Best and worst of the 20th century


Alex is holding a contest for the most overrated and underrated presidents in history. Like Ross, I'm concentrating on 20th century presidents, since I don't think you could even call people like Franklin A. Pierce "rated", much less calculate the degree of error.

Most overrated: FDR. Every time I contemplate what the country would look like had Senator Robinson lived to shove the court packing scheme through Congress, I get the cold shivers.

Most underrated: Jimmy Carter. Yes, I said Jimmy Carter. Carter's foreign policy . . . well, 'nuff said. But Carter was actually in many ways the architect of the economic changes that Reagan got credit for. It was Carter who appointed Paul Volcker to the Fed, thus giving the institution the backbone to finally get serious about inflation. And it was Jimmy Carter who started the ball rolling on deregulation, despite the fact that many of the regulated industries employed a lot of the Democratic base. Carter is credited with the awful economy of the 1970s, even though he had no control over inflation or oil prices.

As a post-president, I wish he would stop trying to conduct his own foreign policy and go back to building houses for poor people. But as a president, he wasn't nearly as bad as most people believe.