We've had four good presidents, and we won't have any more good ones, the U.S. Supreme Court having just decided that hereafter the plutocrats can simply buy the presidency, and of course they're not going to install anyone in the office who'll serve anyone's interests except their own.
My guess is that hereafter there'll be a long dismal run of presidents who are either (1) easily manipulable pious rubes, or (2) weasels of the sort and look who today ceo the too-big-to-fails. Crooks and nuts in the forefront, we'll slide off into another Dark Age. You can take that to the bank, except when you get there they'll all be boarded up.
Four out of 44 is less than 10 per cent, not enough to keep a hitter in the baseball bigs, but not a bad average when you're comparing the ratio of superior presidents to that of superior popes or Caesars or pharaohs or clarinet players. Lots of novelists write 44 books, but it's a scant few who write four good ones. There might not ever have been a novelist who wrote four good ones. If you have nominees, go back and do some re-reading. I guarantee you'll at least waver beyond three.
Arthur Schlesinger Sr. – not Jr., mind you; this was the old man, a far classier act – published the first historians' poll ranking presidents in the now-familiar categories of great, near great, average, furniture, and pisspoor, or something like that. The historians in that first poll, back in the Truman twilight, were remarkably charitable in their assessments, naming 5 White House greats and 6 near-greats and only two bums, but the bloom was soon off and by Nixon the greats and nears were down to more reasonable numbers while the duds and the clowns had multiplied like Duggars. That downward trend continues in Century 21.
The wildest swings in this game belong to Woodrow Wilson, a consensus great early on, down and up again, more recently down willy-nilly squirting seltzer with the clowns. TR horses up and down the scale too Consistency champ might be FDR -- top or bottom for the same morons he was top or bottom for 75 years ago, for the same reasons.
I'd tell you my four good presidents except I'm sure you wouldn't care any more than I'd care who your four are, if you have four. And no good ever comes from showing your hand in this little exercise. It can animate a dinner party that's died, but disputes based on such disclosure can get out of hand. They can lead to fistfights and divorces, and they used to pretty regularly lead to duels. And the packers of today who might umbrage out over what they see as a cahuna slight don't fotch popgun derringers.
Most often it only confirms the other party's suspicions of your political perspicacity when you blab your greats and nears and duds and clowns. At best you succeed in making smug bastards smugger and fanatics a little grimmer in their determination to move ever deeper into error and psychosis. For example, just my opinion, but if you've been dead-ass certain for 30 years now that Clinton is the Antichrist, the scales aren't going to fall off your eyes because a pin-headed poltroon the likes of Ol' Moi has jacked Peyronie Bubba all the way up into his Top Ten.
Another Presidents Day looms. We're supposed to take off work and give thought to these 44 worthies, without surcease, for an entire day. That's about 20 minutes apiece, if you don't count sleep time, and if you ask me that's thinking about them way too much. George Washington deserves 20 minutes of your time and attention, but a case can't be made for Zachary Taylor or Chester A. Arthur, neither of whom could've used up a 20-minute allotment in contemplation of himself. Half in either case would've gone to a power nap.
Even when it's not Presidents Day we think about these jokers way too much – a conclusion reached more than 50 years ago by Russell Baker of the New York Times when he was pulled off his regular beat after the first Eisenhower heart attack and named special White House correspondent in charge of covering the ailing president's bowel movements. If there were any.