Numerous autobiographies by the presidents as well as biographies provide insights into presidential lives and accomplishments. Wading through even a fraction of these books is daunting. My focus is on what the reader would need to know in order to evaluate the ethics and leadership decisions of recent presidents. Consequently, part of the objective of this book is to distill some of these other volumes into a manageable number of words.
Generally speaking, biographers of the presidents were in most cases fans, or more correctly, sycophants of these leaders. While biographies have been consulted on specific points, they are not considered dispositive since they are often written with a distinctly favorable bias. Such biographies are usually written specifically about the time period of the presidency while this book focuses on the outcomes of their terms in office. Outcomes are not always evident during a presidential term.
The core of this book is on two specific characteristics. The first is whether each president is someone Americans and the rest of the world would actually admire and want to both respect and follow. For that purpose, I use the term “ethical” and view each president from the view of the individual, private ethics, and then as a public person, or public ethics.
The leadership of the most powerful country on earth must be defined differently than if someone were discussing the CEO of a major corporation or even a governor of a U.S. state. A concise evaluation can be based on what happened while that person was the leader of the U.S. and the impact of the president’s decisions on subsequent generations of Americans.
The focus of this book on presidential leadership is about the short-term and long-term results of their time in office. Expressed another way, if America were a corporation, and each voter were a member of the board of directors, would the board vote to keep this person as president based on the decisions he or she made? Leadership decisions have led to the decline of America. Drawing from those decisions, this book warns of the inevitable consequences if this decline continues. The American presidents are not solely to blame. They must share the blame with the voters who elected them and the sorry state of governance in the United States, from the Capitol in Washington, D.C., to almost every city hall and county seat. The recent municipal bankruptcies have as yet not served as a wake-up call for America. Nor has nearly a 20 trillion-dollar national debt set off alarms with either the politicians or the electorate.
A special effort has been made to create a book that is as nonpartisan as possible. There is plenty of blame to share with both major political parties around the United States. In addition to my own diverse background, the contents have been assembled using a variety of sources. In some cases, there is more objective material today than there was in the past. Documents that were classified as confidential have been declassified. Deathbed memoirs shed new light on past presidents. I tried to use the most authoritative studies and statistical data. I utilized well-established publications and outlets over sources that are generally regarded as being “far left” or “far right.”
In the vein of a college teacher, I have assigned each American president a letter grade. No president from either party earns even an “A-.” The one hundred years represents eight Democrat and nine Republican presidents. Every president, alive or deceased, has his advocates. As this edition goes to press, five former presidents are alive.Teachers do not change grades because students or parents of students are unhappy with the grades. Likewise, advocates for any of the presidents, or even the politicians themselves, will not succeed in changing the grades assigned here. So, read on and see if the grade you would assign differs from mine.