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thought project

Shell from Across the Atlantic wants your thoughts. She asks:

In 100 years time, which of the presidents of our time will be remembered by the average guy? If they are remembered, what will they be remembered for?

This isn't a debate about which president is better. Merely memorable. Because it's my post, I'm going to limit it to presidents I actually remember (I was born in 72) but feel free to go back as far as the presidents you remember if you like.

Shell isn't posting her thoughts until tomorrow. I have to think about my answers, which would probably include Nixon. And LBJ. And...well, like I said, I have to think about it.



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Via Michele I came across this thought-experiment by Across the Atlantic's Shell: In 100 years time, which of the presidents of our time will be remembered by the average guy? If they are remembered, what will they be remembered for?This... [Read More]

Shell and Michele have an interesting question: In 100 years time, which of the presidents of our time will be remembered by the average guy?... [Read More]


Clinton. Mr Good jobs, budget surplus, Oral sex Bill Clinton

Johnson (remembered): Vietnam.

Nixon (remembered): More Vietnam. Watergate. China.

Ford (forgotten): Oh, yeah! That guy. Whip Inflation Now.

Carter (forgotten): Pussy who's handling of the hostage crisis set an example for generations of Jihadists. Dingbat.

Reagan (remembered): Threw the USSR into the dustbin of history. Iran-Contra.

Bush (forgotten): Oh, yeah! W's Dad was a president, too. Won, then failed to follow through, the first Gulf War.

Clinton (remembered): Attempted nationalization of health care. Didn't need Viagra, unlike Dole. Coincidentally president during the Tech Boom and start of the Internet.

Bush (remembered): Much misunderestimated. Thank God he won the election.

Oh, well Junkyard God beat me to it. What he said.

Ok, here is a twist. Which presidents from 1890 to 1940 quickly spring to mind, and why?

All Presidents from our time will be remembered because of modern mass media. If you mean which will be considered memorable, my feeling is Johnson, Nixon, Reagan and GW Bush. Carter will be remembered for the absolute disaster his term was.

If Carter is remembered, I think it will be for his work after the war. I don't think LBJ will be remembered. Talk to a junior high student and see if they know which President is connected to Vietnam. In 100 years, I'm not sure that Vietnam will get much interest in between WWII and the Gulf Wars.

Clinton. Well-run economy, global comraderie, the beginnings of peace in Ireland and Israel/Palestine, the normalization of relations with Russia, the transition from the paranoia of the Cold War, and the bringing down of a promising presidency by a few jealous men. Best president since Eisenhower.

Reagan. Never was so much made of so little. Chickens in the hen house. The Moral Majority allowed to run rampant over the rest of America. Slackening back just enough to let the Soviet Union begin it's natural collapse.

Ask me about Bush II when he wins an election.


T Roosevelt - a man of the people. He shaped America for the twentieth century, exuded energy, confidence and was the first populist
leader in US history.

FDR - his social policies were the foundation of
the newly emerging and soon to be strong middle-class. His policies gave working Americans the opportunity to share in America's prosperity and own their own homes, buy cars and send their kids to college.

HST - the Truman Doctrine allowed the West to contain communism, he desegregated the military,
he prevented nuclear war over the Korean conflict (by removing MacArthur), the Marshall Plan (his idea, not Marshall's) brought social and economic stability to the devasted European nations, presided over the rebuilding of Japan
into a peaceful and prosperous democracy.

Ken, Sorry, HST doesn't belong in your time frame but even so, I believe he was one of the great ones considering all the really serious problems his administration was forced to deal with in the waning days of WWII and the aftermath
of destruction and devastation all around the globe.

Jane wrote:
T Roosevelt, FDR, HST

Teddy Roosevelt died 84 years ago. His final term in office ended 94 years ago. There is no way he qualifies as a president "of our time".

For that matter, Truman and FDR can't really qualify either. The youngest Truman voters are around 75 years old; the overwhelming majority of the people who voted for either man have died of old age or other natural causes.

Anyway, my picks are Nixon (synonymous with "corruption", even among people born after he resigned) and George W. Bush (who will be remembered as "the guy who was President during 9/11" if nothing else -- it's the worst attack we've suffered to date, after all).

Nobody's going to remember Nixon or Johnson for Vietnam, because Vietnam will be forgotten about ten seconds after the last Baby Boomer is lowered into his or her grave, and will henceforth be remembered alongside "the Mexican-American War" and "the Spanish-American War", in the public mind, as one of those not-very-important wars we fought for questionable reasons.

Nobody's going to remember Ford, Clinton or Carter, as they did nothing worth remembering. Students will learn Clinton's name (as one of the few Presidents ever impeached) and will forget it five minutes after their History final.

JFK will be remembered for having been assassinated, but as he had few significant accomplishments during his term, the significance of the event will fade, and he'll be one of the "footnote" assassinations like James Garfield.

I doubt Reagan will be remembered either, because the significance of the Cold War is already fading from the public mind.

What Dan said.

I'm amazed that Reagan gets credit for ending the cold war from his fans, I think Gorby is the hero of all that. Unless Reagan fans can fill history books with nonsense, no one will credit him that.

Reagan may be remembered for drastically lowering taxes on the rich. There used to be something like a federal 96% bracket and that was lowered to 33% under Reagan. That was the end of all possibility of the US becoming a European style welfare state.


I think you misunderstood my intent. If we are trying to determine which of the "current generational" presidents (say, LBJ to GWB) will be remembered by the average guy in 100 years time - that was the thrust of Michele's original post - then we should see which presidents of 100 years ago (and lets say, 60 to 100 years ago) are memorable today.

Now, what were the attributes of those presidents that make them memorable? Jane answered that pretty well I think. Both Roosevelts, and Truman are certainly memorable presidents.

Now, which of the recent presidents meet the same criteria as the previously identified "memorable" presidents?

If br 'remembered' you mean that the name just falls off one's tongue in the same way that Washington, Lincoln and Kennedy do, then Reagan has a shot at it.

Despite the gorbasm above, Reagan will get credit for the fall of communism.

Depending on how the next 50 years go, this will be a good or bad remembrance. He could be remembered as the president who destabilized the world--that all depends of how communism-lite(socialism) collapses

GW Bush has already got a shot, but it's a Kennedy-type, 9/11.

To be remembered, really remembered, like the big three, something really memorable must happen on your watch. Washington had the Founding, Lincoln had the Civil War and The Emancipation. Kennedy, despite anything his fans want to rave about, had getting shot in the head. As a kid, in school mere years after the fact, everything the man actually did was overshadowed by Zapruder's little movie.

Ending the Cold War might turn out to be that memorable. Likewise 9/11 might--though tragedy is not always enough.

Jack. Right it was ALLLLL Reagan. The preceding 50 years had nothing to do with it.

Crediting Reagan for the fall of the Soviet Union is a bit like blaming GW for 9/11. He was president at the time... so what!

Your post is just swimming with overblown rhetoric. The Soviet Union didn't fall, it was "communism" itself...

Um Joshua, the Berlin Wall fell and the Soviet Union broke apart on GHW Bush's watch not Reagan. Until Reagan, the only real anti-Communist was JFK, every other president was just trying to stay even. Realpoltic was the generally accepted theory. You need to brush up on your history. You may not be old enough to remember, but even in Reagan's last year in office; the fall of the USSR was not predicted by anyone outside his administration

Joshua, it has nothing to do with actual credit, just how Reagan will be remembered - and I agree, overall he will be remembered for the glasnost and restructuring (perestroika?) that led to the fall of the wall.

Nixon, Reagan, and Carter, in answer to Michelle's original question. Carter for his "best ex-president" activities, which have led to his continuous presence in the news - and ain't that how one gets to be "memorable"?

I agree with all the responses to Ken's question re: who is remembered from 1890-1940, but felt I had simply to add one particular observation about Teddy Roosevelt. John Hay was a ubiquitous presence in DC in the second half of the 19th century, serving Republican presidents from Lincoln to TR (he started as Lincoln's private secretary and was ultimately TR's Secretary of State). When circumstances thrust TR into the White House, Hay noted that in six months the only thing people would remember about William McKinley was that he'd had the good sense to get himself shot.

Jack, "Washington, Lincoln, Kennedy," certainly does not slide off my tongue like that. The latter simply does not belong. Kennedy wasn't a bad president, but to place him in that company is essentially to make him the defining American political figure of the 20th century, which is absurd. "Washington, Lincoln, FDR," might be a bit more credible.

First, you have to examine why other memorable Presidents are memorable:

George Washington - Father of the Nation, General who won our independence. When he could have been king, he wisely and humbly set the two-term limit example which was not flouted until FDR, after whom it was written into the Constitution.

John Adams - remembered for being part of a father/son Presidential combo.

Thomas Jefferson - Writer of the Declaration, purchaser of the Louisianna territory from France, scientist, scholar, lover of the common man. Possibly our greatest ever President. Certainly, our greatest visionary. Did more to set the USA on its course than any other man in our history. By commissioning and publishing the results of the Louisianna expedition in search of a Northwest Passage, he inflamed the hearts of freedom loving peoples from around the globe - and the people who came to settle that land make up what is now our nation.

James Monroe - Remembered primarily for the Monroe Doctrine western hemisphere restriction on European power.

James Madison - Primarily remembered for his part in writing the US constitution. Single most important Presidential memory is Dolly Madison saving his portrait when the White House was scorched by the Brits.

John Quincy Adams - remembered for being part of a father/son Presidential combo.

Andrew Jackson - Father of the Democratic Party. Another champion of the common man. First President not directly related to the founders. His status will rise and fall depending upon how people view his treatment of American Indians, but he will be remembered. People today do not realize it, but the American Indians of that time were using much the same tactics that middle east terrorists are using today - surprise, asymetrical attacks on the civilian population. When Jackson marched the Indians down the Trail of Tears and expelled them from the Appalachians in defiance of the Supreme Court, he was hailed as a great defender of the common man who was more interested in safety and justice than legalistic interpretations of the law. Remind anyone of the suspension of Habeus Corpis under Lincoln, Japenese internment under FDR, or perhaps "illegal combatants" in Guantonimo Bay? When their security is threatened, Americans are willing and able to shrug off legal restrictions in order to ensure their personal survival. This just underscores the truth that the phrasing should be Order & Law, not Law & Order. In the absence of Order, people do not recognize the usefulness of the Law.

Abraham Lincoln - 'nuff said.

Grant - will be more remembered as a victorious General than president, like Eisenhower.

Teddy Roosevelt - "Walk softly and carry a big stick." The founder of the American Century and the author of American hegemony. Was the embodiment of American ideals. Adventurous, moral, courageous, arrogant, boisterous, great initiative, uncommon courage in the face of overwhelming odds. Presided over American ascension to 1st class world power.

Woodrow Wilson - WWI, League of Nations

FDR - 'nuff said.

Truman - dropped the bomb on Japan, fired MacArthur.

Eisenhower - will be more remembered as a General than president, like Grant.

JFK - Assasinated. First telegenic President. Students of history will forever be shown snippits of his debate with Nixon. Also, Cuban Missile crises is a study in courage. Will get credit for some things actually accomplished by LBJ.

LBJ - will probably be forgotten by 2050. Domestic policy accomplishments do not have an historical shelf life. JFK will steal his thunder.

Nixon - first, and so far only President to be driven from office in disgrace.

Ford - already forgotten

Carter - quickly following Ford's example of disappearing into oblivion.

Reagan - As much as I admire how he almost single handedly rescued America from its 70's-induced psychological depression, in 50 years, when people no longer even remember there ever was a Soviet Union, and since there was no major war on his watch, I think his star will dim into forgetfulness. May be remembered as part of the trifecta of Presidents who directly confronted communism - Truman, JFK, Reagan. I don't think he'll be remembered on his own.

George Bush - remembered for being part of a father/son Presidential combo.

Clinton - only hope for memory is Monica and impeachment, a rather dubious distinction. But we had Andy Johnson impeached and another President whose name I cannot remember (irony noted) was purportedly a much worse skirt chaser than Clinton. Will probably live until 2030, so forgotten by 2075. (In my opinion, Clinton is the embodiment of wasted potential. Had the talent and opportunity to be great, but squandered it on minimalist policies, and meaningless scandals.)

George W. Bush - Much less talented than Clinton, but has a chance to be remembered as one of the greats. Time will tell if the "Bush Doctrine" of preventative war will be a world-historical watershed. Greatest Presidential moment to date is standing on the rubble of the WTC and addressing the American people with a bull horn. That picture still makes my hair stand on end.

I think he understands the preeiminence of establishing Order prior to the rule of Law. If he flinches in the Middle East, he will be remembered as one of the worst Presidents in our nation's history. If he doesn't flinch, and there is no evidence that he will, and if the middle east becomes a peaceful, economically successful region, he will get credit in the USA and around the world as the greatest champion of freedom since Lincoln.

If he gets assassinated a la Lincoln & Kennedy, his status will reach mythical proportions, and his place in history will be forever assured. Will certainly be remembered for the father/son connection. Also Trivia Question: Only President to be descended from two different Presidents - Franklin Pierce and George H.W. Bush.

The jury is still out on him, but one day his picture could be on our money. It wouldn't surprise me if his picture makes it onto Iraqi money some day. Main attribute is stubborn determination to defend freedom regardless of the costs - not a bad trait.

Anyone care to list the top 5 Presidents in American History. Mine are:

George Washington
Thomas Jefferson
Abraham Lincoln
Teddy Roosevelt
Franklin Roosevelt

If one steps back to truly examine the boldness and audacious quality of George W. Bush's plan to implement freedom and democracy as the preferred political system for over 1 Billion Muslims, his goals are truly astonishing. If he is successful, we might have to argue if his name belongs on this list. If that happened, which President currently in the top 5 would drop down. Hard choice.

"Common man"? Hmmm...

Kennedy: Doinked Marilyn Monroe.

Reagan: Told the Pope to "tear down this wall." Personally told Army to play "Welcome to the Jungle" real loud.

Clinton: Doinked everybody.