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One of my favorite Presidential trivia questions is: Which President played in two World Series? That's a bit of a trick question. While he was captain of the Yale University baseball team, George Herbert Walker Bush played in the first two College World Series in in 1947 and 1948.

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The elder President Bush had been accepted to Yale University prior to his enlistment in the military. When he returned home from the war, after surviving having his plane shot down on September 2, 1944, he took up the offer to attend the prestigious school, after his discharge and after getting married to the former Barbara Pierce. While at Yale, he was enrolled in an accelerated program that allowed him to graduate in two and a half years, rather than four. He was a member of the Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity and was elected as its president. While at Yale he also captained the Yale baseball team. He was a left-handed first baseman, and captained the team when it played in the first two College World Series. As the team captain, Bush met Babe Ruth before a game during his senior year.

Babe Ruth and George H. Bush

Bush was described in a Sports Illustrated article as a "slick-fielding first baseman". The team played in the first of college baseball's national championship at Hyames Field on the campus of Western Michigan. It was a small ballpark on a hillside in Kalamazoo, Michigan, that was described by an SI writer as a real-life "field of dreams" for college players in 1947.

Bush told Associated Press in a phone interview: "I remember going out there and thinking, 'Well, we're pretty darned lucky as an Ivy League team to be in the big time here,' but there we were." President Bush, added "We thought about it a lot and talked about it in the locker room. A lot of us on the team were veterans and we had come back from the war, so maybe that made it a little less apprehensive. On the other hand, it didn't deduct from our enthusiasm and our desire to win, which we did not do."

But victory proved elusive for the Yale squad that year. Instead, the title went to the California team called the Bears. The first few innings were played in a steady rain. Yale led 4-2 before some strategy by the team's manager, a former major leaguer, backfired in the seventh inning. "We walked the eighth hitter to get to the pitcher, and it was Jackie Jensen," Bush said. "He hit one that's still rolling out there in Kalamazoo." That big hit tied the game, and the Bears scored twice more in the eighth before breaking it open with an 11-run ninth.

Yale rallied in the second game from a 7-2 deficit and tied it in the sixth inning, but the Bears went ahead to stay the following inning, scoring the winning run in an 8-7 victory, sweeping the best of 3 series, two games to none.

Yale found its way back to Kalamazoo the next year for the second College World Series. This time they were once again playing a team from California, this time from Southern California. They took the series to three games, but the California team won, with the final game ending on a triple play, with Bush on deck. Reflecting on the game years later, President Bush said: "It was a traumatic experience and letdown for Yale. All of us felt that way. You learn to go with the flow and get on with your life, and that's what all of us did."

After he became president in 1989, Bush kept his baseball memories close by. Tucked in his Oval Office desk was his Yale first baseman's mitt. Former team mate Ethan Allen regarded Bush as one of the best defensive first basemen he had seen. But he was quick to point out to scouts that Bush was "all glove and no hit" -- a label Bush disputes. "I think it was grossly unfair because I think my average was about .240 or .250," he said with a laugh. "And I think if I were playing today in the bigs, I'd probably get about 8 million bucks a year for that." He was asked by a reporter if he might have had the bat to go with the glove had he used aluminum like today's college players, Bush said: "Hey, I might have. I hadn't thought about that." That glove is on display today at the George H. W. Bush Presidential Library in College Station, Texas. He brought it with him when, as President, he was asked to throw out the first pitch at a Baltimore Orioles game.

It's World Series month, so let's make baseball this community's theme for the rest of this month. It seems fitting with the Washington Nationals going to the World Series.

Herbert Hoover was very accomplished at almost everything he tried, at least before the presidency. When he played on the Stanford University baseball team however, he was, by his own admission, a "not so good" shortstop.

Hoover was born in West Branch, Iowa, where his father Jesse Hoover was a blacksmith and a farm implement store owner. His father died in 1880 when Herbert (known as "Bertie") was five. After working to retire her husband's debts, his mother Hulda died in 1884, leaving nine year old Bertie, his older brother, and his younger sister as orphans.

After a brief stay with one of his grandmothers in Kingsley, Iowa, Hoover lived the next 18 months with his uncle Allen Hoover in West Branch. In November 1885, he went to Newberg, Oregon, to live with his uncle Dr. John Minthorn, a physician and businessman whose own son had died the year before. As a young man, Hoover had little time for sports and recreation. He attended Friends Pacific Academy and worked as an office assistant in his uncle's real estate office, the Oregon Land Company, in Salem, Oregon. He did not attend high school, instead attending night school and learning bookkeeping, typing and mathematics.

Hoover entered Stanford University in 1891, its inaugural year. Hoover claimed to be the very first student at Stanford, by virtue of having been the first person in the first class to sleep in the dormitory. While at the university, he was the student manager of both the baseball and football teams and was a part of the inaugural Big Game versus rival the University of California. In the first volume of his autobiography, "The Memoirs of Herbert Hoover, Volume 1: Years of Adventure 1874-1920", at page 21, Hoover described his brief baseball career in a self-deprecating manner, including this account of a game his college team played against some professional ball players:

"I was for a short time on the baseball team as shortstop, where I was not so good. In full belief in our prowess as a team, we challenged the San Francisco professional team to play us on the campus. They good humoredly accepted, but when the score was something like 30 to 0 at the end of the fifth inning and getting dark, we called it off. In time my colleagues decided that I would make a better manager than shortstop. The job of manager consisted of arranging games, collecting the gate money and otherwise finding cash for equipment and uniforms. On one occasion we played the local team at Santa Rosa. The receipts from the gate were not enough to buy the tickets home. I had to canvass the Stanford parents in the town to raise the deficit. Some of them were caustic persons."

I had heard a story from a volunteer at the Benjamin Harrison Museum in Indianapolis, about Harrison forgetting to pay admission to a ball game at which Hoover was the ticket taker. Hoover includes this story in his autobiography. He writes:

"It was this activity which brought my first contact with a great public man. Former President Benjamin Harrison had been induced by Senator Stanford to deliver a course of lectures upon some phases of government. I profited by the lectures. But then as manager of the baseball team, I had a stern duty to perform. We had no enclosed field. We collected the 25 cents admission by outposts of students who demanded the cash. One afternoon Mr. Harrison came to the game. Either he ignored the collector or the collector was overcome with shyness. Anyway that outpost reported to me that Mr. Harrison had not paid. I collected the money. Mr. Harrison was cheerful about it and bought also an advance ticket to the next week's game. He would not take the fifty cents change from a dollar. But I insisted that we were not a charitable institution and that he must take it. Justice must occasionally be done even to ex-Presidents and I here record that he took two more tickets. Upon this solution he became even more cheerful."


As President, Hoover attended nine major league ball games, including three World Series games. He was often booed when introduced because of the nation's anger over the great depression. Many years later, on August 13, 1960, Hoover threw out the first pitch at an old timers game in Yankee Stadium, when he was eighty-six years old.
A century ago in October of 1919, the Cincinnati Reds defeated the Chicago White Sox in what was then a best of nine series, winning in 8 games. It was later discovered that several members of the Chicago franchise conspired with gamblers to throw some of the World Series games. The affair became known as the "Black Sox Scandal". On October 22, 1920, a grand jury handed down indictments of eight players and five gamblers. The indictments included nine counts of conspiracy to defraud. They were acquitted at trial, but in August 1921, despite their acquittal, eight players from the White Sox were banned from organized baseball for fixing the series (or having knowledge about the fix). The story of the Black Sox Scandal is described in a couple of very good books: Eight Men Out: The Black Sox and the 1919 World Series by Eliot Asinof (later made into a movie of the same name) and Rothstein: The Life, Times and Murder of the Criminal Genius Who Fixed the 1919 World Series.

According to author Ryan Holiday in his book Conspiracy: Peter Thiel, Hulk Hogan, Gawker, and the Anatomy of Intrigue, when the series was taking place, future President (then Lieutenant) Dwight D. Eisenhower was following the games in the limited technology of his time, telegram. Although he was a knowledgeable baseball fan and a pretty good ballplayer in his younger days, Eisenhower had no suspicion that that the series was fixed. According to Holiday, Eisenhower "would later remark years later that the revelation of the conspiracy that had thrown the series produced a profound change in his perspective about the world. It taught him never to trust in first appearances."

Eisenhower commented on the Black Sox series in a press conference he held on November 4, 1959, near the end of his presidency. In the press conference, New York Times Reporter James "Scotty" Reston asked the president for his opinion on another scandal, in which it was disclosed that a television quiz show was rigged. In 1956, the television game show Twenty-One featured a contestant, Herb Stempel, who had been coached by producer Dan Enright to allow his opponent, Charles Van Doren, to win the game. Year later, Stempel told the New York Journal-American's Jack O'Brian that his winning run as champion on the series had been choreographed to his advantage, and that the show's producer then ordered him to purposely lose his championship to Van Doren. Match-fixing in another game, Dotto, was publicized in August 1958, leading to a nine-month long County of New York grand jury. No indictments were handed down, and the findings of the grand jury were sealed by judge's order. A formal congressional subcommittee investigation began in summer 1959. Enright was found to have rigged Twenty-One. Van Doren also eventually came forth with revelations about how he was persuaded to accept specific answers during his time on the show. The scandal was the subject the 1994 movie Quiz Show.

In the press conference, Reston asked President Eisenhower if Ike believed that the scandal had wider implications for the country. It was then that Eisenhower alluded to the Black Sox. He told Reston how it was the Black Sox scandal that had first taught him to never accept things at face value. He went on to say: "I think I share the general American reaction of almost bewilderment that people could conspire to confuse and deceive the American people." He later said, in answer to a question put by ABC newsman Edward Morgan, that "Selfishness and greed are, occasionally at least, get the ascendancy over those things that we like to think of as the ennobling virtues of man, his capacity for self-sacrifice, his readiness to help others, and so I would say this: the kind of things that you talk about do remind us that man is made up of two kinds of qualities."

Little or no acknowledgement of the Black Sox scandal has been made by Major League Baseball despite this being the centennial of the series and despite the incident being such a monumental part of the history of the game. This is unfortunate, as there are lessons to be learned from the event that are relevant to this day. The event's significance is apparent from how it shaped the thinking of a future president.

Ranking the Presidents: Donald Trump

Today we conclude our series on Ranking the Presidents. We finish with perhaps the most difficult task: how do you rank an incumbent president objectively, purging your mind of partisan and personal bias? That's probably impossible to do, but let's try this anyhow. On a scale of 1 to 10 (10 being best), how would you grade Donald Trump, based on the performance of his duties as President? You can go to this link to vote.

Donald John Trump's Presidency is still a work in progress. It could end on January 20, 2021, or it could last as long as January 20, 2025. It is could even end sooner, given the current impeachment inquiry initiated on September 24, 2019, by Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the United States House of Representatives. That didn't look likely several months ago, following the conclusion of the Muller investigation, and the pronouncements of the leadership of the Democratic Party that there are no impeachment proceedings planned. Just when people think that no President can live in a more politically polarized climate than the last one, we learn otherwise. Donald Trump enjoys a fierce loyalty among his supporters and is fiercely hated by those who oppose him. Hate is not too strong a word, emotions run strong among Trump's detractors. Some of his supporters have been called "Deplorables" by Hillary Clinton, Trump's opponent in the 2016 election, and many wear that label with pride. Conversely, those who oppose Trump do so with such a fervor that a name has been given to the level of their anger: Trump Derangement Syndrome. Those in the middle of these two extremes are a smaller group than in the case of most presidents, but there are still those who would like to see Donald Trump succeed in some of his goals, such as improving the lot of the working class, but who also wish that he would stop posting such childish sounding tweets.


It is said by some (and disputed by others) that James K. Polk came into the presidency with a checklist of four main things that he wanted to accomplish and that "in four short years he met his every goal". If Donald Trump had such a list, it might be (1) Build a wall along the border between the US and Mexico to keep illegal immigrants out of the country; (2) Cancel existing trade deals with other nations and replace them with terms more favorable to US workers; (3) Ban immigration from a number of Muslim nations deemed to be a haven for terrorists; and (4) Repeal the Affordable Care Act.

Many people didn't take Donald Trump seriously as a Presidential candidate. Comedians saw his entry into the race as fodder for their acts and many in Hollywood united against Trump's candidacy. Many of his opponents cited character issues such as alleged dishonest business practices such as non-payment of creditors, as well as a history of demeaning women that some allege went so far as acts of sexual assault. But his opponents soon learned that they underestimated him at their peril. During the election campaign, none of these criticisms mattered to enough voters to in enough states to give Trump a majority of votes in the electoral college. What they heard was that Trump (and Bernie Sanders as well) was asking why in an age of globalization and free trade, so many American workers had been left behind economically? Why had the banks and Wall Street recovered from the great recession so quickly, but mainstream American workers had not? It was ironic for this message to come from someone with Trump's background, but he captured the attention of many average voters. While other candidates from the political establishment were telling voters that they were better off with globalization and free trade, Trump disagreed, and voters listened.

The presidency of Donald Trump began on January 20, 2017, when Trump was inaugurated as the 45th president of the United States. Many protested, chanting "not my President", but for those who believe in the Constitution, he was their President. While Trump lost the popular vote by nearly 3 million votes, he won the Electoral College vote, 304 to 227, and by the law of the land, that made him President. Many accused Trump of benefiting from a Russian sabotage campaign to skew the results, but an intense investigation has failed to show that Trump's victory was decided anywhere but at the ballot box.

Many of Trump's policies are concerning to many Americans, and many elsewhere in the world. So far he has repealed environmental protections intended to address climate change. He ended the Clean Power Plan, withdrew from the Paris Agreement on climate change, and has called for subsidies to increase fossil fuel production. He calls man-made climate change a "hoax".

Trump has failed in his efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act. However he has signed legislation eliminating the individual mandate provision. He also enacted a partial repeal of the Dodd-Frank Act that had previously imposed stricter constraints on banks in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis. He also withdrew from the Trans-Pacific Partnership. He also signed the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, which lowered corporate and estate taxes, and most individual income tax rates on a temporary basis.

On the foreign stage, Trump has called for closer ties with Saudi Arabia and Israel. He agreed to sell 110 billion dollars of arms to Saudi Arabia, and has recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. He withdrew the United States from a deal made by the Obama administration with Iran Deal, and issued a controversial executive order denying entry into the U.S. to citizens from several Muslim-majority countries.

Trump's demand for federal funding of a U.S.–Mexico border wall resulted in the 2018–2019 government shutdown (the longest in American history). When the shutdown failed to gain funding for the wall, Trump issued a declaration of a national emergency along the U.S. southern border. He also ended the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

One of the most enduring aspects of a President's legacy often comes from how he shapes the Supreme Court. Trump has appointed Neil Gorsuch and the more controversial Brett Kavanaugh to the Court, continuing the court's conservative dominance.


Trump dismissed FBI Director James Comey in 2017, a move praised by some and seen by others as political interference in an independent agency. Special Counsel Robert Muller, himself a former FBI Director, was appointed to take over an existing FBI investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 elections as well as any links between the Trump campaign and the Russian government. Six Trump campaign advisors and staff were indicted and five pled guilty to criminal charges brought in the Special Counsel investigation. Trump has repeatedly denied accusations of collusion and obstruction of justice. He has been highly critical of the investigation, calling it a politically motivated "witch hunt". When the investigation was completed, Attorney General William Barr released a summary of the report to Congress. According to the summary, the investigation found no evidence that Trump or any other members of his campaign "conspired or coordinated" with Russia, although it was clear that Russia did attempt to influence the election. According to Barr, the report did not conclude that Trump criminally obstructed justice, nor did it exonerate him.

Trump has drawn significant criticism for his administration's policy of separating children from parents caught unlawfully crossing the southern border into the United States. Parents are charged with a misdemeanor and jailed, while their children were placed in separate detention centers. Members of Congress from both parties have condemned this practice. Republican Senator Lindsey Graham said, "President Trump could stop this policy with a phone call." The American Academy of Pediatrics, the American College of Physicians and the American Psychiatric Association have condemned the policy. All four living former First Ladies of the United States—Rosalynn Carter, Hillary Clinton, Laura Bush, and Michelle Obama—have condemned the policy. On June 20, 2018, Trump signed an executive order to end family separations at the U.S. border. On July 26, the administration said that 1,442 children had been reunited with their parents while 711 remain in government shelters because their cases are still under review.

FDR used radio to communicate directly with the public, subsequent presidents took to the airwaves. Donald Trump extensively uses the social media app Twitter to personally tweet from @realDonaldTrump, his personal account. His use of Twitter has been unconventional for a president. In May of 2018, a federal judge ruled that Trump's blocking of other Twitter users due to opposing political views violated the First Amendment to the United States Constitution and that he must unblock them. The administration has appealed the court's ruling.

Trump's tweets are often made late at night or in the early hours of the morning. He has used Twitter to pressure his political opponents and potential political allies to pass legislation. While trying to pass the repeal and replacement of the Affordable Care Act, Trump attacked the conservative House Freedom Caucus, whose support he needed. He repeatedly uses belittling nicknames such as Little Marco (for Marco Rubio), Lyin' Ted (for Ted Cruz), and Crooked Hillary (for Hillary Clinton) for his opponents during his campaign. He used the nickname "Rocket Man" for Kim Jong Un of North Korea both in tweets and at a United Nations meeting. Trump has used Twitter to attack federal judges who have ruled against him in court cases and also to criticize officials within his own administration, including then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, then-National Security Advisor H. R. McMaster, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, and Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Tillerson was eventually fired via a tweet by Trump.

Trump has had a highly polarized approval rating. Trump’s approval rating during his first term has ranged from 35% to 43%. His two-year average Gallup approval rating was the lowest of any president since World War II. If, as some believe, all publicity is good publicity, then Trump has a lot of good publicity. A large number of books have been written about him, his administration, the state of democracy in America, the rise of populism, the reasons for his success, the state of the Republican Party, alleged chaos in his White House and many other topics.

A 2018 poll administered by the American Political Science Association (APSA) among political scientists specializing in the American presidency had Donald Trump appearing for the first time. In that survey, Republican respondents rated him 40th out of 44th, independents rated him 43rd out of 44th and not surprisingly, Democratic historians rated him 44th out of 44th. Siena College Research Institute's 6th presidential expert poll, released in February 2019, placed Trump 42nd out of 44th, ahead of Andrew Johnson and James Buchanan.

What will Donald Trump's legacy be a century from now? Will historians continue to lump him in with the Buchanans and the Andrew Johnsons of the world? Or will his populist appeal invite a reconsideration of his reputation, based on his connection with those outside of the establishment? Are the many criticisms of Trump valid or even understated? Or are they an amplified message from political elites and those in the entertainment industry that don't reflect the viewpoint of the average wage-earner?


In some cases, Presidential legacies remain solid over decades, even centuries. In other cases, legacies are reassessed as values change. For example, with a greater appreciation of the importance of civil rights and racial and gender equality, the reputations of Presidents such as Lincoln, Grant, Truman, and even Warren Harding, have improved (and in the latter cases they have been rehabilitated to a certain extent), while those such as Andrew Jackson and Woodrow Wilson have declined because of their abhorrent policies of overt racism such as Jackson's "Indian Removal" policy and Wilson's segregationist policies.

Polls for voting on each President's rating will remain open for another week, and on October 23rd, we will publish the results of these rankings. Don't forget to vote if you haven't already, and thank you for voting if you already have!

Happy Birthday Ike

Today is the 129th birthday of President Dwight David Eisenhower. He was born on October 14, 1890. He is one of my favorite Presidents, and the Eisenhower Presidential Center in Abilene, Kansas, is also one of my favorite Presidential Libraries and Museums. I've been there three times (so far).


Although Dwight D. Eisenhower is usually associated with Kansas (where his family lived for most of his life), he was actually born in Denison, Texas, the third of seven sons. His mother originally named him David Dwight but she reversed the two names after his birth in order to avoid the confusion of having two Davids in the family. (Ike's father was named David). In 1892, the family moved to Abilene, Kansas, the town that Eisenhower considered to be his home town. From his modest midwestern roots, Eisenhower accomplished much. Besides being the 34th President of the United States from 1953 until 1961, he had previously been a five-star general in the United States Army during World War II and served as Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces in Europe. In that role he had responsibility for planning and supervising the invasion of North Africa in Operation Torch in 1942–43 and later the successful invasion of France and Germany in 1944–45 from the Western Front. In 1951, he became the first supreme commander of NATO.

Eisenhower's parents had a strong religious background that included pacifist beliefs. In spite of this, Eisenhower attended and graduated from West Point Military Academy, where he was more of an athlete than a scholar. He played football for West Point, but a knee injury ended what might have been a promising athletic career. He married the former Mamie Doud, who by marriage acquired the turbulent and transient life of a military spouse. The couple had two sons. After World War II, Eisenhower served as Army Chief of Staff under President Harry S. Truman, and then assumed the post of President at Columbia University.

Eisenhower entered the 1952 presidential race as a very popular candidate. Both parties wanted him and Harry Truman offered to step aside if Ike ran for the Democrats. Eisenhower chose the Republican party instead and he won by a landslide, defeating Democrat Adlai Stevenson and ending two decades of the New Deal Coalition. Almost immediately he kept a campaign promise in which he told voters "I shall go to Korea", and that he did. When he was there he ate the same rations as the enlisted men instead of presidential cuisine. In the first year of his presidency, Eisenhower deposed the leader of Iran in the 1953 Iranian coup d'état and used the threat of nuclear aggression to end the Korean War in a stalemate as the United States squared off with China for the latter nation's first time as a major world power. Ike's policy of nuclear deterrence gave priority to inexpensive nuclear weapons while reducing the funding for conventional military forces. His goal was to keep pressure on the Soviet Union while reducing federal deficits.

In 1954, Eisenhower set out his "domino theory" in assessing the threat presented by the spread of communism. When the Soviets launched their Sputnik satellite in 1957, he believed that the United States had to play catch-up in the space race. He forced Israel, the UK, and France to end their invasion of Egypt during the Suez Crisis of 1956. In 1958, he sent 15,000 U.S. troops to Lebanon to prevent the pro-Western government from falling to a Nasser-inspired revolution. Near the end of his term, his efforts to set up a summit meeting with the Soviets collapsed because of the U-2 spy plane incident in which he was caught in a lie about the US spying on the Russians. He gave a very famous 1961 farewell address to the nation, in which Eisenhower expressed his concerns about future dangers of massive military spending, especially deficit spending, and warned Americans to be on guard against what he called the "military–industrial complex".

On the domestic front, he opposed Senator Joe McCarthy's witch-hunt against communists at home, though many believe that he didn't do so strongly enough. More important to his legacy, he launched the Interstate Highway System, and under the guise of improving national defense, he created a vastly improved set of roads for national domestic travel and commerce. He sent federal troops to Little Rock, Arkansas, for the first time since Reconstruction to enforce federal court orders to desegregate public schools. He also signed civil rights legislation in 1957 and 1960 to protect the right to vote. He implemented desegregation of the armed forces in two years and made five appointments to the Supreme Court. He didn't intend things to work out this way, but by appointing former California Republican Governor Earl Warren as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, he brought about great advances in the field of civil liberties, albeit much too fast for the conservative Eisenhower, who preferred his social change at a more gradual pace. He was also the first term-limited president in accordance with the 22nd Amendment. He suffered a heart attack prior to the end of his first term, but still managed to win a second term.

Eisenhower's two terms were peaceful ones for the most part and saw considerable economic prosperity except for a sharp recession in 1958–59. Eisenhower is often ranked highly among the U.S. presidents. Eisenhower spent his final years as an elder statesman.

On March 28, 1969, Dwight Eisenhower died in Washington, D.C. of congestive heart failure at Walter Reed Army Hospital at the age of 78. He is interred in a small chapel on the grounds of the Eisenhower Presidential Library, alongside his son Doud, who died at age 3 in 1921. His wife Mamie was buried next to him after her death a decade later in 1979. The marble walls surrounding the couple's resting place contain some of Eisenhower's greatest oratory.


When Dwight Eisenhower died, his former Vice-President was now in the Oval Office. Richard Nixon said of his former boss:

"Some men are considered great because they lead great armies or they lead powerful nations. For eight years now, Dwight Eisenhower has neither commanded an army nor led a nation; and yet he remained through his final days the world's most admired and respected man, truly the first citizen of the world."

Ranking the Presidents: Barack Obama

On a scale of 1 to 10 (10 being best), how would you grade Barack Obama, based on the performance of his duties as President? You can go to this link to vote. In 2008 it was inevitable that a Democrat would win the Presidency. The nation was growing weary of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and in late 2007, when the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression hit, the popularity of incumbent Republican President George W. Bush took a nosedive. In the 2008 election, the nation was given a choice between experience (John McCain) or "hope and change" (Barack Obama). The nation opted for the latter.


After the September 11th attacks, it seemed unlikely that the nation would ever choose a President with the middle name of Hussein. Going into the 2008 campaign, many presumed that former First Lady and New York Senator Hillary Clinton would be the Democratic Party's candidate for President and quite likely the next president. But four years earlier, a senatorial candidate named Barack Hussein Obama had demonstrated his prowess as an orator by delivering a keynote address to the 2004 Democratic Party Nominating Convention. Everyone knew that he was a rising star, but no one anticipated how quickly his star would rise.

Obama was born in Honolulu, Hawaii in 1964, though that simple fact would one day become the subject of controversy and partisan attack. His father was from Kenya and his mother was from Kansas. After graduating from Columbia University in 1983, he worked as a community organizer in Chicago. In 1988, he enrolled in Harvard Law School, where he was the first African-American president of the Harvard Law Review. After graduation, he worked as a civil rights attorney and as a law professor, teaching constitutional law at the University of Chicago Law School from 1992 to 2004.

Obama's political career began in the Illinois State Legislature. He represented the 13th district for three terms in the Illinois Senate from 1997 until 2004 when he ran for the U.S. Senate. He received national attention in 2004 with his March primary win, defeating a number of popular challengers. he bucked the trend for the time and spoke out against the war in Iraq, something would help him later on as the war became more unpopular. He was chosen to deliver the keynote address at the 2004 Democratic National Convention keynote address and people took notice of this excellent orator. In November of 2004 he won election to the US Senate by a landslide.

After just four years in the senate, in 2008 Obama was nominated as his party's presidential candidate after a close primary campaign against Hillary Clinton. He was elected President in November, defeating Republican John McCain and was inaugurated on January 20, 2009. Nine months later, in a move that surprised many people, Obama was chosen to be the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize laureate.


Once in office, Obama set to work on his signature issue, a national health care plan. Using up a great deal of his political capitol, he was able to bring about passage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (often referred to as "Obamacare" or the "Affordable Care Act"). He also signed into law the Dodd–Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, and the Don't Ask, Don't Tell Repeal Act of 2010. In response to the great recession, he also signed into law the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 and Tax Relief, Unemployment Insurance Reauthorization, and Job Creation Act of 2010. These combined to form an economic stimulus package. After a lengthy debate over the national debt limit, he also signed the Budget Control and the American Taxpayer Relief Acts.

In foreign policy, Obama increased U.S. troop levels in Afghanistan, reduced nuclear weapons with the United States–Russia New START treaty, and ended military involvement in the Iraq War. He ordered military involvement in Libya in opposition to Muammar Gaddafi, the Libyan strongman who was later killed by NATO-assisted forces. Obama also ordered the military operations that resulted in the deaths of Osama bin Laden and Anwar al-Awlaki. He failed to make good on a campaign promise to close the Guantanamo Bay detention facility.

Obama won re-election on 2012 by defeating his Republican opponent Mitt Romney. During his second term, his administration filed briefs that urged the Supreme Court to strike down same-sex marriage bans as unconstitutional, which the court ultimately did in its landmark decision of Obergefell v. Hodges. Same-sex marriage was fully legalized in 2015. Obama also advocated for gun control in response to the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. He supported a ban on assault weapons, and issued executive orders concerning climate change and immigration.

In his second term he ordered military intervention in Iraq in response to gains made by ISIL after the 2011 withdrawal from Iraq. He also continued plans to end U.S. combat operations in Afghanistan in 2016. He also supported the 2015 Paris Agreement on global climate change, and initiated sanctions against Russia following the invasion in Ukraine. Towards the end of his term his government signed a nuclear agreement with Iran, and normalized U.S. relations with Cuba.

Obama left office and retired in January 2017. Despite this being a time of political polarization, a December 2018 Gallup poll found Obama to be the most admired man in the nation for the 11th consecutive year. (Dwight D. Eisenhower was selected most admired in twelve non-consecutive years.) Obama's most significant accomplishment is generally considered to be the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. There have been many attempts by Senate Republicans to repeal this legislation, but so far these attempts have failed. This legislation constitutes the U.S. healthcare system's most significant regulatory overhaul and expansion of coverage since the passage of Medicare and Medicaid in 1965, and it is at the center of Obama's legacy as president.

Obama is also given high marks from many commentators for his response to the Great Recession. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 11.3 million jobs were between February of 2009 and the end of his term. In 2010, Obama signed into effect the Dodd–Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, which was passed as a response to the financial crisis. This legislation brought the most significant changes to financial regulation in the United States since the regulatory reform that followed the Great Depression under Franklin Roosevelt.

Part of Obama's legacy is the advances made in civil rights for the LGBT community. In 2009, Obama signed legislation containing the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, a significant addition to existing federal hate crime law. This legislation extends existing federal hate crime laws in the United States to apply to crimes motivated by a victim's actual or perceived gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability, and dropped the prerequisite that the victim be engaging in a federally protected activity. Obama also signed the Don't Ask, Don't Tell Repeal Act, which brought an end to "don't ask, don't tell" policy in the U.S. armed forces. This policy had banned military service for openly LGB people. In 2016, his administration brought an end to the ban on transgender people serving openly in the U.S. armed forces as well.

But Obama continued many of the policies of his predecessors that his supporters had been critical of. He substantially increased the use of drone strikes against suspected militants and terrorists who were associated with al-Qaeda and the Taliban. In the last year of his presidency, the US dropped 26,171 bombs on seven different countries. Obama left almost 15,000 US troops in Afghanistan, Iraq, and other nations in the region at the end of his presidency.

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The Barack Obama Presidential Center is Obama's planned presidential library. It will be hosted by the University of Chicago and located in Jackson Park on the South Side of Chicago. It is expected to open in 2020 or 2021. Obama left office in January 2017 with a 60% approval rating. A 2017 C-SPAN Presidential Historians Survey ranked Obama in 12th place among Presidents-best US president.A 2018 ranking by APSA had him in 8th place, while a 2017 Siena ranking had him in 17th place. This divergence illustrates the difficulty in assessing presidencies that are so recent. Historians expressed various opinions about his effectiveness as president, and it may be that subsequent events will determine his ultimate legacy. Obama will of course always be would long be remembered as the first African-American president. His immediate legacy will reflect that he presided over an economic recovery and passed major domestic legislation, especially in the area of health care and civil rights for LGBT persons. The major goal that President Obama failed to achieve was to build a bridge across and ever-widening partisan divide. Doing so would be a pretty monumentous accomplishment for any president. Or, as another President might say, "that would be huge!"

Ranking the Presidents: George W. Bush

On a scale of 1 to 10 (10 being best), how would you grade George W. Bush, based on the performance of his duties as President? You can go to this link to vote. How will historians view George W. Bush in fifty or a hundred years from now? Will he be another Harry Truman, someone whose presidency looks better with the passage of time? Or will his continue to be ranked as a below average presidency long after partisan biases have been forgotten? Bush entered the presidency on shaky ground, with the 2000 election being decided by the conservative majority of the US Supreme Court. Though subsequent unofficial recounts found that this was probably the correct result, many criticized the legitimacy of the results. Bush soon had the nation rallying behind him as he projected an image of calm resolve and firm leadership following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. But two years later, when Bush organized an attack on Iraq bent on regime change, many questioned the wisdom of the decision, given the lack of any clear connection between the Iraqis and the terrorist attacks of 2001. Concerns of destabilizing the region appeared valid as Iraqis did not interpret the occupation of their country as an act of liberation, but rather an as act of occupation. Then in 2008, just as Bush's time as president was in its final year, the nation experienced the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression, adding to the President's woes.


George Walker Bush was born in New Haven, Connecticut in 1946, the son of future President George Herbert Walker Bush. He grew up in Texas and graduated from Yale University in 1968 and Harvard Business School in 1975. Bush went on to work in the oil industry. He married Laura Welch in 1977 and the following year he lost an election for the U.S. House of Representatives, after his opponent successfully portrayed him as being out of touch with Texas. He went on to become a co-owner of the Texas Rangers baseball team. In 1994 he defeated incumbent Governor Ann Richards and was elected Governor of Texas. In 1998 he was re-elected, receiving 69% of the vote.

Bush ran for President in 2000, defeating Arizona Senator John McCain for the Republican Party nomination. He won the Presidential election, but this wasn't official until he was a controversial decision of the US Supreme Court stopped a recount of the ballots in Florida. He became the fourth person to be elected president while receiving fewer popular votes than his opponent. The victory made Bush the second president to hold the office after his father had also done so. The Bush family had established a strong political pedigree. His brother Jeb Bush, had been Governor of Florida, and was later a candidate for the Republican presidential nomination in the 2016 presidential election. His paternal grandfather, Prescott Bush, had been a U.S. Senator from Connecticut.

Bush entered the office proposing a domestic agenda that would focus on education. The September 11 terrorist attacks changed all that. They occurred eight months into Bush's first term. He responded with what became known as the Bush Doctrine, launching a "War on Terror". He stated that those nations who harbored or aided and abetted terrorists would be considered to be terrorist nations themselves. In response to the attacks, war was began in Afghanistan in 2001 and in Iraq in 2003. Debate ensued over the legitimacy of the war in Iraq. Proponents cited Saddam Hussein's failure to cooperate with UN inspectors and his previous use of chemical weapons on his own people. While there was not clear evidence that Hussein had nuclear weapon capability, Bush's National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice famously said that no one wanted the "smoking gun" to be a "mushroom cloud." Bush's critics questioned the voracity of the intelligence on which the decision to invade Iraq was based.

The country was taken over quickly and Hussein went into hiding, but was later captured, tried and executed. But keeping the peace in Iraq proved to be a daunting challenge and military casualties increased as suicide bombers and other rebels committed acts of insurrection.

On the domestic front, Bush signed into law broad tax cuts that became known as the "Bush Tax Cuts." He also created the Department of Homeland Security, a government department that sought to centralize all of of the nation's security agencies. The Patriot Act was passed, and while some saw it as an infringement of their civil liberties, other saw it as a small price to pay for preventing another terrorist attack like the one that had occurred in September of 2001. Bush also signed the "No Child Left Behind" Act, as well as the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act. Medicare prescription drug benefits for seniors were also part of his domestic agenda. The one accomplishment for which Bush received a large amount of praise was for funding an the AIDS relief program known as PEPFAR.


His presidency included national debates on immigration, Social Security, electronic surveillance, and the use of torture by American security agencies.

In 2004 Bush defeated Democratic Senator John Kerry in his bid for re-election. His second term was much rougher than his first as he received criticism for his handling of the Iraq War, and for slow disaster relief for the victims of Hurricane Katrina. The Democratic Party regained control of Congress in the 2006 elections, and in December 2007, the United States entered its longest recession since the Great Depression. The Bush administration worked to obtain congressional passage of multiple economic programs intended to shore up the country's financial system.

At various times, Bush was both one of the most popular and one of the most unpopular U.S. presidents in history. He received the highest recorded presidential approval ratings in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, as well as one of the lowest approval ratings during the 2008 financial crisis. After he finished his term in office in 2009, Bush returned to Texas, where he had purchased a home in Dallas. In 2010, he published his memoir, Decision Points. His presidential library was opened in 2013. Bush began painting as a hobby after reading Winston Churchill's essay "Painting as a Pastime". He has painted self-portraits and portraits of world leaders, including Vladimir Putin and Tony Blair. In February 2017, Bush released a book of portraits of veterans, Portraits of Courage. The net proceeds from his book are donated to the George W. Bush Presidential Center for use to benefit veterans organizations.

Bush's presidency has been ranked anywhere between 30th and 39th, with an average ranking of 33rd. But his legacy remains in flux even today. Supporters credit Bush's counter-terrorism policies with preventing another major terrorist attack from occurring in the US after 9/11. They also praise his domestic policies such as the Medicare prescription drug benefit and PEPFAR. Critics give him low marks for his handling of the Iraq War and blame his destabilization of the region for causing the rise of the ISIS movement. They are also critical of his tax policy, his handling of Hurricane Katrina, and blame his economic policies of deregulation as a leading cause of the 2008 financial crisis.

Princeton University scholar Julian Zelizer described Bush's presidency as transformative. He notes, "some people hate him, some people love him, but I do think he'll have a much more substantive perception as time goes on". Bryon Williams of The Huffington Post calls Bush "the most noteworthy president since FDR". He adds that the Patriot Act increased authority of the executive branch. His homeland security reforms amount to be the most significant expansion of the federal government since LBJ's Great Society. Although many of Bush's policies were criticized, these same policies have remained in place in the administrations of his two immediate successors.

Among the public, Bush's reputation has improved since his presidency ended in 2009. In February 2012, Gallup reported that "Americans views of President Bush have become more positive in the three years since he left office." Bush's favorability ratings in public opinion surveys had begun to from 35 percent in March 2009, to 45 percent in July 2010. In April 2013, Bush's approval rating stood at 47 percent approval in a poll jointly conducted for The Washington Post and ABC. Bush's public image saw greater improvement starting in 2017, which many view as Democrats seeing him more favorably in comparison to Donald Trump's presidency. A series of roadside advertisements first appeared in February 2010. They featured former President Bush's image waving and smiling from a billboard over the words "MISS ME YET?"

Ranking the Presidents: Bill Clinton

On a scale of 1 to 10 (10 being best), how would you grade Bill Clinton, based on the performance of his duties as President? You can go to this link to vote. They called him the Comeback Kid. He proved to be a political Lazarus. Bill Clinton's presidential campaign was almost dead on arrival, when soon after announcing his candidacy, reports surfaced that Clinton had engaged in an extramarital affair with a woman named Gennifer Flowers. He met the allegations head on in an interview on 60 Minutes, a risky move that paid off. Clinton went on not only to win his party's nomination, but to defeat an incumbent President who had recently enjoyed record high approval ratings. He would go on to serve two terms in office in an era that would usher in the internet and the dot-com revolution. Clinton would be the last President to give the nation surplus budgets, and his presidency would have a number of other accomplishments. But his legacy would be forever tarnished because of a sexual addiction, a whopper of a lie to the nation, and a stained blue dress.


He was born as William Jefferson Blythe III, but in a background similar to Gerald Ford, he would change his name from that of his abusive biological father to that of a loving stepfather. Clinton was born and raised in rural Arkansas. He scored a rare opportunity to become a Boys Nation senator and visited the White House where he met President John F. Kennedy. Clinton went on to attend Georgetown University, and later attended Oxford, and finally Yale Law School. He met Hillary Rodham at Yale and married her in 1975. After graduating from Yale, Clinton returned to Arkansas and won election as the Attorney General of Arkansas, a post he held from 1977 to 1979. Clinton was elected as Governor of Arkansas, serving in that role from 1979 to 1981, and from 1983 to 1992. He was only 32 when first elected as Governor. His priority was an overhaul of the state's education system. Clinton also served as chairman of the National Governors Association.

In 1992 Clinton ran for President. Many of the leading lights of the Democratic Party concluded that incumbent President George H. Bush was too popular to be defeated. Clinton disagreed. He overcame a number of obstacles including allegations of an extramarital affair. Clinton ran a masterful campaign, taking the spotlight off of Bush's exemplary record in foreign affairs and turning the spotlight on a sluggish economy. With a little help from the third party candidacy of Ross Perot, Clinton was able to win the election and at age 46, he became the third-youngest president and the first from the Baby Boomer generation.

Clinton presided over the longest period of peacetime economic expansion in American history. He also signed into law the North American Free Trade Agreement. But he failed to realize his biggest coal, that of national health care reform. In the 1994 elections, the Republican Party won control of both Houses of Congress for the first time in 40 years, forcing Clinton into a more conservative agenda. In 1996, Clinton became the first Democrat since Franklin D. Roosevelt to be elected to a second full term. He signed legislation for welfare reform as well as financial deregulation measures.

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An investigation by an independent counsel into a business transaction called Whitewater led investigators down another path, one which uncovered an affair that Clinton was having with a 22 year old White House intern named Monica Lewinsky. When news of the affair broke, Clinto famously told a national audience "I did not have sexual relations with that woman". It was proven to be a monumental lie. In 1998, Clinton was impeached by the House of Representatives for perjury and obstruction of justice following allegations that he had lid in a civil deposition to conceal the affair that he had with Lewinsky. Clinton was acquitted by the Senate in 1999 and completed his term in office. He became the second U.S. president to ever be impeached. The impeachment left the nation polarized, with a majority still giving Clinton a positive approval rating. During the last three years of Clinton's presidency, the Congressional Budget Office reported a budget surplus, the first such surplus since 1969.

In foreign policy, Clinton ordered U.S. military intervention in the Bosnian and Kosovo wars, signed the Iraq Liberation Act in opposition to Saddam Hussein, participated in the 2000 Camp David Summit to advance the Israeli–Palestinian peace process, and assisted the Northern Ireland peace process.

Clinton left office with the highest end-of-office approval rating of any U.S. president since World War II. He has continually scored high in the historical rankings of U.S. presidents, consistently placing in the top third. A 2018 poll of the American Political Science Association’s Presidents and Executive Politics section ranked Clinton as the 13th best president. A 2017 C-Span poll of historians ranked Clinton as the 15th best president. Since leaving office, he has been involved in public speaking and created the William J. Clinton Foundation to address international causes such as AIDS prevention and global warming. In 2004, Clinton published his autobiography, My Life and in 2009, he was named the United Nations Special Envoy to Haiti. After the 2010 Haiti earthquake, he teamed with George W. Bush to form the Clinton Bush Haiti Fund. In addition, he negotiated the release of two American journalists imprisoned by North Korea, visiting the capital Pyongyang and negotiating their release with Kim Jong-il.

Clinton's personal misconduct always muddies the waters in assessments of the Clinton presidency. His impeachment can be argued to be the beginning of an age of polarization in politics that seemed to worsen with every president, hibernating only during the time after the September 11th attacks. As leader of the Democratic Party however, Clinton managed to rebuild the image and operations of the party such that it was able to meet and counter the effects of the Reagan Revolution. He tried to co-opt the conservative appeal to law and order, individualism, and welfare reform, making the party more appealing to white middle-class Americans, while at the same time retaining traditional Democratic support from many of its traditional demographic groups. His performance in managing the economy was also beneficial not only to Clinton's reputation personally, but also to his party, which had previously been given the "tax and spend" label. This branding was now inconsistent with the first surpluses in recent memory. Clinton's personal shortcomings did not drive female support from the party.


Nevertheless, Clinton's claim to a lasting, positive legacy has been severely undermined by his affair with Lewinsky, which continues to be the first thing most people associate with him. In subsequent presidential campaigns, it became unclear whether Clinton was a benefit or a liability to Democratic Party candidates. In 2000, his would-be successor, Vice President Al Gore, chose to distance himself from Clinton, something Clinton himself believed to be a huge mistake on Gore's part. Debate will continue on how much of a liability Clinton was to his wife's candidacy in 2016, even though her opponent had his own character issues to address. For the foreseeable future, Clinton's legacy will continue to be a controversial one, with his personal failing overshadowing the accomplishments of his presidency.

Ranking the Presidents: George H. W. Bush

On a scale of 1 to 10 (10 being best), how would you grade George H. W. Bush, based on the performance of his duties as President? You can go to this link to vote. When George H. W. Bush died last fall, he was eulogized both for his many accomplishments, and for his gentlemanly disposition. There was much to admire about the man's life. He served his country honorably, joining the Navy at age 18 during the second world war, and surviving the downing of his aircraft. The man seemed to be gracious under all circumstances: victory, defeat, and even with the man who did a mocking imitation of him on Saturday Night Live. The first President Bush always took the high road, often literally, as evidenced by his skydiving several times in his retirement, the last being a tandem jump on his 90th birthday. George Herbert Walker Bush lived a remarkable life. He served as the 41st President of the United States from 1989 to 1993 and the 43rd Vice-President of the United States from 1981 to 1989. He had also been a congressman, an ambassador, and Director of the CIA. He and John Adams share the distinction of being the only Presidents who were also the father of a President. George H. W. Bush joined this exclusive club when his son George W. Bush became the 43rd president in 2001.


George H. W. Bush was born in 1924, the son of Connecticut Senator Prescott Bush. He interrupted his university studies after the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, and enlisted in the Navy on his 18th birthday in June of 1942. Bush became one of the Navy's youngest aviators and he remained in the Navy until September 1945. He piloted one of the four Grumman TBM Avengers that attacked the Japanese installations on Chichijima on September 2, 1944. His plane was hit by flak during the attack, but Bush successfully released bombs and scored several hits, before flying several miles with his engine on fire. He and one other crew member bailed out, but the other man's parachute did not open. Bush spent four hours in his inflated liferaft, protected by fighter aircraft circling above, until the submarine USS Finback came to his rescue. He remained in Finback for the next month and helped in the rescue of other aviators.

When he returned home from the war, Bush attended Yale University, graduating in 1948. He was captain of the Yale baseball team and played in the first two College World Series (both times on the losing side). After graduation, he moved his family to West Texas where he became active in the oil business and became a millionaire by the age of 40. He founded his own oil company, and made his first run for office, losing a bid to be elected to the United States Senate in 1964. Undaunted, he was elected to the House of Representatives from Texas's 7th congressional district in 1966 and was reelected in 1968. He made a second unsuccessful run for the senate in 1970.

In 1971, President Richard Nixon appointed Bush as Ambassador to the United Nations, and two years later Bush became Chairman of the Republican National Committee in 1973. In that role he had a rather awkward conversation with Nixon, asking for the President's resignation. The following year, President Gerald Ford appointed him Chief of the Liaison Office in China and later made him the director of Central Intelligence. He offered to remain in the job after Ford's defeat in 1976, but was soon replaced.

Bush ran for president in 1980. He finished second in the race for the Republican nomination, but was defeated by Ronald Reagan. During the race, Bush had referred to Reagan's fiscal policies as "voodoo economics", but Reagan did not hold a grudge. He selected the experienced former Texas Congressman as his running mate. Bush became vice-president after the ticket won the Presidential election in 1980. During his eight-year tenure as vice president, Bush headed task forces on deregulation and the war on drugs. In 1988 Bush was chosen as the Republican Party's nominee for President. He defeated his Democratic opponent Michael Dukakis in the election, making him the first incumbent vice president to be elected president in 152 years.

Bush's Presidency was largely concerned with foreign policy. On his watch, military operations were conducted in Panama and in the Persian Gulf. After organizing a coalition of supportive nations, these allies were successful in the First Gulf War in removing Iraqi forces under Saddam Hussein from Kuwait. The victory was quick and decisive and Bush enjoyed unprecedented approval ratings, though some criticized Bush for not carrying on into Baghdad and deposing Hussein. Years later, many would appreciate the wisdom of the decision. The Berlin Wall fell in 1989, and the Soviet Union dissolved two years later. Bush also signed the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which created a trade bloc consisting of the United States, Canada, and Mexico.

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But Bush's downfall came as the result of domestic issues. In a battle with Congress he was forced to renege on a 1988 campaign promise in which he famously said "read my lips, no new taxes." But he did sign a bill to increase taxes just ahead of the 1992 presidential election. As an economic recession was occurring and the voters seemed less concerned about foreign policy in a post–Cold War political climate, the President who had once enjoyed sky-high approval ratings lost his bid for re-election in 1992 to Democrat Bill Clinton, whose mocking campaign mantra was "it's the economy stupid!"

After leaving office in 1993, Bush was stung by his defeat, but soon recovered his gracious disposition. He became active in humanitarian pursuits, often alongside Clinton, his former opponent. When George W. Bush won the 2000 presidential election, the Bushes became the second father–son pair to serve as President, following John Adams and John Quincy Adams. At the time of his death, he was the longest-lived president in U.S. history (a record surpassed by Jimmy Carter on March 22, 2019). He enjoyed an active retirement as his health allowed for. Later in life, he suffered from vascular parkinsonism, a form of Parkinson's disease which had forced him to use a motorized scooter or wheelchair from and after 2012. In July 2015, he suffered a severe neck injury, but by October he had recovered enough to throw out the ceremonial first pitch for the Houston Astros. Bush wrote a letter to president-elect Donald Trump in January 2017 to inform him that because of his poor health, he would not be able to attend Trump's inauguration on January 20. On January 18, he was admitted to the intensive care unit at Houston Methodist Hospital, where he was sedated for a procedure to treat an acute respiratory problem. His wife Barbara Bush died in April of 2018 and on April 22, 2018, the day after his wife's funeral Bush was hospitalized with a blood infection. He continued to have health issues and on November 30, 2018, he died at the age of 94 years, 171 days, at his home in Houston.

Tributes for the former President poured in from members of both parties, as well as from many past and present international leaders. Former President Barack Obama released a lengthy statement in which he wrote, "America has lost a patriot and humble servant in George Herbert Walker Bush. While our hearts are heavy today, they are also filled with gratitude. Our thoughts are with the entire Bush family tonight – and all who were inspired by George and Barbara’s example." Former First Lady Michelle Obama cancelled her book tour in order to attend Bush's funeral. Former President Bill Clinton said. "I am profoundly grateful for every minute I spent with President Bush and will always hold our friendship as one of my life's greatest gifts." His wife, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called Bush "a class act. In my experiences with him, I always valued his desire to listen, look at evidence and ask for ideas, even from people with different beliefs." Former President Jimmy Carter, said Bush's administration "was marked by grace, civility and social conscience."

Even Saturday Night Live paid tribute to the late President in its news segment, with segment anchor Colin Jost saying, "President Bush was famously a warm and gracious man who always understood the power of being able to laugh at yourself". The show then cut to a series of clips of Dana Carvey's impersonation of the President. Carvey himself also released a statement remembering the President saying, ""It was an honor and a privileged to know and spend time with George H.W. Bush for over 25 years. When I think of those times what I remember most is how hard we would laugh. I will miss my friend." Senator Bernie Sanders said of Bush, "Of course I disagreed with him, but he was an honest man, he was a decent man, he loved his country very much."

Bush's biographer Timothy Naftali credits Bush with successfully navigating the end of the Cold War, stating that Bush's "low-key approach avoided inflaming communist hard-liners and allowed for the peaceful breakup of the Soviet Union." Presidential historian Jon Meacham summarized Bush's life as one of "great privilege but who believed and embodied the idea that to whom much is given, much is expected". Barack Obama has also commented on Bush's legacy, crediting Bush with "expanding America’s promise to new immigrants and people with disabilities. Reducing the scourge of nuclear weapons and building a broad international coalition to expel a dictator from Kuwait. And when democratic revolutions bloomed across Eastern Europe, it was his steady, diplomatic hand that made possible an achievement once thought anything but - ending the Cold War without firing a shot, It’s a legacy of service that may never be matched, even though he’d want all of us to try."

Bush famously continued the tradition of presidents leaving behind letters of support for their successors on the Resolute Desk. Ronald Reagan is believed to be the first to do so in 1989, but Bush's letter was more significant because it was addressed to the man to whom Bush had just lost the election. Clinton later said in a 60 Minutes interview, "This letter is a statement of who he is. That's why he's a world-class human being in my book. And our friendship just got better. And in a world where everybody's just gutting each other all the time I thought it was a good thing to show. It's been one of the great joys of my life, my friendship with him. Our arguments were good-natured and open, and — we continue to debate things all the way up until recently."


In Presidential rankings, Bush is usually in the middle of the pack, with an average ranking of 22nd. A 2017 C-Span ranking has him in 20th place, a 2018 APSA ranking puts him at number 17 and a 2018 Siena ranking has him at 21st. USA Today summarized the legacy of Bush's presidency as defined by his victory over Iraq after the invasion of Kuwait, and for his presiding over the collapse of the USSR and unification of Germany. Today, in an age where social media is used by many people as a forum for insults and criticism, where people confuse put-downs with wit, George H. W. Bush's example of civility and of putting principles above personalities creates an appreciation of their value and significance, at a time when they seem to be in short supply.

Ranking the Presidents: Ronald Reagan

On a scale of 1 to 10 (10 being best), how would you grade Ronald Reagan, based on the performance of his duties as President? You can go to this link to vote. In 1980, Americans were fed up with a lot of things. Mortgage interest rates were in the 20% range, but the overall high interest rates weren't slowing down the rate of inflation. American prestige and morale was at a low point as the hostages remained in Iran. Gas prices had jumped, and long lines at the gas pumps were symptomatic of an apparent "energy crisis". Debt and deficits continued to rise at alarming levels. Meanwhile in Washington, the outsider President was powerless to prevent Congressmen from greedily approving their own "pork barrel" projects. Voters didn't just want change, they wanted a revolution. That's what Ronald Reagan offered them. The aging former actor had been written off as a "has-been" and as too old to be president. But Reagan proved himself to be the "Great Communicator". He offered Americans hope and optimism for what seemed to be hopeless times. And so began the "Reagan Revolution".

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Reagan's story was one from the movies. He was raised in a poor family in small towns of northern Illinois, and rose from rags to riches. He graduated from Eureka College in 1932 and his smooth, reassuring voice allowed him to workd as a sports announcer on several regional radio stations. At one time he broadcasted Chicago Cubs baseball games remotely, using his powerful imagination to describe games that he couldn't even see. On a trip to California in 1937, he found work as an actor and went on to star in a number of major productions, though by his own admission, he was largely a B-film actor. Of his films, Reagan joked, "the producers didn't want them good, they wanted them Thursday". Reagan was twice elected President of the Screen Actors Guild, the labor union for actors. In that role he worked to eliminate the Communist influence in the industry.

In the 1950s, as his film career was declining, Reagan moved into television. General Electric, sponsor of his show "Death Valley Days", used him was a motivational speaker at their factories. Reagan had been a Democrat, but he changed allegiances in 1962, claiming, "I didn't leave the Democratic Party, it left me." He became a staunch conservative and switched to the Republican Party. In 1964, Reagan gave a famous speech entitled "A Time for Choosing", a call for voters to support Barry Goldwater's foundering presidential campaign. It didn't do much for Goldwater, but it earned Reagan national prominence and notoriety as a new conservative spokesman. From this he was able to build a network of supporters, and in 1966 he was elected as the 33rd Governor of California.

As governor, Reagan raised taxes in order to turn a state budget deficit into a surplus. He challenged the protesters at the University of California, and ordered in National Guard troops during a period of protest movements in 1969. Voters seemed to appreciate his tough, common sense approach, and he was re-elected in 1970.

Reagan twice ran unsuccessfully for the Republican presidential nomination, in 1968 and 1976. But the third time was the charm. Four years later in 1980, he won the nomination and defeated incumbent president Jimmy Carter. At 69 years, 349 days of age at the time of his first inauguration, Reagan was the oldest person to have assumed office, a record that would last until Donald Trump was inaugurated in 2017 at age 70 years, 220 days. Reagan was re-elected in 1984 when he defeated former vice president Walter Mondale, winning the most electoral votes of any U.S. president, 525, or 97.6 percent of the 538 votes in the Electoral College.

In his first inaugural address, Reagan would famously tell voters that "Government is not the solution, government is the problem." Soon after taking office, Reagan began implementing sweeping new political and economic changes. He adopted supply-side economic policies, something the medial labeled as "Reaganomics". He called for tax rate reduction as a means to spur economic growth. He also pressed for economic deregulation, and reduction in government spending. Early in his first term, he survived an assassination attempt. He also declared a War on Drugs, and he fought the demands of public sector labor. In one famous encounter, he threatened to fire all striking air traffic controllers unless they returned to work. The strikers backed down and Americans were impressed by the firm resolve of their President. In 1982, he signed a bill extending the Voting Rights Act for 25 years and he signed legislation creating the Martin Luther King Day federal holiday.

Over his two terms as President, Reagan's economic policies appeared to enjoy success. Inflation dropped from 12.5% to 4.4%, and the average annual growth of real GDP was 3.4%. Mortgage interest rates dropped considerably as well. Reagan enacted cuts in domestic discretionary spending, and he also cut taxes. But military spending increased significantly, contributing to increased federal spending overall, even after adjustment for inflation.

Foreign affairs was the centerpiece of his second term. The Cold War would end, but not on Reagan's watch. That would happen during the tenure of his successor. Reagan had to address the bombing of Libya, the Iran–Iraq War, and the Iran–Contra affair, a scandal which raised suspicion about whether or not Reagan had traded arms for hostages. In June 1987, four years after he publicly described the Soviet Union as an "evil empire", Reagan challenged Soviet General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev to "tear down this wall!", during a speech at the Brandenburg Gate.The remark was prescient. Reagan transitioned Cold War policy from détente to rollback. He escalated an arms race with the USSR while engaging in talks with Gorbachev. The strategy was designed to bankrupt the Soviets and it worked. The talks culminated in the INF Treaty, which shrank both countries' nuclear arsenals. The Berlin Wall fell just ten months after the end of his term. Germany reunified the following year, and on December 26, 1991, the Soviet Union collapsed.


When Reagan left office in 1989, he held an approval rating of 68 percent, tied for the highest approval rating for a departing president. Reagan had planned an active post-presidency, but in November 1994, he disclosed that he had been diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease earlier that year. His public appearances became more infrequent as the disease progressed. He died at home on June 5, 2004.

Reagan began a realignment toward conservative policies in the United States. Today he is considered to be an icon among conservatives, even though his brand of conservatism was not as extreme as many who adopt him as role model. Conversely, liberals have vilified Reagan for his staunch conservatism. For example, a recent biography of Reagan in the American Presidents Series was very disparaging of Reagan, alleging that his many accomplishments happened in spite of him, rather than because of him. The editors selected Jacob Weisberg, former editor of the liberal publication Slate Magazine to write the volume rather than someone with a more objective perspective.

But generally, evaluations of his presidency among historians and the general public place him among the upper tier of American presidents. Supporters have pointed to his rehabilitation of the economy as a result of Reagan's economic policies, as well as his foreign policy triumphs, which set the stage for a peaceful end to the Cold War. They also credit Reagan with a restoration of American pride and morale. Reagan is credited with a strong love for his nation, and a desire to restore faith in the American Dream. This was even more compelling, following a decline in American confidence and self-respect under Jimmy Carter's perceived weak leadership, especially during the Iran hostage crisis. Reagan's critics blame his economic policies resulted in rising budget deficits, a wider gap between rich and poor, and an increase in homelessness. Although Reagan was not personally blamed for any wrongdoing in the Iran–Contra affair, his critics do not accept these findings.

Today opinions of Reagan tend to go to extremes, depending on the perspective of the author. Edwin Feulner, president of The Heritage Foundation, credits Reagan with helping to create "a safer, freer world. He took an America suffering from malaise and made its citizens believe again in their destiny." But Mark Weisbrot, co-Director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, describes Reagan's economic policies as "mostly a failure". It's doubtful that those who saw 20% interest rates disappear under Reagan's watch would share this opinion. Despite the continuing debate surrounding his legacy, one thing that conservative and liberal scholars agree on is that Reagan has been the most influential president since Franklin D. Roosevelt. He left his mark on American politics, diplomacy, culture, and economics. Reagan rehabilitated conservatism after the philosophy had been considered to be marginal extreme as espoused by Goldwater and others. Reagan is credited with turning the nation to the right, using a more pragmatic conservatism that balanced ideology with political expediency and which called for faith in American exceptionalism.

Reagan's major achievement was how his policies brought an end to the Cold war and the break-up of the USSR, causing the U.S. to become the world's only superpower. In 1989 the Kremlin lost control of all its East European satellites. In 1991, Communism was overthrown in the USSR, and on December 26, 1991, the Soviet Union ceased to exist. Gennadi Gerasimov, the Foreign Ministry spokesman under Gorbachev, said that Reagan's Strategic Defense Initiative was "very successful blackmail. The Soviet economy couldn't endure such competition." Reagan's aggressive rhetoric gave encouragement to the East-European citizens opposed to communism. General Secretary Gorbachev described Reagan as "a man who was instrumental in bringing about the end of the Cold War." Former President Lech Wałęsa of Poland acknowledged, "Reagan was one of the world leaders who made a major contribution to communism's collapse." It is difficult to find assessments such as those of Jacob Weisberg as credible in light of the views of those like Gorbachev and Walesa.

Reagan reshaped the Republican party, creating the modern conservative movement. He changed the political landscape of the United States. He even attracted a number of "Reagan Democrats". After leaving office, Reagan became an iconic influence within the Republican party and his policies and beliefs have been frequently invoked by Republican presidential candidates since 1988. The 2008 Republican presidential nominee John McCain often said that he came to office as "a foot soldier in the Reagan Revolution." Reagan's popularity has increased since 1989. Gallup polls in 2001 and 2007 ranked him number one or number two when those surveyed were asked for the greatest president in history. Reagan ranked third of post–World War II presidents in a 2007 Rasmussen Reports poll, fifth in an ABC 2000 poll, ninth in another 2007 Rasmussen poll, and eighth in a late 2008 poll by British newspaper The Times. In a Siena College survey of over 200 historians, Reagan ranked sixteenth out of 42. The 2009 Annual C-SPAN Survey of Presidential Leaders ranked Reagan the 10th greatest president. The survey of leading historians rated Reagan number 11 in 2000. In 2011, the Institute for the Study of the Americas placed Reagan as the eighth greatest U.S. president.


It was remarkable that although Reagan was the oldest president up to that time, he had good support among young voters, who began an alliance that shifted many of them to the Republican party. Reagan also had a disarming sense of humor throughout his presidency and like Lincoln, he was famous for his storytelling. Subsequent Presidents have tried to imitate his avuncular style, none as successfully. In the modern era of polarized politics, Reagan continues to be loved by the right and mocked by the left.


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