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September 7, 2015

Ranking Presidents

I have been considering how well Barack Obama is doing as President and have compared him to other Presidents that I have considered voting for over the years. There was little additional research. Rather, I wanted to rely principally on how I voted and explain my rationale for doing so.

Lyndon Baines Johnson took office after Kennedy's assassination in 1963. He is best known for passing the Civil Rights Act of 1965 and the Vietnam War which resulted in a sharp decline in his popularity making him decide not to run for reelection in 1968. The war overshadowed everything else he did. He was a politician's politician. He knew how to work the system in Washington.

Hubert Humphrey was his running mate in 1968 and that cost Humphrey his future in politics. Humphrey was an early civil rights advocate, giving a speech before the 1948 Democratic convention causing the delegation from two southern states to walk out. He lost much of the credit he deserves because of being tied in with Johnson and Vietnam.

I suspect he had much more to do with the passage of the 1965 Civil Right Act than given credit. I was not eligible to vote in 1964.

Richard milhous Nixon: 1968 was the first time I voted. He was a crook and if he was not President he would have served time in jail for breaking into the Democratic Headquarters at the Watergate complex in Washington D.C.. Even before the break-in, his nickname was "Tricky Dick".

Nixon ended the Vietnam War and opened relations with China. He was very intelligent, but also very paranoid. If he were alive today he would be called a nerd. I voted for Nixon twice


Gerald Ford was appointed President in 1974 upon Nixon's resignation. This was preceded by his appointment as Vice President upon the resignation of Vice President Spiro Agnew in 1973. He was not President long enough to make much of an impression.. He played football in college for the University of Michigan.

What I remember most about Ford was he was very likeable and trustworthy. After Richard Nixon the country needed that and should be thankful. Grand Rapids, Michigan can be proud of him. He lost his bid for reelection to Jimmy Carter. I voted for Ford.

Jimmy Carter was President from 1977 until 1981 losing a reelection bid to Ronald Reagan. From 1979 through 1981 he was faced with the Iran Hostage crisis, the 1979 energy crisis and the Soviet Union invasion of Afghanistan, He also made a failed attempt to rescue the hostages in Iran.

It is hard to ignore the above events and proves nice guys don't always finish first. The best I can say is I would be pleased if my sons turned out to be in the mold of Jimmy Carter. God will bless him because he blessed us. I voted against Jimmy Carter.

Ronald Reagan: Per Histoy.com "On January 21, 1981, just a few hours after Ronald Reagan delivered his inaugural address, the remaining hostages were released. They had been in captivity for 444 days." This set Reagan up to be a hero in the eyes of Republicans and others. Per History.com "Rumors even circulated that Reagan’s campaign staff negotiated with the Iranians to be sure that the hostages would not be released before the election, an event that would surely have given Carter a crucial boost. (Reagan himself always denied these allegations.) On Election Day, one year and two days after the hostage crisis began, Reagan defeated Carter in a landslide."

During Reagan’s first term inflation fell from 12.5% to 4.4%, and the nation's GDP grew at a rate of 7.91%. Reagan enacted cuts in domestic spending at the same time military spending increased and overall federal outlays rose even after adjusting for inflation. Many believe this arms race caused the collapse of the Soviet Union.When he left office he had some of the highest approval ratings ever only being matched by Franklin Roosevelt and Bill Clinton.

Ronald Reagan gets too much credit for reducing inflation. Paul Volcker did the dirty work raising short term interest rates near 20%. This is what brought inflation down

For much of Reagan’s Presidency the Republicans controlled the Senate and Democrats controlled the House. Reagan was very successful and I voted for Reagan twice.

George H.W. Bush: Not much of significance occurred that I remember. He and his wife Barbara seem to be very nice, warm people. The Berlin Wall fell and the Soviet Union collapsed but the credit for these events belongs to Ronald Reagan. I voted for George W. Bush twice

Bill Clinton: Per Wikipedia, “...Bill Blythe died in a car crash on May 17, 1946, three months before young Bill was born, so the boy was raised by Virginia and her second husband, Roger Clinton, Sr...”

Bill Clinton was/is a charmer. He is one of our most popular past Presidents. While President we experienced the longest period of peacetime economic expansion in American history. My brother had an opportunity to meet and chat with him while the then Governor of Arkansas visited Mississippi Valley State University where my brother taught.

After his presidency Clinton has been involved with overseeing the Clinton Foundation and speaking engagements earning as much as $1 million per speech. There are some, including myself, who suspect Bill Clinton received these exorbitantly high fees as a way to earn favors from the then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. My theory is the Clintons have been struck by the “New Wealth Syndrome”.

Often the first generation of a family that has become wealthy has a hard time handling the psychological aspects of wealth. In essence they become intoxicated with their wealth. I believe this is where the Clinton’s are today.

During his last term I liked him. Bill Clinton's wealth intoxication occurred after his presidency.I voted against Clinton twice.

George W. Bush was President when the World Trade Center in New York, the Pentagon in Washington D.C. was attacked by the use of hijacked airplanes as bombs. There also was a third hijacked plane that was on a suicide mission that was taken out over Pennsylvania by its civilian passengers. (We do not think of the bravery of these passengers enough when we think of 911. To their living relatives, THANK YOU!).

 Bush initially showed strong leadership to keep the country’s morale up. Over time he attacked Iraq for no valid reason. Many people believe he committed war crimes by torturing prisoners. I have a different view. The country was attacked. There was no way he could be certain that another attack was not coming and therefore was justified in using any means necessary to prevent such an attack. It reminds me of a scene from one of the Dirty Harry movies of Clint Eastwood.

In the movie the bad guy buried a young girl alive and time was running out before she would be dead. The culprit refused to disclose where she was located so Dirty Harry shot the psycho in the leg and the girl was rescued. George Bush was in the same situation as he did not know whether more attacks were coming and he used all means necessary to prevent such attacks.

Further, on George Bush’s watch we had a near economic depression caused by a housing crisis resulting from uncontrolled sub-prime lending. GWB may be the kind of guy that it would be nice to have a couple beers with, but not someone who was prepared to oversee the running of the country. Seven years later we still are recovering with unemployment being too high. I voted for H.W. Bush twice.

Barack Obama: In the summer of 2008 I was leaning towards voting for John McCain until he nominated Sarah Palin as his running mate. McCain was old and recently underwent surgery removing skin cancer. I did not want Palin close to the ignition switch for a nuclear bomb. Months before Obama took office an economic meltdown occurred when Lehman Brothers, a Wall Street bank, failed. It was the beginning of the worst economic disaster since the late 1920's. We still have not fully recovered.

President Obama stepped in, saved the auto industry and provided enough stimulus to avert a depression. The Federal Reserve also drove down interest rates to spur investment and spending. This was done while Republicans were kicking and screaming hyperinflation was just around the corner, which never showed up.

As the fight to keep the economy afloat was being waged, President Obama began to fulfill his commitment to pull troops out of Iraq and Afghanistan. He also killed Osama bin Laden, the mastermind behind the 911 attack. The "Arab Spring" erupted across the Middle East and ISIS raised its ugly head. Further, a democratically elected President was chosen in Egypt and subsequently overthrown by Egypt's military.

There was and still is much turmoil going on in the Middle East. Some say we should be doing more to defeat ISIS. I am not sure. Should we take the lead in every uprising across the globe? Reagan receives much of the credit for defeating the Soviet Union by making it very costly for them to match our arms build up. Is the same tactic being applied against us in the Middle East? We cannot be the policeman for the world. Further, we should reinstitute the military draft. It is too easy for our politicians to decide to go to war when they know it will not be their children fighting and dying.

I am not happy with everything Obama has done and this was especially true in his first few years. In his first year he was fighting a near economic depression and was trying to pass what is now called Obamacare. I recognize the Democrats had majorities in both houses and he wanted to make sure that he took advantage of this. He turned over the leadership of overseeing the health care legislation to Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid and they had no finesse.

His Chief of Staff from January 2011 to January 2012 was William M. Daley who prior to the appointment was on the Executive Committee of J.P. Morgan one of the major banks tied to the sub prime lending scandal. It is my opinion he should have been more aggressive in prosecuting banks and sending executives to jail.

He showed up for the 2012 reelection campaign in a half-hearted manner even losing a debate to Romney. Somehow he regained his strength and won a second term.

For the most part President Obama has done a very good job. The economy continues to improve under his watch, we have managed to not get directly involved, with boots on the ground, in any new armed conflicts, he has introduced a new trade bill, The Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP), and now seems to be in the final stretch of having the Iranian Nuclear Arms Treaty ratified and enacted.

I am in favor of both of these agreements with the proviso that simultaneously with the TPP Congress must also pass a bill to provide free two years of college or trade school to all citizens who qualify. The less skilled workers in our country will be the ones hurt the most by the TPP and free college will help them improve their skills and in the end have higher paying jobs.

Let’s not forget his recognition of Cuba and setting up an embassy in that country.(My ex-sister in-law reminded me of this. Thank you Linda) This shows forethought. Given the fact China is investing $225 billion in Peru and Brazil, if we failed to recognize the small country 90 miles off our shore our southern neighbors would be learning Mandarin which is the principal language of China.

On black issues he has been hesitant to be more aggressive in solving these problems. He is well aware of being the first black President and the result is he has errored on the side of under reacting to the problems facing the country when it comes to race. It would not hurt him to say “black lives do indeed matter”.

I believe the color of his skin plays a part in how he is being treated by his political foes, but I confess until he was elected I never expected a black man to be President in my lifetime. Congratulations America! At the same time the country needs to admit that many roadblocks that he has faced during his term in office was simply due to racism and this is especially true of those affiliated with the Tea Party.

Overall President Obama is doing a very good job and is one of the the best President we have had in the period in which I voted. The only other one that would have a chance of being ranked higher is Ronald Reagan. I Voted for Barack Obama twice and it is the only times I voted for a Democrat for President.

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