Remember our nation’s best leaders on the holiday

Adam Milasincic

Just in time for the not-quite-holiday when bank tellers and mailmen hail America’s dead Caesars with a sentimental “We’re closed,” I present to you the five oldies-but-goodies who were our greatest presidents.

My list of the worst would violate too many sacraments of political correctness, and I prefer to avoid expulsion from polite society. (Suffice it to say that Franklin D. Roosevelt is the archfiend and that he shares his place in hellfire with a horned minion named George W. Bush.)

Unlike most historians, I rank greatness by a president’s adherence to the plain text of the Constitution – not his success in sneakily subverting it. By that standard, here are the heroes:

1. Grover Cleveland

Remember the Clinton-era NRA bumper stickers proclaiming “Charlton Heston is my President”? Grover Cleveland is mine.

He vetoed 584 bills at the dawn of the so-called “Progressive Era.” When the only federal taxes were tariffs, he slashed them. Before the income tax existed, Cleveland called it “ruthless extortion.”

Congress tried to spend $10,000 on drought relief, and Cleveland said no: “Federal aid in such cases encourages the expectation of paternal care … and weakens the sturdiness of our national character.”

Preach it, Grover. Can anyone say “Katrina?”

2. Thomas Jefferson

In a literal sense, Jefferson was the author of American liberty. If the nation ever had “good old days,” they took place during his administration. Jefferson was and is the ultimate authority on property rights, and he laid down the only legitimate role of government in two sentences:

“Rightful liberty is unobstructed action according to our will within limits drawn around us by the equal rights of others. I do not add ‘within the limits of the law,’ because law is often but the tyrant’s will. .”

3. John Tyler

John Tyler gave the middle finger to Congress and party politics. Latter-day despots have done the same, but Tyler did so as a principled guardian of states’ rights.

Around 1820, a band of busybody Congressmen decided to revive the monster of mercantilism they had slain decades earlier. Van Buren and Andrew Jackson held the floozies at bay, but Tyler was the vice cop who scattered the spending orgy.

4. George Washington

It’s undeniable that Washington’s pre-presidential exploits qualify him as a great man. One action he took in office qualifies him as a great president: He quit.

Modern politicians spend half a decade simply running for president; the ones who succeed spare no niceties of conviction or morality in their crazed quest to maintain power. Washington said, “I’m done.”

5. Martin Van Buren

Van Buren is great for doing nothing. If more presidents had adopted this policy, liberty might still be alive in the United States.

When warmongers pushed for fights with Britain and Mexico, Van Buren did nothing – no war and no cooked-up claims about enriched uranium in Tijuana.

In the economic Panic of 1837, Van Buren did nothing. Without a dime of taxpayer money, the panic ended in six years. If Van Buren had presided over the Great Depression, we wouldn’t still be paying to “solve” it seven decades later.

This President’s Day, do society a favor: Visit your neighborhood elementary school and replace every cardboard rendition of Roosevelt’s jowly mug with a smiling 8×10 of Grover Cleveland. It’s about time to set the record straight.

Adam Milasincic is a senior journalism major and a columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact him at [email protected].