the Vietnam War debacle and the shady dealings behind it all, because of the questionable results associated with the War on Poverty and his idyllic Great Society, and because he lacked the support to run for a second term, comes in a healthy number 3. I noticed that the emphasis was 'look how much crap he inherited rather than 'look what he accomplished.' Sound familiar? Only the Civil Rights act, which he shoved through a reluctant congress (without mention that more Democrats opposed it than Republicans).
Fourth, our second impeached president makes the list. This isn't odd. In modern liberal circles, Bill Clinton has emerged as almost a second MLK. The era of peace and prosperity when all was right with the world is usually used to cover up the fact that both the peace and prosperity Clinton was credited with had more to do with his opponents he worked with, or with the fact that a sympathetic media allowed him to deflect attention from warning signs that all of this would soon come crumbling down. This was necessary, of course, to protect him from having committed perjury in the high court in order to cover up during a sexual harassment investigation Yet within months of his departure, America was subject to one of the most devastating attacks on its soil in its history, most of which was planned right under the nose of the Clinton administration while he was, er, otherwise occupied.
Likewise, the greatest economy in the history of the universe that Clinton had single-handedly made possible, which is why we were called on to ignore his indiscretions turned out to be based on a thin, debt ridden and debt driven economy that experts were predicting as early as 1998 was going to blow up in our face. Was he all bad? No. I actually supported Clinton on several issues (such as smacking Insurance companies down for running new mothers out of the hospital in mere hours after giving birth). But it is what it is. His whole presidency looked like the kid faking it through school, hoping he graduates before the teacher notice So far, it looks like he did just that, at least according to Newsweek.
Fifth, this is based on the input of 10 distinguished historians. Any time I see that in a news story I start to itch. Especially in our modern scholarly atmosphere, where we have few real standards in research and publishing apart from 'advance this agenda', such a resume doesn't mean what it used to mean.
Sixth, Eisenhower ushers in the Middle Class. Such sweeping, vague, and incorrect statements always sends up warning flags and reminds me I am not reading something that is meant to be accurate. Fact is, the phenomenon of the Middle Class has its roots as far back as Medieval Europe. True, it would not begin to find its full fruition until the suburban revolution of post-war America, but the middle class itself can hardly be considered as something Eisenhower himself ushered in. Completely wrong? When seen through a list of qualifying statements, no. But hardly accurate enough to build confidence in the article and its esteemed historians.
Seventh, Barack Obama. Would someone please tell me what this man has accomplished? Other than ramrodding an unpopular, and so far inefficient, health care reform that raises more problems than it solves, and winning the Nobel Peace Prize for not being Bush, just what has he done? Usually, he hands things over to the Democrats in Congress and says 'you do it.' True, he isn't finished yet. But that's why when I was growing up, most lists left Reagan off for the simple reason that he was still president and there is no way to evaluate him fairly. Obama's inclusion in the list, even if heavily qualified, suggests reading something else would be time better spent.
Bonus credibility point Jimmy Carter was not in the list Thank goodness. There have been major attempts in recent years to lift Carter up as some under-appreciated genius who was one of the greats. This, while the attempts to act as if Reagan was just wandering about, looking for the bathroom while all the great things of the 80s were happening, were all the rage. The general treatment of Reagan is still there, though some progressives are finally caving and admitting that he got some things right. But Carter? One of the most ineffective, poor leaders in American presidential history at one of the worst points in American history? I can't help but wonder if this is because of his embarrassing comments in recent years that repeatedly forced the White House to distance itself from him. Perhaps there are problems he's having due to his age, but I wonder if his sudden absence suggests some on the left are tired of defying reality to defend someone who has become more trouble than he is worth, at least in their eyes.
Anyhoo, just a few thoughts tossed about as I giggled over the thought that I should take Newsweek seriously about anything, least of all something as charged as presidential efficiency.