so let's see some rankings then
― Gucci Mane hermeneuticist (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Wednesday, 4 August 2010 23:17 (2 years ago) Permalink
After becoming very interested in presidential politics through high school in the late '70s, I tuned out altogether through Reagan. He didn't hold any interest for me whatsoever. All my favourite bands hated him, but he just didn't register. His inaction on AIDs--I seem to recall in the Randy Shilts book that he didn't say the word publically until deaths had reached 50,000--was probably as reprehensible as anything you can pin on anybody else on the list. (Willful inaction, to me, seems like a more grevious transgression among politicians than well-intentioned action that turns out badly.)
― clemenza, Wednesday, 4 August 2010 23:19 (2 years ago) Permalink
Ehhh. I'm gay and don't think it's as reprehensible as you claim, considering that it took the death of Rock Hudson to mobilize any sort of mass public interest in the disease as an epidemic. Reagan was as blinkered as Walter Mondale would have been; nothing in that generation's DNA suggests they would have bee comfortable discussing condoms, gay sex, blood transfusions, etc (that's why congressman and senators around when Roe v Wade was upheld get a pass from me; do you think FDR's second generation of New Dealers were prepared to discuss a woman's right to an abortion?).
Reagan gets some points for appointing C. Everett Koop, who's as conservative as it gets yet recognized the threat from the get-go (and he made some headlines a few years ago for lamenting the Bushies' inattention to science).
― Gucci Mane hermeneuticist (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Wednesday, 4 August 2010 23:23 (2 years ago) Permalink
Also: Reagan was the first prez to allow an openly gay male couple to spend the night and share a room in the WH, if that means anything (probably not).
― Gucci Mane hermeneuticist (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Wednesday, 4 August 2010 23:24 (2 years ago) Permalink
But just because he was adamant in his actions, I have to believe that in his thoughts, if not in his public utterances, he was aware of the moral weight of what he was doing. You make him sound like a kid playing a video game, and call me naive but I just don't believe that.
― clemenza, Wednesday, August 4, 2010 10:56 PM (12 minutes ago) Bookmark
Well I think part of it was that Truman was so out of the loop that at first he didn't realize exactly what this weapon was. So when he first heard about it, his feelings were much less complicated by how horrible nuclear weapons are. It was just: hey, we've got a great new weapon!
But there was never any question in his mind over whether they'd use it, AFAIK.
― Matt Armstrong, Wednesday, 4 August 2010 23:31 (2 years ago) Permalink
Dubya really stands out on this list as a fucking moron, huh?
― Matt Armstrong, Wednesday, 4 August 2010 23:34 (2 years ago) Permalink
I understand your point about generational inertia, but doesn't that also excuse Eisenhower's inaction on civil rights in the '50s? I think Mondale would have been much better than Reagan on that one particular issue--I'm sure he would have finessessed how any kind of governmental action was presented to the public, but I think he would have been much more pro-active. You cut slack for Reagan that you don't (on other threads and on other issues) for Obama--is that because Obama's of a generation that's supposed to know better?
― clemenza, Wednesday, 4 August 2010 23:35 (2 years ago) Permalink
Yeah, I'd like to think that the President of the United States would bother to mention a massive outbreak of a new deadly disease.
― Matt Armstrong, Wednesday, 4 August 2010 23:37 (2 years ago) Permalink
tbf it wasn't even really identified as a disease for quite awhile - it was an amorphous set of symptoms that was fatally and disproportionately striking a particular demographic. Montagnier and Gallo didn't identify HIV until 1983.
― Party Car! (Shakey Mo Collier), Wednesday, 4 August 2010 23:40 (2 years ago) Permalink
The difference between Eisenhower and Reagan is seventy years of inaction, inertia, and Supreme Court rulings gutting federal intervention. The NAACP already existed and was a powerful force. Civil rights commanded attention in a way that sympathy for AIDS victims didn't. I'm not excusing either one, btw. It's also worth noting that Reagan adamantly opposed (and even wrote a column) California's proposal to fire gay school teachers in the seventies.
As for Obama, I expect him to know better! He did come of age when gay rights mattered. I also realize that I might judge him differently if the landscape's changed for us in six years.
― Gucci Mane hermeneuticist (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Wednesday, 4 August 2010 23:40 (2 years ago) Permalink
also: 1983 to 1987 (when Reagan and the surgeon general publicly committed federal funds to resarch) isn't that long, even when it understandably seems so when thousands of victims are dying.
― Gucci Mane hermeneuticist (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Wednesday, 4 August 2010 23:42 (2 years ago) Permalink
― Gucci Mane hermeneuticist (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Wednesday, 4 August 2010 23:43 (2 years ago) Permalink
tbf I do think it's fairly unforgivable that Reagan didn't acknowledge AIDS until 1987 after tens of thousands of US citizens had died and the disease had already spread across the world. that this catastrophic failure of the national healthcare system happened on his watch is pretty fucking odious. There were plenty of people pressing for a much stronger national response to the crisis between '83 and '87, and the difference could have meant savings literally millions of lives down the line.
― Party Car! (Shakey Mo Collier), Wednesday, 4 August 2010 23:44 (2 years ago) Permalink
AIDS is one big strike against Reagan, apartheid another which I find even more unforgivable.
― Haunted Clocks For Sale (Dorianlynskey), Wednesday, 4 August 2010 23:47 (2 years ago) Permalink
Ike tied w/LBJBill ClintonJohn F. KennedyJimmy CarterGerald R. FordRonald ReaganHarry S. TrumanGeorge H.W. BushRichard M. NixonGeorge W. Bush
but yeah all these guys did some loathsome shit, I'm not excited about any of them really
― Party Car! (Shakey Mo Collier), Wednesday, 4 August 2010 23:48 (2 years ago) Permalink
Clinton did a lot of lame shit but at least he didn't annihilate any other countries/embroil us in wars and the economy more or less functioned well
Why Clinton so high? Not that I disagree, just that his failures spring to mind far more readily than his successes. [oh wait, you've just answered that, sort of] And I'm surprised you rate Carter and Ford so highly, but I'm sure there's stuff I'm forgetting.
Really hard not to put George W at the bottom, whichever angle you're coming from.
― Haunted Clocks For Sale (Dorianlynskey), Wednesday, 4 August 2010 23:50 (2 years ago) Permalink
As the Morris and Cannon biographies stress, by 1987 Reagan was in his early seventies, visibly aging, and his attention only held by (a) negotiating with Gorby (b) freeing the hostages. You could legitimately argue that Alzheimer's was already showing itself. It's a stretch for me to imagine a man of his age and generation to talk openly about gay men and hemophiliacs.
This sounds like I'm forgiving him, but I'm not as outraged. I just don't think any presidential candidate (Ted Kennedy excepted) would have given this crisis an evangelical force. Had Carter won reelection in '80, his political appointees wouldn't have done much either.
― Gucci Mane hermeneuticist (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Wednesday, 4 August 2010 23:51 (2 years ago) Permalink
Shakes, your list is fascinating. Why Ike tied with LBJ? Why Reagan over Truman?
― Gucci Mane hermeneuticist (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Wednesday, 4 August 2010 23:53 (2 years ago) Permalink
otoh I hold Reagan responsible for, yes, apartheid, and his batshit Central America policies.
― Gucci Mane hermeneuticist (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Wednesday, 4 August 2010 23:54 (2 years ago) Permalink
it's more like Carter and Ford were the LEAST BAD as opposed to any good - maybe would've been more reflective of my actual opinion to include a "fuck the rest" category as Alfred did.
I've always kinda had a soft-spot for Jimmy due to his energy czar/"we must pursue renewable energy" schtick, even if it went nowhere. Ford's a jackass but he didn't really do anything bad afaict apart from pardoning Tricky Dick. The bottom four are there for being war-mongers, basically. I give Reagan credit for the Cold War management, which in hindsight really is remarkable. But that's as far as I'll go with him. Reagan never nuked anybody, ergo he beats Truman. In general I'm not down with the American war machine, LBJ's embrace of it is easily his biggest failing - it's just that in his case I think his other accomplishments almost (but only almost) make up for it
― Party Car! (Shakey Mo Collier), Wednesday, 4 August 2010 23:55 (2 years ago) Permalink
Great bit in the Cannon book where he mixes up El Salvador and Nicaragua when he's talking about who the US is backing. Adds a note of black comedy to the whole cynical mess.
― Haunted Clocks For Sale (Dorianlynskey), Wednesday, 4 August 2010 23:55 (2 years ago) Permalink
haha -- I have to remind myself too. "Oh, right, El Salvador had the right wing junta ruling, while the Contras were the American-backed militia."
― Gucci Mane hermeneuticist (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Wednesday, 4 August 2010 23:57 (2 years ago) Permalink
I think I'd rank them like this, with some ambivalence about how to weigh up general ineptitude against real achievements + evil shit. Seems to me that Reagan was in most senses a better president than Carter or Ford, even though he did far more things I disagree with. Otherwise, pro-Dem bias a given.
LBJJFKIkeTrumanClintonReaganCarterFordNixonBush SnrBush Jnr
― Haunted Clocks For Sale (Dorianlynskey), Wednesday, 4 August 2010 23:59 (2 years ago) Permalink
Reagan was in most senses a better president than Carter or Ford, even though he did far more things I disagree with.
That's how I come down too. And I do accept the argument that, the reality to the contrary, Reagan was the most "transformational" prez since FDR. His continued popularity is not something anyone can sneeze at; it reminds me of the love some people's grandparents felt for FDR. And, of course, conservatives (and liberals) have real problems with FDR too.
Not much talk about JFK here, and deservedly, I suppose.
― Gucci Mane hermeneuticist (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Thursday, 5 August 2010 00:03 (2 years ago) Permalink
The thing about judging Truman for the atomic bombs is a red herring: after tests in the US, he had been briefed on the likely destruction. He knew it wouldn't be any greater than the Tokyo firestorms that March, but he also knew that (as long as it worked) it would be certain. Tokyo, was a precedent that made Hiroshima and Nagasaki OK. It's only in hindsight (with many of us growing up during Cold War years) that we think that nuclear is substantively different.
― paulhw, Thursday, 5 August 2010 00:15 (2 years ago) Permalink
eisenhower wins this pretty easily; even his flaws (nixon as VP, CIA coups) seem minor compared to what his successors got away with. of the rest, johnson stands out for his domestic record -- as flawed as the great society was (robert sherrill's "the accidental president," from 1968, is eye-opening on this), it's still a more ambitious set of policies than any other president in history, even FDR, ever tried. on the other hand, he was a lying warmonger and a pretty repellent human being on a personal level. par for the course with presidents, i guess.
i'd rather hang out with truman than most of these guys, but he rates low in my book for illegally waging a war in korea (a pretty unnecessary one in my view, though i'm sure there're plenty of "global strategy" types who disagree), setting the stage for too many of his successors.
what did all those mao-loving students think of nixon/china? funny that nixon didn't seem to see any contradiction in sitting around swapping jokes and compliments with the world's most prominent communist leader whilst accelerating a vicious war allegedly started in order to contain "world communism."
― (The Other) J.D. (J.D.), Thursday, 5 August 2010 00:19 (2 years ago) Permalink
Yeah, I mentioned the Nixon-Mao shit-talking sessions above because it's obvious each found a kindred spirit.
― Gucci Mane hermeneuticist (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Thursday, 5 August 2010 00:23 (2 years ago) Permalink
Funny how Ike was for thirty years dismissed as the Reagan of his time, until Stephen Ambrose's (excellent) bio. Dude was the most preternaturally self-possessed prez of the last fifty years.
― Gucci Mane hermeneuticist (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Thursday, 5 August 2010 00:26 (2 years ago) Permalink
I agree: Ike, followed, I guess, by WJC. But I can't tell if my dislike of LBJ (as a person) is unfair: his social programs form so much good stuff now taken for granted (esp. Medicaid & Medicare, Higher Ed Act, PBS, NEH, NEA, Wilderness Acts).
― paulhw, Thursday, 5 August 2010 00:27 (2 years ago) Permalink
Should any political party attempt to abolish social security, unemployment insurance, and eliminate labor laws and farm programs, you would not hear of that party again in our political history. There is a tiny splinter group, of course, that believes you can do these things. Among them are a few Texas oil millionaires, and an occasional politician or business man from other areas. Their number is negligible and they are stupid.
― Gucci Mane hermeneuticist (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Thursday, 5 August 2010 00:36 (2 years ago) Permalink
I can't believe it--when in office, I was fixated on many of the same things that drove his enemies round the bend--and I still haven't made up my mind about how he conducted himself in 2008, but I'm going to vote for Clinton. I only feel comfortable voting for someone who was at least in office during my lifetime, and that eliminates Truman and Eisenhower. I'm basically a wishy-washy left/left-centre guy, so that eliminates Ford, Reagan, and Bush I right off the bat; part of my job is to teach kids that it's a good thing to be smart, so that eliminates Bush II. Nixon and Johnson, are, to resort to a cliche, tragically flawed. Carter presided over (very) interesting times, but he just hunkered down and lost control. Kennedy...I have no strong feelings about him one way or the other; my loss, and I think I experienced some of what I missed with Obama in 2008. I think Clinton was in some ways the luckiest guy in the world to see the internet economy take root during his presidency, but the fact is, he left the country in good shape (longer view, hard to say; I've seen some of what led to the recent financial collapse laid at his doorstep, and conservatives will have you believe that 9/11 was all his fault). And I've come full circle on his personal escapades, or, more accurately, how he handled the fallout. I think he was 100% correct to resort to lies and legalisms over something so utterly irrelevant to his job performance, and I can't believe I ever believed otherwise.
― clemenza, Thursday, 5 August 2010 04:30 (2 years ago) Permalink
and conservatives will have you believe that 9/11 was all his fault).
some liberals will hold him partly accountable, too
― terry squad (k3vin k.), Thursday, 5 August 2010 04:35 (2 years ago) Permalink
My problem with Clinton's lies is how little he offered in recompense. Even though I was eighteen, I was struck by the callousness with which then Gov. Clinton flew back to Arkansas to sign and oversee the death of Ricky Ray Rector just so he could prove he was Tough on Crime. I never fully gave him the benefit of the doubt subsequently.
I only defend him when Republicans bash him. As I hinted upthread, he was a better Reagan than Reagan -- he represented the apotheosis and triumph of Reaganism. Like Nixon and China, only a Democrat could preside and approve of NAFTA, the Telecommunications Act of 1996, rampant deregulation, welfare reform, and the bombing of a Sudanese pill factory.
― Gucci Mane hermeneuticist (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Thursday, 5 August 2010 11:22 (2 years ago) Permalink
Polls of Americans and non-Americans would be interesting. Don't think the result would be that different 'cept non-Americans wouldn't know much about Truman and Eisenhower and boring guys like Ford
― tom d: he did what he had to do now he is dead (Tom D.), Thursday, 5 August 2010 11:30 (2 years ago) Permalink
This is true. They're the ones I find hardest to assess.
― Haunted Clocks For Sale (Dorianlynskey), Thursday, 5 August 2010 11:50 (2 years ago) Permalink
We were a bit preoccupied with our own problems when Truman was Pres.
― tom d: he did what he had to do now he is dead (Tom D.), Thursday, 5 August 2010 11:57 (2 years ago) Permalink
Also I suspect Carter presidency seems a bit dull to non-Americans. Even LBJ, who along with Nixon is the most interesting Pres. on the list imo, at the time I doubt he made much impression outside the US except as the guy who took over from JFK (who everyone was in love with)
― tom d: he did what he had to do now he is dead (Tom D.), Thursday, 5 August 2010 12:24 (2 years ago) Permalink
Even though I was eighteen, I was struck by the callousness with which then Gov. Clinton flew back to Arkansas to sign and oversee the death of Ricky Ray Rector just so he could prove he was Tough on Crime.
But that's the thing--they've all got problems. You just don't escape the presidency without a laundry list of unseemly stuff. You rank LBJ and Eisenhower ahead of Clinton. Did Clinton engage in anything as catastrophic as Vietnam? Or Eisenhower's relucatance to do anything more than the bare minimum on civil rights? (My understanding, anyway, which is why I didn't want to vote for anyone from before I was born--that may be an unfair characterization.) The fact that Clinton's shortcomings are so manifest and so fresh in everyone's memory, yet his presidency is still viewed as largely successful by a majority of Americans, is no small achievement, I think. On the other hand, a) (to repeat) I'm not sure if he was just lucky in terms of the economy, and b) preceding Bush II is a gift in terms of how your own presidency is remembered.
― clemenza, Thursday, 5 August 2010 12:43 (2 years ago) Permalink
Marshall Plan and Berlin airlift, yo.
― Gucci Mane hermeneuticist (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Thursday, 5 August 2010 13:04 (2 years ago) Permalink
Or Eisenhower's relucatance to do anything more than the bare minimum on civil rights?
Not quite true! His administration lent LBJ considerable assistance in helping pass the Civil Rights Act of 1958, which no one remembers now because subsequent legislation overshadowed it but was the first to break the Solid South's filibuster.
― Gucci Mane hermeneuticist (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Thursday, 5 August 2010 13:16 (2 years ago) Permalink
not enough talk about reagan w/r/t economics, more important than anything else he did other than, I guess, his noble decision not to nuke russia. tax cuts were one of the greatest poor->rich wealth transfers in history, fucked the deficit in the long-term, created millions of mini-reagans - like, his effect on the GOP and american economic-thinking is probably as bad the actual things he did.
war on drugs, war on unions, so many ways he fucked millions and millions of people the middle and lower classes in ways that are easily felt ~3 decades later.
carter/ford/jfk types might have been worthless, but impossible to say that they damaged the country like he did in the long-term - even nixon didn't come close. don't care about the history professor 'but did he accomplish his goals?' perspective - other than dubya, he's the worst one here, absoultely, no question imo. could argue he was worse than dubya too.
― iatee, Thursday, 5 August 2010 13:37 (2 years ago) Permalink
people *in* the middle and lower classes
― iatee, Thursday, 5 August 2010 13:38 (2 years ago) Permalink
This is why ranking them is basically impossible. I was trying to combine objective "effectiveness" with policies I agreed with, when really you'd need two different lists. Putting Reagan in the middle, as I did last night, is a botched compromise really.
― Haunted Clocks For Sale (Dorianlynskey), Thursday, 5 August 2010 14:01 (2 years ago) Permalink
It's worthwhile to clarify what you mean "tax cuts" since the history of Reagan's economic policy is tangled and confusing. From what I've read the revisions to the tax code in 1986 were necessary (Clinton then adjusted them so that there was more parity). He also raised taxes twice, in part to cover his ass after the damage wrought in '81. But I agree with you in principle: Cheney's line ("Ronald Reagan proved that deficits don't matter") is the animating principle of the current GOP, despite the fact that Reagan's myth didn't measure up to the reality.
― Gucci Mane hermeneuticist (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Thursday, 5 August 2010 14:10 (2 years ago) Permalink
alfred I gotta say you're the most interesting of the ilx grummy old politics dudes. yeah 'tax cuts' was too broad - and while there were some reasonable changes to the tax code (and the inevitable tax hikes) I don't think that there's conclusive evidence that lowering the top rate from 50% was necessary! there are countries operating fine w/ top rates much higher than that.
― iatee, Thursday, 5 August 2010 14:29 (2 years ago) Permalink
haha thanks! I'm not that old, although I wanna be.
― Gucci Mane hermeneuticist (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Thursday, 5 August 2010 14:35 (2 years ago) Permalink
and I mean, the idea that there even *is* an appropriate tax bracket structure, or system of taxation even, only makes sense if we're all going to agree on a lot of macroeconomics...
― iatee, Thursday, 5 August 2010 14:40 (2 years ago) Permalink
haha sorry for calling you old, I suppose you are the youngin among jd and morbs
― iatee, Thursday, 5 August 2010 14:41 (2 years ago) Permalink
but back to my overall idea - there isn't a president on that list who has affected american political/economic thinking in the same manner as reagan. we're still playing a game with his rules - and they're awful rules.
maybe nixon and the southern strategy could be arguably up there? but he added fuel to a fire, he didn't create the situation. I don't think a reagan-type politician was inevitable in the 80s. I don't think a dubya-type politician was inevitable in the 00s. but if nixon hadn't been born, the south would still be republican.
― iatee, Thursday, 5 August 2010 14:47 (2 years ago) Permalink