Monday, March 24, 2014

How To Be A Great President

Since the days of Harry Truman, presidential administrations have been ranked by their approval, expressed as a percentage.  Looking at the approval rating of all presidents from that time forward as they left office, only two were higher than 60%.  As far as greatness goes, these two men can truly be said to have been great presidents.

Ronald Reagan left office with the highest approval rating to that date, at 63%.  During the eight years he was in office, the cold war ended, tax cuts for individuals increased, nuclear arms were reduced worldwide, the war in Afghanistan ended (that didn't last very long), the first female Supreme Court Justice was appointed, the Air Traffic Controllers who went on strike were fired (they would have cost the tax payers $700 million had they received their outrageous demands), a successful rescue mission was launched in Grenada and the Strategic Defense Initiative was implemented.

When Reagan left office, the country was prosperous and at peace.  The Dow Jones Industrial Average stood at 950.68 on the day Reagan took office.  When he left, it was at 2,235.36.  

While Reagan's 63% approval rating certainly sounds impressive, and it especially is when compared with the 34% that both Jimmy Carter and George W. Bush had when they left office, or the pitiful 24% that disgraced Richard Nixon's administration.  But impressive as 63% is, it was not to remain the highest.  That title is currently held by William J. Clinton who left office with a 66% approval rating.  Highlights of the Clinton years included an impressive 115 months of economic expansion, 22 months of job creation, the highest home ownership in American history, the lowest unemployment rate to date, the lowest crime rate in 26 years, the smallest welfare rolls in 32 years, the lowest poverty rate in 20 years, the first female Attorney General and the first female Secretary of State and the conversion of the deficit to a surplus.

When Clinton left office, the country was again prosperous and at peace.  He took office with the Dow Jones Industrial Average at 3,241.95 and left when it was a staggering 10,578.24.  

These two men have one very important fact in common, and it is this commonality that made them great.  Reagan was a Republican, but the House was controlled by the Democrats.  The Republicans held a slim control of the Senate, which they lost in 1987.

Clinton is a Democrat and his first two years saw him with a Democratically lead House and Senate.  That reversed in year three when the Republicans took control of both houses and that control remained until the end of Clinton's presidency.

What each of these men had to do was work with the opposition.  No president runs this country on his own.  They all have to have the backing of the other elected officials in order to be successful and the truly great know that in order for this country to excel, no one political party can ever have its way to the detriment of the other party.  There has to be a negotiation where each party gets some of what it wants but neither party gets it all.  When we have this balance, when we work together, we are truly the United States of America and our history shows that when this happens, we can achieve greatness.