Executive Experience = Good President? Part 7

#19 – Rutherford B. Hayes.  Hayes had a distinguished military career and served as governor of Ohio before becoming president.  After the incompetence of Johnson and the corrupt nature of Grant’s administration, Hayes was a breath of fresh air for the country, being he was both a competent, savvy leader and very honest.  He brought respectability back to the White House and preserved the remaining presidential power… even regaining a bit of lost ground.  He was the last 19th century president who seemed truly interested in protecting voting rights for blacks.  If he can be faulted for one thing, it might be that he didn’t seek a second term.  He probably would have won and it would have given him more time to see his policies through, including protecting blacks’ rights, all which probably would have been a good thing for our nation.  Regardless, his presidency was pretty well-rounded and marked by a number of forward-thinking accomplishments.  So… EE: yes; Good: Yes.

#20 – James Garfield.  Historians think that if he’d been able  to complete his term, he might have done some good stuff,  carrying on in the tradition of Hayes, though probably not with Hayes’ stalwart integrity.  But he might have done some bad stuff too, as he seemed a bit foundering early in his term.  However, that and two dollars will get you a cup of coffee, since he was assassinated 4 months into his presidency.  His death did help to unite the country in mourning, so at least that can be said for him.  He will thus not be included in my study.

#21 – Chester A. Arthur.  Before becoming VP under Garfield, Arthur was collector of customs in NYC, which sounds sort of lame but in his time, it was a position of great prestige and power.  He was aligned with Roscoe Conkling, a US senator from New York and Republican party boss, who was all about spoils and kickbacks and favor-exchanging to increase his own political power.  Arthur benefited from Conkling’s way of doing business, and likely quadrupled his already lucrative salary through kickbacks, but it was never shown that he took bribes or did anything else more unseemly than the kickbacks.  Conkling was the subject of Hayes’ crackdown on corruption, and Arthur lost his position in the fallout.   Conkling and Arthur then conspired together to get Garfield the nomination for presidency, and Garfield repaid the favor by asking Arthur to be his VP.  When Garfield was assassinated, the Republican party felt they really had an ‘in’ with Arthur, but by all accounts Arthur rose to the position.  He led a fair, productive, and reforming presidency, to the surprise of everyone.  He made the effort to upgrade the White House to a building of style and elegance befitting the nation’s top office.  One of the crowning accomplishments of his administration was the complete reform of the civil servant employment process, requiring service exams for most positions, thus greatly reducing appointments through spoils and cronyism.  He was well-liked and respected among the public, though he didn’t pull great favor with his own party.  He did not receive the nomination to run for a second term partly because of this, and partly because he didn’t really do anything to lobby for the nomination for himself, as he’d been diagnosed with a fatal kidney disease.  He passed away less than two years after leaving office after his first term.  So… EE: no; Good: yes.

#22 — Grover Cleveland.  Cleveland provides an interesting problem here.  Given that he served two, non-consecutive terms, should he get two votes, or just one?  I’m inclined to go with just one, as a summary of his two separate terms.  Let’s see where this takes us!  Cleveland had a pretty rapid political ascent – he started his political career in Buffalo, first as Sheriff, then mayor, then onto the governorship of New York, before receiving the nomination for president.  He didn’t do a bad job as president, but he didn’t do an exceedingly good job either.  He was a man of limited education, and as such often saw issues in very black and white terms, and fixated on certain smaller issues without regard to the bigger picture or historical precedent.  He was certainly less tolerant than other presidents of the time, doing virtually nothing of note to help minority races, and he was against women’s suffrage.  He did manage over his two terms to bring authority back to the presidency with his use of executive privilege and the veto.  But overall, historians view his service as mediocre at best.  So… EE: yes; Good: no.

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2 responses to “Executive Experience = Good President? Part 7

  1. Thanks for the info on Rutherford!

  2. thx 4 putting Hayes as ”good”.

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