Grant for President!
February 11, 2007
A ways back, US News & World Report printed this article about a poll that asked Americans what past President they’d want in office right now, then asked which potential ’08 candidate best resembles those presidents. Since most American’s favorite movie is 1942’s Kings Row, Ronald Reagan eeked out a victory over FDR, coming in with 28 percent to FDR’s 26. JFK showed with 21 percent, Lincoln earned 16 percent, and George Washington rounded out the top-5, pulling in a scant 6 percent (probably because American’s prefer The Probability Broach‘s Whiskey Rebellion scenario–Washington being executed for treason!–to Washington’s actual behavior). The poll respondents named Hillary Clinton as the most FDR, Washington, and Reaganesque (!) of the candidates, and, unsurprisingly, Barack Obama was viewed as the most Kennedyesque. This got me thinking (and hopefully Mandrake will chime in as well) about which President I’d want leading America right now.
1. Teddy Roosevelt
Pros: Imperial times call for an imperial president. Architect of the Spanish-American war, Roosevelt resigned as Secretary of the Navy to enlist in the Rough Riders. Can you imagine any of today’s politicians going to fight in Iraq? At best, some of them would work desk jobs for some private security firm based out of Dubai (zing!). Not just a hawk, Roosevelt won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1906 for mediating the Russo-Japanese war. Roosevelt also wrote over 30 books, a feat only topped in presidential history by the world’s number 3 Proust scholar, George W. Bush. Then-governor Roosevelt also gets SPECIAL BONUS points for saving young Jack Kelly from the orphanage (see Newsies).
Cons: Alas, in this post-Kanye, and Blood Diamond world, Roosevelt’s penchant for big-game hunting probably won’t play with the kids.
2. James K. Polk
Pros: Perhaps an even better imperialist than Roosevelt, James K. Polk lied to the American people, inflating the reasons for fighting the Mexican-American war. He justified it as necessary to secure America, when in reality it was all about commerce. But the US won, freeing the whole southwest of the United States. In other words, Polk is 1 and 0 in America’s favorite type of war. Polk later settled the Oregon Territory border dispute with England, acquiring much of the Pacific Northwest. He also built an independent treasury. SPECIAL BONUS: “James K. Polk” is easily the best They Might Be Giants song about a former president.
Cons: Allowed the English to keep British Columbia. Vancouver, BC should be the second prettiest Vancouver in America.
3. Ulysses S. Grant
Pros: America needs to reinvest in its infrastructure. Who better than Ulysses S. Grant, the builder of the trans-continental railroad? Not only that, Grant’s first assignment in the War Between the States was protecting the Hannibal and St. Joseph Railroad. He clearly cares deeply about American mobility.
If anyone can rebuild our troubled rail network, it’s H. Ulysses Grant! SPECIAL BONUS: Grant’s most infamous setback, Cold Harbor, was turned into one of the most bizarre plays I’ve ever read. And that’s something.
Cons: Grant’s Tomb takes up too much prime Manhattan real estate. Also, there’s the small matter of his anti-Semitism to be considered.
Although it’s tempting to side with Grant, I’m going to have to side with good old T.R. If he can’t bust the trusts, no one can.