How To Measure Presidential Greatness
Ronald Reagan was a great president! How to measure the greatness of an American president has always been an ambiguous ‘eye of the beholder’ kind of thing that is a veritable mandate for our republic. Is a president great because of what he accomplishes in office, or how deftly he guides the ship of state through troubled times, or just because he presents himself to be…well…presidential?
In his inaugural address, President James Polk outlined the four major goals he hoped to achieve in his administration…and he accomplished every one of them! How often does that happen? If accomplishments in office are the measure of a great president, Polk should be high on the list, but barely receives more than a paragraph in most history texts.
Gerald Ford’s administration is largely unheralded, but the mild mannered president set the perfect example as he guided the nation through the tragic aftermath of Watergate, the Vietnam War, and the divisiveness of the anti-establishment movement of the day. Like Rodney Dangerfield, Ford often “Don’t get no respect,” but he actually ranks pretty high up the list of ‘greatness.’
On the other hand, history records that John Quincy Adams was very presidential in demeanor. He had been a very proficient ambassador and senator, but proved to be an ineffective and morose president. Strangely enough, he went on to a highly successful career as a U.S. Congressman after his presidency.
Now, we who reside to the right of political center must make a decision between four candidates (as of this writing) to represent our hopes and values in the November presidential election. Each candidate, to my way of thinking, has positive attributes that might make him fitted to be president, but the campaign has dwelt largely on the negatives, and the wounds are piling up. I personally am not thrilled with any of the choices, and dream at night of a Reaganesque white knight thundering into the Republican convention and sweeping away the delegates with his/her solid platform, aura of leadership, and love and respect for the Constitution, capitalism, and the American way of life. But that is not going to happen. We are going to be faced with a choice between these four flawed candidates, and our choice will likely come down to who we think can beat President Obama and who has lost the least amount of blood from this ‘campaign of 1000 cuts.’
I have a suggestion. One of the measures of a great president that is not politically correct but might be among the best indicators of greatness is the measure of how much the opposing side hates him. Abraham Lincoln was truly hated by the Democrats of his day. This hatred was so intense and extreme that southern states seceded from the Union and subjected the nation to four years of devastating civil war. Ronald Reagan was hated almost as much by the Democrats, as was evidenced by the daily vitriolic bashing handed to him by a liberal media during his eight years in office. His administration dealt a demoralizing blow to communism in Europe and to socialism in the United States, and the leftists vilified him for it. While there were a host of other attributes that defined his greatness in office, the hatred he still evokes from liberals is enough definition of greatness for me.
I’m not sure the Democrats harbor intense hatred for any of the four remaining Republican presidential hopefuls. For the most part, they ignore Santorum and Paul, although I suspect we will hear and read more anti-religion rhetoric from the left if the evangelical Santorum continues to gain traction. Far from hatred, the left actually seems to like Mitt Romney. Liberal talking heads always include the fact that, “Romney sided with Obama on this issue and that issue and so on.” It’s true, of course. Maybe the left doesn’t really care whether Romney or Obama is elected because the libs can press their agenda either way. No hatred there.
That leaves Newt. Left-leaning insiders in Washington harbor distrust and a strong dislike, bordering on hatred, of the former Speaker of the House. Problem is, Washington insiders on the right feel the same way. Gingrich, notwithstanding his many years as one of the ranking Washington insiders, is a loose cannon, a candidate who is almost the poster child for DID (also known as multiple personality disorder) in his loosely defined campaign strategy. A national talk show host recently said, “On his best days, Newt Gingrich is hands down the very best presidential candidate out there. On his worst days…well…he can do, say, or be anything!”
“Loose Cannon” may not be among the definitions for presidential greatness, but I kind of like it. For now, color me still undecided, but if I don’t soon see some rage from the other side aimed at a particular candidate, I may settle for the loose cannon.
At the very least, it will assure a very interesting presidency. That’s all I’m saying.