According to a Gallup Poll, Americans overwhelmingly rated JFK as the best president since (and including) Ike.
JFK created the Peace Corps, initiated NASA’s Apollo program to land on the moon, and successfully walked the tight rope necessary to prevent World War III during the Cuban Missile Crisis. He also had an anemic legislative track record — at the time of his death, his budget and major legislation was hopelessly bogged down in Congress. By his own admission, he blew it with the Bay of Pigs fiasco. And he increased U.S. involvement in Vietnam, sending thousands of “advisors” in — setting the stage for the horrific mess that Lyndon Johnson would create. This is the track record that leads to an overwhelming assessment of being the best?
Johnson deserves his low rating. Despite the amazing things he did as president — creating Medicare & Medicaid, enacting civil rights legislation, and fighting poverty like no president before or since — his mismanagement of the Vietnam war was truly horrendous. What makes it worse — LBJ knew there was no way to win the war from an early date and continued to pour lives into the catastrophe.
George H.W. Bush displayed political courage when he increased taxes and set the stage for the recovery and economic expansion of the Clinton era, and he fought a war to liberate Kuwait — a war that achieved its objectives quickly and then saw the United States withdraw. And, Bush fought the war with an international coalition that he custom-built. Seems you could argue he did at least as good a job as JFK.
Ike probably suffers in this poll from being the president before the charming, handsome, youthful Kennedy. His track record, however, is overwhelmingly better:
* He created the Interstate Highway System, the most successful public works and economic stimulus plan in history.
* He created NASA.
* He sent Federal troops into Little Rock to enforce a Supreme Court decision on segregation.
* He balanced the budget (while cutting defense spending!).
* He decided against the Bay of Pigs mission and he declined to become more involved in Vietnam.
* He extricated the United States from Korea within 6 months of taking office — something that President Truman couldn’t manage, that Presidents Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon and Ford couldn’t do with Vietnam, and that President George W. Bush couldn’t accomplish in either Afghanistan or Iraq.
Best Modern President? Ike in a walk . . .