An American Dilemma: Ensnared by Mediocrity

(1) American-FlagP. Haskell made a comment on the blog the other day. I made a partial response to it but thought I’d like to write more about it. P wrote: How about Biden, would you say he’s too old as well.
I agree, it’s got to be someone younger, but someone who has management and /or monetary experience—no more one year in the Senate and then onto President. Been there/done that!”

I would say Biden’s too old, much too old. Aside from that, he became a politician in his 20s. He’s now 72 and would be 74 taking office. Like Hill/Billy the Arkansas duet he is just too old as is Romney who is planning to come back to rescue the Republican party.

We really don’t want to have people in their 70s leading us. You know in Massachusetts the people voted in a Constitutional Amendment to retire judges who become 70. I’d hate to think a person is too old to sit in a district court but young enough to run our country.  Under the Constitution we have a minimum age for president of 35; no one thought about having a maximum age. I’d guess if some thought had been put into it seeing that the life expectancy of a man was in the mid-60s then perhaps 60 would be the top age at the time of inauguration.

P suggested it has to be someone with management or monetary experience; I’m not sure that amounts to a hill of beans. I believe that one should not be elected who hasn’t demonstrated real leadership experience and courage. A good mind and a good heart and a way with words do not mean one will be a good president.

I’d like to see a person who is under 60 who if re-elected will not be over the age for retiring under Social Security when the term ends. Ideally we’d elect someone between the ages 45 to 60.  I’d suggest that we look back to see who the historians have named the top seven presidents and see if there are some traits they had in common.

An aggregate rating of our presidents puts them in this order: Lincoln, FDR, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Teddy Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson and Harry Truman. I don’t necessarily agree with this but it’s a starting point. When you look at it you should experience a chill thinking that since the election in 1948, over 65 years or close to 1/3rd of our nation’s history,  we haven’t had a top rated president.

Just to digress a sentence or two, these rating of our 42 presidents (I don’t count William Henry Harrison because he only served a month.) put JFK at 11, Ronald Reagan at 17, Bill Clinton at 21, Daddy  Bush at 23, and Baby Bush at 34.  Why we would be considering people related to other presidents who were mediocre at best is beyond me. Especially when the brother of a guy rated as lousy wants to use the same foreign policy team that his brother used which messed up the Middle East to a fare-thee-well..

Back to the qualities that made our best presidents what they were. Their ages upon taking office were Lincoln 52, FDR 51, Washington 57, Jefferson 58, Teddy 42, Wilson 57, and Harry Truman 61. The average age is 54; the median age 52.

All came from the White Protestant tradition: three, Washington, Jefferson and Lincoln believed in God and loosely in Christianity; the other four adhered to their religious beliefs but didn’t parade them about. There seems little doubt all were influenced by their beliefs.

Three (Washington, Teddy R., Truman) saw combat in leadership positions; Lincoln was a captain in militia during the Black Hawk War; FDR, Jefferson and Wilson never served. Jefferson showed a lack of courage during the Revolution War but offset that with his involvement in the Continental Congress. Four were governors Roosevelts, Jefferson, and Wilson. Two, Jefferson and Wilson, could be considered intellectuals; three, Truman, Teddy R, and Washington were pugnacious and known for that ability.

None except the Roosevelts started out with silver spoons.  Three the Roosevelts and Wilson went to Ivy League colleges; three didn’t go to college Washington, Lincoln, and Truman. All seemed to have an interest in reading. Four were lawyers. Five were surveyors, farmers or ranchers. Four were Freemasons. Three lost one of their parents before or in early teens; three suffered serious health problems.

There seems at first glance that no one factor that runs through all. The involvement in war by Washington, Teddy, and Truman and the performance during big wars by Lincoln, Wilson, FDR, and Truman played a major role in their being rated highly.

Looking closer all had somewhat progressive ideas that suggested America could have a better future. None seemed to bemoan the country’s position or apologize for our past actions. They all believed in America with its great opportunity. All seemed to be highly respected among their peers. Most maintained the courage of their convictions. They all took unpopular positions. They made hard decisions based on their beliefs as to what was best. They didn’t pander to the crowds or weigh the polls.

They led based upon their beliefs in the idea America embodied, the reason so many have risked so much to get here. They were so unlike what we’ve seen lately. That’s the type of candidate we have to find and back if such a one exists. Forget the parties, the right individual with the right stuff is needed. He or she cannot be beholden to big money contributors or foreign countries. We need a president for the American people who will advance us all.

Breathe there a person with soul so made; among the 318 million of us, we’ve got to hope. Right now I’ve been searching but I am despairing. Why over the last few elections are we faced with voting for the lesser of two evils?








  1. Whoops! I failed to mention that Chester A. Arthur was a Republican. He only served one term. The last thing the robbber barons wanted in their candidates was a surprise conscience.

  2. Read that: Guatemalan Indians, and, Salvadoran campesinos.

    See Rios Mont (Guatemala), and, Roberto d’Aubison (El Salvador). Both of these fine fellows helped Reagan win the war against Communism in Central America. The Reagan Administration paved their ways to power, and, supported them, fulsomely.

  3. What about Chester A. Arthur? He doubled-crossed the robber-barons who bank-rolled his path to the Presidency. We need a few more like him. Come to think of it, FDR, was kinda like that, too. Now, Ronald Reagan, that’s a different matter. Tens of thousands of slaughtered Indians, and, campesinos, whisper to us from their graves about Ronald Reagan. Folks should listen, the murmurs of the dead can be very informative. Some call it….history.

  4. The things I want and look for in a leader are simple. Honor and Integrity. If someone has those and a bit of management skills and the ability to recognize Integrity and competence of their subordinates he/she will be just fine. Given a choice among candidates I will always chose the one I trust, even if I disagree with their policies. If I actually trust both then policy and ideas come into play. Even if you disagree with someone if they are fundamentally honest you can at least have reasonable debate and discourse. If not and you can’t trust them you don’t know where you stand. The vast majority of our founding fathers were truly Honorable men. We’ve also been blessed with millions of honorable Americans who have followed suit. These are the people we should look to for guidance and inspiration. Whether they are a President, a family member, a teacher, a local beat cop, a hardworking blue collar guy or whoever. All good upstanding Americans have faith. Bond together and stand for the Truth and our Country and the Constitution will prevail.

  5. I like the points that nc brought up. Historians love presidents that served during times of crisis – civil, military and financial. A president that served wisely during times of prosperity, peace and tranquility would not be extremely noteworthy as he would only be noted for “doing nothing great”. William Shakespeare’s character Malvolio in the play “Twelfth Night”, reading a letter from Maria states “Be not afraid of greatness. Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and others have greatness thrust upon them.” Sometimes “greatness” is better defined by the lack of crisis requiring immediate action.

    Give me the “do nothing” president that serves wisely, enabling prosperity, peace and tranquility. Give me a president that submits a budget that Congress will pass. Give me a president that submits Cabinet Officers, Supreme Court Justices and other appointees that the Senate will approve. Give me a president who will honestly affirm “I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.” Give me someone who does not have a personal agenda to do otherwise.

  6. Cheer up. Things will improve. Remember that the historians who chose the top seven were mostly academics. People like Torture and Gruber were making those choices. So take that list with a grain of salt. Those same Academics would rate the MBTA as the top transportation system. Wilson was atrocious. He pledged to keep us out of the European war but then led us in. He was part of the vindictive peace at Versaillies which led to WW2. WW 1 was the condition precedent for 60 million deaths in the second war. He was a total failure. Truman demobilized after WW2. He also disbanded the OSS. We were caught unprepared by the N. Korean invasion. Using objective criteria i.e. producing prosperity at home and avoiding foreign conflicts, the list is much different. The five red heads were the best. Reagan, Coolidge, Jackson, Jefferson and Washington. They kept us free and at peace and saved American lives. Lincoln, FDR, Wilson and Truman gave us 1.2 million dead American their wars. Reagan won the greatest military victory in history prevailing in the Cold War. He did it without firing a shot. He liberated all of Eastern Europe setting free hundreds of millions. He told the truth. Government was not the solution. Government was the problem. Academics need government to survive. That is why they manufacture these fake lists.