Yay, Adams! Boo, Jackson!

Tony Petersen, editor-in-chief of the CSU Fresno Collegian, has given his opinion on some of the best and worst U.S. presidents.

Petersen’s favorite president is John Adams, who had a distinguished pre-presidential career but wasn’t so great as chief executive, if you ask me. The XYZ Affair, the Quasi-War with France, and the Alien and Sedition Acts, for example, all occurred during his administration.

I can’t argue with Petersen over the indispensability of Washington and Lincoln, but Jackson and Wilson were our two worst presidents?! I can think of ten others who were worse.

Regarding Jackson, Petersen writes:

Andrew Jackson was our first non-statesman president. Every president before Jackson had distinguished careers as diplomats, governors, congressmen and cabinet members. Jackson was none of these, only a war hero. His presidency was the first that descended into populism and set us on the path we are on today, where politicians are beholden to special interests and presidential campaigns are an all-encompassing feature of our republic.

Jackson actually served in both the U.S. House and the U.S. Senate, and one could argue that he was a diplomat, having negotiated treaties with various Native American groups in the Southeast during the 1810s. Granted, Jackson’s congressional terms weren’t notable for anything that he did, and his conduct in, and motives for, treaty negotiations weren’t exactly flawless. I’m also not sure how Jackson could embody both populism and special interest politics. He certainly believed that he supported the former and not the latter. I suppose it depends on how one defines “special interests.”

While I disagree with some of Petersen’s assessment, it’s interesting to get a student’s perspective on U.S. presidents. Heck, I’m just glad a student recognizes that there is a Presidents’ Day coming up!

(HT to Kevin D. McCann for tweeting the link.)

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