Woodrow Wilson

The “Middle” President: From Washington-Adams-Jefferson To Bush II-Obama-Trump

Now we can say that five times in our history, we have had three Presidents in a row, where the “middle” President of the set of three stands out as dramatically worse or better than the President before and after him.

First, we have George Washington, John Adams, and Thomas Jefferson, with Adams being seen historically as less in reputation than the other two Presidents.

Second, we have James Buchanan, Abraham Lincoln, and Andrew Johnson, with Lincoln being the success between two total failures in the Presidency.

Then, we have Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, and Woodrow Wilson, with Taft seen historically as less in reputation than the other two Presidents.

The fourth example is Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush, and Bill Clinton, with Bush seen historically as less in reputation than the other two Presidents.

And now, we have the fifth example, of George W. Bush, Barack Obama, and Donald Trump, but this time, as with the second case, it is the “middle” President, Barack Obama, who far outshines the other two Presidents!

“Change” Elections: 1800, 1828, 1860, 1896, 1912, 1932, 1960, 1968, 1980, 2000, 2008, And Now 2016?

America has now had 58 Presidential elections, and it can now be said that 12 of them, about 20 percent, have been transformational elections.

In 1800, for the first time. the “opposition” won the Presidency, when Thomas Jefferson defeated John Adams.

In 1828, the “common man”, Andrew Jackson, was elected over John Quincy Adams, and all white males over 21, whether or not property owners, were able to vote, and Jackson was perceived as representing the western frontiersman and the urban worker.

In 1860, Abraham Lincoln’s victory ushered in a new political party, the Republican Party, as dominant for the next half century, and the Civil War developed out of the split over slavery and its expansion between the Union and the Confederacy. But the sectionalism of that period still exists in many ways in 2017.

In 1896, William McKinley’s victory over William Jennings Bryan promoted the growth of industry and urbanizastion over the previously predominant agricultural and rural nature of America, but in reality, that conflict still exists in 2017.

In 1912, the high point of progressive reform, and the evolution of government playing a major role in the economy from that point on, became a long term reality, with three Presidents–the past President Theodore Roosevelt; the incumbent President William Howard Taft; and the future President Woodrow Wilson—all competing in promoting what one could call the most reform oriented election, with all three Presidents being “progressive” to different degrees.

In 1932, Franklin D. Roosevelt’s victory over Herbert Hoover, was the time of the beginning of Democratic Party dominance, and ever bigger national government, even beyond the Progressive Era of the early 20th century.

In 1960, the election of John F. Kennedy was the triumph of overcoming the “religion issue”, as our first non Protestant President, a Roman Catholic from Massachusetts, was accomplished.

In 1968, the election of Richard Nixon marked the beginning of a turn to the Right, although Nixon actually continued and expanded elements of the Great Society of Lyndon B. Johnson in domestic affairs.

In 1980, Ronald Reagan’s victory marked the sharpest turn to the Right since Calvin Coolidge in the 1920s, and began an era of conservative government, that in many respects, continued under his successors, George H. W. Bush and Bill Clinton.

In 2000, the Supreme Court intervention in the Florida vote count, and the awarding of Florida to George W. Bush by 537 votes, giving him the Presidency, was a revolutionary change that changed the course of history, when Al Gore won the popular vote by more than a half million, and with the economy having improved during the Clinton years, should have led to Gore in the White House.

In 2008, Barack Obama’s victory over John McCain was a sharp turn to the left after what were arguably 40 years of conservative government to different degrees, including under Democrats Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton, and Obama overcame the race issue, in becoming the first African American President.

And now, in 2016, Donald Trump’s victory MIGHT be a sign of another “change” election, with the white working class voting for Trump, giving him the victory in the Electoral College, even though rival Hillary Clinton won the biggest popular vote margin of a losing candidate (2.85 million), greater than many Presidents won on their road to the White House,

But it may eventually be seen as a “fluke” election, and may not be long lasting, and only time and events will tell us what the reality is.

Donald Trump’s First Hundred Days: An F Grade Is Appropriate! Neil Gorsuch Is The Only “Accomplishment”!

This is the season for judgment on Donald Trump’s First Hundred Days, and being a professor of history and political science, as well as a lecturer, blogger, and published author of two books and many articles, the conclusion is clear.

Donald Trump gets a F for his performance, easily the least accomplished President in the first Hundred Days, with only one major accomplishment, the approval by the US Senate of his Supreme Court nominee, Neil Gorsuch.

But even that only came about because of the Republican decision to abandon the filibuster rule, therefore allowing Gorsuch to be confirmed without a 60 vote margin usually required before a final vote. And it seems likely that Gorsuch will, sadly, take America backwards, maybe more so than his predecessor, Antonin Scalia. Gorsuch will affect constitutional law in a detrimental way, based on his earlier record as a circuit court judge.

Otherwise, Trump has been all bluster and bullyism, who has made many promises, and none of them nearing fulfillment. Trump’s public opinion ratings are by far the lowest of any President since polling began, particularly at this early a stage of his time in office. He has never had the majority of the nation behind him, either in the election, during the transition, or now after a hundred days in office.

Donald Trump has done more to divide America in his first Hundred Days than any previous President, and he relishes conflict, rather than compromise and unity. He has pitted his white working class supporters against minorities, and yet he is showing lack of any concern about those who supported him. There are signs already of disillusionment and “buyer’s remorse” by many who voted for Trump.

He has promised a Mexico Wall which will not work, if it is ever built, and it will add many tens of billions to the national debt, and Mexico is not going to pay for the Wall, and one hopes Trump is not ready to start a war with our neighbor, as he has more than enough foreign policy problems as it is.

He saw his National Security Adviser, Michael Flynn, forced to resign in less than a month, and there has been total chaos, anarchy, and disarray with the White House staff, with the only good thing being the lessening of the influence of right wing radical Stephen Bannon, and the rise of the influence of Ivanka Trump, and her husband Jared Kushner. It is hoped that the couple will have a humanizing influence on Trump, which would be a good thing.

Meanwhile, the Russian connection to Trump is still being investigated, and could force him out of office at some point. But meanwhile, Trump has been saber rattling with North Korea and Iran, and has bombed Syria and Afghanistan, and continues to promise the total destruction of ISIL (ISIS). Relations with Russia, at least publicly, are deteriorating as well.

Trump has managed to create hostility and antagonism with such allies as Great Britain, France, Germany, Canada, and Australia, while seemingly cozying up to China over the Korean issue, and therefore changing his hostile tone in the campaign toward China.

Trump has shown his total ignorance of history and of science, and has declared war on the environment, on consumer rights, on labor rights, on women’s rights, on the Hispanic community, on African Americans, and on the health care system itself. He seems unconcerned about the loss of health care for 24 million Americans, and is just out to trash his predecessor, Barack Obama.

His appointments to his cabinet are atrocious, and we have the most terrifying Attorney General in all of American history in Jeff Sessions.

Trump has failed to gain any legislative accomplishments, and has, instead, used twice as many executive orders than his last two predecessors, but many are mean spirited and negative, undermining our values and the historical accomplishments of government in the past hundred years since Franklin D. Roosevelt, and including Republican Presidents, as well as Democrats.

Trump makes Richard Nixon look much better, and even the weaknesses and shortcomings of George W. Bush pale by comparison, as at least Bush was a decent human being, while wrong headed.

His anti immigrant, nativist stand is a stain on history, and the tragedy of deportation of children protected under executive order of Barack Obama adds to the horrors of families being torn apart.

His condemnation of the judiciary is detrimental to respect for the law, and his Muslim bans have been held up by courageous federal court judges.

Trump, in many ways, is the third President without a party, as there is a major split in the Republican Party, and there are many officeholders and conservative journalists and intellectuals who have major problems with him. John Tyler and Andrew Johnson are the earlier Presidents who had no party backing, but Trump was elected, while they were not, but Trump’s constant switches of position, and his lying, and insulting, undermine his Presidency dramatically.

Donald Trump comes across, ultimately, as the least likable President, if one judges by his character, his behavior, and his basic values.

Trump has no background, experience, knowledge, or ethical standard to be our President, and one must recall that 54 percent of those who voted, were against him, and he is the 7th lowest popular vote percentage winner of all Presidents, with the others–John Quincy Adams, Abraham Lincoln, Woodrow Wilson, Bill Clinton, Richard Nixon, and James Buchanan–all having two or three opponents who won electoral votes, while Trump only had Hillary Clinton as an electoral vote competitor. And Hillary won the biggest margin of popular votes of any losing candidate–2.85 million popular votes.

The nightmare of Donald Trump has just begun, and America is a loser for having, somehow, elected this egomaniac and narcissist, who is only out for his own glorification!

Presidential Family Members And The American Presidency

The growing influence of Donald Trump’s daughter, Ivanka, and her husband, Jared Kushner, is a significant factor in Donald Trump’s approach to the Presidency.

His reliance on and loyalty to his daughter and son in law demonstrates the power of family.

Other Presidents have also utilized family members as follows:

John Adams relied on John Quincy Adams as Ambassador to Prussia.

Woodrow Wilson had his second wife, Edith Bolling Galt Wilson, conduct cabinet meetings after he had a stroke in October 1919.

Franklin D. Roosevelt relied on his wife, Eleanor Roosevelt, for advice on so many domestic and foreign policy issues, and in his last two years, his daughter, Anna, also was available to assist him.

Dwight D. Eisenhower used his son John Eisenhower as a staff aide in the White House.

John F. Kennedy had the most prominent relative in his brother, Robert F. Kennedy, serving as Attorney General of the United States for the entire time of the Kennedy Presidency.

Lyndon B. Johnson leaned on his wife, Lady Bird Johnson, for much advice.

Ronald Reagan followed the advice of his wife, Nancy Reagan, on a host of issues, including developing a relationship with Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev.

Bill Clinton utilized his wife, Hillary Clinton, on a proposed national health care program, as well as a host of other issues.

Barack Obama capitalized on the advice of wife Michelle Obama, as they were a very close couple.

But notice how mostly it was First Ladies who were engaged in helping their husband, with only John Quincy Adams, Anna Roosevelt, John Eisenhower (children) and RFK (brother) as important aides to the President, and Ivanka and Jared are in many ways unique in their growing role, with only RFK being of an equal or greater significance.

A Sobering Centennial: America Enters “The Great War” On April 6, 1917

It has been a century since America entered world affairs in a full sense, as on April 2, 1917, President Woodrow Wilson spoke to Congress and asked for a declaration of war against the Imperial German Empire, the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and the Ottoman Turkish Empire, and allied with Great Britain, France and Italy, in what was called “The Great War” at the time, and later World War I or the First World War.

The controversy over whether Wilson could have kept us out of the war has raged for a century, and his handling of the war effort, and the promotion of restriction on civil liberties during the war has remained highly contentious, and has caused Wilson to decline from Number 6 in the C Span Presidential poll of 2000, to Number 9 in the C Span Presidential poll of 2009, and now Number 11 in the C Span Presidential poll of 2017, all participated in by reputable scholars.

American sacrifices in war had been avoided, as America remained isolated from world affairs and foreign conflict until 1917, but in the last century, we have been in many major wars since then, including World War II, the Korean conflict, the Vietnam War, the Persian Gulf War, the Iraq War, and the Afghanistan War, along with many other foreign interventions in Latin America and the Middle East.

No one can be anything but sober to realize that when Congress voted for war on April 6, 1917, it transformed America in a permanent way, helping to create the concept of an American Empire, and America as a world leader since the end of World War II.

And now, with Donald Trump, the whole history of American foreign relations is in flux, and we face many challenges and crises in international affairs, and the hope is that we will avoid further military conflicts in the future, but hard to believe that is the scenario under Donald Trump.

PBS will have a six hour presentation on The American Experience on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday evenings April 10, 11, and 12 on America and The Great War, our nation’s engagement in the First World War, from many different perspectives, highly recommended to all who read this blog.

C Span 2017 Presidential Survey: The Golden Age Of The Presidency, 1933-1969 (FDR, Truman, Ike, JFK, LBJ) With Five Of The Top Ten In History!

One final commentary on the C Span 2017 Presidential Survey is in order.

Based on the results of this survey, including 91 Presidential scholars, it is clear that there was a Golden Age of the Presidency from 1933-1969, a 36 year period in the 20th century when we had five Presidents–4 Democrats and 1 Republican—who had a transformational effect on American history.

All five of these Presidents—Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry Truman, Dwight D. Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson—had bright moments in their Presidencies, but also times when their actions caused problems down the road of history. But they had a massive impact on the office and the nation, and they were ranked as Numbers 3, 6, 5, 8 and 10 in the most recent C Span survey.

Three of them—Truman, Eisenhower, and Johnson—left the Presidency with very low public opinion ratings, but have recovered to rise dramatically in image and reputation over the decades.

The four who followed FDR institutionalized the New Deal and expanded it, and yet now in 2017, everything that was accomplished in both domestic and foreign policy is in danger from the anarchistic, chaotic forces of Donald Trump, Stephen Bannon et al, who are ready to use a sledge hammer to destroy all of the progress and growth of the federal government to protect the population, particularly the vulnerable groups—the poor, the sick, the disabled, the elderly, women, ethnic and racial minorities, labor, and those concerned about the environment.

Since 1969, the Presidency has been going through crisis, first through the shortcomings and paranoia of Richard Nixon, through further decline under Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter (despite their well meant intentions), and then through the Presidency of Ronald Reagan which revived the image of the office, but started the long term decline of the middle class by its actions, continued under George H. W. Bush and Bill Clinton despite some reforms, and then reaching a low under George W. Bush, leaving Barack Obama with a challenge unseen since FDR.

Obama’s response in the midst of constant obstructionism was miraculous, and his number 12 rating upon leaving the Presidency insures his eventual rise to the top ten of the list, likely through a decline of Woodrow Wilson and Ronald Reagan by a few notches.

Donald Trump will cause the rise of all of the Presidents who have not done well in the rankings—Nixon, Ford, Carter, and the second Bush—but that reality is a sign that the American Presidency has been under attack as an institution since 1969, with the only bright moment being the rise of Barack Obama. So we are unlikely to see a new Golden Age, and the five Presidents from 1933-1969 are likely to be well entrenched in the Top Ten for the long haul of American history.

C Span 2017 Presidential Survey: Barack Obama Is 12th, Highest Ranking In Any Such Poll For Newly Retired President Since Ronald Reagan

The C Span 2017 Presidential Survey of 91 scholars of the American Presidency did true justice by naming Barack Obama the 12th Greatest President.

This is the highest first ranking of a newly retired President since Ronald Reagan in 1989, before there were C Span polls, but instead other polls existed, although not as organized and prestigious as C Span has now done three times–in 2000, 2009, and now 2017.

Obama was only 15 points behind Woodrow Wilson, and only 18 points behind Lyndon B. Johnson, often seen as the third and second, respectively, most accomplished Democratic President, particularly in domestic policy. And Obama was only 23 points behind Ronald Reagan, the conservative icon.

At the same time, Obama is 23 points ahead of James Monroe of the “Era of Good Feelings”; 31 points ahead of James K. Polk, who acquired so much territory in one term of office; and 35 points ahead of his major living competition, Bill Clinton.

Based on the stellar performance of Obama in the first competition, it seems likely he will move up to the top ten the next time this poll is done, or certainly at the least pass Wilson as a minimum, an interesting thought considering Wilson’s sad racial prejudices, despite his being the only earned Ph. D. President.

If Obama had been fortunate enough to have a Democratic Congress regularly, as Franklin D. Roosevelt and Lyndon B. Johnson had in their times, his ranking on “Relations with Congress”, rated 39th, would have been much higher, and he would already be in the Top Ten Presidents. Only Franklin Pierce, John Tyler, James Buchanan, and Andrew Johnson rank lower, which seems rather ridiculous in retrospect.

As it is, Obama rated 3rd in “Pursued Equal Justice For All”; 7th in “Moral Authority”;, 8th in “Economic Management”; 10th In “Public Persuasion”; 12th in “Vision:Setting An Agenda”; 15th in “Crisis Leadership” and “Performance Within Context of Time”; and 19th in “Administrative Skills”. In “International Relations”, much of it still unresolved on effect, Obama ranked 24th.

It seems clear that Obama will look even better in the long run, despite the racism, hatred, prejudice, and total obstructionism of the Republican Party and its leadership, which will pay for it in historical memory in the long haul, when these kinds of traits do not improve one’s historical standing!

C Span 2017 Presidential Survey: Presidents Who Dropped In Stature Include Five Democrats, One Republican, One Democrat Who Became A Whig

The CSpan 2017 Presidential Survey saw several Presidents who dropped dramatically in stature and reputation over the history of the three polls in 2000, 2009, and 2017. This is defined as four or more slots in decline.

Woodrow Wilson (D) dropped from 6 to 9 to 11.

Andrew Jackson (D) dropped from 13 in 2000 and 2009 to 18 in 2017.

Grover Cleveland (D) dropped from 17 to 21 to 23.

Jimmy Carter (D) dropped from 22 to 25 to 26.

Rutherford B. Hayes (R) dropped from 26 to 33 and then up slightly to 32.

Martin Van Buren (D) dropped from 30 to 31 to 34.

John Tyler (D to W) was 36, went up to 35 and then dropped to 39.

At the same time that five Democrats dropped in the polls, 8 of the top 15 in the poll were Democrats (FDR, Truman, JFK, LBJ, Wilson, Obama, Polk, Clinton), to 4 Republicans (Lincoln, TR, Ike, Reagan), 2 Democratic Republicans (Jefferson, Monroe), and 1 Federalist (Washington).

With only four Republicans in the top 15 (all in the top 10), the only other Republicans in the top 20 are McKinley (16) and Bush Senior (20), with the other three in the top 20 being Democratic Republican Madison (17), Democrat Andrew Jackson (18), and Federalist John Adams (19).

C Span Presidential Survey: Great Consistency On Top Ten Over Three Polls Since 2000

The third C Span Presidential Survey, just out since Friday, shows a great consistency on the top ten over the three polls since 2000.

The top four remain the top four, with only FDR slipping from 2 to 3 in the second poll, and remaining number 3 in the most recent poll, and Washington moving up from 3 to 2 in the second poll and remaining there in the newest poll, and Lincoln and TR remaining consistently numbers 1 and 4.

Truman was 5 in the first two polls, and now is 6, with Eisenhower surging the most from 9 to 8 to 5 over the three polls.

Jefferson remains number 7 in all three polls.

JFK went from 8 to 6 and then back to 8 in the three polls.

Ronald Reagan rose from 11 to 10 to 9, while LBJ went from 10 to 11 to 10 over the three polls.

So only Wilson dropped from the top 10, from a high of 6 to 9 and now 11, just ahead of Barack Obama, who seems likely to rise above Wilson when the next poll is done in four or eight years.

It will be a tough battle for Obama to dislodge one of the top ten, but expect over the next four to eight years, with a right wing Republican government, dismantling a lot of what many of the top ten Presidents did (specifically TR, FDR, Truman, Eisenhower, JFK, LBJ), that Obama will pass Reagan and drop him from 9 to 11, as Obama goes from 12 to 10, surpassing Wilson as well.

The 2017 C Span Presidential Survey First Impressions: What It Tells Us

The new 2017 C Span Presidential survey, the third in a series with earlier surveys in 2000 and 2009, reveals a lot about how scholars evaluate Presidents and their performances in office.

The survey is based on 91 Presidential historians judging our Presidents on ten categories, and adding up points to rank the Chief Executives.

What stands out as glaring is that two Presidents with earlier higher ratings have dropped dramatically, as a result of recent research.

Woodrow Wilson’s racism and civil liberties abuses in office have dropped him from 6 to 9 to 11, but with his overall performance still seen as significant enough to be in the top quarter of our 44 Presidents.

Andrew Jackson has dropped from 13 and 13 to 18, and is now behind other 19th century Presidents, including James Monroe, James K. Polk, and James Madison, who he used to be above, and that is clearly due to his anti abolitionist viewpoint and defense of slavery; his native American policy (Trail of Tears); and his destruction of the Second National Bank (causing the Panic of 1837).

One might argue that we should not judge Presidents by our own time and changing views, but it is clear historians do precisely that.