This list is an outgrowth of a statement I made in support of John McCain’s recent support of long-time aide to Hillary Clinton, Huma Abedin. Abedin has been attacked by Michelle Bachmann and other right-wing figures as being a Muslim-American woman who is part of a Muslim Brotherhood, “…conspiracy to infiltrate the U.S. government.”
In an address on the floor of the US Senate McCain said:
“I have every confidence in Huma’s loyalty to our country, and everyone else should as well,” he said. “All Americans owe Huma a debt of gratitude for her many years of superior public service. I hope these ugly and unfortunate attacks on her can be immediately brought to an end and put behind us before any further damage is done to a woman, an American, of genuine patriotism and love of country.”
“Ultimately, what is at stake in this matter is larger even than the reputation of one person,” he added. “This is about who we are as a nation, and who we still aspire to be … When anyone, not least a member of Congress, launches specious and degrading attacks against fellow Americans on the basis of nothing more than fear of who they are and ignorance of what they stand for, it defames the spirit of our nation, and we all grow poorer because of it.”
In response I said this reminded me of the McCain I admired back in the 1990s. To which, one of my critics found it difficult to believe that I could admire any Republican. I retorted that if they paid me $1 a name I could draw up a list of admirable Republicans that would put a dent in their bank account.
Suddenly I felt like I’d been challenged and decided to compile the following list of Republican presidents the GOP can be proud of. You probably won’t find many contemporaries on my list since the Republican Party has been mostly kidnapped by its radical fringe. Anyway, here’s my picks.
- Abraham Lincoln – If for no other reason his ability to stand the heat in the kitchen during what was inarguably the nation’s roughest period.
- Theodore Roosevelt – Teddy makes my list for two major reasons. First, his concern for preserving America’s wilderness when others were steadfast for cutting down every last tree in every last forest. Secondly, he correctly saw that not all corporations were good for American’s in general. He stood up to those who were profiting at the people’s expense. Arguably he was our first, “trust buster.”
- William Howard Taft – He continued the trust busting of T.R. and demonstrated a genuine concern for the people of poorer nations in the Western Hemisphere.
- Dwight David Eisenhower – Ike was able to hold together an, at times testy, alliance that eventually led to the defeat of Nazi Germany. As president he successfully brought an end to the fighting in Korea and stood up to the radical and destructive likes of Senator Joe McCarthy. Eisenhower also deserves credit for resisting the spread of Soviet influence, involving the Federal government in the creation of the Interstate Highway system, without commerce as we now know it would have been impossible, and he sternly warned of the dangers of a too close relationship between the defense industry and the American military. A warning we continue to pay little attention to.
- Richard M. Nixon – In spite of my overall dislike of Nixon he did support a number of issues I agree with. He signed into law a number of environmental and consumer protection laws and, most importantly, he made a major effort to normalize America’s relationship with Communist China. I say “most importantly” because opening a dialogue with China put us on a course of sustained peace between two nations that had known nothing but hostility for a number of decades.
- Ronald Reagan – This one hurts but I’ll give Reagan some credit as being a conservative who was willing, at the end of the day, to be reasonable in his relations with the opposition. This was a time when the other side was still referred to as the, “loyal opposition.” Reagan had a great sense of humor and I really think he deserves the title of the, “great communicator.” Few presidents have been able to walk before a TV camera and make themselves warmly invited into people’s living rooms like Reagan could.
- George H. W. Bush – Whether he knew it would cost him re-election or not, Bush One eventually accepted the reality that Federal revenues had to be increased. I give him credit for going to the side of Kuwait following the invasion of Iraq and having the good sense to have forged a strong coalition before taking action, having defined goals, and having an exit plan for when those goals were accomplished. I think G.H.W. deserves a few points for his post presidency. He has pretty much stayed out of the fray and has been more than willing to bury his hatchet with former President Clinton and work with him to help ease human suffering in the world.
- John McCain – Simply put, I respected McCain when he really was a maverick. But, when the right increasingly gained control of the GOP he caved. He caved in 2008 and during his Senatorial campaign in 2010 he simply sold his soul to keep his job. Maybe his standing up to Bachmann and her crowd notes a return to being a man with a conscience that is stronger than political expediency.
- George W. Bush – Admittedly I have a lot of issues with Dubya’s presidency. But I never saw him as the war criminal that many liberals were quick to charge. I just think his policies wreaked havoc on our blood and treasury that we will live with for decades to come. But, on the positive side I’ll give him some credit for establishing a huge marine preserve in the Hawaiian Islands and for his support of efforts to fight the HIV epidemic in Africa and elsewhere. I thought he initially did a good job of leading the nation through the opening events of the 9/11 tragedy. He helped bring us together at that moment and comforting those who had suffered most. I’ll also credit him for his post-presidential behavior. Knowing how divided the nation has become I think Bush knows and accepts his being in public view simply wouldn’t help heal the split. Subsequently, he has become a private citizen and stayed out of the fray.
Okay boys and girls, there’s my list. And that I able to author such, in my mind, confirms that I am not the die-hard liberal many think me to be. I see myself, as I’ve said many times, a social liberal and a fiscal moderate. I am a capitalist but I am not the kind of capitalist who believes the board of directors and corporate CEO’s highest duty is to investors. Investors are important but so are employees and the community and nation in which they reside.
To end on a sour note, the person most responsible for me creating this list will fail to see these people as being worthy. On several occasions that person had identified each as being Republican in name only (RINOs). In fact, the last sentence they wrote to me was, “RINOs don’t count.” And they are correct. In today’s radical and polarized political environment there is no room at either extreme for people of reason and compromise. Politics, as President Obama recently said, has become more important than progress. America and Americans are the worse off for that.