Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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July 4, 2007

PRESIDENTIAL FAVES....Rasmussen Reports conducted a poll gauging Americans' attitudes towards every U.S. president in history. There weren't too many surprises.

Six American Presidents are viewed favorably by at least 80% of all Americans. Those esteemed six are led by the first President George Washington. The Father of our Country is viewed favorably by 94% of Americans. The sixteenth President, Abraham Lincoln, is the second most popular. The man who gave us the Gettysburg Address is viewed favorably by 92%.

The next four are Thomas Jefferson (89%), Teddy Roosevelt (84%), Franklin D. Roosevelt (81%), and John F. Kennedy (80%).

And who fared the worst? No big surprises there, either.

The highest unfavorable rating for any President is earned by Richard Nixon. Sixty percent (60%) of Americans have an unfavorable opinion of the only President to resign from office. Thirty-two percent (32%) have a favorable opinion of the man who famously went to China.

Close on Nixon's heels for most unpopular is the current President, George W. Bush. Fifty-nine percent (59%) have an unfavorable opinion of him.

It's probably worth clarifying that the favorable/unfavorable rating was a combined score -- Rasmussen gave respondents a choice between "very favorable, "somewhat favorable," "somewhat unfavorable," and "very unfavorable." Nixon's "very unfavorable" was 25%. George W. Bush's was 40%.

I had two random questions, though. First, the only president who came close to George W. Bush for "very unfavorable" was William McKinley, who also got a 40%. Was this some kind of printing error? Does McKinley really have that many critics?

And second, who are the 6% of Americans who are reluctant to give George Washington the thumbs up? Is there some kind of anti-Washington contingent out there that's gone largely unnoticed?

Steve Benen 8:06 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (116)

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Since (I understand) public-opinion polling turfs up about 5% of the sample that does not know who the current president is, I suspect an equal number, ignorant of GW and his role in American history, simply associate his surname with Washington, D.C., causing such people to react unfavorably.

Posted by: biosparite on July 4, 2007 at 8:14 PM | PERMALINK

It's the wooden teeth.

And possibly the slaves.

Posted by: anonymous on July 4, 2007 at 8:15 PM | PERMALINK

Critics of Bush should stop referring to Bush's behavior as Nixonian. Bush is so far past Nixon in creepiness and criminality, that it's unfair to Nixon to be compared to Bush.

Posted by: bebimbob on July 4, 2007 at 8:26 PM | PERMALINK

A couple of years ago, there were a bunch of articles on how much Karl Rove admired McKinley's advisor Mark Hanna, and how Rove was hoping to emulate him, so there may be some guilt by association. I would have a really tough time imagining that 60% or people were making that connection though.

Posted by: MattT on July 4, 2007 at 8:29 PM | PERMALINK

The McKinley thing is probably a typo. If you look at the second column of that table, total unfav, it gives him 24%. Since 'Somewhat unfavorable' was 20%, 'very unfavorable' probably should be 4 rather than 40.

That's also consistent with 35% not sure plus 42% total approval.

-dms

Posted by: dmsilev on July 4, 2007 at 8:35 PM | PERMALINK

History will judge George W. Bush as the greatest President of the country who singlehandedly brought sanity to our weird system of checks and balances and of idiotic and quirky little things, like heabeas corpus and inability of our law enforcement officers to eavesdrop on Americans' phone conversations to know when our traitors want to do the traitoring, which had before him paralysed our Commander-in-Chief from taking any action against those who have declared their intention to kill us.

Posted by: gregor on July 4, 2007 at 8:36 PM | PERMALINK

Washington was a terrible general and a dishonest, mediocre president. The anti-Washington contingent is made up of people who know something about Washington.

Posted by: BarrettBrown on July 4, 2007 at 8:37 PM | PERMALINK

As you note the 40% very unfavorable of McKinley is a typo. The correct fraction is 4% very unfavorable. Total unfavorable is 24% and 20% have a moderately unfavorable view. The total adds up to

McKinley, William

fav unfav very fav somewhat fav
42% 24% 7% 35%

somewhat unfav very unfav
20% 40%

don't know
35%

with the 40% very unfavorable the total adds up 137% which is a lot. With the correct 4% adds up to 24% total ufav (check) and 101% total (that's rounding).

W is all alone as president about whom more people have unfavorable views.

Posted by: Robert Waldmann on July 4, 2007 at 8:37 PM | PERMALINK

So I have to wonder, the minute Sen. Hillary becomes the next president - will Glen Reynolds decide to move to..to Australia, or something?

One can only hope, but who knows, maybe Pat Robertson will join him in the land down under.

The Reverend Pat Robertson has cancelled a visit to the UK and blamed the summer floods there on abortions, gay marriage, ... July 2nd

Ms. Hillary should act quickly and redistrict the land since the high court has now made it totally legal to do so AND because I sincerely NEVER, EVER want a Republican president in office ever again after the very ugly Mr. Bush.


Posted by: Me_ again on July 4, 2007 at 8:43 PM | PERMALINK

George I: Maybe you still have some lurking loyalists? Remember the revolution was only supported by perhaps 40% of the populace (and those most rabid for the fight were those sitting next to the 'empty' Indian lands that had been affirmed as off limits in the Quebec Act of 1774; ie. taxes weren't the strongest motivation).

George II: Sired and abetted George III. Nuff said. He'll slip from here.

George III: When the full excesses of this administration come out, Bush will exceed Nixon on both counts. And GW has no EPA, detente or China to counter his negatives. But the scary thing here is not the negatives but the 21% 'very fovorable' rating (cp. LBJ at 6%)

McKinley: I dunno. Never underestimate the sway of Filipino-Americans?

Posted by: snicker-snack on July 4, 2007 at 8:45 PM | PERMALINK

Congrats to the American people for finally getting wise to Bush. But where the hell were they in 11/04? Anyone paying attention would have seen the loser for what he was then. Same goes for '00. Too late to get smart now.

Posted by: JJF on July 4, 2007 at 8:45 PM | PERMALINK

There's nothing more American than buyer's remorse.

Posted by: Otto Man on July 4, 2007 at 8:51 PM | PERMALINK

I will never understand the Lincoln fascination. A man who lawyered for slave holders when Robert E Lee had freed his slaves - who invaded the south after they had made it plain that they did not want to be part of the nation ( Lincoln didn't care what slaves thought) - a man whose motive for going to war was to save his job - who found a motive for going to war that we all remember after thousands had died, was a moral one and the LAST one promulgated, the last and most desparate - a man whose final policy stance was utterly repudiated by those who followed him. Savior of the South? No. It spent the next 100 years in poverty. Savior of black people? No. The United States was not interested in equality for black people for 100 years. Savior of the republican party? You have a point there.

He did however make us feel good about ourselves. He somehow convinced us that we somehow did the right thing. When we really didn't. That war was a fantastic cluster thingee of tragic proportions. And it yielded a union held together by bruit force that continued to utilize, demean and annihilate blacks and native americans without enfranchising them.

So what is the big deal with Lincoln?

Posted by: kla on July 4, 2007 at 9:13 PM | PERMALINK

IF Dems take the presidentcy in 08 - and all the signs are good right now, I guess we should thank Broder and Brooks for their tireless support of little Bushie and Dick Cheney while ignoring those voters with the common decency to leave the Republican Party and renounce any affiliation in great droves that have left the GOP Party smaller then The Dem Party.

And Murdock for his non-stop parading about of poor brain dead little Terri Shavio on his FOX (non-)news TeeVee.

As Broder said, Republicans still LIKE Bush, it's just that there aren't that many Republicans any more - perhaps those fleeing the party have now become members of those foul mouth liberal bloggers association, turn-coats that they are, the ones that Mr. Broder is always talking about on Pumpkin Head's Press the Conservative Meat weekly (or aka, "Bushies the man") show.

Posted by: Me_again on July 4, 2007 at 9:19 PM | PERMALINK

Re kla:

What's with Lincoln? Well he was a pretty good writer and speech maker. And it's hardly fair to blame him for 100 years of southern poverty when you admit his policies were repudiated by those who followed him.

To a westerner it is always a bit of puzzle. Why does the south seem to have a disproportionate number of super-patriots support our country unconditionally, but who simultaneously claim they would rather the south have been allowed to secede from the dreaded union?

Posted by: fafner1 on July 4, 2007 at 9:40 PM | PERMALINK

Is there some kind of anti-Washington contingent out there that's gone largely unnoticed?

Native Americans?

Posted by: adam on July 4, 2007 at 9:49 PM | PERMALINK

Maybe censorship hurt McKinley in retrospect:
"Throughout...ordeals, McKinley controlled American policy and news with an "iron hand." McKinley was the first president to have the use of telephones and telegraphs giving him access to battlefield commanders and reporters in mere minutes, and he used this to his full advantage. He censored the news at home about the war abroad. These ordeals also gave life to an Anti-Imperialist League movement at home.
Significant events during presidency
Dingley Tariff (1897)
Maximum Freight Case (1897)
Annexation of Hawaii (1898)
Spanish-American War (1898)
Philippine-American War (1899-1913)
Boxer Rebellion (1900)
Gold Standard Act (1900)
(From wikipedia)

Posted by: consider wisely always on July 4, 2007 at 9:51 PM | PERMALINK

And second, who are the 6% of Americans who are reluctant to give George Washington the thumbs up? Is there some kind of anti-Washington contingent out there that's gone largely unnoticed?

Washington displayed the temerity to reject a royal title and rule as king. This act, or failure to act, enabled our republic to develop into its current form. The 6%ers hate that fact, because it's one of the barriers between G.W. Bush and absolute power.

Posted by: Martin Gale on July 4, 2007 at 10:01 PM | PERMALINK

I'm really surprised at the lack of success by the left in demonizing the father of our country with only 6% opposition.

Posted by: minion on July 4, 2007 at 10:02 PM | PERMALINK

Critics of Bush should stop referring to Bush's behavior as Nixonian. Bush is so far past Nixon in creepiness and criminality, that it's unfair to Nixon to be compared to Bush.

Yeah, Bush is more like Al Capone, and what American witnessed with Bush was a hostile takeover of corrupt corporate thugs – and Lee Iacocca was absolutely right with his comments:

Am I the only guy in this country who's fed up with what's happening? Where the hell is our outrage? We should be screaming bloody murder. We've got a gang of clueless bozos steering our ship of state right over a cliff, we've got corporate gangsters stealing us blind, and we can't even clean up after a hurricane much less build a hybrid car. But instead of getting mad, everyone sits around and nods their heads when the politicians say, "Stay the course."

Stay the course? You've got to be kidding. This is America, not the damned Titanic. I'll give you a sound bite: Throw the bums out!

You might think I'm getting senile, that I've gone off my rocker, and maybe I have. But someone has to speak up. I hardly recognize this country anymore. The President of the United States is given a free pass to ignore the Constitution, tap our phones, and lead us to war on a pack of lies. Congress responds to record deficits by passing a huge tax cut for the wealthy (thanks, but I don't need it). The most famous business leaders are not the innovators but the guys in handcuffs. While we're fiddling in Iraq, the Middle East is burning and nobody seems to know what to do. And the press is waving pom-poms instead of asking hard questions. That's not the promise of America my parents and yours traveled across the ocean for. I've had enough. How about you?

I'll go a step further. You can't call yourself a patriot if you're not outraged. This is a fight I'm ready and willing to have....

Why are we in this mess? How did we end up with this crowd in Washington? Well, we voted for them—or at least some of us did. But I'll tell you what we didn't do. We didn't agree to suspend the Constitution. We didn't agree to stop asking questions or demanding answers. Some of us are sick and tired of people who call free speech treason. Where I come from that's a dictatorship, not a democracy....

And the part where Lee says: I hardly recognize this country anymore - I think Lee could have gone one more step further and say I hardly recognize the conservative party anymore.

The GOP party became the Party of Bush, I mean Broder and Brooks don't support conservative values - they only support Bushie values. And little Bushie is clearly all about himself.


Posted by: Me_again on July 4, 2007 at 10:03 PM | PERMALINK

I love your posts, Steve Benen.

Please google Sean Wilentz's article in rollingstone.com for a fabulous piece of work--he is a leading historian.

"Calamitous presidents, faced with enormous difficulties -- Buchanan, Andrew Johnson, Hoover
and now Bush -- have divided the nation, governed erratically and left the nation worse off.
In each case, different factors contributed to the failure: disastrous domestic policies, foreign-policy blunders and military setbacks, executive misconduct, crises of credibility and public trust.

Bush, however, is one of the rarities in presidential history: He has not only stumbled badly in every one of these key areas, he has also displayed a weakness common among the greatest presidential failures -- an unswerving adherence to a simplistic ideology that abjures deviation from dogma as heresy, thus preventing any pragmatic adjustment to changing realities.

Repeatedly, Bush has undone himself, a failing revealed in each major area of presidential performance..."

Posted by: consider wisely always on July 4, 2007 at 10:04 PM | PERMALINK

adam - you beat me to the punch. I think Washington was a fairly notorious Indian massacre-specialist(massacrist? massacreur?) prior to his Revolutionary service.

But Washington should be #1 for many reasons, not the least of which is that he did something most unusual in history at that point: he ceded power to someone else.

Lincoln gets big points for being so darn eloquent - something Kennedy probably benefits from as well.

But look, here's the way it works: if the country accomplishes something monumental under your presidency, you get credit for it. Winning World War II? monumental. Freeing the slaves? monumental. Sure, like Kennedy, Lincoln was also a pragmatist. So what Motives really don't matter 140 years later...

Posted by: ssdagger on July 4, 2007 at 10:05 PM | PERMALINK

Does McKinley really have that many critics?

Maybe he was gay.

Posted by: craigie on July 4, 2007 at 10:23 PM | PERMALINK

Interesting post, dagger. But can you clarify this last sentence?

"So what Motives really don't matter 140 years later..."

Posted by: Kenji on July 4, 2007 at 10:31 PM | PERMALINK

Savior of black people? No. The United States was not interested in equality for black people for 100 years.

That the terrorists of the South were able to thwart Reconstruction, and maintain an apartheid system for a full century after the Civil War (and that the fatigued North allowed them to), represents one of the most infamous chapters in American history. But emancipation mattered. After the war, you were still a third-class citizen with a precarious existence in the South. But you could leave, without one of Ol Massa's goons throwing a net over you and dragging you back to the plantation. And hundreds of thousands did, and were able to make lives for themselves outside the salted earth of the South.

Emancipation did not suffice. But it was not nothing; far from it, it may have been the most important single thing our government has ever done, or ever will.

Posted by: kth on July 4, 2007 at 10:33 PM | PERMALINK

Slow news day, Kevin?

I guess the storm about Scooter Libby must be blowing over already if you're reduced to commenting on meaningless polls.

Posted by: Al on July 4, 2007 at 10:59 PM | PERMALINK

Any President who owned slaves is going to get some negatives. And Native Americans have who for a hero? I'd guess there are some that were less villainous, but there hasn't been a single hero who stepped up and righted the many wrongs. And no modern-era President will be free from partisanship, though W. Bush has accomplished bipartisan loathing. There's his legacy.

I'd like to see a poll of historians (American history, political science, law, and other fields that really know this stuff) to rank the best and worst Presidents in regard to factors such as effective policymaker (whether corrupt or not), lasting legacy (pro and con), rhetorical skills, and foreign policy. Of course cries of partisanship would rear their ugly gape-mouthed heads, but it would still be interesting.

Posted by: jon on July 4, 2007 at 11:06 PM | PERMALINK

Washington presided over the creation of a racist nation which declared on one hand that all men are created equal yet which sanctioned slavery and gave partial votes to non-whites.

If half of all black Americans held that view, that would be about 6% of your survey.

Posted by: Nick on July 4, 2007 at 11:07 PM | PERMALINK

And what comment could ever be more meaningless than yours, Al? Or is it just that having your hero down there with the toilet paper (sorry, TP!) hurts your widdle feewings?

Posted by: Kenji on July 4, 2007 at 11:09 PM | PERMALINK

After the Maine was blown up, First Lady Ida McKinley ordered two of her cats, named after the Cuban Governor and the Spanish Ambassador, to be drowned.

Posted by: jerry on July 4, 2007 at 11:16 PM | PERMALINK

We keep hearing that George Bush is reading about G. Washington--(as if!!)--but interestingly enough, Washington said this:
"...It is important, likewise, that the habits of thinking in a free country should inspire caution in those intrusted with its administration to confine themselves within their respective constitutional spheres, avoiding in the exercise of the powers of one department to encroach upon another. The spirit of encroachment tends to consolidate the powers of all the departments in one, and thus to create, whatever the form of government, a real despotism..."

Bush read this too late!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Or, more likely, never read it at all. It is a passage from George Washington's farewell address.

Posted by: consider wisely always on July 4, 2007 at 11:16 PM | PERMALINK

Bush is no Nixon, and Nixon is no Bush. Nixon ended the Vietnam War that the Democrats started; Bush started his own war, and failed to win it. With Watergate, all the Nixon Administration did was the same thing Johnson did, which is tap the opponent's convention. This is not to excuse the behavior, but Nixon's actions were not unprecedented. Bush, on the other hand, has abused his power in an unprecedented way, outing a CIA operative and throwing others that worked with her to the wolves by doing so. Nixon talked to our enemies, to China and Russia. Bush will only talk to those who agree with them. Nixon created the EPA; Bush corrupted it.

Nixon does not deserve his low favorability ratings. That is the difference between him and Bush.

Posted by: brian on July 4, 2007 at 11:21 PM | PERMALINK

fafner1
Yes his policies were repudiated and so it is not possible to say that those policies became part of the history. They may have been well intentioned but they were by-passed. History is full of good ideas and people who had them. If these ideas weren't acted on, they don't get to be great. Lincoln did get to be great. I think its because by honouring him, we make the war make sense. Without him, the war is nothing but a sensless waste. Which is actually what it was.

As for being a good writer - well - not to compare them - but Mao was a good poet. It didn't make him a good person.

and kth
We are going to agree to disagree. My point is that emancipation didn't matter. Blacks were no longer slaves but then they weren't anything else either. We spent four years fighting a war which belittled all previous wars for carnage and death so that black people were slightly less disgraced. If I were black, I would not be wildly grateful. I am not saying that Lincoln in the end may or may not have seen a better way. But in the end, it didn't matter much. Lincoln's better instincts, prehaps through no fault of his own, had little over all effect. He may have realized the humanity of black people forty years after Lee, but by then it was too late.

Lincoln is an edifice that helps us think the war had some good in it, when in fact it had none.

Posted by: kla on July 4, 2007 at 11:25 PM | PERMALINK

Just skimmed the comments, so this may have already been said, but:

It is not that surprising that McKinley has the next most "unfavorables" as compared to George Bush. Bush's handler, Karl Rove, is famously enamored with William McKinley. Rove has tried to create a new "McKinley", but has failed at even that - his "McKinley" is even more unpopular than the original.

Is there a reason Karl Rove is attracted to the most repellant swine in our line of Presidents?

Posted by: McCord on July 4, 2007 at 11:28 PM | PERMALINK

When I think about it, I can't think of any good presidents. Washington had his points. Roosevelt won the war. Americans I admire I aren't really political. I was a little astounded when the republicans went after Clinton. The outrage seemed to be about whether they could explain Clinton to their kids. Apparently republicans look to politicians for moral guidance. No. I can not explain that.

Posted by: kla on July 4, 2007 at 11:31 PM | PERMALINK

If Kennedy outranks both Truman and Eisenhower, then I think there might be a problem with the sample.

Posted by: MatthewRmarler on July 4, 2007 at 11:54 PM | PERMALINK

I'll say this for GW. He's pretty terrible. I think he may be the worst. Every new or continuing outrage and giddy view of incompetance prompts my australian wife to ask what the hell is good about the United States. I spend a lot of time thinking of things. And I find I am a lot more patriotic than I thought. And thinking of good things isn't really as hard as i thought it would be. Its a great country and I am certain of that. and I miss it - mostly the people - even if it is run by gormless bandits.

Posted by: kla on July 4, 2007 at 11:55 PM | PERMALINK

The Washington critics are those who thought the first confederacy was just fine.

Posted by: Carl on July 4, 2007 at 11:57 PM | PERMALINK

The 6% who hate Washington must be the honest conservatives. All that checks and balances stuff is, judging by the Bush presidency, not something they're a big fan of.

Posted by: moderleft on July 5, 2007 at 12:13 AM | PERMALINK

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Posted by: uter on July 5, 2007 at 12:57 AM | PERMALINK

Gotta admit I'm surprised at Lincoln- I'd have thought that a lot of Southerners still disliked him- signs of progress, I guess.

Posted by: MikeN on July 5, 2007 at 1:18 AM | PERMALINK

There are some bizarre efforts to turn Washington into a left icon, here.

I think the real answer is that Washington was a man of his time, and, there's plenty to criticize him for if you are wondering whether he can be criticized on matters of left principle.

There certainly were better men around then.

Posted by: Swan on July 5, 2007 at 1:27 AM | PERMALINK

kla - yeah, bobby lee freed his slaves — after the civil war.he fought a war to defend slavery (the right to own human beings, more than the desire for independence drove the confederacy to secede. if they truly wanted to be independent, all they had to do was free the slaves after seceding. France and england would have recognized them in an instant. ballgame over. the north would not have had a chance.) please tell us in what context did lincoln represent slaveholders? in a case regarding slavery? or in an entirely unrelated matter? i could go on ...

Posted by: mudwall jackson on July 5, 2007 at 1:37 AM | PERMALINK

It wouldn't be much of a stretch to imagine that 6% of Americans would like to do away with the federal government altogether, and feel that we would have been better off under the Articles of Confederation. George Washington gets the blame because he was the guy who was there at the beginning.

Posted by: dr sardonicus on July 5, 2007 at 2:25 AM | PERMALINK

Could we have a little more reckless revisionism and childish idealism? Washington, an Indian hunter? There wasn't a pro-Indian lobby encouraging appeasement with the natives; there wasn't a philosophy to guilt those who saw them as equals. The importance of Washington, in spite of his slaves and beyond his role during the war, is his establishment of a mere executive instead of a monarch or military dictatorship. In everything he did as president, he was conscious of the precedents being established, like being referred to as "Mr. President" instead of "Your Excellency".

With both Washington and Lincoln, they were merely human beings having to make difficult choices to simply keep the country together. Too many people take for granted the solidity of our nation, not realizing how easy it could be for this republic to fall apart, if the people lost faith in the government. Please spare me your 21st century sensibilities on people trying to do their best without the benefit of knowing how it all ends.

Posted by: yocoolz on July 5, 2007 at 2:29 AM | PERMALINK

Truman? You mean the Truman who slaughtered thousands of innocent Japanese civilians? The only world leader to ever use a nuclear weapon? That Truman? You think he should have a higher ranking than the victim of an assassin's bullet?

And Eisenhower? The guy who started putting soldiers into Vietnam? Sorry, there's nothing wrong with the data, just with your insistence that Republicans and those who kill non-white people be given some kind of special treatment.

Not to say that Ike was a bad President, but let's be honest, being assassinated is generally worth a few bonus points - hell, even that senile nitwit Reagan got sympathy and he didn't even die.

Posted by: heavy on July 5, 2007 at 2:50 AM | PERMALINK

consider wisely always:
Your list of significant events during the presidency of Wm. McKinley includes the Boxer Rebellion. Why is that? The U.S. didn't "start" the rebellion -- that was Chinese nationalists and the Qing Empress Dowager Tzuci. The U.S. wasn't the main focus of the Boxers' ire -- that was the missionaries and, if one country had to be selected, probably the British. The U.S. wasn't primarily responsible for ending the Boxer threat by wiping out their troops around Beijing -- that was the Japanese. So, yeah, the Boxer Rebellion happened while McK was in office, but so did many other things that don't make the list, because he wasn't really involved in them. Now, if you want to talk about the overthrow of the Hawaiian monarchy...
Significant events during presidency
...
Annexation of Hawaii (1898)
...
Boxer Rebellion (1900)
(From wikipedia)
Posted by: consider wisely always on July 4, 2007 at 9:51 PM |

Posted by: keith on July 5, 2007 at 3:38 AM | PERMALINK

Nixon ended the Vietnam War that the Democrats started

Rush and the boys like you, brian, really love to spout this one, but I'm afraid Churchill is more to blame for the initial US involvement in Viet-Nam than "Democrats" (you can look it up).
Eisenhower sent bombers, crews and the support staff for them to help the French. The Paris peace treaty in 1954 meant the 348 US military then in-country were a cap until 1959 when DDE doubled the # by arguing the first group were civilian maintenance and could thus put another 348 in as "advisors".
Congress in the 50s also paid for the South Vietnamese army each year.
Stop being a dittohead, it's not a compliment.

Posted by: TJM on July 5, 2007 at 3:45 AM | PERMALINK

Mudwall

Lee freed his slaves before the war. The civil war was not about the slaves until Lincoln decided it was. The young Lincoln represented slave owners in repossessing slaves that had escaped to Illinois. At this time Lee had already freed his slaves. To Lee the war was about saving Virginia.

yocoolz

No is revising anything. The point is that presidents don't make good heros. Of course the morality of the times bore on their decisions. And they did not readily rise above the times, as they are so often credited with doing. Lincoln was no Wilberforce. Washington did not become King but he probably couldn't have if he had wanted to. They were not bad people. They were not quite ordinary either but I certianly could not call them great.

Would it have been so terrible if the Union did split? I dont' think so. A terrible war would have been averted. The north could have pursued its policies unhindered. The south would have had to deal with its own troubles. That seems to me a far more rational solution. This blithe assumption that the country we got out of an appalling convulsion must be good if the war was so bad is just silly.


Posted by: kla on July 5, 2007 at 3:54 AM | PERMALINK

Me_again writes: "So I have to wonder, the minute Sen. Hillary becomes the next president - will Glen Reynolds decide to move to..to Australia, or something? One can only hope, but who knows, maybe Pat Robertson will join him in the land down under.'The Reverend Pat Robertson has cancelled a visit to the UK and blamed the summer floods there on abortions, gay marriage, ...' July 2nd"

Hopefully then Pat Robertson would be equally disinclined to move to Australia where we have abortion laws identical to the UK & a veritable Sodom of the South in Sydney, one of the gayest cities on the planet.

At any rate, Me_again, why on earth would wish ("one can only hope") your loathsome religio-political detritus on the intrinsically liberal, stubbornly secular Antipodes? We already
have a minor if irksome homegrown neo-con/zealot element here & we're in no rush to start importing yours! :)

Posted by: DanJoaquinOz on July 5, 2007 at 3:57 AM | PERMALINK

heavy:
You're referring to the atomic bombings, right? Why don't you look up the firebombing of Tokyo, or maybe you can tell us why that shouldn't disqualify FDR? While they killed thousands of civilians, including children and Korean slave laborers, the atomic bombings centered on military targets. The fire-bombing, on the other hand, almost no military targets; it explicitly targeted civilian areas, for the purpose of terrorizing the populace of the capital in hopes that they would turn against the Tojo regime... which, come to think of it, was one of the main reasons Truman gave for the atomic bombings. The firebombing failed to accomplish that objective, and cost over 100,000 civilian lives. The atomic bombs may have killed an equal number of civilians, but they also ended the war.

Truman? You mean the Truman who slaughtered thousands of innocent Japanese civilians? The only world leader to ever use a nuclear weapon?
Posted by: heavy on July 5, 2007 at 2:50 AM |

Posted by: keith on July 5, 2007 at 3:58 AM | PERMALINK

kla:
Funny thing about the civil war, overwhelming numbers of slaves in the south and north, as well as free black men, supported it and Lincoln. In fact, they named tens of thousands of their children after him.

As for their gaining nothing from the conflict, that's an opinion they overwhelmingly did not share. Just crack open a basic U.S. history text that includes primary sources, and read some of the letters freed slaves wrote to their former masters. For God's sake, we're talking about the difference between freedom and unfreedom, a cause that motivated hundreds of slave revolts and thousands of peasant revolts throughout history.

Maybe you think such revolts were misguided in their goals, since they would lead to only a marginal improvement in the standard of living while causing enormous casualties, at best. Maybe you think they were misguided in their execution, since they failed -- almost without exception, and with the knowledge that they were likely to fail as previous attempts had. Nonetheless, slaves an peasants kept fighting because they held freedom to be almost immeasurably precious.

Poor you, that you should be so unable to see or appreciate that.

P.S. There were plenty of earlier wars that outdid the U.S. Civil War "for carnage and death." Tamerlane's campaigns come immediately to mind, as do Caesar's campaigns against the Gauls, Ashoka in Kalinga, the Qin wars of unification, the Thirty Years War, etc., etc.

My point is that emancipation didn't matter. Blacks were no longer slaves but then they weren't anything else either. We spent four years fighting a war which belittled all previous wars for carnage and death so that black people were slightly less disgraced. If I were black, I would not be wildly grateful. I am not saying that Lincoln in the end may or may not have seen a better way. But in the end, it didn't matter much.

Lincoln is an edifice that helps us think the war had some good in it, when in fact it had none.
Posted by: kla on July 4, 2007 at 11:25 PM |

Posted by: keith on July 5, 2007 at 4:09 AM | PERMALINK

There wasn't a pro-Indian lobby encouraging appeasement with the natives;

Yes, because apparently we still have people like this who don't think Indians are people or equals.

Washington dealt with Native Americans as equals, not as barbarians. He fought side by side with New York tribes against the French and their native allies.

Even today we have to fight an argue against those on the right who would have use treat Native Americans as trash, not allowing them industry, culture, or recognition.

Grr.

Posted by: Crissa on July 5, 2007 at 4:23 AM | PERMALINK

Maybe they're anti-Washington because he got paid to commit treason by the French...

Posted by: ajay on July 5, 2007 at 5:07 AM | PERMALINK

Washington owned slaves. For most African-Americans, that is a deal breaker.

Steve, if this didn't occur to you, it's clear you don't know any African-Americans. At least not well.

Posted by: captcrisis on July 5, 2007 at 6:01 AM | PERMALINK

Those 6% contra Washington represent Limbaugh's listeners who placed aWol in the top spot.

Posted by: Rula Lenska on July 5, 2007 at 7:08 AM | PERMALINK

Bush will be even more reviled than Nixon in 40 years, after the massive vote fraud that put him illegally in office is exposed.

Posted by: The Conservative Deflator on July 5, 2007 at 7:15 AM | PERMALINK

The 6% unfavorable for Washington probably don't know who he was.

Posted by: trublu on July 5, 2007 at 7:25 AM | PERMALINK

Wow. Anti-Lincoln treasonous copperheads.

The main thing that Johnson did wrong was agree with Lincoln about pardoning the Southern troops. Far far better to have hung the entire group. Lee especially should have been immediately put in front of a firing squad and executed for treason.

Posted by: POed Lib on July 5, 2007 at 8:03 AM | PERMALINK

Washington gets credit for being a good PResident because he won a war before he was President. Most Americans know nothing about his presidency, which was at best mediocre.
I've challenged lots of people to make a real case that he was a good President, and the only response was that he peacefully transferred power. Well, so did everyone else.

Posted by: soullite on July 5, 2007 at 8:16 AM | PERMALINK

"If Kennedy outranks both Truman and Eisenhower, then I think there might be a problem with the sample.
Posted by: MatthewRmarler on July 4, 2007 at 11:54 PM | PERMALINK"

That seems to happen a lot in these polls (JFK near the top, I mean).

The Taiping Rebellion in China, which coincided in part with our own Civil War, killed somehwere between 10-30 million people (depending on your source).

Posted by: Reality Man on July 5, 2007 at 8:19 AM | PERMALINK

kla

You must be one of those absurd "War of Northern Aggression" guys. Lincoln fought to maintain the Union. Freeing the slaves was a means to that end, but it was also recognized as a matter of basic justice.

I've seen apologists like you before, "Slavery was the North's fault." You're trying to tie Lincoln closer to slavery than Lee. Lee had many good points, including a dislike of slavery. Nevertheless, he chose to fight to defend slavery, in Virginia and other states. Lincoln chose to oppose it.

Posted by: tomeck on July 5, 2007 at 8:33 AM | PERMALINK

kla wrote:

The civil war was not about the slaves until Lincoln decided it was.

Indeed, nothing was further from the mind of the secessionists, as evidenced by the Mississippi Declaration of Secession:

A Declaration of the Immediate Causes which Induce and Justify the Secession of the State of Mississippi from the Federal Union

In the momentous step, which our State has taken of dissolving its connection with the government of which we so long formed a part, it is but just that we should declare the prominent reasons which have induced our course.

Our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery - the greatest material interest of the world. Its labor supplies the product, which constitutes by far the largest and most important portions of commerce of the earth. These products are peculiar to the climate verging on the tropical regions, and by an imperious law of nature, none but the black race can bear exposure to the tropical sun. These products have become necessities of the world, and a blow at slavery is a blow at commerce and civilization. That blow has been long aimed at the institution, and was at the point of reaching its consummation. There was no choice left us but submission to the mandates of abolition, or a dissolution of the Union, whose principles had been subverted to work out our ruin.

That we do not overstate the dangers to our institution, a reference to a few facts will sufficiently prove.

More here:
http://www.civil-war.net/pages/mississippi_declaration.asp

The South seceded over slavery. The North fought the war over secession, which meant inevitable confrontation on the future of slavery. Lincoln's war aims in 1861 were not the same as those of 1862 and after. To you, I'm not sure what this demonstrates; to me, it shows that he led the nation in a direction it was willing to be led in changing times and rose to the moral challenge of his generation.

Posted by: Brittain33 on July 5, 2007 at 8:55 AM | PERMALINK

Lee owned slaves up until 1863 and had three of them (the Norrises) whipped and their lacerations rubbed with brine for escaping in 1859. See the Wikipedia article on Lee. So lay off the Lee glorification.

Posted by: sj on July 5, 2007 at 8:58 AM | PERMALINK

Ronald Reagan only 22% unfavorable?

Posted by: rabbit on July 5, 2007 at 9:04 AM | PERMALINK

Well, at least there is a Mt McKinley.

If only Shrub could be impeached and sent to prison, there may well be, in said prison, a Mount Bush movement.

Posted by: thethirdPaul on July 5, 2007 at 10:06 AM | PERMALINK

If only Shrub could be impeached and sent to prison, there may well be, in said prison, a Mount Bush movement.

You're a nasty, inadequate little man, aren't you.

Posted by: ajay on July 5, 2007 at 10:37 AM | PERMALINK

To all the Pro-Lincolnists

Your basic arguement is that the south wanted to secede to protect slavery. The north wanted to preserve the Union. The nugget of my point is that the south had a every right to secede. What gives the north the right to impose itself? If people so clearly wish to go, then they should be allowed to go. Why fight an appalling war for that? Slavery is a side issue. When the issue of the union began to flag for the reasons I state above ( it wasn't worth it ) Lincoln pulls out the slave issue. It saved his job. But it also cast a patina of moral acsendency necessary for the preservation of meaning for an otherwise meaningless war.

Was there support of the Lincoln's dignification of the slaves? Apparently not. His removal was all that was required for the situation to quickly reverse. Once the issue had served it's purpose, it disappearred as the reason for the war as quickly as it appeared. Was Lincoln leading the nation in a new direction? Apparently not.

Of course blacks supported the north. They were hearing the propaganda and believing it. It coincided with what Douglas and the abolishioinists were saying.

It is pertinent that the abolishionists were considered odd, fringe and dangerous until after the war began. Even Lincoln made sure to distance himself from them.

I think once things quietened down after the war the black's enthusiasm for the north and the union would have cooled quite a bit. I think it was about then that the irish cleared the west side of manhattan of blacks. Brutally. The police did not intervene. Where were the calls to "Remember Lincoln" then? No. By then such feeling was irrelevant. And the blacks all moved to Harlem. They are there still. What about Tulsa? What about three acres and a mule? Yes people stood up and pointing out the wrong, but they didn't represent the feeling of the nation.

The point of the war was to humiliate the south. Its what the Isralis are doing to the Palestinians, what the Turks do to the Kurds, what the chinese have done to their peasants since God was a boy.

Lincoln was not bad. He was not great. He was like all presidents - somewhere between really awful and adequate.

American heros are elsewhere. Douglas is fine example. Why does Lincoln get statures. Put Douglas up there.


Posted by: kla on July 5, 2007 at 10:47 AM | PERMALINK

"If slavery isn't wrong, then nothing is wrong."
- Abraham Lincoln, long before he became President.

And those guys up on Mt. Rushmore: Protectionists, every one of them.

Among the policial scientists and historians, the rankings of the great and near-great presidents has changed little in the past 30+ years, with Lincoln at first, FDR second, Washington third and Jefferson fourth. The one drop-out has been Wilson, who looks worse as time rolls on.

Posted by: MaxGowan on July 5, 2007 at 10:59 AM | PERMALINK

kla,

You're simply wrong. If you haven't read Doris Kearns Goodwin's Team of Rivals, then you really don't know how heroic Lincoln was. And your claim that losing the South wouldn't have been bad is bizarre to the extreme. You're saying that when WWII breaks out 80 years later, the combined efforts of two weaker American countries that may not have worked out their enmity between each other would have been sufficient to handle the challenges as well as the full US did. You're saying that both the CSA and the USA would have remained strong in spite of the precedent set that if a state didn't like something, they could simply leave. No, it was critical to preserve the union. It was critical to answer the question left unfinished by the founding fathers over the authority of the federal government versus the rights of states. And yes, Lincoln freed the slaves. Yes, he took political considerations into account, but he did it. This nonchalant attitude over the achievements of Lincoln and Washington by you and some of the other posters is as depressing as the Libby commutation.

Posted by: yocoolz on July 5, 2007 at 10:59 AM | PERMALINK

kla

Now I get it, your real name is Klan, right?

Go find some nice confederate blog where you and your like-minded traitors can cry in your beer. In the meantime, don't start wars you can't finish

Posted by: tomeck on July 5, 2007 at 11:04 AM | PERMALINK

You're saying that both the CSA and the USA would have remained strong in spite of the precedent set that if a state didn't like something, they could simply leave. No, it was critical to preserve the union

Well, to the end of preventing further disintigration, you might have had a Chechnya later on in lieu of a full out civil war.

I don't know how critical American unity was to WWII. First, the Northern states would have still been a powerhouse on their own. Second, the American contribution to WWII was immense, but remember that 85% of the Germans were fighting in the east and that Brits and Canucks accounted for 60% of the landing force at D-Day. You can hardly be said to have been fighting on your ownsome.

Posted by: snicker-snack on July 5, 2007 at 11:12 AM | PERMALINK

kla,

Douglas? What did he do? He spoke. Lots of people talk and talk. Lincoln actually managed the country. He had the courage to remove generals when objectives weren't being met. He did whatever was necessary to keep the nation alive when everyone was hell-bent to destroy it. You contend that because African-Americans come out of the war only marginally better than before it, Lincoln doesn't deserve credit as the Great Emancipator. My point is that civil rights aren't going to mean much in a weakened republic. Lincoln prevented that, and might have changed the course of the next century had he not been killed. Few of the presidents have that legacy.

Posted by: yocoolz on July 5, 2007 at 11:13 AM | PERMALINK

Depressing as the Libby commutation? Please. I am simply a man voicing a considered opinion with which you disagree. Hurrah. The Libby commutation is a strange perverted act by a president who is unpredicable and dangerous because he is stupid. Thats depressing.

The Union in 1860 has nothing to do with WWII. Thats just leverage. I do not think the CSA would have survived in the way the south thought it would. It would have collapsed. Parts of it probably would have rejoined the Union. Parts of it may have become a nation of black people. I think the end would have come. The question of states and the federal government is still far from resolved. The federal government is too powerful and wasteful. I think smaller is better and more efficent. The congress for the whole country is completely hijacked by lobbyists. The presidential election is polemical drivel that goes on 18 months longer than it should - and since I can see you can write a good sentence, I know that you know it. The results are not worth the candle.

The system needs a rehaul just like Ross Perot said.

Now I am way off topic.

Posted by: kla on July 5, 2007 at 11:14 AM | PERMALINK

I don't know how critical American unity was to WWII.

I don't mean to diminish the roles of the Soviets or British, but a lot of Americans did make a difference in both Europe and the Pacific, and many of those soldiers were from the South.

Posted by: yocoolz on July 5, 2007 at 11:18 AM | PERMALINK

My point is that civil rights aren't going to mean much in a weakened republic.

By 'weakened' I'm assuming you mean smaller. I don't get this point. I see no problem (vis a vis the States) with civil rights in Sweden, Denmark, New Zealand, or for that point, in my own country, Canada, a country which a Northern States U.S. would still have dwarfed.

Posted by: snicker-snack on July 5, 2007 at 11:23 AM | PERMALINK

The nugget of my point is that the south had a every right to secede.

In your mind, who had the right to speak for the South? Not the blacks, enslaved or free, who were not given a vote in the secessionist conventions and who were undoubtedly better off in a federal union that was heading toward abolition if not actual equality. Not women, who may or may not have voted in line with their men, but who were also not as bound by ideas of a chivalrous lost cause and who could temper men's enthusiasm to fight. Not the poor whites, many of whom were locked out of the process and could be called upon to defend their home states but not share in the governance. And ultimately not the regional blocs that supported remaining in the Union, in eastern Tennessee and western North Carolina, in parts of Louisiana and Mississippi, who voted against secession but were dragged out of the Union anyway by a majority vote.

The nugget of your point is that the only people who should have been allowed to "speak for the South" in 1860 were white slaveholders, and that was the system they stood up to defend. The federal government has always been charged with protecting the powerless against the tyranny of the electoral majority, and while we have not always succeeded or even pursued this goal, it's a main reason why secession by a powerful minority should not have been allowed so they could continue their aristocratic rule over many others.

Posted by: Brittain33 on July 5, 2007 at 11:29 AM | PERMALINK

kla,

As I wrote my posts, I found this topic difficult to keep focused, as well. My sadness from your response comes from the facts that
a) history is taught poorly in this country,
b) in our pop culture world, a little historical fact takes on more importance than the larger context (e.g. Jefferson's slaves vs. his career in public service)
c) while it is a cynical age today, there are some things in our history that do demand appreciation. The problem is that some elements are taken too far, which turns off the cynic or the realist. Yes, Lincoln sometimes comes across as super-human by his supporters. But the more I study history, the more I find his humanity makes his achievements all the greater. I don't want America to lose its appreciation for the great men and women faced with difficult decisions who make the right decision in spite of their human failings. Lincoln is the epitome of that.

As for the secession issue, I admit that I had never considered that a possibility. I don't believe, however, that after the many years of arguing over slavery, the north could have walked away. The primacy of the federal government had to be established. The original compromises in 1789 didn't settle the issue but merely delayed it. Lincoln was keenly aware of that.

Posted by: yocoolz on July 5, 2007 at 11:39 AM | PERMALINK

Mckinley's war was very similar to Bush's. If the Japanese had not started WW II, the US would still have occupying troops in the Philippines.

Posted by: Brojo on July 5, 2007 at 11:52 AM | PERMALINK

As titular heads of the current Republican Party, we salute you, Kia.

But, of course, as Oliver Wendell Holmes said, the South may have prevailed had they used legal means to secede, but the Civil War made the issue moot.

Posted by: Jeff Davis and Nathan Bedford Forrest on July 5, 2007 at 12:02 PM | PERMALINK

Pesky FACTS
MHR I can see why you constantly get the thumb of sufficiently can't stand put down on you.Your statements are never based on facts. You paint every action by anyone as liberal or leftwing or conservative. Did the thought ever enter your mind that people have other motives for doing things beside left and right?

Posted by: Gandalf on July 5, 2007 at 12:15 PM | PERMALINK
….Today Truman is considered a great president… he helped enormously in putting the Soviet Union in the ash heap of history….moronichypocriterepublican at 12:06 PM
You fail to understand that Truman had UN backing. He did not launch a war against a nation that had never attacked the US without such backing the way that warmonger Bush did. Reagan did little to put the soviet union in the 'ash heap of history' and no historian can excuse his double dealing, his support for terrorism, his support for death squads, his support Saddam and his support for illegal activities by North and others in his administration.

Your lack of knowledge is exceeded only by your utter stupidity in pimping for the worst of the worst in American history.

Posted by: Mike on July 5, 2007 at 12:39 PM | PERMALINK

kla,

I'll concede that the idea of a "perpetual" union - one in which secession is completely IMPOSSIBLE - may be a little extreme.

But the idea that any part of the country can unilaterally declare independence if they wish is absurd. The whole concept of a "union" becomes meaningless if states can secede whenever they disagree with the acts of the majority. The South seceded purely because they lost their control of the presidency, not because their "peculiar institution" was in jeopardy. In essence, because they didn't get the candidate they wanted into office, they opted to secede. Taking this logic to the extreme, what's the point of having a Congress - if a state disagrees with a law passed by Congress, they can just withdraw from the union, rendering any judgment by Congress completely meaningless.

Posted by: Andrew on July 5, 2007 at 12:59 PM | PERMALINK

There really can be no excuse for the idiocy of saying that Hiroshima and Nagasaki were military targets.

I didn't mention other civilian bombings because the issue was whether the man who ordered at least 100,000 civilians slaughtered with nuclear weapons was being touted as having been unfairly ranked.

For the record, I condemn all targeting of civilians and consider all bombing of civilians to be acts of terrorism - c.f. Shock and Awe.

Posted by: heavy on July 5, 2007 at 1:25 PM | PERMALINK

Actually, Truman never cracked the "great" category but has been firmly in the "near-great" for decades now.

Posted by: MaxGowan on July 5, 2007 at 1:31 PM | PERMALINK

heavy For the record, I condemn all targeting of civilians and consider all bombing of civilians to be acts of terrorism
When it comes to a discussion of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings, I'd like to hear what the Chinese had to say. The people of Nanking, particularly, would likely have a comment or two.
Reviewing the acts of an age out of context is easy. Making the decisions is difficult, but let's not forget that when it came to Germany and Japan in WWII, that the first move was theirs. They just happened not to have had the massive firepower of the Allies but they certainly had the will.
So, while I applaud your last sentiment, the rest of your comment is bullsh@t.

Posted by: TJM on July 5, 2007 at 1:42 PM | PERMALINK

Why did not the US try to nuke Mt. Fuji or Tokyo's harbor before bombing cities? It might have had the same effect. Truman killed all of those poor people and then spared Hirohito's life.

Posted by: Brojo on July 5, 2007 at 1:45 PM | PERMALINK

Context is important. Truman (and everyone else) had very little idea what an “atom bomb” really was. Estimated casualties were based on blast effects only, largely ignoring long term radiological effects. The casualty estimates were also done assuming the Japanese civilians would be in shelters, sadly ignoring that three lone planes would not trigger such a response.

The Japanese tactics on Iwo Jima and Okinawa were designed to create blood baths to convince the Americans Japan would never surrender. In this the Japanese tactics were successful. America was paranoid about the enormous losses an invasion would entail. At the same time with the defeat of the Nazi’s, the public was sick and tired of the war and wanted it wrapped up quickly. After four years of war, area fire bombing of civilian areas had become a standard tactic of both the British and the U.S. Given Japanese intransigence, American desperation, the general moral degradation brought on by years of bloody warfare and the ignorance of what nuclear weapons really represented, it was quite simply inevitable the U.S. would use the bomb, no matter who was president.

Posted by: fafner1 on July 5, 2007 at 2:04 PM | PERMALINK

For the record the U.S. only had two atomic bombs ready. Additional bombs were months away. The U.S. main concern was the two bombs wouldn't be sufficient even if used for maximum effect - hence the reluctance to "waste" one on Mt. Fuji.

Posted by: fafner1 on July 5, 2007 at 2:07 PM | PERMALINK

Actually, we had a third bomb that we would have used on Tokyo had the Japanese not surrendered after the Nagasaki bombing. Read, for example, Henry Stimsons memoirs on this. That it took (1) not one but two bombs, with that second bombing being crucial to surrender; (2) plus the Soviet Union declaring war on Japan, in order to induce Japan to surrender. (So much for the loopy, clueless idea that merely bombing Mt. Fuji would have induced Japan to surrender.)

I don't condone this - but it did end WWII. This war brought out the savage in us as well. There were worse things we did - Dresden in particular; also the firebombing of Tokyo. But it's soooo easy, 62 years later, to make these armchair pronouncements.

Imperial Japan had the luxury of Nazi Germany being even more evil than themselves, so they have in part escaped the real judgment of history. Unless, of course, you are from China, where the Imperial Japanese military slaughtered an estimated 9 million Chinese civilians. And at least in Germany subsequent generations were and are taught the evil committed under the Nazis. In Japan, the kids get the impression the war began with the Atomic bombings; they learn practically nothing about the evil committed by Imperial Japan starting in 1931.

Posted by: MaxGowan on July 5, 2007 at 2:30 PM | PERMALINK

"The South seceded purely because they lost their control of the presidency, not because their "peculiar institution" was in jeopardy. In essence, because they didn't get the candidate they wanted into office, they opted to secede."
Posted by: Andrew on July 5, 2007 at 12:59 PM

---

There was also the issue of balance of power between slave and free states and the composition of Congress as a big factor:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Slave_state

"The potential for political conflict over slavery at a federal level led politicians to be concerned about the balance of power in the U.S. Senate, where each State was represented by two Senators. With an equal number of slave states and free states, the United States Senate was equally divided. As the population of the free states began to outstrip the population of the slave states, leading to control of the House of Representatives by free states, the Senate became the preoccupation of slave state politicians interested in maintaining a Congressional veto over federal policy in regard to slavery. As a result of this preoccupation, slave states and free states were often admitted into the Union in pairs to maintain the existing Senate balance between slave and free."

The pro-slavery forces were becoming marginalized by populations that didn't embrace slavery. It was a dying ideology.

Posted by: Doc at the Radar Station on July 5, 2007 at 2:39 PM | PERMALINK

...starting in 1931.

The Koreans may have another starting date for when the Japs became evil, like 1905.

Posted by: Brojo on July 5, 2007 at 2:40 PM | PERMALINK

Not to negate the harm done by Japan to Korea - what an awful history - the Imperial Japan invasion of Manchuria was in 1931 and is widely regarded by historians as a starting point for WWII.

Posted by: MaxGowan on July 5, 2007 at 3:30 PM | PERMALINK

It is interesting to compare the Nixon and Bush presidencies. Nixon clearly had more talent, had a better education, worked harder, was more widely read, had more love for discussing issues ( with Kissinger and Moynihan, for example, as long as he was president and they were not). But his war policies were worse (at least they cost way more lives, American and Vietnamese, while leading to defeat); his cabinet nominations were as bad; his vice-presidential selection was awful; and he actively participated in the obstruction of justice, after actively participating in the perversion of government power.

In short, Nixon had more talent and was better qualified than Bush, but Nixon's "tragic flaws" undermined all his work, and led him to be in fact a worse president.

granted that they are both in the bottom quartile of presidents, I still think Nixon was our worst president.

Nixon's campaign speeches and speeches as president were awful and badly delivered. A lot of Bush's are pretty good, and delivered well. Also, Bush's demeanor and speech at press conferences and such (for what they are worth) are better than Nixon's, as are his interactions with listerners at debates (and such things.)

Since the trio of FDR, Truman, and Eisenhower, the presidents have seemed pretty small, but there was a lot to like in Reagan and Clinton.

Posted by: MatthewRmarler on July 5, 2007 at 5:05 PM | PERMALINK

But Washington should be #1 for many reasons, not the least of which is that he did something most unusual in history at that point: he ceded power to someone else.

Washington handing over power to his hand-picked successor, Adams, was no big deal. It was Adams handing over power to Jefferson, the head of the opposition party, that at that point in history was a unique event.

Posted by: Disputo on July 5, 2007 at 7:36 PM | PERMALINK
A lot of Bush's are pretty good, and delivered well… MatthewRmarler at 5:05 PM
Only a lunatic would think that lazyboy Eisenhower was a top-tier president or that George W. Bush is an articulate speaker. With the slurred speech, the lack of subject-object agreement, and the general lack of sense, Bush is on par with Reagan and Eisenhower in the poor speaker category. Nor did Eisenhower accomplish much during his terms. The legislative agenda was LBJ; foreign policy was John Foster Dulles, who was not the brightest candle in the room. Posted by: Mike on July 5, 2007 at 7:38 PM | PERMALINK

Eisenhower's forte from WW2 on was management of large enterprises, among the most important principles of which is command delegation. Unlike some of the worst of his successors, e.g., Carter & Nixon, Eisenhower knew when not to get involved.

Posted by: sj on July 5, 2007 at 7:57 PM | PERMALINK

kla:
The nugget of my point is that the south had a every right to secede. What gives the north the right to impose itself?

You've already been asked who had the right to speak for "the south," and have failed to answer. Let's try another question: assuming for the moment that the southern colonies ratified the constitution as part of a voluntary compact, giving them the right to withdraw from that compact over the issue of slavery (Lincoln addressed this), what gave the other southern states, which had been created out of federal territory, the right to withdraw from the very union that created them? -- in other words, this isn't a matter of "the north imposing itself" so much as of the union preserving itself... which you should know if you know anything about the civil war.

Of course blacks supported the north. They were hearing the propaganda and believing it.
It's possible (unlikely, but possible), that freed slaves and freemen in both the north and the south were merely dupes of propaganda, that they took up arms against the confederacy in complete misunderstanding of their own self-interest, that they named their male children "Abraham" and "Lincoln" as a result of some bizarre misunderstanding of their continuing lack of freedom, and that freed slaves who could write were completely misguided in thinking that the difference between servitude and freedom was both immense and profound.

On the other hand, it's possible that they were right, and that you are wrong, that the people who were alive then and the overwhelming majority of those who have studied the civil war actually know what they're talking about and have the evidence (including personal experience) to back it up.

Your own evidence appears to be a hodgepodge of the erronious and the farcical:
- Lee freed all his slaves long before Lincoln became president? Nope. But he did free some of the slaves he gained possession of, through marriage.
- Lincoln only raised the issue of slavery after other issues lost traction and the prosecution of the war suffered, in order to secure reelection?? Nope, the emancipation proclamation was issued only a few months after the war began, and years before his reelection.
- abolitionists were a fringe group that could safely be ignored?? Nope, abolitionists held several Senate seats, and Lincoln had to appease them almost from the moment he won the presidency. radical abolitionists, however, were a fringe group, but even they had a constituency.
- the U.S. Civil War was the bloodiest to date, [already dealt with]

...after the war... I think it was about then that the irish cleared the west side of manhattan of blacks. Brutally. The police did not intervene. Where were the calls to "Remember Lincoln" then? No. By then such feeling was irrelevant.
You're talking about riots that took place in 1864, on the eve of Lincoln's reelection. Feelings about Lincoln were anything but irrelevant at the time.

What about three acres and a mule? What does William Tecumseh Sherman have to do with this?

Lincoln and Washington get great credit for voluntarily ceding the enormous power they were granted (and in Lincoln's case, seized), back to the state. The led the country through its two greatest periods of peril, after deciding that the rewards for succeeding in their risky enterprises were greater than the risks of failure. Lincoln of course also articulated the importance of the Union, and acted to expand to millions of Americans the unfulfilled promises inherent in the Enlightenment notions that motivated Washington and the revolutionaries.

Are Washington and Lincoln the two greatest Americans who ever lived? Almost certainly not. Are they two of the four or five greatest American presidents? Almost certainly.

Posted by: keith on July 5, 2007 at 8:44 PM | PERMALINK

heavy:

There really can be no excuse for the idiocy of saying that Hiroshima and Nagasaki were military targets.

You might want to tell that to the people who designated Hiroshima as the military command center for western Japan, or those who put the Mitsubishi military shipyard in Nagasaki. For that matter, you may want to tell that to the people who designed the exhibits in the a-bomb museum, one of which goes on at great length about the military value of targets such as Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Kokora and Niigata.

As for dropping a bomb on Mt. Fuji or in Tokyo Bay, recall that residential Tokyo had already been firebombed, and that the war cabinet refused to surrender even after the Hiroshima bombing.

A greater argument might be built around the fact that Germany was never the target of a bomb that was largely the labor of Jewish refugee scientists, or that the U.S. military command had a lot of non-military reasons for dropping the bomb, or that FDR deserves most of the credit ot blame for it because he initiated the Manhatten Project and the bomb program and kept Truman entirely in the dark...

I didn't mention other civilian bombings because the issue was whether the man who ordered at least 100,000 civilians slaughtered with nuclear weapons was being touted as having been unfairly ranked.
Posted by: heavy on July 5, 2007 at 1:25 PM |

Posted by: keith on July 5, 2007 at 9:00 PM | PERMALINK

I think LBJ was the greatest president since FDR. Vietnam was a horrible disaster, but Johnson's domestic achievements were monumental, comparable to FDR's. And Johnson did more to advance racial equality than any president except Lincoln. I think Johnson is woefully underrated among the general public (although not as much among historians; in a 1996 poll, half of the historians polled called LBJ a "near great" president).

Posted by: Lee on July 5, 2007 at 9:05 PM | PERMALINK

Lee, for what it's worth, most Black Americans would probably agree with you.

Posted by: maxGowan on July 5, 2007 at 9:13 PM | PERMALINK

Before getting to Keith, I have to pause. These conversations throw out so much. I am going to try and get to much of what I wanted to say.

-I concede that Lee had slaves up to just before the war. I did not know this.

-Reagan did not decapitate USSR. It did it all by itself. LIke Bunburry, it could not live and so it had the decency to die.

-Yes the white rich men were calling most of the shots for the south but that was true in the north too.

-Slavery was dieing, if so what was the point of fighting it?

-The point about the legal terms for seceding I have to concede. Obviously rule of law trumps even morality. You can't agree to be in the Union and then back out when you don't like it. This will require cogitation that I don't have time for right now.

-I still say LIncoln was not really a hero. I am not convinced he represented the country's feelings at the time. A much better and consistent hero is Douglas.

-Yes blacks called their children "lincoln" There are streets in South American named after Kennedy. That doesn't mean it makes sense.

Keith - I have to pack for a long trip but I am going to nail these as best I can.

-the lee point I have conceded.

-Don't know what Tecumseh had to do with it. Forgot.

-History is indeed badly taught in the US. It just about pointless.

-The Irish - I am not talking about those riots. The west side was later. It was all in a New Yorker article so damned long ago.

-The abolishionists did have seats in the Senate but they also had them in the British Parlaiment. It didn't mean they were aggressively marginalized. Wilberforce had a hell of fight with his own freinds. Not even they went with it. Humans are not naturally Empathetic. They have to be brought to it with hooks.

-I don't believe Lincoln, Washington or the founding fathers were motivated by anything but expediency. It is easy to predict the acts of clerics and politicians on the basis of expediency since they protect beaurocracies. The founding fathers were merchants and self-interested.

I have to stop sorry. I am out of here. I will give you that I am ussually alone in these arguements. My brother is believer in Lincoln and we have had this out several times. It is an important arguement because it goes the core of the contradiction of civilization - which to me is - the paradox of an enlightened civil society based on violence so vile no savage would commit it.

But I just don't believe in Lincoln. He's like Reagan to me - I just don't get what the fuss is about.

Thanks everybody.


Posted by: kla on July 5, 2007 at 9:33 PM | PERMALINK

"The reason is that the people know that the Democratic Party is the people's party, and the Republican Party is the party of special interest, and it always has been and always will be.....Confidence and security have been brought to the people by the Democratic Party.

" ... That's labor, and labor never had but one friend in politics, and that is the Democratic Party and Franklin D. Roosevelt....These benefits have been spread to all the people, because it is the business of the Democratic Party to see that the people get a fair share of these things. This last, worst 80th Congress proved just the opposite for the Republicans.

"The record on foreign policy of the Democratic Party is that the United States has been turned away permanently from isolationism, and we have converted the greatest and best of the Republicans to our viewpoint on that subject.

"The United States has to accept its full responsibility for leadership in international affairs. We have been the backers and the people who organized and started the United Nations, first started under that great Democratic President, Woodrow Wilson, as the League of Nations. The League was sabotaged by the Republicans in 1920. And we must see that the United Nations continues a strong and growing body, so we can have everlasting peace in the world.

"...We have started the foreign aid program, which means the recovery of Europe and China, and the Far East. We instituted the program for Greece and Turkey, and I will say to you that all these things were done in a cooperative and bipartisan manner. The Foreign Relations Committees of the Senate and House were taken into the full confidence of the President in every one of these moves, and don't let anybody tell you anything else.

"As I have said time and time again, foreign policy should be the policy of the whole Nation and not the policy of one party or the other. Partisanship should stop at the water's edge; and I shall continue to preach that through this whole campaign.

."...The situation in 1932 was due to the policies of the Republican Party control of the Government of the United States. The Republican Party, as I said a while ago, favors the privileged few and not the common everyday man. Ever since its inception, that party has been under the control of special privilege;...

"...Now everybody likes to have low taxes, but we must reduce the national debt in times of prosperity. And when tax relief can be given, it ought to go to those who need it most, and not those who need it least, as this Republican rich man's tax bill did...it still helps the rich and sticks a knife into the back of the poor.

"They [the Republican Congress] are going to try to dodge their responsibility. They are going to drag all the red herrings they can across this campaign, but I am here to say that Senator Barkley and I are not going to let them get away with it...And in the record is the stark truth, that the battle lines of 1948 are the same as they were in 1932, when the Nation lay prostrate and helpless as a result of Republican misrule and inaction...The country can't afford another Republican Congress."

- Harry Truman

Posted by: MaxGowan on July 5, 2007 at 9:36 PM | PERMALINK

That 6percent disapproval rating for GW - is it possible that the 6 percent thought they had GW confused with GWB????

Whoever mentioned LBJ - yes, yes and yes. LBJ was a great president who unfortunately had the very bad luck of being involved in Vietnam which was not started by him. Its easy to look back now and say we should have pulled out but if you think the "Dems are weak on military" meme is bad right now,think about how it would be if LBJ had pulled out. LBJ put through the Civil Rights Act and War on Poverty. All seniors owe a huge debt to LBJ because I will guarantee you the elderly would have a huge rate of poverty if it wasn't for Medicare.

Posted by: warren terrah on July 5, 2007 at 10:30 PM | PERMALINK

Well, after all, it WAS Johnson who made Vietnam a full-blown war. HE did that. By the time Jack Kennedy was murdered under most mystereous circumstances, we had lost a total of 24 men. That was it. Twenty-four. (By contrast, we lost 2,400-odd in the Tet Offensive alone; we were averaging 300-500 dead a week in LBJ's final two years in office. So please, a little context.) Eighteen months later (summer of '65), it was a real war. So it does rest on LBJ, fantastic as he was about civil rights, not only easily the best since Lincoln, but maybe the best ever in this respect. But Vietnam was his. And Nixon's, who ran not once but twice as the "peace candidate."

Posted by: MaxGowan on July 5, 2007 at 10:41 PM | PERMALINK

-Slavery was dieing, if so what was the point of fighting it?
Posted by: kla on July 5, 2007 at 9:33 PM

Preservation of the Union. The South knew it was going to lose the battle with abolitionists sooner or later. Secession was a preemptive act of willful isolation and a desperate gamble. Lincoln called them on it. I also wonder how much Lincoln may have been influenced by events in Europe. The Emancipation Proclamation wasn't issued until late 1862. The serfs in Russia were emancipated just weeks after Lincoln took office in 1861:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emancipation_reform_of_1861_in_Russia
"The Emancipation Reform of 1861 in Russia was the first and most important of liberal reforms effected during the reign of Alexander II. The reform amounted to the liquidation of serf dependence previously suffered by Russian peasants. The legal basis of the reform was the Tsar's Emancipation Manifesto of March 3, 1861"

Geez, if a *Czar* could emancipate serfs, why can't a *democracy* eliminate slavery?

Posted by: Doc at the Radar Station on July 6, 2007 at 1:40 AM | PERMALINK

but a democracy can:

Leading (the) crusade (against slavery) was William Wilberforce (1759-1833), a Member of Parliament whose evangelical convictions made him an exemplar of humanitarianism. Wilberforce and a cadre of like-minded reformers worked tirelessly to raise public awareness of the cruelties of the trade and to pressure Parliament for reforms. After years of setbacks and defeats, the slave trade was abolished in the British Empire in 1807.

(from the Global Christianity website)

Posted by: snicker-snack on July 6, 2007 at 2:51 AM | PERMALINK

Doc:The Emancipation Proclamation wasn't issued until late 1862.
The Emancipation Proclamation was issued after Antietam. Lincoln wanted to issue it after a Union victory so as to appear to be doing so from strength. (The Union was on quite a losing streak up till then.) While Antietam was more a draw than a victory, the Confederates withdrew from the field.
The Proclamation was also very limited as it freed slaves in territory controlled by the South.

Posted by: TJM on July 6, 2007 at 8:31 AM | PERMALINK

MaxGowan:

You said "Lee, for what it's worth, most Black Americans would probably agree with you."

It's interesting you say that, because in his book "Lyndon Johnson: Flawed Giant," Robert Dallek said that after Johnson died, an observer watched the people who came to pay their respects when LBJ lay in state. The observer estimated that 60 percent of those filing past the coffin were black Americans. One black mother apparently told her little daughter never to forget that Johnson had done more for them than any other president.

Posted by: Lee on July 6, 2007 at 9:11 AM | PERMALINK

Lee - Thanks. I believe that. I'm lucky enough to have always been in a very diverse personal home and professional setting, so I have had many, many long conversations with a variety of folks about LBJ. What a character.

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