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Who do you think was the greatest U.S. president?

Asked at Massachusetts Street on February 20, 2006

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Photo of John Swift

“Thomas Jefferson, because of his concept of each man having his own bit of land to make his way with. He believed in individual opportunity, but that it came with great responsibility.”

Photo of Emma Lambrecht

“I think it was probably Abraham Lincoln. I think adversity shows a man for who he is, and that was a very adverse time in our history.”

Photo of Kathryn Perkins

“Truman. We recently went to the Truman Museum and we were very impressed with his achievements.”

Photo of Jonathan Munger

“I would say Ronald Reagan. I like his foreign policy and the American values he believed in.”


xenophonschild 12 years, 3 months ago

The greatest American president was Franklin Delano Roosevelt, hands down. He saved the country, possibly even capitalism, and triumphed against fascism.

After Roosevelt, the greatest president of this century is Bill "William the Great" Clinton. Possibly the best-informed president, he was, by far, the most intelligent, with a penetrating grasp of geo-political issues that seemingly escape the cowboy idiot who now occupies the office.

audvisartist 12 years, 4 months ago

I'd go with Millard Fillmore. His accomplishments were amazing... or maybe it's just the name?

audvisartist 12 years, 4 months ago

Oh, and we've also had a president named Grover. That's pretty cool too.

enochville 12 years, 4 months ago

It is too bad that we often lift these men on a pedestal, because we inevitibly become disillusioned when they do not live up to our ideal.

I like Thomas Jefferson a lot. He was an intellectual and I love his philosophical writings. There was a lot of wisdom in the things he wrote. But, then there is the problem with him being a slave owner. Perhaps it is not right to judge the people of the past with our 21st century morals.

George W. Bush circumvents legal procedures to invade citizens' privacy, knowingly violated international law by improperly detaining and possibly approving the torturing of said detainees, and unilaterally launched a preemptive war.

Clinton cheated on his wife and perjured himself in a court of law and did not appropriately respond to al Qaeda attacks, thus setting us up for 9/11.

We could go on and on. So, I prefer to speak of favorite accomplishments rather than favorite presidents. So, my vote for greatest accomplishment by a U.S. president would be Constitution of the United States of America, which was not created by a sitting president, but several future presidents were involved in the constuction of it during the continental congress.

neopolss 12 years, 4 months ago

William Henry Harrison

Died after a month in office. Probably the greatest presidency ever.

neopolss 12 years, 4 months ago

My second favorite was Nancy Reagan, and that other guy ...

Kam_Fong_as_Chin_Ho 12 years, 4 months ago

Ben Franklin...hands down.

John Kerry would have been the best president if Dubya hadn't stolen the election.

jonas 12 years, 4 months ago

Look into those emotional eyes and tell me this man wouldn't have made a great president.

Nikki May 12 years, 4 months ago

Man, I really get upset when people say Reagan. Really. At least no one has said JFK yet. I'm going with Jefferson. Sure, you can argue the slave issue, and I'm not saying it was right, but those were the times. You have to remember that there is inheritence, and the fact that one woman was his mistress and what, five kids.

Topside 12 years, 4 months ago

Damn Neopolss! Early bird gets the smart aleck response. Grrr..

acg 12 years, 4 months ago

Yes, TOB, I agree! I'm with you on Jack Ryan. And I like Jed Bartlett. :)

Jonas, that was awesome. You know, I was kind of rooting for the crazy little bas*ard after that.

cutny 12 years, 4 months ago

uh...Kam_Fong_as_chin_ho...You may want to get a refund on that history book you're consulting. Benjamin Franklin was never a U.S. President.

RonBurgandy 12 years, 4 months ago

I am guessing kam_fong said that as a joke.

Dorothy Hoyt-Reed 12 years, 4 months ago

I like the comment about the favorite deeds. LBJ would get my worst vote, because of the war, but the best, because of civil rights. He pushed for civil rights, even though he knew it would harm the Democratic Party in the south. No man is perfect. They've all done good and bad. I even agree with Bush on allowing legal visiting worker status to more Mexicans. Of course, nothing has happened with that, so it doesn't outweigh all the bad stuff.

beatrice 12 years, 4 months ago

I'm with you Ron, I think kam_f was joking. Everyone knows Franklin wasn't President, and that GW Bush stole the election from Gore, not Kerry. That one he actually won. (I'm not one for conspiracy theories, and I don't believe the voting machines were rigged.)

Favorite: FDR.

BunE 12 years, 4 months ago

Ike was one of the most interesting. The Interstate system and that incredibly brave speech regarding the evils of the military industrial complex were huge. Its too bad that the Congress is and has been bought off by the Defense industries since the end of WWII. His notice of how defense contractor spread everything out into many districts and then threaten to "take away jobs" everytime we try and make a dent in defense spending. Oh sure we need to protect the "homeland" (God I hate that term, it sounds so Nazi) but do we need a new carrier when we have twice as many as the whole rest of the world combined? But I digress.

I like Ike, Jefferson, Washington, FDR and Lincoln. I like Clinton and LBJ too. I was always afraid while Reagan was President and never noticed Carter, though he did have the guts to ask that American share in the sacrifice and to conserve during an energy crisis.

Worst Presidents? Bush Jr.;Nixon; Hoover. Still these men all did what they though was right. That is something...

lunacydetector 12 years, 4 months ago


FDR led us into World War II. Germany never attacked us: Japan did. From 1941-1945, 450,000 lives were lost, an average of 112,500 per year.

Truman finished that war by dropping two atomic bombs and started one in Korea. North Korea never attacked us. From 1950-1953, 55,000 lives were lost, an average of 18,333 per year.

John F. Kennedy started the Vietnam conflict in 1962. Vietnam never attacked us. Johnson turned Vietnam into a quagmire. From 1965-1975, 58,000 lives were lost, an average of 5800 per year.

Clinton went to war in Bosnia without UN or French consent. Bosnia never attacked us. He was offered Osama bin Laden's head on a platter three times by Sudan and did nothing. Osama has attacked us on multiple occasions.

Or, James Earl Carter was good too!

ms_canada 12 years, 4 months ago

I wonder what the world would be like if Ross Perot had become President. I really liked the little gutsy guy. I really did. Sometimes I think we need to go with the totally different, the totally incredible. I mean, look what you have now with an ordinary, plain, simple man who believes all the jerks with whom he surrounds himself. TOB, please don't threaten to invade my country like you did once before. (hint, Nov. 1, 2004)

badger 12 years, 4 months ago

I've always been fondest of the Elder Roosevelt. It's to his credit that the National Parks System was able to preserve so much of our natural wilderness, and make it accessible to the common citizen.

He made his share of mistakes, but I have to respect a man who bucked his entire upbringing and social class to preserve something he loved for future generations. He specifically made the notion of National Parks a priority after hearing a bunch of his blueblood wealthy New York robber baron friends - some of whom had been family friends for decades and childhood mentors - talking about how they'd carve out the American West into their own personal fiefdoms, take the most beautiful vistas and views for their own use, and develop the rest for its resources. Unable to abide that, he simply set aside (without really consulting much of anyone) several massive swaths of the best and most beautiful land, and probably saved a lot of species (especially of birds) from extinction.

I also think that the White House should be occupied by someone dynamic, brilliant (he was published on several subjects, including a definitive text on naval history and a great deal of ornithological research), and a little larger-than-life. It gives us as a nation someone we can cheer on and be proud of.

Plus, Theodore Roosevelt had a pet badger named Josiah. It occasionally slept at the foot of young Quentin's bed. How can you not appreciate that?

b_asinbeer 12 years, 4 months ago

Bill Clinton, private life aside, I liked him. But I think FDR is, no doubt, at the top of the list.

Janet Lowther 12 years, 4 months ago

Now, if I counted correctly, Washington was the sixteenth president of the United States, just the first under the Constitution, which greatly expanded the powers of the office.

Great Presidents: Eighteenth century: Washington. Nineteenth century: Jefferson. Twentieth century: Coolidge (who did less damage to the republic than any other president of the century) Twentyfirst century: (We haven't had a decent never mind a great one yet.)

Hall of shame presidents, those who unconstitutionally expanded government power:

Abraham Lincoln: Ran roughshod over constitutional rights to pursue his war and economic agenda.

Theodore Roosevelt: Pushed the 16th & 17th amendments which destroyed federalism, and started the move towards a unitary government.

Franklin Roosevelt: Vastly expanded government. Some economists argue that every time the economy started to recover a new "anti-depression" program would throw it back into recession.

Every president since FDR belongs on this list as well. Reagan and G. H. W. Bush TALKED about limiting government, but did nothing to stop its expansion.

ms_canada 12 years, 4 months ago

TOB - I did not think you would remember. I will explain. The very first post I ever made was the day before your last election. I was searching google for info on electoral college and came across the LJW OTS site when the question was, What do you know about the E.C.? And I said something to the effect that I thought it was unfair. You answered that I should mind my own business or you would invade our country. Well, sir, I was not deterred. Found out later that you were a jokester at times and am glad that I persisted. You have since had some nice things to say about me and I thank you for them. (you said I was cool) :o) I think you are pretty cool yourself.

RonBurgandy 12 years, 4 months ago

This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.

Ceallach 12 years, 4 months ago

I still plan to invade Canada, as soon as possible!!

MasterBlue 12 years, 4 months ago

Reagan. Handled USSR perfectly.

And I think, enochville, that it is indeed not right to judge Thomas Jefferson on the fact that he owned slaves. It was not wrong then, according to popular belief. And it would have possibly jeopardized his very presidency had he not had slaves because slaves were the 'in' thing...

sekan 12 years, 4 months ago

Having lived through the Dust Bowl Days and the Great Depression I would have to go with FDR. JFK did great things for the Mentally Handicapped. Don't think any of them were perfect.

ms_canada 12 years, 4 months ago

An invasion by ceallach (and those comrades in bobness) would be most welcome. BTW do you all have a national holiday today? We in Alberta are celebrating Family Day, except for Federal employees such as the postmen. It is a day when families could spend time together skiing, sleigh riding, tobbaning and skating. But since we have no snow, I guess we could all go to a movie or just play scrabble or yahtzee and eat lots. :o)

Ceallach 12 years, 4 months ago

Today is our President's Day, ms_c. The bobs are always welcome, but be warned, I plan to invade with or without backup :)

badger 12 years, 4 months ago

A good bad bob is still a good bob, even if he's bad.

Or so I hear.

enochville 12 years, 4 months ago

badger: I agree that Teddy did a lot of great things, but enabling a revolution in Columbia so that he could have his Panama Canal takes a lot away from his greatness in my estimation. He was also quite an imperialist in the Western Hemisphere. But, I am grateful for the National Parks, though.

Aiko 12 years, 4 months ago

What is strange is that people tend to like ex-presidents after they are no longer in office. I remember everyone bitching about Clinton just like I hear about Bush. But now people seem to say that they did like Clinton..??Why does it seem that Americans hate who is in charge at that time?

ms_canada 12 years, 4 months ago

Hey - I like to go fishing and we have some great lakes as well as streams in Alberta. Once when we were courting, we went fishing and I caught more perch than my now hubby and he forbade me to tell the others in our party or he would break off the engagement. :o) and, bob, if they won't let you on the plane with your rods, I will loan you one of mine. And we have a boat.

DaREEKKU 12 years, 4 months ago

Franklin Roosevelt....who will our next great Democratic President be....Obama maybe???

enochville 12 years, 4 months ago

Congrats, TOB! I think you have told us before, but I forgot. I have boy coming along at the end of May.

RonBurgandy 12 years, 4 months ago

KU made a big jump in the polls this week...

16 & 18, I believe.

ms_canada 12 years, 4 months ago

multidisciplinary - your posts are quite confusing. The thing about the Valentine to Vancouver, BC Can you explain. Do you live in Seattle? If so, check out the hockey games of the Thunderbirds of the WHL. Check out player #9.

badger 12 years, 4 months ago

I don't discount TR's imperialism. I temper that with the knowledge that he (and a lot of other people involved in US government between the Civil War and WWI) saw it as the only way to counter European imperialism.

At the time, much of Europe was still somewhat of a threat to what they considered an upstart nation with an inflated sense of its own importance. We were sort of the charming but gawky and feckless nephew they looked at indulgently and planned to eventually bring to heel.

I would love to say that I think the US should have kept itself to itself, and concerned itself only with extending its sphere of influence to its own borders, but in light of world conditions, I think our survival depended on the imperialism of the last part of the 19th and first decade of the 20th Centuries. Once WWI hit, and we could demonstrate that we were a serious military power with the capabilities to mix it up with the big boys as well as the diplomatic chops to stop sitting at the kiddy table during treaty negotiations, we should have pulled back on the meddling in the political affairs of developing nations, and I certainly don't approve of our current levels of world imperialism through cultural invasion.

However, our activities in South America had a lot less to do with their resources (aside from the Canal and its passage to the Pacific) and really to do with South America itself than they had to do with posturing to countries looking at the near miss on the War of 1812, the American Civil War, our constant internal squabbles with our indigenous populations, and even the Spanish-American War and saying, "Hey, it's like watching a big overgrown boy with his first slingshot. Sure, he can devil his schoolmarm, and his schoolmates, and be the terror of the local bird population, but real authority will crumple him and then we can mold and direct him as we choose."

So, much as those who look at Thomas Jefferson and forgive him slave ownership do so because it was an appropriate decision based on the prevailing conditions, I accept the imperialism of the early Presidents as necessary to securing our place in this world with a minimum of actual bloodshed. The other option would have been to establish ourselves militarily from the beginning, meaning that we pumped much more money into the military, and less into settlement, exploration, education, and development. And, much like the new kid in school, we'd have been a target for aggression until we'd handed out our fair share of bloody noses - which would have translated (in addition to the amount of bloodshed) to us not being able to have the cultural, industrial, social, and educational development we did.

mom_of_three 12 years, 4 months ago

Lincoln -

Don't care if he "ran roughshod over constitutional rights to pursue his war....."

he had the guts to do what was right.

ms_canada 12 years, 4 months ago

Number 9 is my grandson. Is he not a handsome lad? Played for 3 years with the Lethbridge Hurricanes (Alberta) Got traded to Seattle T-birds about two months ago. Is not really too happy there. These young lads in the WHL are billeted and like the saying goes, "there is no place like home"

ms_canada 12 years, 4 months ago

TOB - make sure to let us know when the little fellow makes his first appearance on stage. And are you planning on buying him a fishing rod for his 4th or 5th birthday? I say 4th, get him going early is a good idea. You and enochville will have to get together to take your sons fishing, that is if enochville likes fishing.

ms_canada 12 years, 4 months ago

TOB - not hurricanes but we do have tornadoes and some do a lot of damage. One, a few years back, killed 31 people in a mobile home park. I really don't know who thought of the name Hurricanes for a hockey team. It may be because they do whirl around a bit on those skates, but then perhaps they should be called the Tornados. Names of teams are a bit of a mystery at times. Chicago Black Hawks, Seattle Seahawks, Portland Winterhawks, New York Giants, Vancouver Giants, That is all that come to mind. I am not too much of a sports fan, except for grandsons, of course.

ms_canada 12 years, 4 months ago

Oh sorry, I thought I remembered you mentioning that a son was expected. I am glad that some parents still opt for the surprise. Hope all goes well. I will say some prayers for you two or should I say three. I will stop monopolizing this board now except to put in an answer for yesterdays question. I most certainly think that smokers and drinkers and over eaters ought to pay higher insurance premiums. People who deliberately endanger their health should not expect others to pay for them.

acg 12 years, 4 months ago

I'm rooting for a Roberta. Girls are so much fun!!

corrienteroper 12 years, 4 months ago

Since no one will answer me on the other comment page, perhaps I will get an answer over here. How do you get to read the comments that were removed? They must be pretty good ones if they got removed. But, how does one get to see them, that missed them to start with?

Kathleen Christian 12 years, 4 months ago

Franklin & Eleanor Roosevelt - though Eleanore was not a president she was Franklin's right arm person. He got us through WWII and built this country up after that horrible war. He was elected more terms then any other president. Becasue of Eleanor he became an even greater man. NUFF said.

RonBurgandy 12 years, 4 months ago

And if someone gets booted, all references to them ever existing are removed and we are suppose to forget them.

RonBurgandy 12 years, 4 months ago

If a person was to marry their cousin, would said person have a chance at being elected president nowadays?

I doubt it.

corrienteroper 12 years, 4 months ago

I see. Thanks for letting me know. And thanks for finally answering me. You three: Bob, Blue Harley, and Ron, are the only ones that have ever answered me since I joined this LW Comment thing back in June of 2005!! Thanks again!

RonBurgandy 12 years, 4 months ago

corrienteroper - no problem, it's what we do. And if by chance you are ever walking down the street and run into a guy named John Shoemaker, ask him his thoughts on crossing guards waving at cars on duty.

beatrice 12 years, 4 months ago

I much prefer Kevin Kline and Michael Douglas over Martin Sheen and Geena Davis. Big Screen Presidents Rule!

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