The following article is Part III of a four part series.
In a recent article for Newsmax, I established the five worst presidents in American history.
The response was so overwhelming, I was asked to do a different list, this time on the five best presidents.
In both cases, these were not subjective choices, but made as objectively as possible.
Joe Biden, ultra-leftist was of course one of the worst even after only a year and a half in office. It was not a difficult decision. He is unimaginative, and of highly questionable decision-making ability. Equally questionable are his ethics.
The argument can be well-made that Joe Biden is not someone you’d follow into battle.
Yes, you can make a determination after only less than two years.
Like anything else — war, a rocket program, writing, or anything else — you can pronounce a presidency a success or failure after a year and a half.
If rockets keep exploding after a year and a half, all will agree the program is a failure.
The same is true regarding our nation's presidents — if Biden's approval rating keeps falling — now at a Nixon-like 33% approval — if his liberal programs keep failing — then he's to be judged as a failure.
As Sir Isaac Newton proved, as an object in motion has a tendency to stay in motion — this time downward.
No wonder Biden's dog bites everybody and his actions are at times less than seemly.
So here are our five greatest but not including John F. Kennedy and James Garfield — who showed streaks of brilliance — but were cut down by an assassin’s bullet.
Not only were their presidencies interrupted, so was their promise.
1. George Washington
President George Washington had no predecessors from which to model his presidency on.
He had no tradition to emulate. He was a man sailing through uncharted waters.
He could have fashioned himself a king and America a great empire.
He could have let America intertwine itself with European powers, becoming, at best, a rook in Britain and France’s perpetual game of global chess.
Washington rejected it all.
As he presided over the birth of our infant nation, he appointed senior federal officials on the basis of character, honor, and integrity. He could have easily appointed lickspittle, family, and allies to these positions, but this was not his way.
When his cabinet met, Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson and Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton clashed, clawing at one another, but Washington consistently refused to join the fray.
He listened intently, only interrupting to maintain civility, and made his decisions based on the merits of their arguments and sensible judgment — not personal bias.
Though factionalism would soon plague American politics, Washington remains to this day the only president to never join a political party.
Washington recognized, above all else, that what America needed was time.
It needed time to establish itself, heal the wounds of a war-ravaged nation, and ensure that it was indeed sovereign in its own right.
He did so even in the face of harsh public criticism.
When the newly formed French government called upon America to honor its treaty and engage in war with Britain, Washington refused. When Hamilton pushed for America to militarize itself and ally more deeply with the British, he refused.
This; his ability to keep America out of another global war in its infancy is one of his greatest accomplishments.
It ensured that, almost 20 years later, when the British invaded once again and even after they burned our Capitol, our nation was resilient enough to stomach the blow, continue the fight, and eventually win the day.
2. Abraham Lincoln
America was able to endure for almost 75 years without accounting for the practice of slavery. Slavery, an institution anti-slavery Americans (abolitionists) were assured would be deceased by the 19th century had not only failed to expire but managed to flourish.
Beginning in 1850, with the incorporation of new states and territories into the union, it was clear that compromise between free and slave states was untenable.
A fracture was inevitable, but none could say how bad or lasting it would be.
The three presidents that preceded Lincoln; Millard Filmore, Franklin Pierce, and James Buchanan, are generally considered among the worst in American history. Filmore and Pierce weren’t intentionally malicious or incompetent. They were failures because they saw clearly that a choice would have to be made: freedom (abolition) or slavery.
Instead of making one, they both compromised and foisted their follies onto the next president. Buchanan did make a choice during his presidency, it just happened to be the wrong one.
He believed that if he worked to ensconce slavery as gospel in America, the matter would be settled. By the time his successor took office, seven states were in rebellion and a civil war was all but inevitable.
When a still young United States elected Lincoln, they did not elect a "public abolitionist."
They elected a moderate who did not believe in the expansion of slavery to new territories but did not campaign to end it outright. He had, however, made his feelings explicitly clear during the Illinois Republican convention, on June 16, 1858: "A house divided against itself cannot stand. I believe this government cannot endure permanently half slave and half free."
Lincoln did not initially challenge southern secessionists, nor did he enable them.
While his predecessors would have undermined the cause of American liberty and strength by attempting to appease the successionists, Lincoln held firm. His hope that the better angels of men would extinguish the fire of rebellion lasted until April 15, 1861.
When the Confederates fired on Fort Sumter, a federal fort that the Confederates demanded they take possession of, Lincoln saw clearly that a rubicon had been crossed.
The attack became a rallying cry that fueled Lincoln’s order for 75,000 Union Troops to end the rebellion.
Throughout the war, Lincoln refused to ever accept the assertion that the southern states were in rebellion.
He was fighting rebels from those states, not the states themselves.
This axiom ensured federal sovereignty over the confederacy and held at bay those northerners who sought to portray the war as one of "conquest."
His strong and steady diplomatic hand is what preserved the union, and freed the slaves.
A feat unrivaled by any president, save but one.
To be continued . . .
Craig Shirley is a Ronald Reagan biographer and presidential historian having written six books on Reagan. He has also written The New York Times bestseller, "December, 1941" and just published the companion book, "April, 1945" to wide acclaim. He is also the author of the book "Mary Ball Washington," which won the People’s Choice Award from the Library of Virginia. His book on the 1980 campaign entitled "Rendezvous with Destiny" was named by The Wall Street Journal as one of the five best campaign books of all time. Read Craig Shirley's Reports — More Here.
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