Confident Leadership Isn’t Competent Leadership

Confident Leadership Isn’t Competent Leadership

The fundamental cause of the trouble in the modern world today is that the stupid are cocksure while the intelligent are full of doubt.—Bertrand Russell

In our culture, confidence is heralded as an important attribute in defining success. With presentations, interviews, press conferences, and more, we feel most assured when whoever’s addressing us is able to project strength in vision, even if they’re unable to answer all our questions; the age-old mythos that the alpha must lead the pack. But action and rhetoric are so often at the helm of stupidity. Coming out of the Trump and Johnson eras, it is important that we examine the nature of such leadership, for it often undermines our best interests.

Let’s begin by taking a trip down memory lane to the 1980 election. It was Jimmy Carter vs Ronald Reagan. The peanut farmer vs the Hollywood actor. The detail-oriented micro-manger v the guy who fell asleep in meetings. Now, the Carter administration had a host of problems that arose in part from his decision-making to adverse world conditions (inflation, Iran, etc.) but to most people looking in, Carter was clearly the smarter, more even hand. But because things weren’t going so well and because he projected such charisma and confidence on the campaign trail, Reagan was able to make issues (like energy sustainability) far less important than they should have been. He knew the key to victory was presenting himself as the stronger leader. Similarly in the 2000 election, Al Gore’s apparent weakness as a viable “strong” leader undermined his chances against the (shall we call it) broad-stroked George W. Bush.

Indeed, with increasing frequency since the dawn of the TV age and televised debates (starting in 1960), marketability has become the most crucial factor in determining such elections. Where substantive debate is needed in tackling the major but (popularly) uninteresting issues of health care, economics, and more, we find that quick, quipy responses and a “trust me” demeanour most beneficial to the candidate running. As clickbait articles and social media have exasperated this problem sevenfold, so have we seen the rise of a new order of woefully incompetent, if tragically confident leaders. I speak of course of Donald J. Trump.

Now, I could talk about that administration at nauseam but let’s face it, there would be no point. Everyone should know by now that he was a con-man whose interest in the job extended only so far as the reach of his power. The details and long-term projections of departments established previously (such as a pandemic response team) were gutted for the simple gain of “playing the part” and conveying himself as the man who would accept no waste, i.e. strong, confident, decisive leadership.

Politics shouldn’t be reduced to such rampant bravado and ego-pleasing rhetoric. The great works of our time haven’t been accomplished by mindless leaders. The Affordable Care Act became a reality as a result of decades-long campaigning, adjustments and compromise, detail-oriented legislation, and perhaps most crucially, hours of bland, administrative work. The accomplishment of getting a man on the moon didn’t come to pass because John F. Kennedy said it must be so but because the work was put in by scientists at NASA, albeit with the backing of Cold War capital. The reality of historic achievements is far less dramatic and entertaining than you would believe. Just watch Lincoln.

For effective leadership, confidence must be backed by credibility. The act isn’t enough. As shown in the series The Dropout, biotech entrepreneur and founder of Theranos, Elizabeth Holmes made her fortune and name off of the back of inaccurate blood-testing data and fraud with investors (who included Ruper Murdoch, the Walton family, and the DeVos family). With further associations she managed to sway and charm such as Henry Kissinger and George Schultz, she legitimised herself (even though her company was publishing what wasn’t there and bypassing the ethics of proper scientific procedure). A fan of Steve Jobs, she understood the importance of selling an image and in 2015, made Time’s “100 most influential people” list. Of course, when the whole charade was exposed, things changed and in 2016, she joined Fortune’s list of “World’s 19 Most Disappointing Leaders”. Karma, at its finest. Except for the people whose lives she played with.

The important lesson to be gained here is that need to be more critical in our thinking and to stop taking images of success at face value. Influencers on social media aren’t necessarily as rich or successful as they purport to be in their calculated, often staged photo ops. Not every rapper has a host of women following them to parties or a yacht. Not every entrepreneur is brilliant or the next Steve Jobs. Heck, even Steve Jobs wasn’t Steve Jobs. Unfortunately, the “fake it till you make it” mantra has become popularised and ingrained in the American ethos. The Jordan Belforts of this world thereby get rich while gambling the fortunes of those less well off, who also think they may have the shortcut to success. Confidence may hold merit in some circumstances but it’s not as important as a healthy dose of doubt, close analysis, and competent thinking.

Rating The Royals

Rating The Royals

Another decade has passed which means another jubilee! Yes, unless you’ve been hiding away at a Pizza Express, you’ll be aware that the Queen is now in her 70th year as the head of state. Quite a remarkable feat. But you now, it’s not all been easy. Indeed, she’s had to witness the general decline of the British Empire in the latter half of the 20th century and put up with a bunch of dodgy characters, both inside and outside the palace walls.

For this occasion, we thought it would be quite fetching to take a look at some of those characters within. And here to help us, is our Belfast correspondent and conspiracy enthusiast, Belle. Together, we’ll run through the main players of the monarchy’s stage and rate them on four important factors:

1. Their Suitability To Their Role
2. Their Associations
3. Their Entertainment Value
4. And… The Rogue Factor

So, without further ado, let’s get to it:

Queen Elizabeth II, 96, Single

Suitability (8.5/10)

Belle: “Begrudgingly impressed she has held on for so long. All hail the lizard queen (shoot me)” 8/10

Andy (Washington Walrus): “Quite dignified in comparison to others. Generally apolitical.” 9/10

Associations (8/10)

Belle: “Who knows? Mystery. Lizard people. Freemasons.” 8/10

Andy: “She doesn’t seem to care for many besides her dogs. Also, Prince Andrew is her fave. But when you have that sh#*^ show to contend with…” 8/10

Entertainment (3/10)

Belle: “Yawn, she could take tips from her (alleged) autistic paedophile son”. 1/10

Andy: “I do enjoy how unimpressed she seems by everything.” 5/10

Rogue Element (5/10)

Belle: “Lobbied so that she wouldn’t have to hire immigrants, married a man who was not only her 3rd cousin but her 4th from the other side of the family. No wonder her children turned out the way they did! I hold this woman in the utmost contempt.” 6/10

Andy: “Very stoic but maybe she has a wicked sense of humour? Who knows? I’ll go by the points above, though compared to the rest of the family, I hold her in higher regard.” 4/10

TOTAL: 24.5 / 40

Prince Charles, picky eater

Belle: The poster boy for why you must never sleep with your cousin.

Suitability (6/10)

Belle: “Appropriately inbred but he just seems kind of weak, like he’d blow away in strong winds.” 6/10

Andy: “He brought Diana into a loveless marriage whilst pining after another woman. That took guts. England needs guts.” 6/10

Associations (3.5/10)

Belle: “My nan met him once but aside from that.” 2/10

Andy: “Stephen Fry likes him. That’s about all I know.” 5/10

Entertainment (2/10)

Andy: “He holds the Prince’s Trust each year.” 2/10

Rogue (5/10)

Belle: “Whacking your ex-wife who was pregnant is pretty rogue by most standards but maybe not by royal standards.” 5/10

TOTAL: 16.5 / 40

Prince Andrew, honoured veteran

Belle: The medical miracle himself. The nonce who could not sweat. The Queen’s favourite, albeit the bar is in hell. A man so inbred he sticks out from even this sorry lot.

Suitability (10/10)

Belle: “Straight back to the Dark Ages. I like it. Very medieval.” 10/10

Associations (9/10)

Belle: “The sex trafficking ring barely scratches the surface of his associations I’m sure.” 10/10

Andy: “Sketchy to say the least.” 10/10

Entertainment (10/10)

Belle: “That interview was ICONIC”. 10/10

Andy: “It took guts to tell so many strange lies. The royal family needs guts.” 10/10

Rogue  (10/10)

Belle: “Prior to the minor indiscretion of being found to be associated with a sex-trafficking ring, Andrew was already well known for his eccentricities, including but not limited to a teddy bear collection of 70, mostly dressed in sailor suits, arranged in a very specific way by his maid or else he would throw a tantrum (bearing in mind he was an adult, this was after he came back from serving in the Falklands.) Anyways, imagine my shock when he turned out to actually be an (alleged) paedophile”. 10/10

Andy: “Rogue or just loyal to old friends? I think we all know the answer here. Rogue.” 10/10

TOTAL: 40/40

Prince William, Douche of Cambridge

Suitability (6/10)

Belle: “Oh, he is so dull. Pass. Despite being the heir to the throne, I keep forgetting he exists.” 6/10

Andy: “In the case of not rocking the boat, I suppose he is suited to the role.” 6/10

Associations (4/10)

Belle: “Not exciting. He should take a leaf out of his Uncle Andrew’s book. Haha just joking.” 4/10

Entertainment (2/10)

Andy: “I am not entertained.” 2/10

Rogue (0/10)

Belle: 0/10

Andy: Agreed.

TOTAL: 12/40

Prince Harry, great at costume parties

Suitability (2/10)

Belle: “Honestly neither weird or inbred enough. Glad he got out of there.” 2/10

Andy: “He’s gone too woke for me. I need my royals regressive.” 2/10

Associations (1/10)

Belle: “He seems to have fallen in with a rough crowd since his Nazi days. James Corden. Yikes.” 2/10

Andy: “He’s gone very Hollywood and the news that he arranges playdates with James Corden is very disturbing. Such associations make Prince Andrew look all that much better.” 0/10

Entertainment (8/10)

Belle: “Nazi garb” 10/10

Andy: “I miss the old Harry, partying in Vegas and just being the wild card in general. Alas, he’s become a total beta in recent years.” 6/10

Rogue (8/5/10)

Belle: “My personal favourite out of the Royals. Notorious for his transgressions even prior to marrying a divorced, annoying American D-list actress. But to be honest, if my Mum was whacked by my Dad’s family, I’d probably act out a bit as well. Besides, who among us hasn’t impersonated a Nazi in a fit of teenage angst.” 10/10

Andy: “Hmm an interesting one. Rogue in recent years, certainly- though one wonders if that’s just the work of Wicked Meghan pulling the strings? Rogue in his party days. But.. he was also in the army, which is not so rogue.” 7/10

TOTAL: 19.5/40

Kate Middleton, presumed neighbourhood watch founder

Suitability

Belle: “Good looking. Maybe she would install a soft dictatorship.” 5/10

Associations

Belle: “Her sister’s bum is famous.” 7/10

Entertainment

Belle: Perhaps the least entertaining of the lot”. 0/10

Rogue

Belle: “If beige wallpaper could smile and wave politely. Has anyone actually heard her speak before?” 0/10

TOTAL: 12/40

Meghan Markle, Margery Tyrell of the Royal Family

Suitability

Andy: “Well, she wasn’t exactly a star before but she’s certainly good at putting on a performance. And that’s a part of being a Royal. On the other hand, as Belle’s pointed out, the inbred factor is important and she’s simply not close enough to the… source, shall we call it?” 4/10

Associates

Andy: I know Harry’s close with James Corden. Not so sure about Meghan. I’ll give her a partial pass but again to be in that radius… Hmmm… Anyways, she’s thatched herself on to the Hollywood elite and keeps the family at far range (or some of them are toxic or something, I don’t know). 4/10

Entertainment

Andy: The only performance I’ve seen of hers was that tabloid interview with Oprah. Oh, and she has a brief role in Horrible Bosses. 5/10

Rogue

Andy: Well, she disturbed the order. So that’s something. On a socio-political level though, she plays by modern morals and standards. And I’m not having that. Not in this family. 5/10

TOTAL: 18/40

Prince George

Belle: “All hail George! Future overlord! May he have a long and tyrannical rule.” 

No categories needed, TOTAL: 100/10

Honourable mention: the late Prince Philip, gone but never forgotten

And now the rankings…

Kate- 12
Will- 12
Charles- 16.5
Meghan- 18
Harry- 19.5
Queen- 24.5
Andrew- 40
George- 100

Well, that quickly went dodgy. Perhaps, these weren’t the proper categories for rating the Royal Family at all but there you have it, the young George has much to live up to but is already surpassing the powerhouse that is the Pizza Express enthusiast, Prince Andrew.

Happy Platinum Jubilee celebrations all!

Streaming Wars: Netflix’s Reign Coming To An End?

Streaming Wars: Netflix’s Reign Coming To An End?

With reports of 200,000 lost subscribers in its first quarter this year, Netflix’s stock has plunged lower than its average original movie rating. Excuses have been made, including the widespread use of password sharing (which has always been a factor) as well as the growth of competition in other streaming services and recent economic turmoil. To this end, they have warned the time may come to crack down on said sharing and maybe even consider ad-based revenue options (something that was initially marked as the anthisises of their model). Suffice to say, I can’t imagine these tactics winning any more admirers, especially considering how much their monthly subscription rates have increased in recent years. Indeed, it may be that Netflix has reached its peak and is on a decline, no matter what.

The problems lie externally as well as internally. How many other services are available now? The major contenders are Prime, HBO Max, Apple TV, Disney+, and Peacock. They have many attractions Netflix doesn’t and are (on average) cheaper, if with less content. (Just to note; film buffs hate this word and I’m not fond of it either as it cheapens the craft but for the purposes of discussing all this, we’ll stick with it.) Internally, the problem also arises from the model Netflix has adopted; to get as much content up as possible (no matter the quality). It seems like they have an original movie out every week now, as well as a plethora of true-crime docs-series, original TV series, and more. The choice is overwhelming. And many a watcher is dismayed when a show they do like gets cancelled after a couple of seasons. On this latter point, it may simply be a case of low numbers (which Netflix doesn’t release) but it could also be that unless it’s super popular (like “Stranger Things”) it’s not a cost-effective approach to drawing in and retaining subscribers. For one, actors’ salaries usually rise (by contract) at this point and two, it doesn’t move you on as fast to something else. Netflix starts up something straight away before you’ve even taken in a minute of end credits (undercutting the emotional tone of what you’ve just finished).

Plus, let’s face it- most of Netflix’s output isn’t that good. It’s C-grade fodder for filling time. Especially their movies- looking you at Kissing Booth, Kissing Booth 2, and Kissing Booth 3. HBO Max, undoubtedly, produces much higher quality material. Apple TV, despite a low range of original content, is showing promise in its investments. Disney+ is a whole other ball game, if primarily focused on franchises and animation. Prime, while messier, has a vast network of shows and movies that are close to rivalling Netflix (plus it’s cheaper). We’re heading into subjective territory here but the point is clear; there’s plenty of capable alternatives.

These alternatives have also taken back some of their original material from Netflix (at least in the US where Peacock and Hulu are available). This means beloved shows like “The Office” have been lost and considering the fandom there, that’s a major factor. A lot of people binge and re-watch that show regularly. These are natural retention properties. At least, they’re still holding onto Friends and Seinfeld. For now.

This piece has been harsh on Netflix, chiefly because they’re the kings of streaming still and have a soulless model… but in truth, the main point of interest in these streaming wars lies in the fact that the choice of platform is becoming as overwhelming as the choice of content on them. If you throw yourself back to the 2000s, piracy was the major issue. It remains one, though it became less talked about in this avenue because the likes of Netflix made things so cheap. Similar to the effect of Spotify on the music industry. Now, to get a hold of all the most desired content (“Succession” on HBO, “The Boys” on Prime, “Stranger Things” on Netflix, “The Office” on Peacock”, etc.) requires multiple accounts. It’s almost become counter-active in its appeal. This had led many to consider whether cable could be due a lucrative comeback to the top?

I’m not sure. Many shows are now streamed weekly but because Netflix popularised binge-watching (by releasing a season at once), the average viewer has probably lost a modicum of patience. On the other hand, Disney+ has opted to make their Marvel shows a week-by-week watch, like the good old days, and has seen dramatic success. HBO too follows that line. Maybe it’s as simple then as individual viewers making their mind up about what they truly want; prioritising their preference, based on budget- choosing one or a couple of platforms? This could result in a plain of healthy competition, where Netflix no longer leads. Undoubtedly however, we will see several platforms fall by the wayside (Peacock holding on to due “The Office” for now). Maybe (optimistically), Netflix will invest time in making better movies and less stuff like “Red Notice”, “Spenser Confidential”, “Bright”, and “Tall Girl”.

Will Smith Represents Celebrity Narcissism At Its Worst

Will Smith Represents Celebrity Narcissism At Its Worst

Following Sunday night’s debacle, Will Smith has roundly been criticised by the media and public alike, marking one of the most instant and dramatic falls from grace. Once the darling of the chat show circuit and a perceived “class act”, it now seems as if people are waking up to a facade. I feel vindicated as I’ve long held him to be full of sh-t, based on several observations:

– The nepotism of his children who were shoehorned into the film and music industry; Smith deserves at least a portion of blame for their annoyance and entitlement. Especially Jaden.
– The narcissism he exhibits when it comes to chat shows and promotional material. On Graham Norton, where there’s several guests, he really sucks the oxygen out of the room and brings everything back to him.
– He talks like a person far removed from the norm, dispensing cheesy, hackneyed variables of life advice on visualising success, creativity, and other BS.
– He doesn’t feel genuine (to expand on the latter two points); his laughs are just a bit too forced and save Sunday night, he feels calculated like a politician, almost. To be fair, this could be said for a few actors trying to play the media game.
– The way he (and his wife) openly discuss their marriage under the guise of establishing healthy discourse (on issues normally avoided) while really, just trying to stay relevant.

Will Smith’s a curiosity in that he’s an A-list star with D-list mentality, thus the need to constantly keep afloat in the world of entertainment news. I wouldn’t go so far as to say he was manifesting such a destiny when he slapped Chris Rock but he certainly made the event all about him, overshadowing the wins of the successive Oscars handed out.

Perhaps it’s naive of me to think that I stand alone in my distaste for the Smith family however. Increasingly, people have bemoaned the details that have been volunteered about their private life on Jada’s show “Red Table Talk”- a show devised for those who find “The View” too challenging. Especially with regards their “open” marriage (or whatever it is), Will Smith has taken on a less dignified air than ever before, almost emasculated. Maybe he’d been building up to an outburst for awhile?

People are free to live their lives however they want, so long as it doesn’t harm others. Since the Smiths so ardently share everything that should be private however, I think it’s fair game to criticise them. It really is celebrity elitism at its most cliched and cringe-worthy; thinking the world could really learn from them. They’d almost be Kardashians, if not for the saving grace of Will’s actual talents.

With all this said, I don’t believe Will Smith should be “cancelled”, if that concept means anything. He acted like a spoilt brat, even in defending his wife’s honour, and probably should’ve left (he refused to, apparently) but he’ll suffer enough (in terms of his reputation) and hopefully learn a bit of humility. Actual humility, that is, and not the Hollywood version. In Independence Day, 26 years ago, he went out to Space. Now, it’s time to come back to Earth.

The Culture Of Anti-Ageing

The Culture Of Anti-Ageing

Perhaps it’s my early balding or perhaps (more optimistically) it’s my principles but the culture of anti-ageing has taken on a sinister and repugnant undertone. An obsessive zealousness now marks social media with regards filters, facial tweaks, fitness, and beauty standards. What were once the (albeit hushed) hallmarks of Hollywood and the elite (Botox, cosmetic surgeries, etc.) now seem to have become all-too-common, begging the question of when our desires become our expectations; and where we go from here.

One only has to compare photos of one’s parents or grandparents in their 30s or 40s or 50s compared to today to see that stylistically, things have changed. And not just fashion wise (although that has some effect). People use moisturisers a lot more nowadays and proper UV protectant suntan lotion and hydrate. Nutritional advice is a lot more varied. Supermarkets stock a wider selection of foods. Dietary requirements are better met. There’s many natural, progressive, and clever changes resulting in a more youthful complexion across all generations. So to some degree, we are all bound to look a little fresher than the boomers did back in the day.

However… while such changes are reasonable and encouraged, they’re inevitably bound to this notion that beauty ideals are an ever-changing target. When does taking care of oneself with the appropriate supplements and foods cross the line from being healthy to being health-obsessed? When do once extravagant routines become the norm? Well, with Botox, it seems as if we’re reaching that point. As Amanda Hess wrote in her New York Times’ piece “The Art of Botox” (last year), “[it] once suggested vanity, delusion, and self-consciousness, but now it has fresh associations; with confidence, resilience, even authenticity, as the idea of ‘having work done’ has come to be seen as a legitimate form of work.”

This is eye-brow raising stuff. Well, not for people with Botox. For others however, the idea of regularly injecting yourself with a needle to stiffen facial muscles seems extreme. At least, it did to me but again, it’s becoming increasingly common. So, maybe the taboo is based on ignorance. After all, if it promotes confidence and makes someone happy, who are we to judge? Well… there’s two points I’d counter with here: 1) does such a procedure then encourage one to follow onto the next step, e.g. plastic surgery and 2) is it use as a preventative not reflecting the very issues we try to tackle with the mental health of young women? With the latter point, Botox is increasingly being used from a young age (early 20s) to prevent the appearance of lines or wrinkles ever appearing. For all the horrible beauty standards advertised on social media, is this not us directly heading the wrong way? That’s a whole other level of pressure to contend with. And what does it say about how we treat older women with regards the ability to express themselves freely?

We live in a strange time as regards the discourse of beauty standards and mental health. Celebrities and influencers (like any dumb Kardashian) promote self-actualisation with cheesy quotes, while looking, themselves, like ageless narcissists. What follows is an uncanny-valley like, cognitive dissonance in rectifying the gulf between inner confidence and outer beauty. If you’ve spent hours on the make-up chair, gotten Botox, and surgeries, and applied filters, well then your message promoting such confidence or fighting unrealistic standards kind of rings hollow.

It may be an obvious point but Hollywood deserves blame. For how long now, has a male lead been coupled with a female two decades younger than him? Why are there so few roles for women past their 30s? (By which I mean women who actually look their age?) The same could be said for men, to some degree. It may all be a case of good genes but really how many men in their 60s do you know keep a full head of coloured hair? A lot of them look better in their 40s and 50s than they did in their 20s. That wasn’t the case back in the 70s or 80s. Something fishy’s going on there too…

Or how about beauty brands actively going out of their way to promote falsehoods. When Cara Delevigne was 25, she was chosen by Dior as the face of its “Capture Youth” line for which the target audience was women in their 30s? I won’t even try breach the nonsense of Kylie cosmetics or anything else that loathsome family promotes (to save you time, have millions and go to a plastic surgeon, then add some blush or something, I don’t know). Let’s, at least, not presume innocence on the part of these companies. The beauty industry thrives on the insecurities of its consumers and when you campaign against something as common as ageing, the possibilities are endlessly toxic.

Look, one can’t determine what’s right or what’s best for anyone else. In many cases, exercise and proper dieting will do you wonders. In many other cases, tweaks are (not needed) but implemented to instil confidence. Sometimes the buck ends there and sometimes it’s a shallow confidence that can never be satisfied. The bigger, albeit darker picture that emerges from this train of thought is that, consciously or not, we are pushing the boundaries of what’s expected with beauty standards. And in this culture of anti-ageing, ugly perversions emerge that undercut a so-called “healthy” lifestyle.

Do The People Want An Interventionist America?

Do The People Want An Interventionist America?

President Joe Biden has issued some major economic sanctions against Russia in the midst of the ongoing invasion of Ukraine. These measures have largely been supported by the public, both in America and across the world, as strong displays of condemnation, without taking the next dire step. The question arises everyday then: will such a step be taken? If we consider the trajectory of America’s recent interventionist past, I would say it’s unlikely. (Of course, such postulation may be emboldening Putin so there’s a caveat to consider there.)

Anyways, to take the first view, let’s look back at Syria in 2013. Obama was concerned that if the US didn’t intervene, it would undercut the severity of chemical weapons’ usage there. Rather than go in all-guns blazing like his predecessor had with Iraq though, he instead went to the Capitol to seek approval. It was determined America wouldn’t intervene. Years later, a divide remains over whether they should have with a Guardian piece in 2018 entitled “The Epic Failure Of Our Age: How The West Let Down Syria”. I mention this, not to weigh in on any specific view, but to show that it’s not always clear-cut when, where, and why America should intervene.

Had Syria’s crisis come ten or twenty years before, America may very well have sought a different approach. As it happened, George W. Bush had led the nation into two costly wars in 2002-3 with Afghanistan and Iraq. We know all about how those went but it’s interesting to consider that at the beginning, support for the Afghanistan War was close to unanimous (90% according to Gallup). Iraq wasn’t ever quite as popular but it got a whole lot less so in the following years. But what if it hadn’t gone so wrong? Yes, I understand and completely agree that the invasion of Iraq was wrong from the get-go but in the eyes of the American public, what if there had been less casualties and more success associated with it? Like with the Gulf War a decade before?

George H.W. Bush sent the military in to liberate Kuwait from an Iraqi invasion. It was a quick, bold, and decisive victory that skyrocketed his approval ratings to 90%. The mission was complete but a lot of his supporters felt he should have gone further (into Iraq) and removed the problem of Saddam Hussein there and then. He declined, though years later (under the auspices of the War on Terror), his son determined America could not hold its head high while Saddam continued to violate international laws (and maybe have nuclear weapons???) Perhaps, an invasion in the early 90s would have gone just as poorly, even with the senior Bush proving a formidable foreign policy strategist. Indeed, his interventions in Panama and Somalia (while contested and dubious to many) were well planned out and successful. Well…

With regards Somalia (which began just after Bush had lost election), the people were initially thankful for his swift intervention. His record would then turn out positively when Bill Clinton took over and Somalia descended into chaos (with Black Hawk Down and more). Bush didn’t have to deal with the eventualities such interventions can bring, where Clinton was faced with an uphill battle he hadn’t even sought. The rest of his presidency would be tested on the question of when American intervention should and shouldn’t occur with critics (and himself, later on) citing a late entry to Rwanda and Bosnia as unfortunate, if not shameful, chapters in history.

In 1996, Eric Carson wrote a piece for the Rand Organisation entitled “Public Support For US Military Operations” exploring the factors that restrained presidents, in this sphere. Having come out of the Cold War just a few years ago, America had entered a “more confusing world” where the objective wasn’t always clear as had been with something like World War 2 (where people acknowledged the gravity of the situation). Further to that, political divisions or disagreements were having a knock-on effect on public perception. To bring this back to the present, we can see the potential of this political divide crinkling American support for a “next step” as many Republicans weren’t long ago flaunting a “rather be Russian than Democrat” motto.

Public support is essential when a president has a paper-thin political majority or faces contentions. This is another reason why I feel a strong intervention from the US is less likely today than it was years ago. After 9/11, George W. Bush had the nation’s support, even if he would quickly squander it. Back in World War 2, Franklin D. Roosevelt was a president in his third term. Even though Truman’s reputation would for years be bashed by the Korean War, there was still general support for a policy of Communist Containment.

Vietnam, the follow-up to Korea, truly took on its perception as an abject failure when the public started seeing what was going on through the medium of television. With public marches and demonstrations, bolstered by the counter-cultural movement, a new picture of American interventionism and soldiers themselves (quite harshly) was ingrained in the public’s psyche. What if Vietnam had happened ten years before, however? Well, as already mentioned, Korea was a contentious affair, though the South remained free of Russian influence but it is reasonable to assert it wouldn’t have been as unpopular or ended in quite the fashion it had, heavily influencing an election cycle.

Is it bleak to conclude that Americans will support American intervention then only if success is assured? It seems to be the case though such luxuries are never realistically afforded them. Popular support, as a result of today’s media, rancour in politics, and recent dubious interventions, has become nigh-on impossible. The best a president can do, in this age, is justify the chances of success should an intervention occur, answer how the nation is a threat to US interest, exert all means of diplomacy, and run the usual course of air strikes. Though as much as history has taught us how any conflict resolves in the public’s imagination, it is also worth remembering how easily people forget history. In a 2019, YouGov poll, the people were vary much split on whether the Gulf War was justified, for example. So as an addendum, one must note that we can’t even assume a clear or factual basis for public perception when such crises arise.

The Washington Walrus’ Guide To The Supreme Court

The Washington Walrus’ Guide To The Supreme Court

Joe Biden has announced his first pick for the Supreme Court: Ketanji Brown. She would become the first Black woman appointed, should she be confirmed. Yes, the should has become a most dubious matter of late, since the Democratic majority hangs by a thin thread, as if taken from a cat-ravaged sweater. They’ll need every Democrat in the Senate on board and likely Kamala Harris too (as the deciding tie-breaker) should no Republicans offer support. Which they won’t.

Sadly, the Supreme Court nominating process has become embroiled in the same petty politics that dominates basically every other major appointment or campaign in Washington. And it’s much more consequential since Supreme Court justices don’t have terms limits (Clarence Thomas has been serving for 30 years now). So a lot is on the line. Plus, this is just replacing one Democratic appointee (Stephen Breyer) with another. The Republican appointees (i.e. conservative judges still hold a majority of 6:3 which is unlikely to change anytime soon. Can anything be done and what’s the best course of action? There’s really no clear-cut answers but we’ll delve into it, after first taking a look at the justices:

  1. John G. Roberts (Chief Justice; appointed by George W. Bush; 2005; confirmed 78-22 vote)
  2. Clarence Thomas (appointed by George H.W. Bush; 1991; confirmed 52-48 vote)
  3. Stephen G. Breyer (appointed by Bill Clinton; 1994; confirmed 87-9; to be replaced)
  4. Samuel Alito Jr (appointed by George W. Bush; 2006; confirmed 58-42)
  5. Sonia Sotomayor (appointed by Barack Obama; 2009; confirmed 68-31)
  6. Elena Kagan (appointed by Barack Obama; 2010; confirmed 63-37)
  7. Neil Gorsuch (appointed by Donald Trump; 2017; confirmed 54-45)
  8. Brett Kavanaugh (appointed by Donald Trump; 2018; confirmed 50-48)
  9. Amy Coney Barrett (appointed by Donald Trump; 2020; confirmed 52-48)

Just at a glance, a couple interesting points can be drawn:

  • The votes have become increasingly contentious (for the most part)
  • Donald Trump has secured three appointments in a single-term without even winning the popular vote

It would be incorrect to say this process hasn’t always involved politics or clashes over nominees. Indeed, history shows that as far back as Washington, there’s been rejection and compromise (when he failed to make John Rutledge the Chief Justice in 1795). John Tyler (the first VP to ascend to the top job) only had one of his five men appointed by the Whig-majority Senate. So, it’s nothing new exactly. But… it has gotten pettier and that bit more combative. In 2017, Trump appointed Gorsuch even though it was Obama’s duty to replace the conservative judge Antonin Scalia (the Republicans basically blocked Obama and delayed). Amy Coney Barrett was then quickly rushed through in the wake of Ruth Badger Gisberg’s death in 2020; appointed only a week out from election. (Her nominating process, between hearings and other such matters, took only 28 days, where it’s taken 2-3 months on average the last 50 years for other justices).

The short-circuiting and politicisation of this process has not been lost on the public. From August 2019 to January 2022, a PEW Research Center poll found favorability ratings of the court had fallen from 69% to 54%. Democrats are naturally more miffed , considering the general ideological imbalance. Many conservatives, unsurprisingly, find the court to be closer to neutral in their judgment. For Jack Schafer (writing in January for Politico), the differences of perspective are irrevocably hard to reconcile. He writes that Joe Biden’s declaration of Black female justice (motivated by endorsement of S. Carolina representative Jim Clyburn) parallels Reagan’s promise of a female justice in 1980. He also feels that judicial philosophies cannot easily be separated from personal ones (if at all) as evidenced by rulings which “track so closely with the positions of the parties whence they came”. Basically, nobody’s buying Amy Coney Barrett’s bullshit statement of apolitical duty and everyone has an agenda or bias anyways.

Had Joe Biden opted for a moderate justice then, would the path towards a more levelled Supreme Court be paved? It would be entirely naive to think so. Plus, he doesn’t have the luxury of experimenting since (again) they’re at a 6:3 disadvantage. Certainly though, it’s clear that the appointment of Brown has riled up conservatives who will paint her as ultra-liberal counterweight. And unless the current political discourse (as a whole) is tempered, we’re unlikely to see much change in the courts. Perhaps, Pete Buttigieg’s proposal of 15 justices (10 affiliated across both parties with 5 selected by them or something similar) would help dilute matters but it’d likely result in a bureaucratic mess too and given the popular perception of Washington as indecisive, one can’t imagine that playing out well.

Unfortunately, it may be a matter of simple expectations and hopes placed on the justices we have at present. Should Joe Biden add more, one can only imagine what a Republican president would do, in turn (even though they cheated with Gorusch and Barrett). Really, all he can do is try his best to get Brown through and maybe rally public support behind the values of his causes. Of course, then we go down the rabbit-hole of how liberal the Democrats should present themselves, among other things. And so we leave another article on another, nice ambiguous …

Book Bans In Schools

Book Bans In Schools

Book bans and boycotts are nothing new. Throughout history, select titles have caused ire amongst religious factions, political divides, and parents’ unions for various reasons. The Harry Potter novels, for example, received backlash in their heyday for the supposed influence of black magic at play. To Kill A Mockingbird has become a problematic novel for its use of racial slurs and the white saviour motif, despite once being heralded as an important text on racism. The Handmaid’s Tale is constantly challenged due to its depiction of sexual violence and religious criticism. There’s a long list with contentions that range from the expected to the head-scratching, and plain bizarre. Usually, however, these problems haven’t expanded beyond mere parent-teacher associations and small organisations. Usually. It seems now things might be starting to change.

With an “unprecedented” 330 book challenges recorded by the American Library Association (ALA) last Autumn/Fall, there’s been a sharp increase in calls to curtail cultural change, particularly in the South. Texas State Representative Matt Krause put over 800 books on a “watch list” recently; many of which deals with race and LGBTQ issues. In Oklahoma, there was a bill filed to ban books that address “sexual perversion”. In a county in Tennessee, the Holocaust-themed Maus was outright banned (for violent and sexual imagery). Police in South Carolina challenged The Hate U Give for perpetuating a “distrust in police”. And perhaps most surprisingly, Governor Greg Abbott (of Texas) called for criminal charges against school staff member providing access to young adult novels considered “pornography”. (This would be somewhat understandable for a school, except for the fact that you must question who deems the category.)

Despite popularising the term “snowflake” for liberals, it seems most of these contentions are coming from conservative factions and parents. Their concerns are not necessarily without merit, to be fair. It’s important for students to be given a broad and comprehensive reading list in their curriculum; not one which tilts too largely towards a political ideology. With that said, these challenges have expanded beyond any traditional coursework to libraries stocking books students may just happen upon. And… the process of taking these books down has been short-circuited with librarians growing weary of “concerns” and withdrawing controversial titles before the appropriate committee has even made a decision.

This is particularly unfair for LGBTQ students. Titles like All Boys Aren’t Blue and Heather Has Two Mommies have been challenged just because they don’t present an old-fashioned, heteronormative view in line with the cultural values of certain areas. It sends a message of exclusion to them while running the mistaken exercise of thinking you can shut out knowledge. As Emily Knox (author of Book Banning in 21st Century America) stated in an interview on Slate.com, “people are trying to get books like Maus banned because they are afraid that if their children read them, they will have different values” from their parents. Perhaps then, this can be seen as a desperate last leg to stand on in the generational and culture wars.

With the ALA reporting a 67% increase in attempts to ban school library books from September 2020 to September 2021, one can only worry where this will go next. Primarily, these contentions have come from the right, although it must be acknowledged that the left’s concerns over appropriate language for today’s sensibilities (with Mockingbird or something like Huckleburry Finn or Of Mice and Men) should draw concern and ridicule too. The banning and boycotting of any books, even with the best of intentions, reflects an insecurity on the part of the challengers as well as a high level of patronising. Hopefully, the #FReadom campaign in Texas (of school librarians), among others, will help reinforce the obvious notion that banning something makes it all the more interesting.

One Year In: The Joe Biden Presidency

One Year In: The Joe Biden Presidency

On January 6th 2021, things got a little shaky in Washington. Without getting into details, one president was preparing to take office while another’s feelings were hurt. The latter may have said some things that shouldn’t have been said; maybe suggested his followers descend on the Capitol in defiance of a “rigged” election with “fake” results. And yeah, sure, if you want to be technical with it, they may have done just that in a blatant disregard for democracy. It’s hard to remember.

Well, against type, old “Sleepy Joe” remembers. In one of his most defining moments yet, he made a speech last week regarding the “web of lies” the former, “defeated” president had spread resulting in this insurrection. While his rhetoric and performance may have been lauded by his side however, it begs the question as to how prominent Trump and “Trumpism” remains in defining this presidency.

Indeed, a year on now, the battle for the “soul of America” (as Biden put it) rages on. Despite a multitude of major spending bills, the picture being framed by the media is still one of left-and-right friction, via the nitty-gritty of negotiating these bills, mask mandates, and vaccine uptake; its narrative spins every accomplishment or historical event under this paralysis.

For example, the withdrawal from Afghanistan (and the immediate return of the Taliban) was set in motion under the Trump presidency but Biden’s been saddled with much of the blame (not that he should be wholly exonerated from it). The vaccination program, depending on who you ask, has been a disaster. Either Trump had already done “the best job” he could have with it and set everything in place, or else Biden was extolling authoritarian virtues by implementing a federal mandate or even taking credit for what Trump had done before him. Trump criticised Biden’s action and then (at a rally) encouraged his followers to get vaccinated. It’s a little confusing. I think the official position they’ve landed on is that “vaccinations are fine but you shouldn’t have to get one but they’re also a scam”. Plus, masks are “lame”.

Naturally enough, most governments have had to readjust their strategies somewhat to contend with new variants, like Omicron. To a degree, Joe Biden was naive to suggest life would be back to normal by now though. Alas, that’s run-of-the-mill politics at its laziest and yet, he’s taken bold action in this department with the $1.9-trillion stimulus “American Rescue Plan” (passed in March). Unfortunately, with a cling-film, flimsy thin majority, the Democrats have struggled to follow up on the other two parts of the “Build Back Better Plan”- the II) “American Jobs Plan” and III) “American Families Plan”. (Although, parts of II made their way into the $1.2 trillion “Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act”, passed in November.) The pressure to regain ground in this debate (publicly contested by Senator Joe Manchin) may play a role in establishing Democratic credibility in the mid-terms.

On that note, what is “Democratic credibility”? For while the Republicans still largely stand by Trump (2/3 even still believe his lies about the election), the Democrats remain tentative in deciding just how progressive they want their party to be and where its future lies. Indeed, many feel Biden’s as-of-yet unrealised plans don’t go far enough- an age-old adage for progressives. Plus, there’s a general feeling that Biden is serving as a temporary, caretaker president with many eyes turning to Kamala Harris for 2024. Biden has stated he plans to run for re-election but even his supporters’ doubts haven’t been assuaged. This, unfortunately, reflects the notion that great, transformative change cannot be expected in these next few years, even if they are needed.

As mid-terms have historically been a disaster for Democrats and many of the same contentions from the Trump years remain, Joe Biden may simply have to contend himself with dulling the rancorous hate that’s divided America. Sadly, it’s not just down to him. It’ll take a degree of bi-partisanship, an acknowledgment on the GOP’s part that Trump lied, and the media to stop droning on about Trump all the time. It’ll take some time for us to acknowledge the success rate of the Biden presidency with a clear filter.

Ranking The US Presidents

Ranking The US Presidents

There’s no easy way to do this. Each US President existed in a different context of the young nation’s history and had unique challenges to face; be it economical (with the Panic of 1837 or The Great Depression after 1929), wartime (World War 2), or domestic (slavery). Each had external factors preying on their ability to do the job; from congressional layout to crises (e.g. 9/11) and world-changing dynamics (inflation in the ’70s). Each had different cabinets of support and varying levels of opposition (publicly, politically, and commercially). Really, one could argue it’s not even fair to judge the likes of Washington (from a simpler but creative period for government) against say, Bill Clinton, operating under a much more complex system. However… we’re going to anyways.

How exactly? Well, by accounting for their successes in foreign policy, economics, domestic policy, agenda set, public persuasion, and so on and so forth… Yes, all that, but mainly by addressing the central question: did they live up to the challenges of their time? And don’t worry, we’ll provide justification for these rankings- some may shock you given past rankings on other sites (sorry Andrew Jackson fans) but know this- plenty of thought has been given for each choice- this wasn’t some mere cut and paste job with a few throw-arounds for controversy.

Also, we will be excluding two presidents from this list: Joe Biden and William Henry Harrison. Joe; because, well, he’s not completed a year yet- although if push came to shove, I’d rank him around 15 for a strong response to Covid 19, with partial responsibility for the disastrous end to the Afghanistan war. And William H. Harrison? He served only 30 days in office, dying from pneumonia which he likely contracted after giving a tediously long inauguration speech in the cold. A lot of lists place him around 40, which I consider harsh. So let’s do the honourable thing and just bash his grandson who later became president.

Anyways, without further ado:

43. Andrew Johnson (1865-1869)

One of three impeached presidents, Andrew Johnson assumed the job in the wake of Lincoln’s assassination and made a perpetual fool of himself by attempting to go back on much of what just been achieved in the Civil War. He opposed the 14th Amendment which granted citizenship to former slaves and acted in a cantankerous manner, causing great friction with Congress, who passed the Tenure of Office Act (restricting Johnson’s ability to fire Cabinet officials). He was only acquitted because no one saw any chance of his re-election (which they were right about).

42. Donald J. Trump (2017-2021)

The former Apprentice host sowed a great deal of division in the country, inspiring renewed racist fervour and idiocy amongst his cohorts and followers. His outlandish statements aside, he will be remembered for making the pandemic far more devastating than it needed to be by spreading misinformation; corruption and nepotism; and refusing to take election results seriously, leading to a national insurrection on the Capitol building in January of this year.

41. James Buchanan (1857-1861)

At a time when decisive leadership was needed, James Buchanan essentially sat out the slavery issue, setting the stage for the secession of the southern states upon Lincoln’s election.

40. Franklin Pierce (1853-1857)

Theodore Roosevelt wrote of him as a “servile tool of men worse than himself… ever ready to do any work the slavery leaders set him”. Pierce is best remembered for failing to secure sectional conciliation, supporting the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854, and aiding the downfall of the Democratic Party for decades to come.

39. Herbert Hoover (1929-1933)

Named after something that literally sucks, Herbert Hoover failed to address one of the great calamities of the 20th Century: The Great Depression. His perceived lack of concern resulted in shanty towns being called “Hoovervilles” while his tariff act (fuelling an international trade war) only served to make things worse.

38. Andrew Jackson (1829-1837)

There was a time when this (literal) mad-man was once considered a top 15. In recent years, historians have re-addressed his legacy as that of an American Caesar whose Native Removal policy stands as one of the most heinous of policies ever committed to American soil. Sure, he was the father of the Democratic Party but that doesn’t acquit him of these horrendous charges. Sure, he was a “man of the people” and not one of the elites but his assault on the banks contributed to the Panic of 1837. So beyond these basic labels, why is he held to such lofty heights? (Also, Trump admired him.)

37. John Tyler (1841-1845)

John Tyler succeeded the month-long presidency of William H. Harrison, seeking to establish the legitimacy of his leadership. He even believed the President should set policy rather than Congress. To this end, he was referred to as “His Accidency” by the Whigs. Sick burn.

36. George W. Bush (2001-2009)

Iraq. The economic crash. Besides that, seems an affable enough fellow.

35. Warren G. Harding (1921-1923)

Harding is usually ranked in the bottom three but beyond his innate incompetence (which he at least admitted to), I don’t consider his (albeit corrupt) administration to be particularly damaging to the US. (He, at least, acknowledged that democracy was a “lie” without political equality for black citizens. He didn’t do anything about it but he acknowledged it.)

34. Millard Fillmore (1850-1853)

Another spineless leader in the vein of Buchanan, Fillmore’s support of the 1850 compromise opened up the territories of the Mexican Cession to slavery and allowed for the return of escaped slaves to those who claimed ownership. Harry Truman called him a “weak, trivial thumb-twaddler who would do nothing to offend anyone”.

33. Martin Van Buren (1837-1841)

More like Van Burden, am I right? Van Buren continued Andrew Jackson’s policy of Native Removal and denied the application of Texas to the Union. His presidency was also mired by the Panic of 1837. (Interesting bit of trivia for you: Van Buren was a member of the Old Kindergarten Club for which to gain access you had to say “okay”, thus originating the term.)

32. Rutherford B. Hayes (1877-1881)

Hayes’ era essentially marked an end to Reconstruction and inconsistent civil service reform. He also championed the Gold Standard and broke the Great Strike of 1877. Nothing particularly striking or memorable or interesting here.

31. Zachary Taylor (1849-1850)

A mess of contradictions: owned slaves but wanted to ban the expansion of slavery into western territories conquered from Mexico; a military triumph in that war who wasn’t particularly keen on Manifest Destiny (expanding US borders); a decisive commander in battle who avoided tough decisions as President. Given his strong commitment to the union, historians wonder (had he lived) whether the Compromise of 1850 or the Civil War would have occurred.

30. Benjamin Harrison (1889-1893)

The grandson of former President William H., he was committed to voting rights for African Americans but economically uncertain of how to handle the nation’s affairs, resulting in the 1893 crash.

29. William Howard Taft (1909-1913)

Once the promising successor to Teddy Roosevelt, committed to 80 antitrust suits against large industries, he disappointed his predecessor by reneging and falling into place among the more conservative members of the Republican Party. This led to old Teddy mounting a race against him in 1912 under the “Bull-Moose” party. Both would lose, leading to the Democrat Woodrow Wilson’s rise.

28. Grover Cleveland (1885-1889 and 1893-1897)

Two non-consecutive terms? Oh, you better believe it happened! If people expected Cleveland to have improved in his off-years, they were sorely disappointed though when he was dealt the hand of the 1893 crash which he failed to deal with adequately. This resulted in Democrats losing support everywhere but the Deep South.

27. Calvin Coolidge (1923-1929)

Harding’s successor has attained some historical reassessment on the part of classic Republicans who admired his small-government and laissez-faire economic approach. He helped restore the reputation of the White House following the corruption scandals of Harding’s cohorts but largely detached himself from the job; infamously sleeping during the day and avoiding mingling with guests. Upon his death, Dorothy Parker remarked “how can they tell?’

26. Chester A. Arthur (1881-1885)

Given some of his past associations in business dealings, people expected him to be more corrupt than he was. He fought the spoils patronage system he’d supported in New York and advocated tariff relief for businesses and tackled civil service reform. It doesn’t say much though when your reputation, at best, surmounts to: “well, I guess he wasn’t that bad”.

25. James Garfield (1881)

He only served a few months but contemporaries were impressed by his handling of Roscoe Conkling; a New York senator trying to push his agenda and men in high positions. Historians call him a “what if?”

24. Gerald Ford (1974-1977)

Ford’s rise to power was particularly incidental, taking over for Spiro Agnew as VP before taking over the main post when Nixon resigned. A generally decent and uncontroversial politician, Ford, unfortunately wasn’t a great communicator, even if his pardon of Nixon was intended to help move a damaged nation on.

23. Richard Nixon (1969-1974)

Besides that whole Watergate thing, Nixon wasn’t a terrible president. Strategically minded, he approached the Cold War in a more pragmatic way than his predecessors or successors ever did, resulting in the first SALT treaty and the opening of relations with China. He even tried his hand at a health care plan and established the Environmental Protection Agency.

22. John Quincy Adams (1825-1829)

The son of John Adams served as Secretary of State and a senator before becoming president and as a representative after. It’s fair to say he’s best remembered for his later achievements there, focusing on the anti slavery movement. As the nation’s leader, he was generally considered to be too uncompromising to achieve much in an increasingly political age.

21. Jimmy Carter (1977-1981)

Alas. My favourite president in essence and character but unfortunately not one with the most impressive record, even though he was the only post WW2 leader to not launch a missile. A true Washington “outsider”, Carter’s reign was beset by out-of-control issues like inflation and (more in control issues like) poor congressional relations. In my opinion, he was ahead of his time but legacies rest on effective, perceptible changes and not just rhetoric.

20. John Adams (1797-1801)

Being one of the OGs is a surefire way to knock yourself up the list but Adams paled in comparison to Washington and Jefferson, signing the controversial Alien and Seditions Act which included powers to deport foreigners and make it harder for new immigrants to vote; strange cause for a newly built nation but then it’s hard to find a footing in those early days. He gets marks for not expanding the naval war with France into a greater conflict, however.

19. James Polk (1845-1849)

A lot of land acquisition went on during Polk’s term; Oregon, California, and New Mexico, notably. He also settled the Texas border dispute, established the federal depository system, and lowered tariff rates. Simply put, one of the most accomplished presidents there ever was. Critics charge however that his underestimation of the Mexican War’s effects paved the way for sectional conflict and the troubles that ensued over the next decade.

18. James Madison (1809-1817)

The war of 1812 was seen as unnecessary by some and as something of a 2nd war of independence to others. The new nation, either way, cemented its foundations in this test.

17. Ronald Reagan (1981-1989)

Reagan’s often ranked in the top ten and I can see why… kind of. A great communicator, Reagan brought hope to a nation deflated by inflation, Vietnam, Watergate, and perceived ineffective leadership. He amped the Cold War back up in its last days, oversaw a more prosperous era (while setting the stage with his trickle-down economics for a latter recession) and delivered some great jokes. Let’s face it though; he stumbled when it came to talking specifics, didn’t handle the AIDS epidemic well, and of course, that whole Iran-Contra thing. Sorry Reagan fans. If it’s any consolation, I still like him! What a character.

16. Ulysses S. Grant (1869-1877)

Grant’s administration was wrought by scandals involving bribes and a whiskey ring, tarnishing his image for years to come (even though he didn’t personally benefit from the crimes). If we look beyond that, he was actually a pretty effective president who worked to stabilise the post-war national economy, support reconstruction, and crush the KKK.

15. William McKinley (1897-1901)

McKinley’s presidency marked the emergence of an imperial era for the US as he declared war with Spain over Cuban independence. He was also the first president to actively engage the media by holding press conferences and he went on national tours to speak with voters. A new day had come.

14. James Monroe (1817-1825)

Monroe helped further the nationalistic cause by reaching out to all parts of the then smaller US, separating their course and interests from Europe’s with the Monroe Doctrine. Florida was also acquired during his tenure.

13. Woodrow Wilson (1913-1921)

Despite being one of America’s most well educated leaders, Wilson held regressive viewpoints for race relations (even for his time). He’s ranked lowly in that regard but otherwise highly for guiding America through World War One and establishing the League of Nations, as well as banking reform, supporting labour and collective bargaining, and more.

12. John F. Kennedy (1961-1963)

I give some props for rhetoric and inspiring people but when it comes to actual legislative achievement, there’s not much to be said for JFK. And while, yes, he resolved the Cuban Missile Crisis with dramatic flair, he played a major role in starting it. And he set the stage for Vietnam. A great deal of his mythos has been born out of his untimely assassination. Again though, that inspiring stuff does count for something and let’s face it- it’s endured.

11. George H.W. Bush (1989-1993)

The senior Bush’s reputation has improved in recent years, probably as a result of people’s nostalgic yearning for a conservative who could be flexible. His 1990 tax hike might have irked his supporters after the reticence of his “no new taxes” election pledge but it was the right and responsible thing to do. Plus, on the world stage, he was very well respected for his even tempered, strategic diplomacy- too humble for most when the Berlin Wall fell and too cautious for others who wanted the Gulf War victory to lead onto further gains in Iraq (we later learned how that would work out). A very underrated president, in my opinion; he simply couldn’t sell himself well enough.

10. Bill Clinton (1993-2001)

Clinton’s impeachment was largely based on petty partisan squabbles so I’m not factoring that in as much as others would like. On the whole, he did the job successfully, steering the economy to a surplus for the first time since Truman’s years. While he was initially slow on Bosnia and Rwanda, he later found his footing on the international stage, earning support from the likes of Mandela and helping to establish NATO.

9. Lyndon Johnson (1963-1969)

Vietnam escalated to disastrous levels under LBJ so why is he at number 9? Well, under the auspices of Communist Containment, one could argue he was merely maintaining a longstanding foreign policy of the US but really, it’s because his domestic agenda was so progressive and realised. Only a year after pushing the Civil Rights Bill, he got the Voting Rights Act passed. Then, a flurry of the most impressive legislation committed by a liberal president, including Medicare. He was an intimidating, foul-mouthed beast of a man but he knew how to play the political game better than almost any other US president.

8. Thomas Jefferson (1801-1809)

One of the OGs, Jefferson promoted a western expansionist policy with the Louisiana Purchase, effectively doubling the nation’s grounds. He also put an end to the long-standing problem of Tripoli pirates from North Africa, who were disrupting American trade in the Mediterranean. His passing of the Embargo Act of 1807, which suspended all trade with Europe, unfortunately wrecked the US economy and paved the way for the War of 1812 with Britain.

7. Barack Obama (2009-2017)

While many supporters were frustrated with the gridlock of congressional relations in Obama’s years and the supposed let-down in the wake of his meteoric rise, there’s no denying the achievement that was the Affordable Care Act. Not perfect, sure, but something that had eluded America’s leaders for decades. Besides that, Obama helped restore America’s image abroad and took some tough but much needed measures to restore the US economy after the 2008 crash.

6. Harry Truman (1945-1953)

Truman was never given an easy hand to play. He had been virtually kept in the dark by FDR while VP, not even knowing about the development of the Atomic Bomb. To drop that in August of 1945 was perhaps one of the gravest decisions a US President ever had to make. Shortly thereafter, he had to take quick measures to ensure the containment of communism where he could, mostly with success, though a period of uncertainty loomed at the end of his tenure with the Korean War. Initially not popular upon leaving office, his reputation was restored by the time of Vietnam due to the accountability with which he had held himself- a sign upon his office reading “the buck stops here”.

5. Dwight D. Eisenhower (1953-1961)

A military hero who ended the Korean War. A republican who continued the legacies of the New Deal and Fair Deal. A patriot who opposed communism but would not give the red scare-mongering likes of Joseph McCarthy any time of his day. Yes, Ike was a popular leader who came as a natural choice for many in the post-war era. Perhaps his previous lack of political ambitions paved the way for him being the kind of president who could rule with sense, partisanship aside.

4. Theodore Roosevelt (1901-1909)

We’re into the major leagues now. Roosevelt ushered in the Square Deal which aimed to conserve natural resources, control corporations, and protect consumers. And… he was a Republican. Yes,, of the old sort- the kind that believed in containing big government and capitalism where it got dangerous. While something of a bloodthirsty scoundrel, apparently always itching for a fight and building up the US navy, he also brokered the end of the Russo-Japanese War (earning him the Nobel Peace Prize).

3. George Washington (1789-1797)

The first president is often ranked number one or two. While I admire his dedication to the job and setting the tone for the office by stepping down after two terms (where many wanted to make him essentially a king), it must be said that he operated in a time of widespread support and creativity for the new nation. He didn’t have the binds facing other presidents. Still, can’t really fault him on much.

2. Franklin D. Roosevelt (1933-1945)

Elected a record-breaking four times (dying early into his fourth term), FDR brought America through both the Great Depression and World War 2. His legacy is closely tied to the New Deal agenda, which set the course for liberal economic ambitions since, if never fully realised. Plus, he was also inspiring- helping to raise morale with his fireside chats and proclamations such as “we have nothing to fear but fear itself”. Upon his death, the people weren’t quite sure how another leader could occupy such a space.

1. Abraham Lincoln (1861-1865)

No president has ever faced a test quite like the Civil War. Upon election, several southern states seceded resulting in America’s darkest hour. Lincoln was responsible not only for winning this war and reuniting the broken nation but for passing the 13th Amendment which abolished the original sin of America’s foundation: slavery. This would mark the great turning point in the nation’s history. Managing such a hefty task required a man of great intellect and greater moral fibre.