After talking about The 7 Worst Presidents Of The Last Hundred Years at Townhall last week, it seems natural to move on to the 7 greatest Presidents in American history. Since below average and mediocre Presidents are quite common while truly extraordinary Presidents are very rare, it seems appropriate to focus on the greatest Presidents in American history instead of just looking at the last 100 years. So, let's get started....
7) Sarah Palin (2012): In the spirit of giving Barack Obama a Nobel Prize for what he was going to do as President, Sarah Palin is getting the number seven slot for what she will surely do when she defeats Hillary Clinton in 2012, after Hill crushes Obama in a brutal primary. Palin will not only be remembered as our first female President, she'll control the borders, get spending under control, and win the war on terror after we went backwards on that front during the failed Obama presidency....okay, okay, just kidding. I was hoping to entice any liberals who happen to read this to throw something at the wall. Let's get down to the real list, shall we?
7) Dwight Eisenhower (R): Most Americans recognize that Eisenhower's leadership in WWII was exceptional, but his leadership in the White House is under-appreciated. Eisenhower was the President behind the interstate highway system. His willingness to use the National Guard to integrate a high school in Little Rock, Arkansas was one of the pivotal moments in the civil rights movement. He also guided the Korean War to a conclusion. That’s a pretty solid list of accomplishments for any President.
6) James Monroe (Dem-Republican): Monroe is best known for the "Monroe Doctrine" which kept Europe out of South America. Additionally, after Andrew Jackson ravaged Florida in response to raids on American territory, Monroe smoothed things over in a way that immensely benefited our country: He bought the Sunshine State from Spain.
5) Ronald Reagan (R): Reagan was not only a great President, he could fairly be called the runner-up for the greatest man of the 20th century behind Winston Churchill. Reagan got the conservative movement in America humming again, rebuilt the American military, super-charged the economy after the disastrous Carter years, and he was the man most responsible for leading the free world to victory in the Cold War.
4) James K. Polk (D): Polk accomplished so much in his lone term as POTUS that he called it a career without bothering to serve to a second term. While he was President, Texas joined the union. Polk signed the Oregon Treaty with Britain, which brought Oregon, Washington, and Idaho under our control. He won the Mexican-American War, which added California, Nevada, Utah, and a large portion of Arizona -- among other states, into the Union. Add it all up and Polk expanded the territory of the United States more than any other President.
3) Thomas Jefferson (Dem-Republican): Jefferson was one of the most important Founding Fathers, the first Secretary of State, the second governor of Virginia, and the second Vice President of the United States. As if that wasn't enough, he followed it all up by being one of America's greatest Presidents. That's not too shabby for a life's work.
While he was President, Jefferson won the Barbary War against pirates who were preying on American shipping, he was responsible for establishing West Point -- and most importantly, he made the massive Louisiana Purchase from Napoleon.
2)George Washington (No Party): The leadership displayed by the “Father of Our Nation" during the Revolutionary War and during his time as President made him the essential man in American history. Had Washington been killed by a stray bullet during the Revolutionary War or had he been just another despot who promised democracy right up until he got into power, the America we know and love today likely wouldn't exist in the same form.
Washington, as our first President, unsurprisingly set a number of precedents, including the establishment of Washington, D.C. as our nation's capital (and, yes, it is named for him). He also proved the new government could protect itself by putting down the Whiskey Rebellion and his decision to serve only two terms stuck all the way until FDR got into office. Perhaps most importantly, Washington's willingness to relinquish power set an example for leaders in America and across the world to follow.
1) Abraham Lincoln (R): Lincoln is criticized by some libertarians and Paleocons these days because they say he could have avoided the Civil War entirely by buying all the slaves. Even though Lincoln apparently took the idea seriously, the historical evidence suggests the idea wouldn't have worked. Lincoln also gets dinged for dramatically curtailing constitutional rights during the war, but as the old saying goes, "The Constitution is not a suicide pact." In a bloody Civil War that could have legitimately meant the end of the union, it was better to break the rules and win -- than go by the book and see the nation that the Constitution was meant to guide split into two hostile halves.
Those issues aside, Abe Lincoln is the father of the Republican Party, the man most responsible for ending slavery, and his leadership was crucial to guiding America to victory in the Civil War. Had Sherman not taken Atlanta when he did, it's entirely possible Lincoln could have lost re-election in 1864 to General McClellan, which could have easily led to the war ending in a draw and a very different history for this country.