Skip to comments.“Recarving Rushmore” Reranks American Presidents
Posted on 02/28/2010 7:43:02 AM PST by Borges
If you saw Libertarian/Republican Ron Paul doing the interview with author Ivan Eland on CSpans BookNotes, you probably would have guessed that Elands new book Recarving Rushmore was not about to rank Presidents with the usual suspects (Lincoln, Washington, FDR, JFK, and other purveyors of big government) at the top.
Eland does not disappoint. The book is subtitled, Ranking the Presidents on Peace, Prosperity, and Liberty and that in itself should provide a clue that this is no ordinary tome of sycophantic praise for the big names Prezes.
Lovers of liberty and small government and Libertarians (both small and big L) everywhere should read Elands book. I brought it to the State House yesterday to show the Republican sponors of that Jeffersonian principles resolution we heard earlier this year. As someone who never lived up to Jeffersonian principles, Jefferson could not possibly rank high in Elands study. He does not. Hes 26th of 40 presidents, and the chapter number three (Eland takes the Presidents in historical order) is titled a hypocrite on limited government.
Two other Jeffersonian founders, Madison (28th) and Monroe (25th) are in the poor category. Thats because Eland is not fond of presidents who who led us into unnecessary wars. Of all the unnecessary wars (and there have been many), Madisons War of 1812 ranks right up there, and Monroe gets marked down for the doctrince which bears his name and attempts to foist United States power throughout the hemisphere.
Eland also doesnt like presidents who tried to expand excecutive power or central government power (FDR is 32nd), and the third grading criteria, usurping individual freedoms, helps relegate John Adams (Alien and Sedition Acts) to 22nd. Adams would be even lower but he did manage to keep us out of war with France in 1799.
In this 200th anniversay of Abraham Lincolns birth, I made a New Years resolution to read a biography of each and every American President. The Eland book is a pleasant interlude from a very interesting assignment, and once you grasp the thesis of the book, there should be few surprises. (Jimmy Carter at number eight is surprising but then despite his flaws, Jimmy did fight his own party to keep government smaller and was an advocate of deregulation).
So who tops Elands list. Since this is not a mystery, Ill reveal the answer. The virtually unknown John Tyler, who succeeded William Henry Harrison after he died 39 days into his term, is number one. Its an interesting choice to be sure. Tyler fought against the big government tendencies of his own Whig Party to such an extent that Henry Clay and Company virtually threw him out of the party while he was in the White House.
Having just completed a biography of Grover Cleveland, I was not surprised that this exemplar of honesty and limited government was ranked number two by Eland. Cleveland was a Democrat before the party was hijacked by tax and spend big government progressives.
It should come as absolutely no surprise that the President ranked last by Eland is the one who is hailed by those very tax and spend progressives today, but who deserves a place in ignominy by all lovers of feedom. Yes that would be the clueless Woodrow Wilson who expanded government, involved us in the war to end all wars and then sold out his own principles at the peace conference in Versailles, and did more to destroy individual liberties than anyone including Adams.
I generally agree with Eland.
Its always great to see do nothing Presidents ranked so high. Do nothingism is a rare honor indeeed, both in my book and in Elands book. Thus chisel in Dwight Eisenhower at number nine and Silent Cal at number ten.
Agree or not, you should find this book at lot of fun. The worse the president, the more pages devoted to him since it takes more time to explain the mischief he got us into. Its around 450 pages and inclues forumlaic economic rankings from a previous study.
Sorry Reaganites, this conservative writer does not rank Reagan well at all (34th). Why? Because, revisionist history notwithstanding, Reagan was not really all that conservative. Sad by true for may reddites reading this.
Heres the list. Only the top four are rated excellent; 5-10 good; 11-14 average; 15-24 poor; and 25 and lower bad.
1 John Tyler
2 Grover Cleveland
3 Martin van Buren
4 Rutherford B. Hayes
5 Chester A Artur
6 Warren G Harding
7 George Washington (expanded central power but did after all refuse a third term thus setting the trend till FDR went for three and four)
8 Jimmy Carter
9 Dwight D Eisenhower
10 Calvin Coolidge
11 Bill Clinton (more fiscally conservative than Reagan and the Bushes)
12 John Quincy Adams
13 Zachary Taylor
14 Millard Fillmore
15 Benjamin Harrison
16 Gerald Ford
17 Andrew Johnson (yes, the impeachable one)
18 Herbert Hoover
19 U.S. Grant
20 William Howard Taft
21 Theodore Roosevelt (interventionist and government expansionist to be sure)
22 John Adams
23 James Buchanan (I would have placed him lower)
24 Franklin Pierce (I would have placed him lower)
25 James Monroe
26 Thomas Jefferson
27 Andrew Jackson
28 James Madison
29 Abraham Lincoln (mihandled the civil war, trampled on freedoms, etc, etc, this chaper alone makes the book worthwhile)
30 Richard Nixon
32 LBJ (Great Big Spending Society)
33 George HW Bush
34 Ronald Reagan
36 George W Bush
37 James K Pok (Mexican War was totally our fault!)
38 William McKinley (ditto Spanish American War!)
39 Harry S. Truman (a real surpiseI would have placed him higher)
40 Woodrow the overt racist Wilson
It should be clear that Eland is not doing the bidding of any particular party. In fact, since Democrats used to value less government and lower spending, many Democrats rank very well. This survey is based on the principles of who maintained peace and prosperity and didnt usurp individual freedom. Eland lets the chips fall where they may in Recarving Rushmore. Other historians should be so honest.
I guess William Henry Harrison didn’t get enough at bats to qualify for the batting title. :)
Jimmy Carter at #8? I’d say the author smoked too much hash during Carter’s term.
Clinton only spent less once he was hemmed in by a conservative GOP Congress. It doesn’t seem right to grade him well based on what he didn’t really want to do.
I stopped reading when I saw that they ranked Jimmy Carter the 8th best president. I was alive when that incompetent was president and there couldn’t have been 3 US presidents WORSE than he was, much less 36.
Vaillancourt = Nuts!
Libertarians don’t get the basic truism that liberty and small government begins with a safe and secure homeland.
That that requires more than a just a nod to national defense.
Jimmy Carter is #8, Reagan is #34.
And that’s all that needs to be said about that.
Didn’t you catch that when they ranked Ronald Reagan at the bottom? The President who defeated Communism in Eastern Europe? And who inspired one of the greatest economies in our history?
This author is a complete idiot.....
Filed under *garbage in, garbage out*.
Not to mention he slashed the military budget.
Honorable mention for sideburns:
U.S. Grant was always my favorite. The more i read about him, the more i realize what a great man he was. His main flaw was that he trusted some people who were better not to be trusted. His autobiography is an absolute masterpiece. And when so many people wanted the south whipped forever, he did not cooperate and reunited the nation.
His only flaw was that he was too decent of a man for the S.O.B.s in DC. That’s not much of a flaw if you think about it.
Any ranking that puts Ronald Reagan behind FDR is
totally bogus at best.
Not entirely. Carter was seen as a failure because he came into DC with all sorts of ideas about how the place should work, was confronted with how it actually worked, and accomplished basically nothing.
Since the metric here is “presidents who did nothing” - Carter ranks pretty well up there.
Mark Twain helped him with that autobiography.
“Any ranking that puts Ronald Reagan behind FDR is
totally bogus at best.”
I guess this history scholar never heard of "The Era of Good Feeling." And Reagan 34th? This list isn't eccentric, it's psychotic.
Fortunately for his family Grant was able to complete his memoirs right before his death.
Jimmy Carter in the top ten? Jimmy Carter ranked higher than Ronald Reagan?
He did nothing, while the economy burned. That doesn’t really count.
To mention Washington in the same breath as Lincoln, FDR, JFK, "and other purveyors of big government" is to do him a great injustice.
He was definitely NOT an advocate of the type of monstrous, smothering, Big Government we now have.
Government is not reason; it is not eloquent; it is force. Like fire, it is a dangerous servant and a fearful master.
-- George Washington
And why mention JFK instead of LBJ?
Today a man holding JFK's positions would probably not be allowed to call himself a democrat, while LBJ is more responsible that any man other than FDR or Barack Obama for sending us down the dead end road to a failed welfare state.
Twain promoted and published it. But Grant wrote it like a man possessed, in longhand, in his final dying weeks. Twain and Grant were good friends. There is no authentic scholarship that suggests Twain wrote it, including some papers withheld by Twains daughter until SHE died.
You're being kind. I would say it's borderline psychotic.
The only face on Rushmore that should be changed is Reagan, replacing TR. And if I had room for Coolidge and Cleveland, I'd put them up there too.
From the author’s metrics, yes it does.
And, quite frankly, there was very little that Carter could have done to the economy to improve it. The 70’s economy was created by two issues:
1. The US removing any pretense of being on a gold standard radically devalued the US dollar, coupled with the explosion in social spending coming out of the Great Society, brought on inflation. Inflation is not a situation that the Congress or the POTUS can deal with. It has to be dealt with by the Fed and the banking system.
2. A rapid rise in oil prices almost always sends the US economy into a recession, and the rise in oil prices (as well as other commodity prices) just gutted the US consumer’s disposable income. Again, short of drilling a lot of oil in the US, which would not have appeared on the US market by the end of his first term, Carter could do little to nothing about this situation. The damage was already done before he got into office.
What Carter did do that addressed the situation: He appointed Paul Volcker as the chair of the Fed. And Volcker went after inflation with a big stick. Yes, this caused a big crimp in credit expansion, which had a recessionary effect on the US economy - but it also set the stage for the Reagan-era economic boom as rates came down after inflation was held in check.
That same conservative Congress that spent like drunken sailors when Dubya was elected? If they were doing it because of a belief in fiscal responsibility then where did it go to?
“8 Jimmy Carter
10 Calvin Coolidge”
All that needs to be said. Horrible list.
Without a safe and secure homeland not much else matters — something Paul and the Glenn Beck supported Libertarians don’t seem to grasp or anyone else who supports a Paul supported candidate.
When a historian speaks, people should listen!
He encouraged Grant to write it, daily. He published it almost as written, hardly any editing at all, since Grant was dying of throat cancer and didn't have much time. The result was the most readable memoir I have ever read. Probably the greatest work of American literature. One very good example of a pain in the ass newspaper columnist doing something of lasting value.
LOL. This list is a joke. The crypto-commie Jimmy Carter is ranked in the top 10? Puhleeeze!
Number 3 and number 6 killed it even before that. And Reagan behind Bush senior.
Ivan Eland dwells in the outer limits of the twilight zone.
Many of his essays were distributed as little hardcover books. This one was purchased by my grandfather when it was new, and given to me when I was new.
Best columnist, book reviewer, etc. ever.
Thanks for posting this, enables me to identify Eland as toxic, stay away, although the premise in general sounds attractive, same category as Ron Paul. Plus his history re : Madison and War of 1812 sounds deviant.
Martin Van Buren’s father was a slaveholder, but he later ran as the Free Soil candidate in 1848. The good people of Van Buren County, Missouri, were so upset by that that they changed the name of their county to Cass County (after the 1848 Demoncratic nominee, Lewis Cass).
Nor did James A. Garfield (President for 6 1/2 months).
I guess I've seen the longer spelling too many times here and it's starting to look like the correct spelling.
Best Beards is as good as any other ranking method. Some today might judge our presidents by who among them killed the most Muslims.
1. Dick Cheney
3. the rest
Bump for later comment.
Ivan Eland has a severe case of tunnel vision.
As performed by THEY MIGHT BE GIANTS
on the album Factory Showroom (Elektra 61862)
In 1844, the Democrats were split
The three nominees for the presidential candidate
Were Martin Van Buren, a former president
and an abolitionist
James Buchanan, a moderate
Louis Cass, a general and expansionist
From Nashville came a dark horse riding up
He was James K. Polk, Napoleon of the Stump
Austere, severe, he held few people dear
His oratory filled his foes with fear
The factions soon agreed
He's just the man we need
To bring about victory
Fulfill our Manifest Destiny
And annex the land the Mexicans command
And when the votes were cast the winner was
Mister James K. Polk, Napoleon of the Stump
In four short years he met his every goal
He seized the whole southwest from Mexico
Made sure the tariffs fell
And made the English sell the Oregon territory
He built an independent treasury
Having done all this he sought no second term
But precious few have mourned the passing of
Mister James K. Polk, our eleventh president
Young Hickory, Napoleon of the Stump
A “safe and secure” homeland begins with a FREE PEOPLE, not with government-owned peasants and serfs. That’s what a LOT of alleged “conservatives” seem to forget. If we, the People, are not free, NO amount of “safety and security” will make up for it. We’ll be safe and secure in our chains to do our masters’ bidding. Is THAT what you want?
Freedom comes with both a price and lots of RISK. Most of those who want safety and security are afraid of BOTH, thus siding against freedom. A good share of the people on this forum are willing to take the risks of freedom and provide for their OWN safety and security. Are you one of us? Or are you some wuss that is scared of your own shadow and wants a nice big brother to take care of you?
Yeah I’m a wuss, USMC tough-guy. You have no idea. None.
Your idiocy is not even worth a response.
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