Book Review: The Politically Incorrect Guide To The Presidents: Part 2: From Wilson To Obama

The Politically Incorrect Guide To The Presidents:  Part 2:  From Wilson To Obama, by Steven F. Hayward

I was not surprised, given how highly the first volume of this series viewed the presidents of the late 18th and 19th centuries, that there would be a lot of negative comments made about the presidents of the 20th century as a whole.  By and large, this book did not therefore present the same sort of surprises that the first volume did.  I enjoyed reading the book and lamented the lack of constitutionality among so many of the presidents included on this list, but I must admit I was not surprised by what was said [1].  I was not even surprised by the wit that the author showed when writing about the more contemporary presidents who have been a part of the massive expansion of government power far beyond anything the Founding Fathers would have conceived or approved of.  Moreover, there is no change in our society that justifies such expansion of power, for our society is in no more need of such a paternalistic government than was the America of our founding, perhaps even less in need of one.

Like the first volume of this collection, the general format and size and scope of the work is similar, except that there are many more details–some of them quite tawdry–about the presidents from Wilson to Obama, largely because there are fewer of them.  At any rate, there is a grade, some funny quotes, some detailed discussion of their backgrounds and presidencies, and some suggestions for further reading if you agree with the perspective of the author and want something worthwhile to read about one or another of the presidents included.  While it is not surprising, the author gives a large number of poor marks, giving an F grade to Wilson, FDR, Johnson, Carter, Clinton, and Obama.  Indeed, JFK, whose grossly sensual life and poor health earn him a great deal of criticism from the author, is the last of the Democrats to receive a passing grade, although the author has considerable praise for Truman along with some pointed criticism.  The author, it should be noted, does not only look at the constitutionality of the presidents but also the extent to which they defended America’s best interests and brought credit upon their office, and on those grounds a lot of presidents, especially Democrats, did especially poorly, although the author certainly finds much to criticize Republicans for as well.

In looking at this book, it is pretty clear that the authors envision some drastic changes when it comes to the presidency.  In the face of an electorate that has often been satiated on populist promises on the part of political candidates for more being done for them and less by themselves, the authors urge future presidents to be dignified and restrained, to do what is best for Americans and defend the Constitution even if it means, as it will, being continually libeled and slandered by leftists of all persuasions, especially in academia, trusting that history will eventually be just even if historians are seldom just, especially contemporary ones.  I cannot say that these circumstances would encourage anyone to become president as a constitutional president, but it is probably true, unfortunately, that anyone who wants to be president and is filled to the brim with ambition for the office is unworthy of it, and anyone who views it as a solemn duty and even a burden to be handled with courage and dignity and fortitude is likely not to enjoy it very much, alas.

[1] See, for example:

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2017/04/08/book-review-the-death-of-american-virtue/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2017/01/18/dont-leave-home-a-discussion-of-presidential-farewell-addresses/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2016/03/12/book-review-president-reagan-the-triumph-of-imagination/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2016/01/08/book-review-the-routledge-historical-atlas-of-presidential-elections/

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
This entry was posted in American History, Book Reviews, History and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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