The Politically Incorrect Guide To The Presidents: From Wilson to Obama
I was hoping this book would be funny. It is amusing in places but it’s not funny. I was familiar with Hayward’s writing from Powerline, and this topic was on my mind. He’s got a unique, but meaningful way of grading the presidents: by their fidelity to the Constitution. The President swears to: “preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States” before he takes office, but many must have their fingers crossed. Each chapter rates a President from Wilson to Obama. Haywood says the founding fathers would be horrified at the liberties our presidents have taken. The Presidency and the Federal Government was set up with a limited and well defined set of powers which have been eroded on an almost annual basis.
Liberal historians (most of them) tend to assess great presidents as those who expanded government or confronted a national crisis. They rarely look at the other side of the ledger: the contraction of our liberties. And so we’re left with a distorted view of the presidency. To the Historian: Woodrow Wilson and Franklin Roosevelt were bold leaders, reshaping America in a Progressive/Socialist direction. Hayward rightly takes issue with this. Seen through the lens of the US Constitution the ranking of Presidents is upside down. Hayward rights this wrong giving Calvin Coolidge (A+), Ronald Reagan (A-), Harding (B+) high marks. And giving Franklin Roosevelt (F), Lyndon Johnson (F), Jimmy Carter (F), Barack Obama (F) low marks for their failure to respect the Constitution as its written.
I found the book informative and slightly entertaining. I found Hayward’s grades did not match the text. It got to be a game where I would try to guess the grade. Often I was wildly off.
Excerpts From My Kindle
But under the influence of Darwin, Wilson and other Progressives no longer believed in a fixed human nature. They thought that evolution and “Progress” would deliver constant improvement in human affairs and even in human nature. So they saw no reason that political institutions should be bound any longer by the Founders’ idea that flawed human nature prescribed limits to government power. Although Wilson and the Progressives did not share the same outlook as Marxist socialists and other revolutionary utopians, they did believe that human nature was susceptible to improvement-perhaps even infinite improvement and ultimately perfection-under the guidance of the modern State and enlightened leaders such as Wilson. Government power-the State-was no longer something to be feared; it should rather be expanded and celebrated. – location 847-852
Hoover’s most authoritative biographer, conservative historian George H. Nash, calls Hoover “the Rodney Dangerfield of American politics-he gets no respect.” And for good reason. It was understandable that liberals would criticize the Republican Hoover. But conservatives eventually came to abandon him too, – location 1579-1581
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