Tag Archives: POTUS

Does executive experience make a good president? The results!

I spent many an evening compiling all my results. All the links for all the individual detailed presidential analysis are here.

Now I acknowledge before I go any further that this exercise was purely subjective. If a hundred people did the same thing I did, they numbers would turn out a hundred different ways. Different presidents would be good, or not good, and the presidents’ experience could be counted as “executive” in ways I didn’t consider or excluded. This isn’t fact, it’s simply my opinion. My overtired, worn-out, bleeding-heart liberal (but fiscally somewhat conservative) opinion. I also want to thank the internet, without which I could never have put this together. Specifically, Wikipedia and all the relevant cited sources in each president’s article, and the excellent essays of the Miller Center of Public Affairs were especially helpful.

To review and sum up, I wanted to look at each president and see if their “executive experience” was a strong predictor of their success as president … or if their lack of executive experience was a predictor of a poor presidency. I had a null hypothesis — that being that more presidents that had executive experience (or lacked it) would be good presidents (or not good, if they didn’t have executive experience). The alternative hypothesis would be non-expected results… more presidents who didn’t have executive experience being good presidents (or with executive experience being bad presidents). I decided “executive experience” would be someone who’d served in the executive branch as a governor, but not vice president. A general in the armed forces counted, as did entrepreneurial experience by running a company, or presiding over a college. I went president by president, summing up their experience and whether history has shown them to be a good president.

There were three presidents who I didn’t score because of the brevity of their term, and Grover Cleveland only got scored once, even though he served two non-successive terms. What that means is though there were 43 presidents so far, I’ve only got 39 actual presidencies represented here on out.

I ended up with a pretty even match-up — 21 good presidents and 18 not-good presidents. There were also 24 with executive experience and 15 without executive experience. You get a matrix that looks like this:

When it comes to the null and alternative hypothesis… well, things start getting interesting. Out of 39 presidencies, ones where either a good president had executive experience or a bad president didn’t have it, 16, or 41% of presidents, met the null hypothesis. That means 23, or about 59% of presidents, met the alternative hypothesis. If executive experience were a good predictor of success as a president, I’d expect the percentage of presidencies meeting the null hypothesis at LEAST over 50%… and we didn’t even get there! A very safe conclusion from these numbers is that executive experience is simply NOT a strong predictor of success as a president. If my statistical analysis skills weren’t so rusty, and if I had Excel on this laptop and not just MS Works (which is basically good for making a grocery list and not much else) I could attempt to slap some real statistics on this, but I frankly don’t have the energy and the numbers mostly speak for themselves anyway, in my opinion. If anyone WOULD like to work out some statistical conclusions, be my guest! I’d be happy to supply my original spreadsheet and anything else you may need.

Take a look at that 2×2 matrix by rows, focusing on the “executive experience” or “no executive experience” categorization. I’d say that based on this, if someone comes into office with executive experience, it’s basically a crap shoot whether or not they will be a good president. Without executive experience, however, odds are 2:1 that they WILL be a good president. I guess this is promising for both Obama and McCain, since neither have the executive experience the GOP is claiming makes Palin soooooo “qualified”. It would be interesting to do a multi-categorical analysis of all the presidents, looking at a number of factors to determine which factors were most predictive of presidential success. Maybe it’s a long congressional service. Or geography. Or education. Or personality traits. Or some combination therein. Or some other factor I am not thinking of.

Some interesting observations:

  • The largest of the four categories in the 2×2 is the category of presidents who had executive experience but were not good presidents. I don’t think with a proper statistical analysis that this category would stand out as significant in and of itself, but it just is interesting to look at and ponder.
  • Some of the most highly regarded “good” presidents were in the “no executive experience” category — Lincoln, Kennedy, and Truman stand out. So it’s not like the presidents with executive experience were all the really great presidents and the ones without were just OK.
  • Three of the most consistently ranked worst presidents — Pierce, Harding, and Buchanan — had no executive experience before entering office. So, while executive experience doesn’t mean any sort of guarantee of success, perhaps it at least helps ensure that a president isn’t going to be horribly, tremendously, stupendously awful.

In summary, I believe this executive experience talk is hogwash, and Sarah Palin and Rudy Giuliani and all the other Republiclones need to just shut their pieholes about it. Unless what they’re trying to say is “Hey, at least if Sarah Palin becomes president, she won’t be as terrible as Warren G. Harding.” (Wow, that would be a great campaign slogan!)

Executive Experience = Good President? Part 8

Welcome to Part 8 of my ongoing series, does “executive experience” equate to a good president?  We’ve heard the GOP claim over and over that Sarah Palin has more executive experience than Obama or Biden and that makes her more qualified to be president than either of them.  They never mention that, according to their argument, that means she is also more qualified than McCain, but let’s not split hairs.  In my last post (and you can read all of them in the series by clicking on “Executive Experience: Is it Important?” above) I got up to the first term of Grover Cleveland, president #22.  Which means I’m about half done!  Yay!  I’ll bet dollars to donuts someone else has already gone through this exercise in full and good for them.  I don’t have the heart to Google and find out.  But I’m also finding it’s a very subjective exercise, so even if a hundred people have done it, I’d bet they’d have a hundred variations on a result, depending on how they define executive experience, or how they judge the different presidencies, or how good they feel a president has to be to be “good”, or how bad they have to be to be “bad”.  When all is said and done I hope to have brought just a tiny bit of value to the whole discussion-at-large.  Anyway…. let’s get on with it!

#23 — Benjamin Harrison.  Harrison reached the rank of brigadier general during the Civil War, and served in the U.S. Senate for six years, but by my definition no executive experience.  As an odd tidbit of trivia, Harrison was the last bearded president we’ve had.  Harrison’s presidency offers a dichotomy of success and failure.  He made a number of foreign relations successes during his presidency, setting in motion the U.S.’s backing of the Panama Canal, the annexation of Hawaii, setting up Samoa as a protectorate are among his foreign policy actions that did more in the late 18th century to push America toward its superpower status in the world.  On the other hand, he was, at best, a mediocre domestic policy president, pushing forth a number of decisions that helped bring along the depression of 1893, the worst in the nation’s history to that point.  He was seemingly completely unaware of the strife facing the poorest Americans.  Though, on the other hand, he did focus energy on resource conservation and the rights of African-Americans, more so than other presidents of the era.  I really could go either way here… was he good enough to be “good”?  The Miller Center of the University of Virginia certainly seems to think he did more good than bad, and since they are cited all over the Internet for president stuff, and have also been an invaluable reference for me as I’ve gone through this process, I will side with them.  So… EE: no; Good: yes.

#24 — Grover Cleveland, again.  I covered him already, and he’s not getting two votes.  Nyah nyah, Grover.

#25 — William McKinley.  McKinley served a long time in the US House of Representatives, and was also the governor of Ohio for a few years.  So he’s got that executive experience.  For a long time, McKinley was viewed as a mediocre president at best, manipulated to the will of his party and who were thought to be his handlers.  More modern historians seem to concur, however, that this was very far from the truth.  He was a savvy, decisive man who packed a whole lot of success into his presidency, before he was shot at the Pan-American Exposition in my hometown, Buffalo, NY.  His most resounding success was the Spanish-American War.  He tried to avoid the war, but when entering into it became inevitable, he helped direct it with modern technology (telegraph and telephone, the first president to use these during wartime) and the U.S. won decisively against a European superpower in a quick 113 days.   So… EE: yes; Good: yes.

#26 — Theodore Roosevelt.  Among his many life pursuits (naturalist, historian, etc.) he also had a successful military career, and served two years as the governor of NY.  Teddy Roosevelt’s presidency is one of great accomplishment.  He singlehandedly revolutionized America’s stance and approach to foreign affairs, and was truly the first ‘modern’ president, turning the tide of power in government from the Senate to the Oval Office.  He introduced social programs and conservation efforts, embraced a belief in reining in big business, oversaw the construction of the Panama Canal, and negotiated a peace between Japan and Russia (earning him the Nobel Peace Prize) and then later a peace between France and Germany over a conflict regarding Morocco.  He may have helped avert a world war with these two actions.  He was a pretty cool dude, overall.  So… EE: yes; Good: yes.

#27 — William Taft.  The only experience on Taft’s resume that lends itself to “executive” experience is territorial governorship.  He was a governor of the Phillipines for a couple years after the U.S. acquired it as part of the Treaty of Paris that ended the Spanish-American War, and also served as a governor of Cuba for a couple months while it was under US control.  I guess I’ll give him credit for it.  So now onto his presidency.  It seems, for all intents and purposes, Taft’s presidency was pretty much characterized by its lack of anything substantial that was accomplished.  Part of the problem was Taft’s personality; he was a thoughtful, ponderous man who really relished weighing all sides of an argument (his life’s ambition was not the Presidency, but rather to be a Supreme Court justice, to which he was appointed after his presidency).  He was rarely decisive, took little initiative, and was not a strong leader in general.  On top of that, the man was a frigging glutton.  He would eat something like a dozen eggs and a pound of bacon for breakfast, rendering him quite slothlike through the first part of the day.  Hard to take initiative when you can barely summon the energy to digest breakfast.  So… EE: yes; Good: no.

#28 — Woodrow Wilson.  He served as the president of Princeton University and the governor of New Jersey – either would get him credit for executive experience, in my book.  As far as his presidency, I’m doing a bunch of reading and really having a hard time nailing it down.  On one hand, his ideals and influence carry forward even today.  Wilson had a vision of world peace and security, where the U.S. would lead in being ambassadors of democracy and freedom to all nations of the world — sound like a recent justification for a very costly war?  But you can’t fault the dream behind it, it’s really quite noble.  He was certainly influential and historic for his ideas and philosophies.  But he was also idealistic, and functioned and based decisions on how he perceived the world should be, versus how it actually was.  A number of these decisions, if based more in the reality of a situation instead of his ideals for what it should be, probably could have kept the U.S. out of World War I.  And, for all his talk about justice and freedom, these ideals were not extended to African-Americans.  Wilson condoned and even encouraged segregation and race rioting reached a fever pitch during his administration.  (As president of Princeton, he discouraged African-Americans from applying; Princeton did not admit its first black students until the 40s.)  I’m still sort of stuck … do I give him a positive nod for his presidency because of the influence his ideals had on nearly every future president?  Or do I give him the big thumbs-down because of the things he did (like get us into WWI) and didn’t do (like, anything, to stop violence against black people).  I seriously cannot decide, so I will defer to the historical ranking of United States presidents on Wikipedia, which presents a tabulated collection of a bunch of different surveys of historians asking who were the greatest presidents.  Wilson regularly makes the top 10 on most surveys… so I will thus concede this point.  So… EE: yes; Good: yes.

OK, that gets me through the Progressive Era.  Up next, Great Depression!  Good times!

“Executive Experience” = Good President? Part 6

#17 — Andrew Johnson.  He served as a US Senator and also was governor of Tennessee for two terms.  Johnson might not be considered THE worst president ever, but he’s certainly up there.  The first president ever to be impeached, the reasons for impeachment are really quite minor in light of the monumental failure historians now see as Johnson’s presidency.  Johnson took a 180-degree different approach to Reconstruction than Lincoln had intended.  Where Lincoln wanted a moderate, conciliatory approach to reintegrating the southern states and wishes to ensure rights for the freed slaves,  Johnson took a much more hardline approach (though he later softened his stance), and he was a huge racist who had no intention to allow freed slaves any rights whatsoever.  Some think that had he taken a more progressive approach to the freed slaves, it might have ameliorated the race problem in our country.  Besides that far-reaching consequence of his political action (or inaction) even today, he also undermined the office of the President with his political ineptitude and allowed Congress to enjoy a more powerful role through precedents set while he was in office that they enjoyed for the next three decades.  So… EE: yes; good: no.

#18 — Ulysses S. Grant.  He was a major military player in the Civil War, orchestrating many of the successful Union battles.  In 1866, he was named general of the armies, the first person since George Washington to hold that rank.  Grant’s presidency was certainly characterized by many positives: his fight to help gain rights for African-Americans, including the passage of the 15th amendment, the positive direction of his Native American policy, and establishing the nation’s first national park stand out as highlights.  However, there’s a lot on the negative side: his administration was epically corrupt.  He continued Johnson’s “efforts” to diminish the power of the President for his two terms.  The numerous scandals and his own political lack of experience, despite being such a strong leader on the military front, rendered his administration pretty much impotent by the middle of his second term.  So… EE: yes; good: no.

(Also, a quick shout-out to my friends Amanda and Dave, who earlier tonight as I talked to her was having contractions 4-5 minutes apart and contemplating a trip to the hospital to give birth to their first baby!  Good luck you guys!!)

Does “executive experience” equate to a good president? Part 4

#11 — James K. Polk.  Polk was both Speaker of the House and Governor of Tennessee.  He was trained as a lawyer and also helped run his family’s successful plantation.  The Polk presidency is generally looked upon as a good one, but one of missed opportunities.  Under his administration, the United States added territory that would later make up most of our western states, including Washington, California, Oregon, etc.  Part of that territory was gained through the skillful directing of the Mexican-American War.  He was able to reduce tariffs and the economy prospered.  One source of contention is that he did little to stem the spread of slavery, and in fact grossly underestimated how his support of letting slavery expand into the newly acquired territories would fan the flames of emotion in the country.  He also attempted to purchase Cuba from Spain, but the offer (upwards of nearly $3 billion in today’s dollars) was rejected.  (Imagine the difference in the Cold War if that transaction had gone through?!?)  But overall he seems to have been productive, masterful at negotiations and he successfully achieved Manifest Destiny and secured our border with Mexico.  Perhaps he lacked some foresight, but it’s easier to see that now, in retrospect, than it probably was at the time.  So, I would say:  EE: yes; Good: yes.

#12 — Zachary Taylor.  Attained the rank of Major General in the Army and was a national war hero.  Having never held political office or even bothered with telling people his political leanings, it was pretty much a crap shoot when he won office to see what he would do.  It turns out he was pretty against the expansion of slavery, which incited the South.  But then he went and died of suspected cholera and never really got to see his policies through, as his veep, Millard Fillmore, took over and supported a somewhat different philosophy.  Had Taylor lived and won a re-election to see his policies through, it might have stemmed the spread of slavery and even, possibly, prevent the Civil War.  Besides that, though, he was fairly mediocre… scaled back on the pursuit of Manifest Destiny a great deal, made a treaty with Britain with unnecessarily large concessions, and no one in Congress took him seriously, so he couldn’t otherwise get much done.  All that aside, I’m simply inclined to just not count him, between being unable to determine if he was a really good president, being undecided whether to count his army career as “executive experience” and the shortness of his presidency.

#13 – Millard Fillmore.  He was a VP, a U.S. Senator, a state senator (in NY) and the NY State Comptroller.  Lots of political experience to be sure, but no executive experience.  He took over after Taylor’s death.  He supported the Compromise of 1850, which was a complex set of laws but to summarize, it made California a free state, allowed the possibility of Utah and New Mexico to enter the Union as slave states, and a couple other provisos that attempted to appease all sides but instead inflamed them all instead.  The Compromise did serve to probably delay what was now a nearly inevitable Civil War, so it can be credited for that.  Millard Fillmore also has a number of other accomplishments as part of his legacy – establishing trade with Japan, and presiding over a great number of foreign relations successes in his short tenure.  Common belief seems to be that his presidency was unremarkable, but given the tempestuousness of the times he found himself as President, it seems to me he did a pretty decent job.  He was not nominated to run for a second term more because the Whig party was in disarray more than for his popularity at the time.  So… I might be in the minority here, but…  EE: no; good: yes.

OK, I need to go to bed.  30 to go.  Yikes.

Does “executive experience” equate to Presidential success? Part 3

You can click on the page “Executive Experience: Is it important?” above to see all the previous posts on this topic.

#8 – Martin Van Buren. He was a Secretary of State and a Vice President, which do not qualify him… but was governor of New York state for like 3 months. So that counts! Van Buren was instrumental in building the political system as it exists today, which is quite noteworthy. Historians, however, do not hold him, as a President, in very high regard. The United States went through a really bad economic depression during his tenure, and his insistence on clinging to his strong beliefs in Jeffersonian and Jacksonian democratic ideals prevented him from taking actions as President to ease the depression. Also, despite his leadership in the political arena, he somehow could not manage to get the Congress to pass any sort of measure to try to ease the depression until three years into it. His impotency seem to be his greatest presidential legacy. So… EE: yes. Good: no.

#9 — William Henry Harrison. I simply don’t have the heart to try to count him. It’s way too hard to assess the value of his presidency when he died 32 days into it. Perhaps had he kept his coat on at his inauguration I’d have more to write about. Thus WHH gets a pass. What’s interesting to note is that beyond this reputation regarding his unfortunate demise, I realized I didn’t know a thing about him. He became a national hero as a general in the War of 1812, and before that has been governor of the Indian territory (present-day Illinois and Indiana) during which he managed to finagle the Native Americans out of thousands of acres of land for little to no compensation. His presidential campaign was notable for two reasons. First, it was the first ‘modern’ political campaign. Although WHH was from what might have been the wealthiest family in Virginia, his handlers managed to create an image of him as a commoner, a man of and for the people. Second, he was the first Whig elected to office.

#10 – John Tyler. Tyler was the first VP to take over the role of president because of the president’s death. Before his 32 days as VP, his experience included being a lawyer, governor, and senator. It may be Tyler’s greatest presidential accomplishment that he managed to become president after WHH’s death at all; there was a lot of confusion over the wording in the Constitution regarding the succession of the veep should the president die, and not everyone thought that it meant Tyler should become the de facto president. His presidency also included the entry of Texas as a state… and little else. He was stubborn and uncompromising and thus just didn’t get much done. Plus as a slave-owning aristocrat he was mostly out of touch with everyone in the country except other slave-owning aristocrats. So… EE: yes; Good: no.

Ten down, 33 to go! But alas I must pick up Lane from preschool.

Does “executive experience” equate to Presidential success? Part 2

To see the rules for my analysis, and the first four Presidents, check out Part 1.

I want to try to fit in a couple more old white dudes before I feed the kids lunch!

#5 – James Monroe. Monroe was a senator and governor of Virginia before becoming President, so he does have executive experience. Was he good? All signs point to yes! After all, his presidency was known as the “Era of Good Feelings”. He made great strides in domestic policy, sponsoring greater feelings of nationalism. He is perhaps best known for the Monroe Doctrine (declaring the Americas’ independence from colonization and foreign rule), which arguably set the USA’s course toward being a superpower. So… EE: yes; Good: yes.

#6 – John Quincy Adams. He did a lot of ambassador type work, and served as a very successful Secretary of State under James Monroe. But no official executive experience. Adams was the subject of a lot of bad blood for the way the election went down, and was thusly rendered pretty impotent with Congress. While there’s no argument with his accomplishments both before and after his presidency (when he actually served in the US House of Representatives for 17 years after his one term as President) his presidency is characterized by its lack of accomplishment. He had lofty and noble ideas, but they were often out of touch with the current political climate and he was hugely disliked as president. Andrew Jackson defeated him handily after his first term. So… EE? No. Good? No.

#7 — Andrew Jackson. He was a plantation owner, lawyer, and military officer, among other things. By all accounts he was a very successful plantation owner, making a number of large land acquisitions and at one point owning upwards of 150 slaves. His military career was, in a word, legendary. He achieved the rank of major general and appears to have been the very model of one – he led some very important victories. One victory was over the Seminole in Florida, convincing Spain to relinquish their positions there and paving the way for Florida to become a state. Jackson also served as the first governor of Florida for a few months. So, I’d say he has executive experience — the combination of successful plantation owner (and self-made at that), a heroic military career at a fairly high rank (major general isn’t in my definition of executive power but he was very successful in his role), and his short time as governor. He also served as a Representative and Senator, but we all know that doesn’t count. 😉 His presidency is the subject of much speculation. Some seem to look toward his ability to reduce the national debt and expand the scope of presidential authority to raise him on a pedestal. Others see him as a tyrannical hothead who took everything personally, seemed to formulate his personal political beliefs out of spite, started the Spoils system, perpetuated the Trail of Tears and other Native American removals, and feel he was the closest to having a Caesar-type ruler as the U.S. has ever come. (One of his many nicknames was “King Andrew”.) I’m not sure his moderate successes outshine the many negatives of his presidency. Thus, my personal inclination is to say he did more harm than good. So, I’m going to say…. EE: yes; good: no.

OK, time to feed the kids lunch. More coming soon!!

Does “executive experience” equate to Presidential success? Part 1

I’m really, really curious.  I want to look at the presidencies of the United States — ALL OF THEM — and see if “executive experience” really makes a great president.  After all, it’s really being talked about right now.  The Democratic ticket has no executive experience.  Sarah Palin has way more executive experience.  Blahbity blah blah blah.

But does it matter?  Do you need that sort of experience to go down in history as a good president?  And if you have that sort of experience, does it help solidify your place in history as a good president?

This should be fun.  I love this sort of thing, and I’m sure I’ll learn more about our past commanders-in-chief.  Maybe you will, too!  I’m way too lazy to cite stuff, so you’ll just have to trust me that I’m not making anything up.  I’m just doing this for fun so I don’t want to hear any grumbling about my lack of sources.  I’m doing this for me, for my own enjoyment, and just typing it up here so that others might get a kick out of it, too.

I’m going to write this as I research it.  Meaning, as I write, I’m not going to know what I find out about future presidents.  I’m going to start at #1, and go all the way through #43, summarizing the CV of each for its level of “executive experience” and then deciding if each has been remembered as a “good” president (mostly through my own opinion but I will try to be somewhat objective).  And I guess I should have a way analyze the results.  Maybe a comparative percentage presentation — percent of ‘good’ presidents with executive experience combined with ‘bad’ presidents without executive experience (null) vs. percent of ‘good’ presidents without executive experience combined with ‘bad’ presidents with executive experience (alternative).  That should work.  I’d expect, based on the rhetoric during the Republican convention so far that the first percentage will be higher than the second percentage.  We shall see!

First, let’s define “executive experience”.  (And again, I have very little knowledge in the way of the backgrounds of the Presidents through the ages — I have no idea what I’m going to find as I Google each man.)

OK — executive experience:  Let’s call it an ‘executive’ government job — at minimally, the level of governor.  I’m simply not convinced that VP should count.  Yes, in the early days of the country they were elected separately, and nowadays they often play significant advisory roles, and they preside over the Senate counting votes and breaking ties, I gotta say, I just don’t see how ‘executive’ it is.  And the Secretaries of the Cabinets…. on the face I want to count them, but they are heads of such narrowly focused organizations…. I just asked Frank and he votes no, not to count them.  So I won’t.  Owning and/or running a fairly large business as CEO.  Attaining the rank of Lieutenant General or General in the Armed Forces (or Vice Admiral or higher in the Navy).  And maybe I’ll give credit as I go for some other stuff.

I am not aiming to decree someone a good or bad person, or to lift up or decry their activities and accomplishments before and after the presidency.  Obviously our initial string of Presidents were all founding fathers, and in and that of itself is a measure of their personal greatness.  I’m trying to objectively form an opinion of these men as Presidents, independent of their other life achievements (or lack thereof).  So… should I decide that Thomas Jefferson was a crappy president, please don’t crucify me.  I’ll just decide, of my own opinion based on the trifle of things I read for each president, whether they were ‘good’ or ‘bad’ (ie. not necessarily BAD, but mediocre or worse).  Feel free to argue with me.  It will only increase my own learning on the matter.

So let’s get to it, shall we?

#1 — George Washington.  He was a General.  He led the entire Continental Army and then later the official United States Army.  Before his army career he was a farmer (a rich and successful one, though he did not make himself rich, he was ‘old money’.)   Good president?  By all accounts, I would say so.  It seems pretty agreed upon how thoughtful and fair he was, and how he listened and sought out opinions from all sides before making a decision.  Most importantly, the new country did not crumble under his leadership, as it most likely had the potential to in those early years.  So:  EE: yes.  Good: yes.

Oooh, I’m going to need a spreadsheet.  If only I had a friend or two who liked this sort of thing…

#2 — John Adams.  He was VP for eight years under GW.  Before that he served in what could be considered the legislative branch of the colonial government, first for the Massachusetts colony and then in the Continental Congress.  Before THAT he was a lawyer, who notably defended the British soldiers who committed the Boston Massacre and were subsequently charged with murder.  He achieved acquittals for six, and two were convicted of manslaughter.  So under my definition, he doesn’t have the executive experience I’m looking for.  It seems to be generally agreed that while he was viewed unfavorably during his time, history has viewed John Adams with a more favorable eye.  Specifically, the U.S. was having major problems with France.  The American populace hungered to go to war with France.  John Adams managed to avoid war and even more so, become allies with France before the end of his term.  I have to vote that Adams, all in all, was a success.  Again, the fledgling country stayed afloat, and since there’s “no such thing as a good war or a bad peace”, avoiding a war with a major superpower of the time was obviously (to me and others) a pretty wise move.  So… EE?  No.  Good?  Yes.

#3 — Thomas Jefferson.  Among his other notable accomplishments, like having Jeffersonian Democracy named after him, and penning a famous document or two, he served as Governor of Virginia for three years before becoming VP and then President after defeating John Adams.  There’s no arguing that Thomas Jefferson was a remarkable and intelligent man, with an amazing gift for the written word.  But to look at the major events of his presidential administration, I have to say he may have done more harm than good.  Among the good was the Louisiana Purchase and commissioning the Lewis and Clark expedition.  The bad included being the author of the words “all men are created equal” but doing little to eliminate slavery as an institution, and only freeing his own slaves in his will, upon his death.  He chose during his administration to suspend all trade with England and France (as American sailors were being captured in great numbers by British navy ships and forced into service for the Crown) which sunk the country into an awful economic state.  This trade war eventually led to the War of 1812 with Britain, possibly the closest our country came to collapse.  Great man?  Legendary?  I’ll say yes.  Good president?  Against every ounce of my being, against the fabled greatness, I’m going to say, no.  So…. EE: yes; Good: no.

#4 — James Madison.  He mostly wrote the Constitution, and as a US Representative helped establish the first ten amendments to the Constitution, more commonly known as the Bill of Rights.  He was Secretary of State under Jefferson.  But, according to me, no “executive experience”.  Most notable during his presidency was the War of 1812 with Britain.  Details aside, the U.S. won and remained an independent nation.  Rousing success, if you ask me, even if he bungled a lot of it, and even if Britain was a bit distracted by France at the time.  His policies also led to a stronger military and growing economic freedom and prosperity.  Maybe he wasn’t a super duper fabulous president, but I think he made the most of the situations presented him.  So…. EE: no; Good: yes.

Damn, this is taking a long time to get through each one.  But I shall persevere!!  More to come!