John Adams

The Vice Presidency More Crucial Than Ever Before In The Presidential Election Of 2020

The office of the Vice Presidency has become an office of real substance and significance since the time of Richard Nixon as Vice President under Dwight D. Eisenhower from 1953-1961.

Before that, the Vice Presidency was an office ignored and forgotten, except when a President died in office.

Only three Vice Presidents, all early on in American history (John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Martin Van Buren) had been elevated to the Presidency by election, rather than succession due to death of the President.

Only when George H. W. Bush succeeded Ronald Reagan by election in 1988, did we again have a Vice President elected directly to the Presidency.

However, we did have Nixon lose the Presidency after Eisenhower, only to win it eight years later in 1968. And we did have Hubert Humphrey, Walter Mondale, and Al Gore run for President and lose.

Now, we have former Vice President Joe Biden having a good chance to be the Presidential nominee of his party in 2020.

But in many ways, even more significant now than the Presidential race, is the reality that the odds of a future Vice President succeeding during the term is magnified by the fact that all four leading individuals who might be President in 2021 are old men–Donald Trump at 74, Joe Biden at 78, Michael Bloomberg at 78, and Bernie Sanders at 79, when the term begins in January 2021.

All except Bloomberg have known health issues–Trump both mentally and physically, Biden mentally, and Sanders physically. Bloomberg at this point seems free of any mental or physical health issues.

But the reality that the three Democrats will reach 80 in either the first or second year of the next term is alarming and worrisome, and magnifies the importance of choosing the right Vice Presidential choice, with the odds growing that whoever it is, he or she is likely to occupy the Oval Office before January 2025.

It is a sobering thought, but one must face reality, so the choice of a running mate is more crucial than ever before.

Eleven Presidents With Compassion And Empathy, And Eleven Presidents Who Had Neither

Since today is Presidents Day, this author and blogger is posting two entries after the one yesterday, to commemorate the holiday.

So here is the second entry today, and the third and last entry to celebrate Presidents Day!

The most important traits that any President should have, but many do not, is compassion and empathy.

There are Presidents who have compassion and empathy as very clear parts of their personalities, and there are those who have absolutely no such compassion or empathy, making them uncaring and harsh in personality.

A list of eleven Presidents WITH compassion and empathy would include the following in chronological order:

John Quincy Adams

Abraham Lincoln

James A. Garfield

Theodore Roosevelt

Franklin D. Roosevelt

Harry Truman

John F. Kennedy

Lyndon B. Johnson

Jimmy Carter

Bill Clinton

Barack Obama

Those eleven Presidents who most lacked compassion and empathy chronologically would include:

John Adams

Thomas Jefferson

Andrew Jackson

John Tyler

Andrew Johnson

Woodrow Wilson

Herbert Hoover

Richard Nixon

Ronald Reagan

George W. Bush

Donald Trump

Debate and discussion on this and the earlier two entries is welcome!

The Twelve Smartest and Twelve Dumbest Presidents In American History

America has been fortunate in having a large number of smart, intelligent Presidents in its history.

This author would judge the twelve smartest Presidents, chronologically, to be as follows:

John Adams

Thomas Jefferson

John Quincy Adams

Abraham Lincoln

James A. Garfield

Theodore Roosevelt

Woodrow Wilson

John F. Kennedy

Richard Nixon

Jimmy Carter

Bill Clinton

Barack Obama

Who would be the smartest of all? Probably a tie between Jefferson and John Quincy Adams!

And who are the 12 dumbest Presidents in chronological order?

Andrew Jackson

William Henry Harrison

Zachary Taylor

Franklin Pierce

James Buchanan

Andrew Johnson

Ulysses S. Grant

Benjamin Harrison

Warren G. Harding

Calvin Coolidge

George W. Bush

Donald Trump

And who is the dumbest President in American history? Probably a three way tie among Harding, George W. Bush, and Trump!

Vice Presidency Has Led To Presidential Nominations Multiple Times Since The 1960s

The Vice Presidency was never good breeding ground for Presidential nominations since the Civil War.

Only John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Martin Van Buren and John C. Breckinridge were nominated for President before the Civil War, with all winning the Presidency, except for Breckinridge, who had been Vice President under James Buchanan from 1857-1861, and then nominated by Southern Democrats who refused to accept the official Democratic nominee, Stephen Douglas in 1860.

The only Vice President from 1860 to 1960 who was nominated for President was Franklin D. Roosevelt’s third term Vice President, Henry A. Wallace, who ran as the Progressive Party nominee for President in 1948 against his own successor in the Vice Presidency, President Harry Truman.

But since 1960, six Vice Presidents have run as Presidential candidates, including;

Richard Nixon in 1960 and 1968

Hubert Humphrey in 1968

Gerald Ford in 1976 (who had succeeded Richard Nixon under the 25th Amendment)

Walter Mondale in 1984

George H. W. Bush in 1988

Al Gore in 2000

Nixon and Bush won the Presidency, while Ford lost a full term after finishing the partial term he succeeded to, and Gore won the popular vote, but failed to win the Electoral College.

The point is that Joe Biden would be the 7th Vice President who ran for President after serving as Number 2 in the executive branch.

And Nixon the first time, Mondale, Bush, and Gore all had a jump start on the nomination of their party for the Presidency, with only Humphrey and Ford having major challengers.

So at least by recent history in the past half century plus, being a Vice President gives a leap forward to those who wish to run for President.

Barack Obama Fortunate For History That He Is Between George W. Bush And Donald Trump In The Order Of Presidents In Office

In the long run of history, where a President is in the order of attaining the Presidency really matters.

So, for instance, John Adams is between George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, and while Adams ranks around the middle in ranking of Presidents by historians and political scientists, he is rated much lower than the two Presidents before and after him, who are in the top ten of any listing.

The same goes for William Howard Taft, who is between Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson, both of whom are in the top quarter of Presidents, while Taft is rated in the mid 20s.

And the same is true for George H. W. Bush, who is between Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton, both of whom are rated higher than Bush, who is rated in the later teens as President.

On the other hand, Abraham Lincoln comes between the two men usually rated the two worst Presidents, James Buchanan before him and Andrew Johnson after him.

And it is now clear that Barack Obama, rated 11th in one poll, 8th in another poll, and 17th in a third poll, all within the two years he has been out of the Presidency, is fortunate to have George W. Bush, rated in the 30s, and Donald Trump rated either at the bottom under Buchanan and Andrew Johnson, or at most just above them, insuring he will, like Lincoln, always be rated much better.

The “Achilles Heel” Of Ten Presidents: What Harms Their Historical Reputation

When one studies the Presidency, it always comes down to one issue that can undermine their historical reputation.

So for John Adams, for example, it is the passage and enforcement of the Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798.

For James Madison, it is the burning of the White House and Capitol Hill in 1814 by the British during the War of 1812.

For Andrew Jackson, it is the forced removal of five Indian tribes to Oklahoma in the 1830s, the so called “Trail of Tears”.

For Franklin Pierce, it is the signing of the Kansas Nebraska Act in 1854, bringing the nation closer to the Civil War of the future.

For Woodrow Wilson, it is the violation of civil liberties during the First World War, and immediately after, during the Red Scare of 1919-1920.

For Franklin D. Roosevelt, it is the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II.

For Lyndon B. Johnson, it is the escalation of the Vietnam War in the mid 1960s.

For Richard Nixon, it is the engagement in the Watergate Scandal in the early 1970s.

For George W. Bush, it is the provoking of the Iraq War in 2003 and after.

And for Donald Trump, it is the collusion with the Russian government Vladimir Putin, which is going to bring down his Presidency.

Latest Presidential Ranking Survey For Presidents Day Changes Ratings Of Several Presidents Upward And Downward

The game of Presidential rankings is one always changing, and the newest survey of scholars, including this author as a participant, does not disappoint in that regard.

The Siena College survey, now done six times since 1982, once for each new President being considered in the rankings, has some surprises.

157 experts, questioned by the Siena College Research Institute, raised two of the Founding Father generation to the top ten, with James Madison number 7 and James Monroe, his successor at number 8. In so doing, two modern Presidents were dropped out of the top ten, with Ronald Reagan at number 13 and Lyndon B. Johnson at number 16.

A rare occurrence was that Abraham Lincoln was number 3, when usually he is on top, although in earlier Siena College surveys, Franklin D. Roosevelt had been number one, now number two, with George Washington moving up to number one.

Barack Obama, number 8 in the American Political Science Association survey in 2018, and number 12 in the C Span 2017 survey, ended up number 17 in the Siena College survey, so below such Presidents as Woodrow Wilson, James K. Polk, John Adams, and Bill Clinton.

And Donald Trump, who was dead last in the APSA poll, was number 42, above James Buchanan and Andrew Johnson, with Johnson ending up below Buchanan, the opposite of both the C Span and APSA surveys.

Of course, the game of Presidential ranking is a never ending and highly debatable one, and the way that Presidents are ranked is purely in the eyes and expertise of the beholder.

Should a great man, such as Madison or Monroe, but not as accomplished as more modern Presidents, such as Reagan or LBJ, be higher in the ratings?

That is left up to how people perceive Presidents, and whether they include the whole life, or just the actual years of the Presidency, in their judgments.

The Wealthiest And The Poorest Presidents

The American Presidents have varied greatly in wealth acquired or inherited in their lifetimes.

Some were born poor, such as Andrew Johnson, Richard Nixon, and Bill Clinton, due to family circumstances, with Clinton and Nixon acquiring wealth in their lifetimes, but Johnson would still be the seventh poorest President at death, according to statistics.

Materials gathered by scholars have led to conclusions on the net worth of our 44 Presidents, including their post Presidential years.

Easily, at least by the knowledge we have now, Donald Trump is likely the wealthiest President, although subject to change by further Congressional investigation of Trump’s finances, sure to come in the 116th Congress by congressional subpoenas. By estimate, Trump is wealthier than all the other 43 men who have been President of the United States.

After Trump, probably John F. Kennedy, had he not been assassinated, would have inherited close to $1 billion later in his life.

Other than Trump and Kennedy, George Washington would be considered the wealthiest President, in modern terms, around $580 million.

Behind him would be Thomas Jefferson ($234 million); Theodore Roosevelt ($138 million); Andrew Jackson ($131 million); James Madison ($112 million); and Lyndon B. Johnson ($108 million), with all those numbers being estimates.

Other Presidents who had substantial estimated wealth would include Herbert Hoover ($82 million; Bill Clinton ($75 million); Franklin D. Roosevelt ($66 million); and John Tyler ($57 million). Clinton acquired most of his wealth post Presidency by speeches and authored books, and will likely rise much higher if he lives a long life.

At the other end of the scale, we had 13 Presidents who had $1 million or less wealth by all estimates, in 2016 dollars, including in ranked order:

William McKinley

Warren G. Harding

James Buchanan

Abraham Lincoln

Andrew Johnson

Ulysses S. Grant

James A. Garfield

Chester Alan Arthur

Woodrow Wilson

Calvin Coolidge

Harry Truman

Notice that the bulk of these Presidents served in the years from Buchanan to McKinley, the last half of the 19th century, a total of seven out of eleven Presidents.

The three Presidents from Wilson through Coolidge also are on this list, and Harry Truman ends up as the least prosperous President at his death, as compared to Andrew Johnson the poorest at birth.

Barack Obama is rated just below John Tyler at number 13 on the wealth list at an estimated $40 million, with potential over a long lifetime to become one of the top few wealthiest Presidents by speeches, books, and other activities due to the stature and prestige of being a former President in modern times.

Other Presidents are rated in the middle on wealth, such as George W. Bush at $39 million; George H. W. Bush at $26 million; John Quincy Adams at $23 million; John Adams at $21 million; Richard Nixon at $17 million; Ronald Reagan at $14 million; Dwight D. Eisenhower at $9 million; and Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter at $8 million each.

Walter Mondale 91 Years Old, And Adds To Record Of Longest Surviving Retired Vice President, With Longest Surviving Retired President, Jimmy Carter

Today is former Vice President Walter Mondale’s 91st birthday, and he adds to the record daily as the longest surviving retired Vice President, sharing that with the longest surviving retired President, Jimmy Carter. Both will have been out of office for 38 years on January 20.

Mondale is at this point the 5th oldest Vice President in American history, with John Nance Garner (under Franklin D. Roosevelt) having reached the age of 98; Levi Morton (under Benjamin Harrison) dying on his 96th birthday; George H. W. Bush (under Ronald Reagan) reaching the age of 94; and Gerald Ford (under Richard Nixon) reaching the age of 93. Only John Adams (under George Washington) otherwise reached the age of 90, surpassed by Mondale a few months ago.

Mondale also goes down as, in many ways, the most active, involved, and engaged Vice President we have ever had, although it does seem as if Joe Biden may have been as intimately involved with Barack Obama during their two terms of office, with more information on that involvement to follow with future research.

Happy 91st Birthday, Vice President Mondale, and many more, and the same for President Jimmy Carter, who will become the longest lived President on March 22 of this year; will reach 95 on October 1; and will have the longest Presidential marriage on October 17, with his beloved wife, Rosalynn.

Is George H. W. Bush The “Best” One Term President In American History, Surpassing James K. Polk, And What About Jimmy Carter?

Now that George H. W. Bush is part of American history, the question arises whether he should be judged the “best” one term President in American history.

We have had the following 12 one term elected Presidents who finished their term, but were not given a second term:

John Adams
John Quincy Adams
Martin Van Buren
James K. Polk
Franklin Pierce
James Buchanan
Rutherford B. Hayes
Benjamin Harrison
William Howard Taft
Herbert Hoover
Jimmy Carter
George H. W. Bush

Eight of them, all but Polk, Pierce, Buchanan, and Hayes were defeated for reelection, with those four choosing not to run, and all of these four, except Polk, very unpopular and aware that they were not wanted to be nominated for another term.

The usual viewpoint has been that James K. Polk, with the acquisition of the American Southwest by war with Mexico, and acquisition of the Pacific Northwest by the Oregon treaty with Great Britain, was the most successful one term President. Labeled an expansionist and an imperialist by many, the fact that he presided over the greatest expansion of US territory since Thomas Jefferson, has helped him to be regarded by scholars as a “successful” President, rated 12 to 14 in scholarly polls.

Now, some are saying that George H. W. Bush may be greater than Polk, due to his foreign policy accomplishments in particular, including the end of the Cold War, the unification of Germany, and the Persian Gulf War, along with his domestic policies of “A Thousand Points Of Light”, and the Americans With Disabilities Act.

Some on this list, including Van Buren, Pierce, Buchanan, Hayes, Benjamin Harrison, Taft, and Hoover are seen in a poor light, while J. Q. Adams is seen as not having succeeded in his one term, although a great man, and his father, John Adams, criticized for the Alien and Sedition Acts in 1798, curbing civil liberties during his term.

The only other one term President who could be seen as competing would be Jimmy Carter, with his Camp David Accords between Egypt and Israel, the Panama Canal Treaty, his Human Rights advocacy, his creation of new cabinet agencies (Departments of Education, Health And Human Services, Energy), and his exceptional record on the environment, but his negatives, including high inflation, the Iranian hostage crisis, the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, and the Cuban Mariel Boat Lift all help to undermine his case.

So, one could argue that Polk and Bush may be competitive as the “best” one term elected President, without a clear cut answer to the question of who was the better President.

It might be best to say that Polk was the best 19th century one term elected President, while Bush was the best 20th century one term elected President, with Jimmy Carter as the runner up in that regard.