How will Donald J. Trump fair as president? No one, from his most ardent opponent to his most enthusiastic supporter can know.
A few years ago I read a fascinating book entitled The Leaders We Deserved (And a Few We Didn’t): Rethinking the Presidential Rating Game by Alvin Stephen Felzenberg. Mr. Felzenberg rated the presidents based on their performance on six criteria: 1) Character; 2) Vision; 3) Competence; 4) Economic Policy; 5) Preserving and Extending Liberty; 6) Defense, National Security & Foreign Policy. Felzenberg ranked all the presidents, except William Henry Harrison & James Garfield (were not in office long enough) and George W. Bush because he was just finishing his term as the book was written—so, obviously, Barak Obama is not there either.
His top five? You might be surprised.
So, what about Trump? Based on his past performances, let’s pull out a crystal ball and make some predictions:
Character = 3 — I know some would rank him lower on character. But, if Felzenberg can give Bill Clinton a 2 and Kennedy a 3, surely Trump gets a 3.
Vision = 4 — Remember, this is the guy who had the vision to tap into an electorate that was not even on anyone’s radar.
Competence = 4 — Built and has successfully run for years an real estate empire that has no rival.
Economic Policy = 3 — I think he will find out that running a country’s economy is not like running his business; I could be wrong and he could rank a 4 on this one.
Liberty = 4 — I have to believe he will do well in this category.
Defense = 4 — He will rebuild our military and be an inspiring leader.
Average = 3.66 — which, on the author’s ranking, would place him at 13th, right behind Calvin Coolidge, ranked at 12th with an average of 3.67 and right above Benjamin Harrison at 3.5; there are six presidents immediately following Harrison with an average of 3.33: John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, James Monroe, John Quincy Adams, Woodrow Wilson and George H.W. Bush.
This is all just a fun exercise and only God knows what the future holds. It is very difficult to predict these things. For instance, James Buchanan had the resume to be a great president (as a former ambassador, secretary of numerous cabinet positions under several presidents, he was, perhaps, the most qualified person to ever be president—not Hillary Clinton, as Barak Obama claimed in the campaign)—yet he was a failure. On the other hand, Abraham Lincoln had little political and no executive experience and he’s ranked as our greatest president.
We’re in a period of failed or mediocre presidencies that is reminiscent of first part of the 19th century when we had a run of such presidencies that began with Martin Van Buren and ended with James Buchanan—Zachary Taylor, our 12th president is the lone shining star in that period (1837–1860).
Since the inauguration of Jimmy Carter in 1977 until now we’ve had a series of mediocre presidents, with the exception of Ronald Reagan. On Felzenberg’s scale, Reagan scores a 5 on vision; vision is what we need today. Vision leads to inspiration and Reagan was our last inspirational leader—John F. Kennedy was also an inspirational leader. I believe that, in spite of the melt down on the left, Donald J. Trump has the vision thing and will be an inspiring leader. He has a lot of opposition to overcome and some of it is very vocal and has a platform (ahem, Meryl Streep), but I believe he will rise above that and be a good, if not very good, president.