I'll make my obligatory complaint that this whole holiday exercise makes Washington "First in war, first in peace, and first to have his birthday juggled to make a three-day weekend for federal employees." Bah.
Okay, with that out of the way …
WPTF's Kevin Miller and Ray Steele had a debate this morning on which was the greater president, Washington or Lincoln? Miller, the New Englander, supported Lincoln for saving the union, "whatever it takes". Steele correctly pointed out that he violated several laws in the process, such as suspending the right of habeas corpus, and I'll insert Steve Wilkins' observation that Lincoln's administration centralized power in the federal government more than any before him -- first income tax, for example?
Steele's contention was that Washington held together the army, through numerous defeats and discouragements, long enough to complete a ten-year Revolution which established independence first, then the groundbreaking first administration which established the form of government we enjoy today. (Appropriate nods to Hamilton, as I am reading Ron Chernow's biography of him at the moment)
While there was much approval of Ronald Reagan and Dwight Eisenhower, someone scored Kennedy as "the most overrated president", a distinction I think he may have shared with Jefferson. With full credit for his literary skills and vision in certain areas, the more I read about the conduct of the Sage of Monticello, the less respect I have for him. Of course, to be fair, most of my reading has been from the Federalists' perspective -- Chernow's Alexander Hamilton, Ellis' His Excellency, George Washington, and McCollough's John Adams. Isaacson's Benjamin Franklin: An American Life did not do much to dispel the negative impression given by the other three, I'm afraid.
So put me down for Washington, today.