The Best and Worst of Some Presidents

By: Daniel Nardini

 Lawndale News Chicago's Bilingual Newspaper - Commentary American historians tend to either upgrade or downgrade American presidents for one reason or another depending on the view of the times. In one case, some American historians are arguing that former U.S. President James Buchanan was not as bad as he has been made out to be. Many historians in past times have blamed him for the conditions that would start the U.S. Civil War (1861-1865). Some historians are now arguing that the animosity between the southern states and the rest of the country were so severe that no one person can be blamed for it. Buchanan was simply trying to prevent war from breaking out, and like U.S. President Abraham Lincoln, he tried to not attack the southern states because he feared (and justifiably so) that his fellow countrymen would label him a “warmonger.” Yes, Buchanan did help to admit Kansas as a pro-slavery state, and yes his decisions did cause a further split in the Democratic Party, but it is now being argued that Buchanan was trying to avoid a civil war. He knew, like Lincoln, that it was a catastrophe waiting to happen.

A number of American historians are now arguing that one of our president should be ranked among the best in our nation’s history. This was former U.S. President John Tyler. I know, most people are scratching their heads and asking, “who?” Tyler was the tenth president of the United States, serving as president from 1841 to 1845. Until recently he was held in low esteem by many historians because he had achieved nothing in domestic politics, and had caused a split in his own Democratic-Republican Party. In terms of foreign policy, he proved to be one of the best presidents of all time. He prevented war with Great Britain over the British North American colonies (later to be united under Canada), and had the important Webster-Ashburton Treaty signed that today defines the United States-Canada border. Tyler would also end the longest war against any Native American group, the Seminoles, in a peace treaty in 1842.

Still, other historians rank presidents like Woodrow Wilson and George W. Bush at or near the bottom. Some historians feel that Wilson could have avoided taking the United States into World War I. With many archives now available, a growing number of historians believe that Wilson had lied about his intentions to go to war against Germany, and that the war had caused not only appalling American casualties, but had damaged a generation. Although it is still too early to tell, a growing number of American historians rank Bush near the bottom because of the Iraq War, and his poor handling of the U.S. economy. Well, maybe in another 20 to 30 years these views might all be changed, and those presidents who might be on the bottom of the list may get a reprieve, while those at the top may find themselves at the bottom.

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