View Full Version : What makes a good president

02-27-2012, 12:35 PM
See: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/26/opinion/sunday/douthat-the-greatness-of-ike.html?partner=rssnyt&emc=rss

Here is an excerpt:

But ultimately Eisenhower is underrated because his White House leadership didn’t fit the template of “greatness” that too many Americans pine for from their presidents. He was not a man for grand projects, bold crusades or world-historical gambles. There was no “Ike revolution” in American politics, no Eisen-mania among activists and intellectuals, no Eisenhower realignment.
Instead, his greatness was manifested in the crises he defused and the mistakes he did not make. He did not create unaffordable entitlement programs, embrace implausible economic theories, or hand on unsustainable deficits to his successors. He ended a stalemated conflict in Korea, kept America out of war in Southeast Asia, and avoided the kind of nuclear brinkmanship that his feckless successor stumbled into. He did not allow a series of Middle Eastern crises to draw American into an Iraq-style intervention. He did not risk his presidency with third-rate burglaries or sexual adventurism. He was decisive when necessary, but his successes — prosperity, peace, steady progress on civil rights — were just as often the fruit of strategic caution and masterly inaction.

02-27-2012, 12:49 PM
I think I would categorize our nation's interstate system as a "grand project."

02-27-2012, 01:12 PM
I think I would categorize our nation's interstate system as a "grand project."

That was Truman's administration. Ike just happened to be in office when the whole thing finally got started.Eisenhower actually had no part in it's development at all.

02-27-2012, 01:30 PM
Presidents don't really shape events... they get shaped BY them.

To a very large extent you are right of course, but great men through their native genius can forge history. How different things may have been if Lincoln had not the vision and will to save the Union, just for example.

In the larger view, my favorite example is Napoleon. He was the driver, he was not being driven. (He was not a President, of course, for those of us who may be easily confused:))

Y Bar Ranch
02-27-2012, 01:30 PM
I'm not sure that this is a question worth asking.

We haven't had that many Presidents, so it's not like there's a big sample database from which to make judgments. Presidents don't really shape events... they get shaped BY them.
So...it officially doesn't matter who is president, is what I'm hearing you say. Then why the endless politicking here?

02-27-2012, 01:35 PM
44 is getting on towards a reasonable sample size, btw, very clearly we have had some Presidents better than others.

Back to the question of the OP of what makes a good President? Two of the things that I mentioned above, vision and will.

Nicholas Scheuer
02-27-2012, 02:43 PM
I sometimes think about the biggst scandal in the Eisenhower Admin, Sherman Adams' Vicuna coat.

02-27-2012, 03:37 PM
That was Truman's administration. Ike just happened to be in office when the whole thing finally got started.Eisenhower actually had no part in it's development at all.

doesn't seem to fit with this:

The Dwight D. Eisenhower National System of Interstate and Defense Highways (commonly known as the Interstate Highway System, Interstate Freeway System or the Interstate) is a network of limited-access roads (http://forum.woodenboat.com/wiki/Limited-access_road) including freeways (http://forum.woodenboat.com/wiki/Freeway), highways (http://forum.woodenboat.com/wiki/Highway), and expressways forming part of the National Highway System (http://forum.woodenboat.com/wiki/National_Highway_System_(United_States)) of the United States of America (http://forum.woodenboat.com/wiki/United_States_of_America). The system, which is named for President (http://forum.woodenboat.com/wiki/United_States_President) Dwight D. Eisenhower (http://forum.woodenboat.com/wiki/Dwight_D._Eisenhower), who championed its formation, serves nearly all major U.S. cities.[citation needed (http://forum.woodenboat.com/wiki/Wikipedia:Citation_needed)] Construction was authorized by the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956 (http://forum.woodenboat.com/wiki/Federal-Aid_Highway_Act_of_1956) and the original portion was completed 35 years later. The network has since been extended and as of 2006 it had a total length of 46,876 miles (75,440 km).[1] (http://forum.woodenboat.com/#cite_note-0) About one-third of all miles driven in the country use the Interstate system (2003 figures).[2] (http://forum.woodenboat.com/#cite_note-1) The cost of construction has been estimated at $425 billion (in 2006 dollars), making it the largest public works project in history.

The Interstate Highway System had been lobbied for by major U.S. automobile (http://forum.woodenboat.com/wiki/Automobile) manufacturers and championed by President Dwight D. Eisenhower (http://forum.woodenboat.com/wiki/Dwight_D._Eisenhower), who was influenced by his experiences as a young Army officer crossing the country in the 1919 Army Convoy (http://forum.woodenboat.com/wiki/Transcontinental_Motor_Convoy) on the Lincoln Highway (http://forum.woodenboat.com/wiki/Lincoln_Highway), the first road across America.
Initial federal planning for a nationwide highway system began in 1921 when the Bureau of Public Roads (http://forum.woodenboat.com/wiki/Federal_Highway_Administration) asked the Army (http://forum.woodenboat.com/wiki/United_States_Army) to provide a list of roads it considered necessary for national defense. This resulted in the Pershing Map (http://forum.woodenboat.com/wiki/Pershing_Map).[3] (http://forum.woodenboat.com/#cite_note-mcnichol-2) Later that decade, highways such as the New York parkway system (http://forum.woodenboat.com/wiki/Parkways_in_New_York_State) were built as part of local or state highway systems.
As automobile traffic increased, planners saw a need for such an interconnected national system to supplement the existing, largely non-freeway, United States Numbered Highway (http://forum.woodenboat.com/wiki/United_States_Numbered_Highway) system. By the late 1930s, planning had expanded to a system of new superhighways.
In 1938, President Franklin D. Roosevelt (http://forum.woodenboat.com/wiki/Franklin_D._Roosevelt) gave Thomas MacDonald (http://forum.woodenboat.com/wiki/Thomas_Harris_MacDonald), chief at the Bureau of Public Roads, a hand-drawn map of the U.S. marked with eight superhighway corridors for study.[3] (http://forum.woodenboat.com/#cite_note-mcnichol-2) In 1939, Bureau of Public Roads Division of Information chief Herbert S. Fairbank (http://forum.woodenboat.com/w/index.php?title=Herbert_S._Fairbank&action=edit&redlink=1) wrote a report entitled Toll Roads and Free Roads, "the first formal description of what became the interstate highway system," and in 1944 the similarly themed Interregional Highways.[4] (http://forum.woodenboat.com/#cite_note-3)[5] (http://forum.woodenboat.com/#cite_note-4)
Eisenhower gained an appreciation of the German Autobahn (http://forum.woodenboat.com/wiki/Autobahn) network as a necessary component of a national defense system while he was serving as Supreme Commander (http://forum.woodenboat.com/wiki/Supreme_Commander_of_the_Allied_Expeditionary_Forc e) of the Allied forces (http://forum.woodenboat.com/wiki/Allies_of_World_War_II) in Europe during World War II (http://forum.woodenboat.com/wiki/European_Theatre_of_World_War_II).[6] (http://forum.woodenboat.com/#cite_note-5) He recognized that the proposed system would also provide key ground transport routes for military supplies and troop deployments in case of an emergency or foreign invasion.
http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/1/1e/Highways1955.gif/220px-Highways1955.gif (http://forum.woodenboat.com/wiki/File:Highways1955.gif) http://bits.wikimedia.org/skins-1.18/common/images/magnify-clip.png (http://forum.woodenboat.com/wiki/File:Highways1955.gif)
1955 map: The planned status of U.S. highways in 1965, as a result of the developing Interstate Highway System

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/5/50/STEEL_RODS%2C_MADE_FROM_SHREDDED_AUTOS%2C_ARE_BEIN G_USED_FOR_REINFORCEMENT_IN_THIS_SECTION_OF_I-55%2C_NORTH_OF_DURANT._IT..._-_NARA_-_546265.jpg/220px-STEEL_RODS%2C_MADE_FROM_SHREDDED_AUTOS%2C_ARE_BEIN G_USED_FOR_REINFORCEMENT_IN_THIS_SECTION_OF_I-55%2C_NORTH_OF_DURANT._IT..._-_NARA_-_546265.jpg (http://forum.woodenboat.com/wiki/File:STEEL_RODS,_MADE_FROM_SHREDDED_AUTOS,_ARE_BEI NG_USED_FOR_REINFORCEMENT_IN_THIS_SECTION_OF_I-55,_NORTH_OF_DURANT._IT..._-_NARA_-_546265.jpg) http://bits.wikimedia.org/skins-1.18/common/images/magnify-clip.png (http://forum.woodenboat.com/wiki/File:STEEL_RODS,_MADE_FROM_SHREDDED_AUTOS,_ARE_BEI NG_USED_FOR_REINFORCEMENT_IN_THIS_SECTION_OF_I-55,_NORTH_OF_DURANT._IT..._-_NARA_-_546265.jpg)
I-55 (http://forum.woodenboat.com/wiki/Interstate_55_in_Mississippi) under construction in Mississippi, photo from May, 1972

The publication in 1955 of the General Location of National System of Interstate Highways, informally known as the Yellow Book, mapped out what became the Interstate System.[7] (http://forum.woodenboat.com/#cite_note-6) Assisting in the planning was Charles Erwin Wilson (http://forum.woodenboat.com/wiki/Charles_Erwin_Wilson), who was still head of General Motors when President Eisenhower selected him as Secretary of Defense in January 1953

Y Bar Ranch
02-27-2012, 10:32 PM
In that case, you've got a hearing problem.

OK, so what exactly did you mean when you said in answer to the question, what makes a good president? that "I'm not sure that this is a question worth asking...Presidents don't really shape events... they get shaped BY them."

Concordia 33
02-28-2012, 03:59 PM
This is an interesting perspective on the question:

Obsessed with the study (http://www.taxpayersunitedofamerica.org/uncategorized/grover-cleaveland-maybe-the-last-great-president#) of wars and other disasters, and fascinated by the exercise of raw power, historians typically glorify megalomaniacs like Lincoln and FDR. These historians generally overlook or ignore the wiser and humbler men who occupied the White House during more tranquil times. They fail to recognize that maintaining or restoring peace and prosperity requires just as much, if not more, wisdom and courage than holding office during time of war or other disaster. With this in mind, we examine the presidency of Grover Cleveland (1885-1889 and 1893-1897).

Grover Cleveland was first elected to the presidency in 1884, defeating the notoriously corrupt Republican nominee James G. Blaine. Since the War Between the States, the Republican Party had dominated national politics, using its power to line the pockets of the big railroad owners and other corporate interests that controlled the party. Upon assuming office, Cleveland tore into these special interests by vetoing more spending bills than all of his predecessors combined. Unlike most of today’s politicians, Cleveland had great respect for the Constitution and the limits it placed on both the President and on the federal government (http://www.taxpayersunitedofamerica.org/uncategorized/grover-cleaveland-maybe-the-last-great-president#). In vetoing a bill to provide federal aid to drought-stricken Texan farmers, Cleveland explained, “I can find no warrant for such an appropriation in the Constitution.”[1] Today, such principled adherence to the Constitution would be considered archaic.

A staunch defender of hard money and free (http://www.taxpayersunitedofamerica.org/uncategorized/grover-cleaveland-maybe-the-last-great-president#) trade, Cleveland also fought hard to reduce tariffs and maintain the integrity of the gold standard. In taking these positions, Cleveland was fighting powerful lobbies including big corporations, farmers, and silver miners. Cleveland’s courageous and principled stands likely cost him reelection when in 1888, he was narrowly defeated by Benjamin Harrison. Harrison, unlike Cleveland, caved to the “easy money” interests by signing the Sherman Silver Purchase Act of 1890. The resulting inflationary boom would later lead to bust with the severe depression of 1893. Harrison also oversaw the passage of the McKinley Tariff Act that contributed to the economic misery by stifling trade and raising prices.

After defeating Harrison in 1892, Cleveland set about repairing the damage Harrison had done. He refused to countenance further inflation or corporate bailouts in the face of recession, and he successfully lobbied congress to repeal both the Sherman Silver Purchase (http://www.taxpayersunitedofamerica.org/uncategorized/grover-cleaveland-maybe-the-last-great-president#) Act and the McKinley Tariff. In his second term, Cleveland also rejected demands by imperialists for the annexation of Hawaii, and he later became a prominent member of the Anti-Imperial League opposing American imperialism and militarism, not only in Hawaii but in the Philippines and other conquests taken during the 1898 Spanish-American War.

02-28-2012, 05:31 PM
FDR, perhaps, but certainly not Lincoln. Ike is another example on the other end of the spectrum.

02-28-2012, 09:35 PM
The column is merely wrong. We've had 44 presidents, and historians rank Eisenhower in the top ten.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Historical_rankings_of_Presidents_of_the_United_St ates

Eisenhower gets plenty of credit for being a good president. After all, where is the monument to James Buchanan? Where's the one to William Harding?

02-28-2012, 10:01 PM
John, my reference to Eisenhower was that he was one of the "wiser and humbler men who occupied the White House," as opposed to the arguably megalomaniac FDR or Lincoln, who had greatness thrust upon him in part due to the epic times in which he lived, and not to imply that he was a bad president.