Recarving Rushmore: Ranking the Presidents on Peace, Prosperity and Liberty by Ivan Eland, Independent Institute, 526 pages, $19.95 paper. Here’s a game anyone can play. And, by the same token, here’s a guaranteed argument starter in almost any American room containing at least two people of any political conviction and articulation at all. The more political the room’s people and the more articulate they are, the more passion and noise will result from their ranks swelling and considering this book’s contents.
“Updated Rankings From George Washington to Barack Obama” is what the book delivers.
Are you ready? No. 1 and rated excellent is John Tyler, our 10th president who, says writer Ivan Eland, not only set the precedent for vice presidential succession but vetoed a national bank and a Whig bill to raise tariffs but waved goodbye to his entire Cabinet when they resigned in protest. He was the first president to endure an impeachment threat. But Eland admires his “tremendous political courage” and “great restraint in dealing with threats at home and abroad. The result was the best president who ever held office.” No. 2, in his view, was Grover Cleveland.
A few more: George Washington? Rated 7 and called “Good” by Eland. Abraham Lincoln? Rated No. 29 and called “Bad.” Eisenhower? No. 9 and rated good. John F. Kennedy? Rated 36 and called Bad. (JFK’s policies toward Cuba and the Soviet Union almost caused a needless cataclysmic nuclear war, just so he wouldn’t appear weak when election came around.”)
And now for some real fun. Barack Obama? No. 34 and “Bad.” George W. Bush? No. 37 and “one of the worst of all time.” Jimmy Carter? No. 8, “The Best Modern President.” The Worst Ever? Woodrow Wilson.
Let’s understate the case, then, and call the book “thought provoking.”
– Jeff Simon