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Wed, Feb. 26

Polls have interesting<BR>results for best leader

LOS ANGELES – Newspapers around the country celebrated Presidents Day by publishing a couple of new surveys designed to choose America's greatest president.

One poll, done for Washington College, selected the old favorite, Abraham Lincoln. Another done by the Gallup Organization for CNN and USA Today chose a new champion, Ronald Reagan, with Bill Clinton in second place.

Amazing! Reagan and Clinton? Proof positive, I assumed, that Americans have short attention spans and/or just don't know enough about history. That was the reason, I thought, that John F. Kennedy ranked first in so many polls in recent decades.

It's a fascinating game, but one I have always declined to play because I know nothing about most 19th-century presidents – except that I think James K. Polk is the most under-rated, a tough guy who decided to take the West to make the United States a continental country. Manifest Destiny and all that.

In thinking about this, I came across a couple of surveys that make you think you don't know what to think.

Who were the most successful modern presidents in terms of preserving or improving the national economy? The best, according to an index created by Forbes magazine, which is the professional home of would-be Republican nominee Steve Forbes, was none other than ... Bill Clinton! Yep. If you crunch the numbers of gross domestic product growth, per capita income growth, employment gains, unemployment rate reduction, inflation reduction and federal deficit reduction, you come up with the man the Republicans wanted to impeach. In second place, it's Lyndon Johnson. Kennedy is third. Liberals all.

Finally, we have, which advertises itself as "The Antidote to the Liberal News Media." Bruce Walker of that organization ranks the five best presidents this way: 1. Washington; 2. Jefferson; 3. Reagan; 4. Lincoln; 5. George W. Bush.

I suppose I could be the antidote to Walker, but, in fact, I agree with him and his reasoning on George Washington. Says Walker: "Not just the father of his country, but in many ways the father of limited and representative government, Washington changed political history forever and for the better."

The greatest political event in our history, perhaps all history, was Washington's rejection of monarchy or of a presidency for life. His decision to go home in 1797 was what made our democracy and others possible. There was a man!

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