by Maureen Farrell
weeks, former presidents Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter
have been vilified for criticizing a sitting president. And veteran
reporter Helen Thomas has been targeted by the Republican National
Committee, whose members were instructed to "call her out"
for deeming G. W. Bush "the worst president in all of American
history." But if former presidents can't speak out and 82-year-old
icons are intimidated, who will champion the America we love?
William J. Ridings and Stuart B. McIver offer a solution.
Authors of "RATING THE PRESIDENTS:
A Ranking of U.S. Leaders, From the Great and Honorable to the
Dishonest and Corrupt," they polled hundreds of academics
and historians throughout the U.S. and Europe and rated presidents
in terms of leadership, political skill, appointments, accomplishments
and crisis management and character and integrity.
As is the case with any such list, it's
open for nitpicking, but even so, delving into the lives and
words of our nation's finest connects us to America's beacons.
And though reminders of our noble birth and traditional values
underscore how far we've fallen, these sentiments remain in the
hearts of patriots everywhere.
Here, then, is a sampling of ideals
set forth by our best and brightest, in contrast to those we
#1 - America's Top-Ranked
President, Abraham Lincoln
am a firm believer in the people. If given the truth, they can
be depended upon to meet any national crisis. The great point
is to bring them the real facts."
Last fall, Congressman Jim McDermott
shocked American pundits by suggesting President Bush would mislead
the American people in order to drag them into war. Since then,
the Guardian's Simon Tisdall called Bush "America's
great misleader," CIA officials accused the president of
using "cooked information" to falsify Iraq's threat,
and U.N. inspectors said the administration's weapons of mass
destruction evidence amounts to "garbage after garbage after
garbage." Bush has been caught lying about everything from
Iraq's nuclear capabilities and Al Qeada links to blue chip economists'
phantom reports. And as the rationale for war has morphed from
"weapons of mass destruction" to "regime change"
to "disarmament," to "Iraqi liberation,"
a recent Gallup poll shows that 58% of Americans believe Bush
would conceal evidence or lie to win public support for his war.
Honest Abe, he's not.
#2 - America's 2nd Greatest
President, Franklin Delano Roosevelt
only thing we have to fear is fear itself."
Remember when we learned that the president
had received warnings of possible terrorist attacks prior to
Sept. 11 -- and headlines screamed, "Bush Knew"? Or
when Colleen Rowley gained fame explaining ways FBI officials
thwarted agents' attempts to investigate suspected terrorists?
Though those events were monumentally noteworthy, they were overshadowed
by terror alerts that this administration, and the complaint
media, interrupted coverage to issue. Even the latest elevation
of the country's terror alert, which was based partly on fabrications,
was, according to one White House source, "a political decision
as much as anything else." This also falls under the presidential
rating category of "dishonest and corrupt."
#3 - America's 3rd Greatest
President, George Washington
nation which indulges towards another a habitual hatred, or an
habitual fondness, is in some degree a slave. It is a slave to
its animosity or to its affection, either of which is sufficient
to lead it astray from its duty and its interest."
From the "Axis of Evil" to
President Bush's description of Kim Jong Ill as a "pygmy"
to Donald Rumsfeld's dismissal of "old Europe," bellicose
bullying and habitual hatred have become standard diplomatic
fare. When Richard Perle, of the Pentagon's Defense Advisory
Board, suggests that Germany's Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder should
step down and says France is no longer an ally, it's easy to
see why the world is developing a habitual hatred towards us.
On the other hand, examples of habitual fondness include our
$15 billion friendship with Turkey and a relationship with Israel
that's caused Robert Fiskian reactions in mainstream America.
When Israel's Haaretz newspaper reported that Undersecretary
of State John Bolton promised Ariel Sharon the U.S would "deal
with threats" from Syria and Iran, Chris Matthews protested.
"Sharon, the right wing prime minister of Israel has now
issued a list of other countries we're supposed to attack and
liberate," he said. "Iran, then Libya and Syria after
that. Doesn't it take a certain kind of guts to tell the Americans
who we're supposed to attack next? That takes a lot of nerve."Why
isn't this administration leveling with the American people about
its pre-election, pre-packaged war plan to re-map the Middle
#4 - America's 4th Greatest
President, Thomas Jefferson
tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just; that
his justice cannot sleep forever. . . the Almighty has no attribute
that can take side with us in such a contest."
Though Jefferson was addressing slavery
in this passage, his concerns extend to our impending war as
well. And whether one calls it karma or blowback, America's spiritual
leaders understand "God's justice," too. The Bishop
of the Episcopalian Church in America, Frank Griswold, for example,
wisely notes how "the voices that are being raised up now
are equivalent to the prophets of old," while the U.S. National
Council of Churches is running ads warning that this war "violates
God's law." The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops also
issued a statement disproving of any war without "clear
and adequate evidence of an imminent attack of a grave nature"
and the Vatican has issued similar condemnations. Though proponents
of military action cite the liberation of the Iraqi people as
a moral justification for war, the Pentagon's murderous "Shock
and Awe" plan and Iraqi's ardent distrust of American occupation
significantly weaken their argument. Moreover, if America's motivation
is liberation, why does it look as if the Kurds, once again,
are being sold down the river?
#5 - America's 5th Greatest
President, Theodore Roosevelt
Man is justified in doing evil on the grounds of expedience."
It is not
reassuring to be told we are going to war because [Bush] 'has
already seen this movie' and is bored by it." - Molly
#6 - America's 6th Greatest
President, Woodrow Wilson
history of liberty is a history of the limitations of governmental
power, not the increase of it."
Though the PATRIOT Act was initially
deemed the biggest government power grab in recent history, the
Homeland Security Act was criticized by lawmakers for expanding
"the federal police state" and "culture of secrecy"
even further. Recently leaked draft legislation, the "Domestic
Security Act of 2003," indicates that the Justice Department
is proposing ways to strip Americans of their citizenship, considering
secret arrests for the first time in U.S. history, and trimming
judicial oversight while increasing the government's power. The
latest warning concerning "anti-American extremists"
makes an interesting semantic leap, too. By focusing on "extremists"
instead of "terrorists," everyone is now suspect --
making citizens more likely to welcome a loss of liberty in exchange
# 7 - America's 7th Greatest
President, Harry S. Truman
even one American - who has done nothing wrong -- is forced by
fear to shut his mind and close his mouth, then all of Americans
are in peril."
Harry S. Truman
Would Harry give Ari Fleischer hell
for saying that Americans "need to watch what they say,
watch what they do?"
#8 - America's 8th Greatest
President, Andrew Jackson
is to be regretted that the rich and powerful too often bend
the acts of government to their selfish purposes."
During George H. W. Bush's presidency,
G.W.'s Harken Energy, which had no international oil experience,
trounced Amaco and Chevron to land an exclusive contract with
the government of Bahrain. Neil and Marvin Bush struck up sweet
post-Gulf War deals and Junior's insider trading charges were
kindly swept aside. Today, Poppy Bush and former Secretary of
State James Baker benefit "from acts of government"
through the Carlyle Group.While serving as Secretary of Defense,
Dick Cheney vilified Saddam as "Hitler revisited,"
but later conducted $73 million worth of business with him as
CEO of Halliburton. Halliburton currently has contracts for building
Gitmo cells and military bases and is certain to benefit from
the projected $2 billion cost of rebuilding Iraq's oil infrastructure.
And now that the GAO has dropped its law suit, we the people
will never find out the role Enron played in dictating policy.
Because with 300 rollbacks in the Freedom of Information Act,
we can only speculate on which way the government bends.
#9 - America's 9th Greatest
President, Dwight D. Eisenhower
gun that is made, every warship that is launched, every rocket
fired signifies in the final sense a theft from those who hunger
and are not fed, those who are cold and not clothed"
Rep. Dennis Kucinich illustrated Eisenhower's
point brilliantly during a recent Crossfire appearance. Saying
that the unnecessary bombing and occupation of Iraq would "cost
this economy $1 trillion," he added, "We have money
to blow up bridges over the Tigress and Euphrates and we don't
have money to build bridges in our major cities. We have money
to destroy the health of the Iraqi people and we don't have enough
money to repair the health of our own people in this country."
#10 - America's 10th Greatest
President, James Madison
truth is that all men having power ought to be mistrusted."
# (Last --'the Worst President
in All of American History')
of Bush quotes (courtesy of Buzzflash.com):
don't get everything you want. A dictatorship would be a lot
Describing what it's like to be governor
of Texas. (Governing Magazine 7/98)
-- From Paul Begala's "Is Our Children Learning?"
this were a dictatorship, it would be a heck of a lot easier,
just so long as I'm the dictator."
dictatorship would be a heck of a lot easier, there's no question
(Business Week, July 30, 2001)
BUZZFLASH READER COMMENTARY
February 26, 2003