Continuing with the evaluation of Post-World War II Presidents...
- Defense: Poor 2 – While Lyndon Johnson saw President Kennedy’s vision for America’s space program to fruition, his interventionist policy to drag the United States into the middle of the Vietnam War proved to be a poor one.
- Economy: Good 4 – Presided over the creation of Medicare and Medicaid and the economy was strong throughout his term.
- Defense: Outstanding 5 – Ended US involvement in the Vietnam War, was effective at mitigating the escalation of the cold war with Russia and China.
- Economy: Poor 2 – Term featured two years of negative economic growth and removed the United States from the gold standard.
- Defense: Good 4 – Negotiated a truce between Israel and Egypt, kept Russia’s cold war ambitions at bay.
- Economy: Solid 3 – Exercised fiscal restraint which helped the economy bounce back from recession to robust growth while keeping inflation at bay.
- Defense: Solid 3 – Obtained the ratification of the Panama Canal treaty, obtained the Camp David agreement continuing peace between Egypt and Israel but lacked credibility with several hostile actors. While he signed a limited nuclear treaty with China and Russia, history would show they didn’t adhere to the standards and his lack of credibility led to the Iran hostage crisis.
- Economy: Awful 1 – Badly mismanaged US economic policy leading to record high inflation and interest rates culminating in a recession that would take three years after he was out of office to fully recover from.
- Defense: Great 5 – Led by a policy of peace through strength, Reagan’s credibility immediately ended the Iran hostage crisis without conflict. Similarly, he ended the decades-long threat of nuclear war with Russia without a single shot being fired.
- Economy: Great 5 – Inherited a recession with record-high inflation and interest rates. Passed through the largest tax cuts in American history which led to a period of unpreceded economic prosperity, including US economic growth exceeding 7% in 1984.
H.W. Bush (6)
- Defense: Good 4 – took the baton from Reagan’s and successfully ran with it. This included seeing Reagan's vision of the Berlin wall coming down through to reality. It also included the successful overthrow of the Noriega regime in Panama as the security of the canal was threatened. Likewise, in the middle-east when Iraqi President Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait, President Bush coordinated the most effective UN-led mission in history to liberate Kuwait and provide stability to the energy markets.
- Economy: Poor 2 – Breaking with Reagan’s policy of tax cuts, and his own promise not to raise taxes which became his political undoing, he approved tax increases and experienced an economy that experienced less economic growth in each successive year
- Defense: Poor 2 – On the surface, the only real blemish were events in Mogadishu in which two Black Hawk helicopters were shot down and adequate support wasn’t provided by the Clinton Defense Department for those engaged in the Somali conflict. More astute analysis saw President Clinton preside over the rise of Islamic terror brought about by Osama Bin Laden’s Al Qaeda. During Clinton’s time as President, Al Qaeda bombed the world trade center (1993), multiple US embassies in Africa, and the USS Cole. Despite these direct attacks on Americans, President Clinton looked the other way. This included an opportunity in which President Clinton was asked directly by the Pentagon for the authorization to eliminate Bin Laden but declined. Of course, the result cultivated in the 9/11 terror attacks less than eight months after he left office.
- Economy: Good 4 – Led by the emergence of the consumer internet, President Clinton presided over a robust economy backed by fiscal restraint with a Republican-controlled Congress which led to strong economic growth and unprecedented prosperity throughout his administration. While the tech bubble burst in the stock market led to a recession exiting his administration, his economic record is among the most impressive. The biggest knock against his economic agenda was the signing of NAFTA, which proved determinantal to American manufacturing.
Photo by: Getty Images