Monday, February 20, 2017

Presidents good, bad, and should-have-been

A favorite American president is interestingly not a kingly or caudillo type but a New England Yankee who for a change wasn't a busybody trying to force things on the people because he thought he knew best: the quiet governance of Calvin Coolidge. I'm not exactly simpatico with Ike (Robert Taft was better; he should have got the nomination in '52) but I respect his accomplishments as president; I agree with his pragmatic centrism and New Look defense policy that kept us from wasting time and lives in brushfire wars such as Vietnam (blame Kissinger's very different view for the latter). Ike: because we now have nukes, war should be out of the question as nobody can touch us. Like with Lew Rockwell, most people's lists of the greatest presidents are basically my list of the worst: Lincoln, Wilson, and FDR.

Gentlemen who should have been president: Alf Landon, Wendell Willkie, Thomas Dewey, Robert Taft, Richard Nixon in 1960 (Kennedy stole the election but Nixon didn't demand a recount), Barry Goldwater, Eugene McCarthy (seriously Catholic at the time), George McGovern, Thomas Eagleton if he had been well enough, Harry Browne (Libertarian), and one of the greatest men of my time, Ron Paul.

P.S. The American Revolution was a mistake.


  1. The Vietnam War, IMHO, caused in large part by Residual McCarthyism in the Republican Party who would have wasted no time in smearing LBJ as "soft on Communism" had he not caused that mis-adventure. No, I am no fan of LBJ.

    1. It's complicated. Yet I understand the anti-Communists' anti-Communists, the John Birch Society, were split on Vietnam. The dying General MacArthur asked Johnson to get us out; he saw that a guerilla war on their turf without a coalition of friendly forces was unwinnable. I'm not one of President Kennedy's fans (I have a Nixon '60 matchbook on my desk next to a Goldwater campaign pin) but I credit him and his brother (who worked for McCarthy) for being sincere anti-Communists. But that may have led to a mistake in this case. McCarthy was right (accidentally?) as Soviet records show. Roosevelt's and Truman's governments were riddled with Communist spies. Again, I like Ike's New Look but of course have a conscience problem with even threatening to use doomsday weapons. What was the alternative, turning the U.S. into a global empire, which happened anyway?

      Anyway, Democrats got us into Korea and Vietnam; Republicans did what the people wanted, getting us out. Blame Republicans? Not so much. Vietnam was a liberal save-the-world crusade, criticized by Graham Greene in The Quiet American. Again, well-meaning anti-Communists.

    2. The moral problems inherent in the use of nuclear weapons would be considerably reduced if we adopted a formal "no first use" policy, and selected only counterforce targets, not countervalue targets (i.e., strike military bases rather than cities full of unarmed civilians). At the dawn of the nuclear era, both of these things were considered impractical- for one thing, early nukes weren't considered accurate enough to hit military targets. Modern technology seems to make this more feasible, though.

    3. Sounds like we have a winner.

  2. It always makes me nervous when you say reasonable things, because I find myself agreeing with you. : )>>


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