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Underrated president: George H.W. Bush wins

at 04:48 PM ET, 02/20/2012


"George H.W. Bush," by Roger Norman Sherr, oil on canvas, 1995 (Roger Norman Sherr - George H.W. Bush’s portrait from the National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution. )
In an effort to honor not just the great U.S. presidents, but the near-greats, the occasionally great and possibly even the mediocre, we asked you a simple question last week:

Who is the most underrated president, and why?

We’ve received more than 500 replies in the comment thread and at least as many “Recommends” on those comments. And the Twitter hashtag #underratedpresident took off, as well.

The nomination that garnered the most “votes” came from Andrew Miller of Washington, D.C. Read his comment after the jump.

GEORGE H.W. BUSH.: The country owes 41 a collective apology for voting him out of office. Our deficit ballooned under Ronald Reagan, and Bush was left holding the bag. Conservative purists butchered him when he tried to get the country’s finances under control. Bush also wisely understood what driving to Baghdad in 1991 would have meant—a long, bloody quagmire.
Don’t believe me? Ask Bill Clinton, because he agrees.

Andrew now has a chance to expound on his choice in a guest post Tuesday on The Fix.

The complete top 10 nominations on the comment thread:

1. George H.W. Bush (acmiller24)

2. Lyndon Johnson: “He transformed America by pushing through and signing the civil rights act ... and much more that is still with us today.”(nolesfan08)

3. Jimmy Carter: “Carter was a great leader -- we were just lousy followers.” (taxpayer2)

4. Harry Truman: “Stood his ground vs. an intractable Republican Congress and desegregated the Armed Forces.” (fishellb)

5. Calvin Coolidge: “He reduced regulation on private industry to “the point of invisibility”-- which precipitated the ‘Roaring 1920s.’” (BfromKS)

6. Barack Obama: No explanation given. (amjo1)

7. Gerald Ford: “The right man for a turbulent time.” (boston9)

8. James K. Polk “Well, if you believe They Might Be Giants...” (originalgriz)

9. Chester Arthur: “He rose above his own past to fight rampant corruption in government at the cost of his own political career.” (wred42)

10. Andrew Johnson: “Imagine following in Lincoln’s footsteps in a hyper-partisan climate where the North wanted revenge.” (Why_Not1)

Notes on the results:

- Obviously, many presidents were nominated several times. For this exercise, we ranked the most popular unique nominations.

- These much-praised presidents were off-limits: George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, Franklin Roosevelt, Dwight Eisenhower, John Kennedy and Ronald Reagan.

- The results on Twitter were quite a bit different -- Polk ran away with it.

- Special humor prize to atlskins, who got 20 “Recommends” for this nomination of the ninth president:

Definitely William Henry Harrison. If you can’t be brilliant, at least be brief.
 
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