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Greatest U.S. President of the last Century

PostPosted: Thu May 07, 2009 7:15 pm
by f.Channell
So who is your choice of the greatest U.S. President of the last Century?

Teddy R.

I can tell you mine is FDR. Faced with the Depression and the Nazis he served through one of the most difficult periods of our history. I can keep going with him but I'd like to hear what others think.


oh, the subjectivity of it all

PostPosted: Fri May 08, 2009 2:12 pm
by mikemurphy

This is such a loaded question. There was a Time/Life (I think) poll done around the turn of the century asking just such a question and FDR came out on top with Ronny Reagan a close second if I remember correctly. I believe it also had Tricky Dick Nixon and Herbert Hoover down at the bottom.

Personally though, I don't think people can objectively make an argument here, especially of the choices you selected and the one(s) you omitted.

Reagan certainly instilled a sense of national pride when needed and helped spend us out of the Cold War, but he tripled the deficit in the process.

Teddy Roosevelt was the first president to get out there and help the little person, and was probably the closest guy we have had to a king in the US, but that was also his downfall.

JFK was physically appealling to many, sharp witted, and extremely bright, but didn't accomplish much while in office (not downplaying the Cuban Missile Crisis).

Woodrow Wilson.....what the heck did he do?

Truman, I think, was the unsung hero. I can't remember a president from the past who took on as much responsibility during a crisis, and took credit where credit was due and blame when it was there. No president in out time (that we know of) has had to make the decisions Truman did.

And FDR was the manager of the worst economical period of our time, but it wasn't him that got us out of the Depression. We can thank the Japanese for that. He did lead us during war by surrounding himself with very capable people.

What about Bill Clinton. He led us through the most profitiable period in US History. Although there are justifiable claims on his morality and the impeachment, etc. you can't lose sight of the facts that the people like him.

But to answer your question, I think I would have to go with Truman because of his background and his leadership abilities. He certainly wasn't afraid to make a decision and not second guess himself.


PostPosted: Fri May 08, 2009 6:47 pm
by f.Channell
Hi Mike,

Just threw out those names to get the ball rolling. I can definately see why you would choose Truman. While Reagan gets the credit sometimes for winning the cold war, the Containment policy and Truman Doctrine definately set the stage for the ultimate failure of the Soviets.
Kennedy, I suppose is a big "what if."
I still hold with FDR though. I can't think of any president while I've been alive I would like to see go 4 terms, even if not a complete 4 terms.
And don't forget Roosevelt had to put up with those wimpy Isolationist Republicans trying to keep him out of the war! :wink:


PostPosted: Sat May 09, 2009 12:56 am
by mikemurphy

I know what you are saying, but what decisions did FDR make that were on the comparison to Truman's? Like I said before, he didn't get us through the Great Depression like the text books would like to think; he even tried to stack the Supreme Court until he found out that he went too far looking for too much power; and there is enough speculation out there to suggest he allowed the Japanese to attack Pearl Harbor so he could get the US into the war so he could help Churchill.

Truman, on the other hand, had to make the decision about Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Then, he had to deal with the Berlin Airlift and Korea. Both times he came as close as the US has ever gotten to full fledge nuclear war. While dealing with this, he had to assure the people back home who were in the midst of another Red Scare while moving the economy back to a peacetime economy. He was president while some of the country's most effective legislation was passed. He desegregated the armed services, he passed the Truman Doctrine and the Marshall Plan (i.e. European Recovery Program). He also oversaw the creation of the UN and NATO.

I don't see where FDR compares. Your turn!! Bring it on Rookie :D


PostPosted: Sat May 09, 2009 3:04 am
by f.Channell
Okay I'll keep it going.
He was actually elected to his first term. Overcame a tremendous handicap. Was an amazing public speaker, "a day that will live in infamy,"
And how many Presidents can say they went drink for drink with Churchill night after night?
The Court was messing with his New Deal policy, and he felt public opinion would be on his side to continue those policies.

As far as Truman and his policies go, Roosevelt had a better relationship with Stalin. Maybe the Cold War wouldn't have been so cold if he had lived?

Many Historians feel the bombing in Japan was just a warning shot to the Soviets.

FDR's Pearl Harbor speech

But tough to argue, two great Presidents all in all.

Maybe we should do Taft versus Coolidge. :lol:


PostPosted: Sat May 09, 2009 10:58 pm
by mikemurphy

You are correct about his personal and professional challenge regarding his polio. He is certainly an inspiration to every physically challenged person out there. The personal wealth certainly helped to cope. And I'll give the edge to public speaking to FDR any day over Truman. Harry was not a good speaker at all; however, Truman didn't whitewash anything when he spoke unlike FDR.

As for his drinking ability, I don't know if you would like to use that as an attribute, so I'll leave that alone. But as for the stacking of the court, the SC was certainly getting in the way of FDR's New Deal agencies, because that was there job. If it was against the Constitution, then it was the SC's job to do something about it. Was it FDR's job to do an end-around that process? He certainly thought so until reality set in.

FDR, as far as I could tell, didn't "like" Stalin, but thought he could be worked with. Stalin took advantage of an old and feeble FDR at their last meeting at Yalta. Stalin would have done what he could because he was a despot that was arguably worse that Hitler. He held a bitter resentment against the West because he thought they took their time opening up a second front in Europe. The USSR took the brunt of Hitler's rage in WWII statistically for sure. I'm pretty sure relations would have been the same if not worse had FDR survived.

As for the bombing, I teach my students that many historians consider the bombing of Nagasaki was unnecessary and was used as a warning to the USSR. You could say it worked as the USSR did not get their mitts on Japan at the end of the war liked they demanded.


Taft = pooh
Coolidge = right place at the right time president

Best President

PostPosted: Sun May 31, 2009 5:31 pm
You guys Just continue on.

I am staying out of this one-although my vote would go for FDR even if it does appear he provoked the Japanese into war.

After Nanking they deserved a good thrashing.


PostPosted: Mon Jun 01, 2009 1:03 pm
by mikemurphy

Don't stay out of it, it's a good argument.

BTW, probably for anther thread, but don't you think it is ironic that history has spotlighted the holocaust and the 6 million Jews who lost their lives horribly. However, where is the sympathy for the millions of uncounted Chinese civilians who lost their lives at the hands of the Japanese, who didn't create a systematic means of death (i.e. gas chamber), but used the huge population of china to test biological and chemical warfare techniques. The world will never have an accurate account of how many Chinese died at the hands of the Japanese.


PostPosted: Fri Jun 05, 2009 5:56 pm
by f.Channell
Getting back to Woodrow Wilson the reason I feel he is an underrated president is the fact that he as a college professor may have been our most intelligent president of the 1900's. The way he developed a war machine for WWI. And later for his efforts to set up the League of Nations as he clearly saw that in 20 years we would be at war again. If not for a stupid Congress, and his own rumored poor health (he suffered a stroke in office). WWII may be avoided by the forward thinking of this man.
Unfortunately the Republican Congress voted down his attempts at world peace.

PostPosted: Mon Jun 08, 2009 2:25 am
by mikemurphy

For all of Woodrow Wilson's intelligence, he wasn't smart enough to realize he needed to involve the Republicans, such as Henry Cabot Lodge from Massachusetts. Because of his "insult" the United States never ratified the Treaty of Versailles or joined the League of Nations which was part of Wilson's 14 Point Peace Plan. BUT.... to assume that if the US had joined the League could have adverted WWII is asking much. Its the Treaty itself that caused WWII. More particularly, Article 231, The War Guilt Clause. By kicking Germany while it was down after the war, the world-wide depression, massive influenza that killed millions around the world, and the fear of communism all led in part to the rise of Nazism and Adolph Hitler in Germany. The League could do nothing to stop what Germany or Japan did. They had no enforcement policies to stop Italy when it attacked Ethiopia or to stop Japan when it attacked Manchuria.

BTW, after his stroke, he was so proud and stubborn, he wouldn't give up the presidency; instead, although bedridden, some people believe it was actually Mrs. Wilson who was running the country. Isn't that nice!


PostPosted: Mon Jun 08, 2009 4:54 pm
by Jason Rees
Reagan. You can't piss off that many people without doing something right. Plus, the whole Soviet Union thing.

PostPosted: Mon Jun 08, 2009 6:51 pm
by f.Channell
Yes a lot of people liked Reagan, that was who I cast my first vote for.
I remember my college professor at the time teaching the American Presidents course I took, hated him!
I think he was more liked for the good economy than the Soviets. But also probably for his outstanding communication skills.


PostPosted: Mon Jun 08, 2009 11:48 pm
by mikemurphy
Reagan wasn't bad if you like the fact he tripled our deficit and oversaw one of the most corrupt governments in American History.

PostPosted: Tue Jun 09, 2009 1:16 pm
by f.Channell
At the time I liked how they gave the Iranian Hostages back and how he seemed to regain some American Military respect. But hey I was 18 and had more important things on my mind than political corruption or deficits.

I was a Republican right wing conservative at the time, now I frankly think their all the same.


PostPosted: Wed Jun 10, 2009 1:29 pm
by Jason Rees
mikemurphy wrote:Reagan wasn't bad if you like the fact he tripled our deficit and oversaw one of the most corrupt governments in American History.

Riiiight. Because Nixon and Clinton were squeaky-clean. :oops:

Please pass the bong.