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Essay:My Opinions on US Presidents (DuceMoosolini)

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Essay.svg This essay is an original work by DuceMoosolini.
It does not necessarily reflect the views expressed in RationalWiki's Mission Statement, but we welcome discussion of a broad range of ideas.
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Feel free to make comments on the talk page, which will probably be far more interesting, and might reflect a broader range of RationalWiki editors' thoughts.


George Washington[edit]

How the US trains kids to remember George Washington.

The good[edit]

  • Resisted attempts to exalt the office of the presidency.
  • Supported the Jay TreatyWikipedia's W.svg.
  • Limited US involvement in the Atlantic slave trade.
  • Retired after his second term, setting the precedent.

The bad[edit]

  • Repeatedly sent the US military into the Northwest Territory to burn Native villages and crops.
  • Signed the Fugitive Slave Act of 1793.

Finest moment[edit]

His retirement. Not because he was particularly bad, but because it enshrined term limits as an important aspect of the presidency.

Verdict[edit]

His legacy is most hurt by the mythology and reverence that surrounds him. It always sucks to discover that your heroes are human.

John Adams[edit]

The good[edit]

  • Rejected Hamilton's plan to ally with the British and help restore the Bourbons to the French throne.

The bad[edit]

  • Signed the Alien and Sedition Acts.

Finest moment[edit]

His successful legal defense of the British soldiers charged with murder after the Boston Massacre.

Verdict[edit]

His most memorable contributions to history happened before his presidency.

Thomas Jefferson[edit]

The good[edit]

  • Went against his own instincts to buy French Louisiana.
  • Refused to pay tribute to the Barbary pirate lords and began and quickly wrapped up a series of wars against them.
  • Prohibited the importation of new slaves from overseas.

The bad[edit]

  • Attempted to suppress the Haitian Revolution and then embargoed the country.
  • Began forced removal of uncooperative Native American tribes.
  • Signed the Embargo Act of 1807.

Finest moment[edit]

Drafting the Virginia Statute for Religious FreedomWikipedia's W.svg

Verdict[edit]

Slavery hangs over his presidency and life achievements like a burial shroud.

James Madison[edit]

The good[edit]

  • Initially tried to keep the peace between Natives and whites.

The bad[edit]

  • Declared the War of 1812.
  • After the war weakened the Natives, Madison became more hostile towards them.

Finest moment[edit]

Pushing for the ratification of the Bill of Rights.

Verdict[edit]

Declared a stupid war to screw over the Native Americans, badly mishandled it.

James Monroe[edit]

The good[edit]

  • Negotiated Spain's cession of Florida to the US.
  • The Monroe Doctrine.
  • Was the first president to push for infrastructure improvements.

The bad[edit]

  • Supported the American Colonization Society, which sent freedmen from America to colonize Liberia. Liberia's capital, Monrovia, is named after him.
  • Allowed Missouri into the Union as a slave state.

Finest moment[edit]

  • The Monroe Doctrine.

Verdict[edit]

  • Surprisingly little-remembered, but a decent president.

John Q. Adams[edit]

The good[edit]

  • Pushed for infrastructure spending.

The bad[edit]

  • Adopted expansionist policies towards Native Americans.
  • Joined the Anti-Masonic Party after his presidency.

Finest moment[edit]

Opposing the Mexican-American War in Congress after his presidency.

Verdict[edit]

Just another son who couldn't live up to his dad.

Andrew Jackson[edit]

The good[edit]

  • Threatened military force against South Carolina to prevent them from seceding.
  • Launched a much-needed crackdown on government corruption.

The bad[edit]

  • Signed the Indian Removal Act, which pretty much did what it says on the tin.
  • Founded the Democratic Party which would spend the next few decades as the party of slave-owners.
  • Allowed the Post Office to censor abolitionist pamphlets in the South.
  • Appointed Roger Taney to the Supreme Court.

Finest moment[edit]

Bitch-slapping South Carolina.

Verdict[edit]

Should be best remembered for the atrocities he unleashed on the Native Americans.

Martin Van Buren[edit]

The good[edit]

The bad[edit]

  • Continued Jackson's Indian removal policies.

Finest moment[edit]

Was called "Martin Van Ruin" by his opponents.

Verdict[edit]

"Martin Van Ruin" is the most memorable aspect of his presidency today.

William Henry Harrison[edit]

The good[edit]

  • Died a month into office.

The bad[edit]

  • Died a month into office.

Finest moment[edit]

The same as his worst moment: smashing Tecumseh at Tippecanoe.

Verdict[edit]

Real men don't wear coats.

John Tyler[edit]

The good[edit]

The bad[edit]

  • Was elected to the Confederate House of Reps after his presidency.

Finest moment[edit]

Huh?

Verdict[edit]

Who the fuck is this guy?

James Polk[edit]

The good[edit]

  • Peacefully settled disputes with the UK over Oregon.
  • Did what he wanted to do in his first term, so he declined to run for a second.

The bad[edit]

  • Started a bullshit war with Mexico as an excuse to annex California.

Finest moment[edit]

Walked into the Democratic Convention hoping to become VP candidate, became Presidential candidate by accident.

Verdict[edit]

Mexicans hate him.

Zachary Taylor[edit]

The good[edit]

The bad[edit]

Finest moment[edit]

Huh?

Verdict[edit]

Who the fuck is this guy?

Millard Fillmore[edit]

The good[edit]

  • Demolished his own party, leading to the rise of the Lincoln Republicans.

The bad[edit]

  • Signed and enforced the Fugitive Slave Act.
  • Sent the Perry Expedition to threaten Japan into opening trade.

Finest moment[edit]

Managing to win only ONE state in his bid for reelection.

Verdict[edit]

What a loser.

Franklin Pierce[edit]

The good[edit]

The bad[edit]

  • Signed the Kansas-Nebraska Act, leading to a quasi-civil war in Kansas.
  • Led an embarrassingly failed attempt to acquire Cuba from Spain.

Finest moment[edit]

Going behind his wife's back to accept his presidential nomination.

Verdict[edit]

Pierce is the only President who doesn't have a street named after him in Topeka, Kansas.

James Buchanan[edit]

The good[edit]

  • Did not seek reelection.

The bad[edit]

  • Endorsed the Dredd Scott v. Sandford decision.
  • Tried to get Kansas admitted as a slave state.
  • His inaction during the secession crisis contributed to the beginning of the Civil War.

Finest moment[edit]

Acknowledging that he was a shitty president and declining to run for reelection.

Verdict[edit]

Strong candidate for worst US president ever.

Abraham Lincoln[edit]

The good[edit]

  • Led the US through the Civil War.
  • Signed the Homestead Acts.
  • Defused a crisis with the UK.
  • Signed the Emancipation Proclamation.
  • Ordered the US Army to protect freed slaves.
  • Rammed the Thirteenth Amendment through Congress.

The bad[edit]

  • Suspended habeas corpus.

Finest moment[edit]

"Four score and..."

Verdict[edit]

Strong candidate for best US president ever. Was too good to live.

Andrew Johnson[edit]

The good[edit]

The bad[edit]

  • Allowed Reconstruction to collapse, leading to the era of Jim Crow.
  • Opposed the Fourteenth Amendment.
  • Congress hated him so much they tried to impeach him for a bullshit reason.

Finest moment[edit]

Avoided being convicted by the Senate by one vote.

Verdict[edit]

Strong candidate for worst US president ever.

Ulysses Grant[edit]

The good[edit]

  • Went on a diplomatic world tour to win prestige for the US.
  • Appointed blacks and Jews to public offices.
  • Was the worst enemy the KKK ever had.
  • Favored Radical Reconstruction.

The bad[edit]

  • His administration suffered a number of severe corruption scandals.

Finest moment[edit]

Defeating Robert Lee's Army of Northern Virginia.

Verdict[edit]

His reputation was intentionally tarnished by Southern revisionists.

Rutherford Hayes[edit]

The good[edit]

The bad[edit]

  • Withdrew troops from the South and ended Reconstruction prematurely.

Finest moment[edit]

Was an officer in the Union Army during the Civil War.

Verdict[edit]

Ending Reconstruction was a shitty move.

James Garfield[edit]

The good[edit]

  • Helped reform the civil service to be less corrupt.

The bad[edit]

Finest moment[edit]

Shares a name with the much more famous cartoon cat.

Verdict[edit]

Most remembered for being shot.

Chester Arthur[edit]

The good[edit]

  • Signed the Pendelton Civil Service Act.

The bad[edit]

  • Signed the Chinese Exclusion Act.

Finest moment[edit]

Had magnificent facial hair.

Verdict[edit]

No dogs or shitty presidents allowed.

Grover Cleveland[edit]

The good[edit]

  • Fought against political corruption.

The bad[edit]

  • Ordered in the Army to stop a railroad strike.

Finest moment[edit]

Huh?

Verdict[edit]

Generic Gilded Age President.

William McKinley[edit]

The good[edit]

The bad[edit]

  • Declared the Spanish-American War for dumb reasons.
  • Tried to suppress Filipinos, leading to a bloody counter-insurgency war.

Finest moment[edit]

Had Teddy Roosevelt as his VP.

Verdict[edit]

Not great.

Teddy Roosevelt[edit]

The good[edit]

  • Busted the trusts.
  • Made natural conservation a priority and established many National Parks.
  • Helped broker the end of the Russo-Japanese War.
  • Pushed through the Pure Food and Drug Act and the Meat Inspection Act.
  • Strengthened diplomatic relations with the UK.
  • Ended restrictions on Japanese immigration to the US.

The bad[edit]

  • Fucked over Colombia to get his canal.
  • Was aggressive in the Philippines during the insurgency.
  • Challenged Taft for reelection, splitting the progressive vote and allowing Wilson to win the presidency.

Finest moment[edit]

His whole life.

Verdict[edit]

Most badass president.

William H. Taft[edit]

The good[edit]

The bad[edit]

  • Frequently launched interventions in Latin America.
  • Split from his mentor on conservation and antitrust actions.

Finest moment[edit]

Got the job he always wanted after Harding appointed him to the Court.

Verdict[edit]

Overshadowed by Teddy.

Woodrow Wilson[edit]

The good[edit]

  • Introduced a progressive income tax.

The bad[edit]

  • Invasion and bloody occupations of Haiti, Dominican Republic, Cuba, and Nicaragua.
  • Segregated the federal government, was a fanatical racist.
  • Inspired racists around the whole nation, leading to a sharp uptick in race riots.
  • Launched the worst government attack on free speech in US history.
  • Persecuted immigrants.
  • Began the First Red Scare.

Finest moment[edit]

Was incapacitated by a massive stroke, allowing his wife to take over and help get the Nineteenth Amendment passed.

Verdict[edit]

At least we got the worst president of the Twentieth Century out of the way early.

Warren Harding[edit]

The good[edit]

  • Released Wilson's political prisoners, most notably Eugene V. Debs.

The bad[edit]

  • Had shitty cabinet members.

Finest moment[edit]

Undoing some of the damage Wilson did.

Verdict[edit]

Had bad friends.

Calvin Coolidge[edit]

The good[edit]

  • Granted citizenship to all Native Americans.

The bad[edit]

  • Did not regulate businesses at all.

Finest moment[edit]

His cool name.

Verdict[edit]

Is popular with laissez-faire wackos.

Herbert Hoover[edit]

The good[edit]

The bad[edit]

  • The Bonus Army incident.
  • Was unable to cope with the Great Depression.

Finest moment[edit]

Working under Harry Truman to lead Western Europe through post-WWII devastation. He saved millions from starvation.

Verdict[edit]

Good guy, not great president.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt[edit]

The good[edit]

  • The New Deal and the Fireside Chats.
  • Social Security, minimum wage, the SEC, the FDIC, the good NRA.
  • Helped end Prohibition.
  • Helped keep the UK on its feet in the first years of the war.
  • Supported China and the Soviets during the war.
  • Helped lay the groundwork for the UN.

The bad[edit]

  • Court-packing.
  • Hostility to Jewish refugees.
  • Japanese internment.
  • Got conned by Stalin at Yalta.

Finest moment[edit]

His speech to Congress after Pearl Harbor.

Verdict[edit]

Another American hero who suffered from human shortcomings.

Harry Truman[edit]

The good[edit]

  • The Marshall Plan.
  • Helped establish NATO.
  • The Berlin Airlift.
  • Resisted MacArthur's urgings to drop nukes in Korea.
  • Ended segregation of the military and the federal government.
  • Weathered postwar economic turmoil.

The bad[edit]

  • Tried to take North Korea during the Korean War, extending the conflict and almost leading to a total loss.
  • Supported French imperialism in Indochina.

Finest moment[edit]

Turned the Democrats away from segregation. "My forebears were Confederates ... but my very stomach turned over when I had learned that Negro soldiers, just back from overseas, were being dumped out of Army trucks in Mississippi and beaten."

Verdict[edit]

Underrated president.

Dwight Eisenhower[edit]

The good[edit]

  • Enforced the Brown v. Board decision.
  • Started no foreign wars.
  • Ended the Korean War after personally visiting the front lines and seeing that it was pointless.
  • Interstate Highway System.
  • Bitch-slapped Joseph McCarthy
  • Bitch-slapped the UK and Israel to end the Suez Crisis.
  • Established NASA.
  • Increased programs for STEM education.
  • Balanced the budget by cutting military spending.

The bad[edit]

  • Supported the CIA coup in Iran.
  • Added religious bullshit to the Pledge of Allegiance.
  • Opposed the Geneva Convention's plan for peaceful Vietnamese reunification.

Finest moment[edit]

Being Supreme Allied Commander. More specifically: his "great crusade" speech on D-Day.

Verdict[edit]

Everybody should like Ike.

John F. Kennedy[edit]

The good[edit]

  • Support for civil rights.

The bad[edit]

  • Bay of Pigs.
  • Increased aid to South Vietnam and deepened US commitments in the region.
  • Signed off on assassinating the president of South Vietnam.
  • Compromised with the Dixiecrats by appointing wingnut federal judges.

Finest moment[edit]

The Cuban Missile Crisis.

Verdict[edit]

Most of the good stuff he supported was only realized after his death.

Lyndon B. Johnson[edit]

The good[edit]

  • Signed the Civil Rights Act.
  • The War on Poverty programs.
  • Signed the Voting Rights Act.

The bad[edit]

  • Repeatedly escalated US involvement in Vietnam.
  • Got Congress to pass the Gulf of Tonkin resolution even though he knew that the Gulf of Tonkin Incident was a farce.
  • Repeatedly lied to Congress about the Vietnam War.

Finest moment[edit]

Signing the Civil Rights Act.

Verdict[edit]

His hands are stained with the blood of Vietnam and American soldiers.

Richard Nixon[edit]

The good[edit]

  • Only Nixon could go to China.
  • Ended US involvement in Vietnam.
  • Established the EPA.
  • Began the effort to find a cure for cancer.

The bad[edit]

  • Supported the coup that brought Pinochet to power.
  • Just about everything he did in relation to the Pentagon Papers leak.
  • Antagonized Arab oil-producers by supporting Israel in the Yom Kippur War.
  • Watergate. Just Watergate.

Finest moment[edit]

Went to Disney World to deliver his "I am not a crook" speech.

Verdict[edit]

He could've been a decent president had he not been a fucking crook.

Gerald Ford[edit]

The good[edit]

  • Granted amnesty to Vietnam War draft-dodgers.
  • Deescalated Cold War tensions.
  • Pardoned Nixon, allowing the US to move on.

The bad[edit]

Finest moment[edit]

Falling down some stairs.

Verdict[edit]

Not very memorable.

Jimmy Carter[edit]

The good[edit]

  • Pardoned Vietnam War draft-dodgers.
  • Negotiated the Camp David Accords between Israel and Egypt.
  • Pushing for affirmative action.

The bad[edit]

  • Greatly escalated Cold War tensions in response to Soviet adventurism in Afghanistan.

Finest moment[edit]

All of the good work he's done after his presidency.

Verdict[edit]

A great man who got fucked over repeatedly by world events.

Ronald Reagan[edit]

The good[edit]

  • Amnesty for many illegal immigrants.
  • Helped end the Cold War.

The bad[edit]

  • Reaganomics.
  • AIDS crisis? What AIDS crisis?
  • Escalated the Drug War.
  • Iran-Contra.
  • Supporting the Mujaheddin.
  • Selling raw materials to Iraq to build chemical weapons.
  • Shifted the GOP towards wingnuttery.

Finest moment[edit]

"Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!"

Verdict[edit]

Overrated in many circles. Overly demonized in others.

George H. W. Bush[edit]

The good[edit]

  • Signed NAFTA.
  • Correctly handled the Kuwait Crisis.

The bad[edit]

  • Mishandled the end of the Gulf War.

Finest moment[edit]

The Doukakis tank ad.

Verdict[edit]

Okay president.

Bill Clinton[edit]

The good[edit]

  • Established the State Children's Health Insurance Program.

The bad[edit]

  • Signed the Defense of Marriage Act.
  • Repealed Glass-Steagall.
  • Perjured himself.
  • Escalated the Drug War.
  • Signed the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.

Finest moment[edit]

Beat an incumbent president.

Verdict[edit]

Overrated president.

George W. Bush[edit]

The good[edit]

  • Funded an AIDS relief program.

The bad[edit]

  • Began the Iraq War on false pretenses.
  • Signed No Child Left Behind.
  • Mishandled the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
  • His irresponsible deregulation helped lead to the Great Recession.
  • The global gag rule.
  • Signed the PATRIOT Act.
  • Exploded the size of the surveillance state.

Finest moment[edit]

The immediate aftermath of 9/11.

Verdict[edit]

Bad president.

Barack Obama[edit]

The good[edit]

  • Pushed and signed the Affordable Care Act.
  • Deescalation of the Drug War.
  • Authorized the Bin Laden raid.
  • Ended Don't Ask Don't Tell.

The bad[edit]

  • Aggressive persecution of whistleblowers.
  • Weak foreign policy against Russia.
  • Inaction in the early days of the Syrian Civil War.
  • Extended the PATRIOT Act.
  • The Iran Deal.

Finest moment[edit]

The Bin Laden raid.

Verdict[edit]

Above average president, will likely be remembered well. Honestly, the best thing that could have happened for his legacy happened in 2016. He'll definitely be remembered well compared to his successor.

Donald Trump[edit]

The good[edit]

  • Signed bipartisan sentencing reform legislation.
  • Is opposing Nicholas Maduro's regime.

The bad[edit]

  • Embarrasses the country every time he opens his mouth or types something.
  • "Zero tolerance" immigration policy, separating families.
  • Dumb tariff spat with China.
  • Disturbingly friendly with Saudi Arabia.
  • Irresponsible deregulation.
  • Appointed Brett Kavanaugh.
  • Mishandling of Hurricane Maria.
  • Transgender military ban.
  • Conciliatory attitude towards the alt-right.
  • Gutting the EPA.
  • Allowing CHIP to expire.
  • Appointing Ajit Pai to chair the FCC.
  • Near constant lying.

Finest moment[edit]

His unexpected election victory. Somehow, this asshole saw an opportunity no one else did.

Verdict[edit]

TBD, but it's likely the Twenty-First Century will have its worst president out of the way early just like the Twentieth.

See also[edit]