Executive experience makes a good president? Part 10

#33 – Harry S. Truman.  Truman gained the majority of his political experience as a U.S. Senator, representing his home state of Missouri.  When he left office, he had an abysmal approval rating (lower than Nixon’s right after the Watergate scandal broke).  His presidency contained a number of controversial moves and decisions: the dropping of the atomic bomb, the Korean War, the support of the creation of a Jewish state in Palestine, his dismissal of General MacArthur, and his weak response to Sen. McCarthy’s efforts to press the Communist panic button all give fodder to historians and make Truman’s presidency quite controversial.  However, despite these things, he is regularly ranked in the top ten of greatest presidents, and he made a number of significant contributions, including but not limited to expanding civil rights, expanding social welfare programs, his successful handling of the Soviet union post-WWII, and the successful transitioning of the U.S. from a time of war to a time of peace.  Therefore, I say… EE: no; Good: yes.

#34: Dwight D. Eisenhower.  Eisenhower was a four-star general and war hero during WWII.  After the war he served as president of Columbia University, and for a couple years before being elected president he was commander of the European NATO forces.  So, definitely executive experience.  Eisenhower’s presidency was mediocre at best.  While he presided over a peaceful time in America’s history, he left to his successor a raging Cold War and no test-ban treaty to end the testing of nuclear weapons.  While he did have a hand in finally ending the reign of persecution of Eugene McCarthy, he still sat idly by for years while McCarthy abused his power and conducted the most notorious witch hunt of the 20th century.  In matters of civil rights, it has been argued by Eisenhower’s main biographer, Stephen Ambrose, that Eisenhower wasn’t a ” …reluctant leader — he was no leader at all.”  In short, Ike’s presidency was largely characterized by his willingness to do nothing.  It kept us out of wars, to be sure, but it created and prolonged many more problems.  So… EE: yes; Good: no.

#35 — John F. Kennedy.  Kennedy’s political experience was in Congress, first as a Representative and then as a Senator from the state of Massachusetts.   Kennedy’s presidency has been the subject of mixed reviews… he made lots of aspirational speeches and promises, but his assassination deprived him of the time necessary to follow through.  Though his presidency was relatively short at just under three years, it contained a couple big failures, such as the Bay of Pigs, and a couple of pretty good successes, such as a test ban treaty and the formation of the Peace Corps.  Regardless, Kennedy is often ranked as a top-five president, most likely because of the strength of his leadership and charisma, and the inspirational nature of his words.  So, let’s say… EE: no; Good: yes.

Less than ten to go!  Oh I can nearly taste the finish.  Later!

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One response to “Executive experience makes a good president? Part 10

  1. Eisenhower did nothing? Interstate highway system? End of Korean war?

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