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Presidential Rankings Deconstructed

For those who find presidential rankings by academics tiresome, here is a genuinely fresh perspective from a political science professor at my alma mater—the University of Scranton.  “Reagan was the most effective, and I think most people would agree with that,” William Parente [1] said in an interview with The Scranton Journal. “He carried 49 of 50 states in his 1984 re-election campaign.”

“He was conservative, but had a great sense of humor and kept us out of a war. I make this statement in class: I think it’s unfair how we rank presidents. If you don’t get us into a war that you then win, you never have the chance of being one of the great presidents. Washington, FDR, Lincoln, they are always ranked as the top three presidents. If you stay out of a war, you never get to be well thought of, or at least thought to be great.”

Parente is less sanguine about recent presidential contenders but does make a salient point about the last GOP hopeful: “There have been several essays in the newspapers about this. One of my favorites is if you are going to run for president, and you’ve already done this in 2008, and you are doing it again in 2012, who the heck would have accounts in the Cayman Islands? It just looks suspicious. That struck me as dumb by Romney.”

“I didn’t think Romney was prepared for the obvious: That people are going to say, “You are a rich man; you are a millionaire.” Well, don’t prove it to them. You should try to look poor. [Laughs.]” Parente served as Dean of Students at “Da U” from 1970-1985. Your correspondent graduated from that institution in 1981.


Malcolm A. Kline is the Executive Director of Accuracy in Academia.
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