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What is a "good" president?

NonConformer

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On this forum and elsewhere, there's a lot of talk about who would make a "good" president or a "bad" president, and whether previous presidents were "good" or "bad".

But I'm curious: What exactly constitutes a "good" or a "bad" president?
 

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On this forum and elsewhere, there's a lot of talk about who would make a "good" president or a "bad" president, and whether previous presidents were "good" or "bad".

But I'm curious: What exactly constitutes a "good" or a "bad" president?

In the Navy, we were taught that when we stand watch, make sure one's watchstation is better off for the one who relieves you than it was when you assumed the watch.

I'd say the same goes for the president - make sure the nation's better off than it was when he (or she) took the helm of the ship of state. As for Obama, the day he took over, our economy was in free fall in the worst economic crisis in 80 years (IIRC we lost 800K jobs that month), and we were stuck in two wars that were costing us upwards of $10B/month of taxpayer dollars, not to mention scores and scores of pine boxes coming home from those wars every month.

Compare that to now, and we're out of those two wars, we're not heavily involved in any war (Syria's a minor sideshow compared to our level of military involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan), and we've had positive private-sector job growth every month since the last quarter of 2010 - that's 66 consecutive months of private-sector job growth, the longest such stretch in ALL American history...and it's reflected in where the Dow is today - just under 18,000, as compared to under 7,000 in March 2009.

These are not "talking points" - these are hard-and-fast metrics to use when determining whether the president was good or bad...and there's more than a few on the Right who would kill to be able to have had a president with the above accomplishments to brag about.
 

Carjosse

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To me a good world leader is one who fundamentally helps define or change a nation. US presidents that fit this definition are ones like John F. Kennedy, Ronald Reagan, Woodrow Wilson, and in my opinion the best US president, Franklin D. Roosevelt. All of these presidents had a vision for the United States and fundamentally changed the country defining what it means to be American. Obama was not a good president, he did the bare minimum.

In Canada we had prime minsters like Pierre Trudeau, Sir John A. MacDonald, Lester Pearson, William Lyon Mackenzie, and in a way R.B. Bennett. All of them had a vision for the country and they defined what it means to be Canadian.
 
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On this forum and elsewhere, there's a lot of talk about who would make a "good" president or a "bad" president, and whether previous presidents were "good" or "bad".

But I'm curious: What exactly constitutes a "good" or a "bad" president?

for 90+% of Americans.. a good president is one they agree with, or share a party with ... a bad president is one they don't

even if a president objectively screws up, he's still "good" is you agree with him or share a party with.
 

NonConformer

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make sure [things are] better off for the one who relieves you than it was when you assumed the watch.

The day [Obama] took over, our economy was in free fall … Compare that to now …

These are hard-and-fast metrics to use when determining whether the president was good or bad.

Hmmm. So you're saying that the President single-handedly controls the economy?
 

Glen Contrarian

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Hmmm. So you're saying that the President single-handedly controls the economy?

On the battlefield, does the general personally fire all the weapons? Does the general personally feed all the troops? Does the general personally train all the troops?

Of course not. But he makes doggone sure that his people know what they're supposed to do, and how and when to do it. This is why generals - even though they're often not anywhere near the battlefield - pretty much get all the credit and all the blame for what happens while they're in charge. Who won the battle of Waterloo? Did the Duke of Wellington personally fire all the weapons? No...but we all remember that he won - and Napoleon lost - the Battle of Waterloo.

So it goes with presidents. The president - and not the congresspeople and the advisers and policy wonks - are the ones who receive all the credit and all the blame for what happens on their watch. So...yeah, Obama DOES and SHOULD get credit for how the economy improved on his watch.
 

Carjosse

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On the battlefield, does the general personally fire all the weapons? Does the general personally feed all the troops? Does the general personally train all the troops?

Of course not. But he makes doggone sure that his people know what they're supposed to do, and how and when to do it. This is why generals - even though they're often not anywhere near the battlefield - pretty much get all the credit and all the blame for what happens while they're in charge. Who won the battle of Waterloo? Did the Duke of Wellington personally fire all the weapons? No...but we all remember that he won - and Napoleon lost - the Battle of Waterloo.

So it goes with presidents. The president - and not the congresspeople and the advisers and policy wonks - are the ones who receive all the credit and all the blame for what happens on their watch. So...yeah, Obama DOES and SHOULD get credit for how the economy improved on his watch.

Except the advisory and policy makers are the ones who probably actually wrote the policies, economies also tend to have an ability to operate autonomously to a certain degree as well. A country is not like a battlefield. Obama changed nothing, it could just have easily have been McCain or Romney doing the exact same thing. Obama had no vision, he had charisma, but no actual vision.
 

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Except the advisory and policy makers are the ones who probably actually wrote the policies, economies also tend to have an ability to operate autonomously to a certain degree as well. A country is not like a battlefield. Obama changed nothing, it could just have easily have been McCain or Romney doing the exact same thing. Obama had no vision, he had charisma, but no actual vision.

Funny how when it's y'all's guy who's in office, y'all are so happy to give him credit (and little or no blame), but when it's the other side's guy who's in office, well, he doesn't get credit for anything!
 

Carjosse

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Funny how when it's y'all's guy who's in office, y'all are so happy to give him credit (and little or no blame), but when it's the other side's guy who's in office, well, he doesn't get credit for anything!

If you have not noticed I am a Liberal and I believe many other Democrats and Republicans have been good presidents not because of their party but because of their vision. Good presidents have vision and fundamentally change America and what it means to be American. Obama was not bad but just okay.
 

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A good president is more interested in improving the country and its people than leaving his/her "mark", making a "legacy", or wielding "power". They realize they are serving the people not that the people are serving them.
A good president does not make you think that "wink wink nudge nudge" should follow each of his or her speeches and inspires the people doesn't bull**** them.

A good president doesn't put pandering to the party line before what logically needs to be done and does not use personal interests as smoke screens to hide issues that touch each and every American citizen.

A good president is one that people are excited to get behind and support not just support to keep another person from becoming president as a "lesser of X number of evils".

Let me know when such a person comes along.
 

Glen Contrarian

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If you have not noticed I am a Liberal and I believe many other Democrats and Republicans have been good presidents not because of their party but because of their vision. Good presidents have vision and fundamentally change America and what it means to be American. Obama was not bad but just okay.

That's your perception. But look instead at his wealth of accomplishments, most especially at the 66 consecutive months of private-sector job growth, by far the longest such streak in American history, and what's more, it came on the heels of the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. And yes, Obama had a lot to do with that, given the stimulus, Dodd-Frank, and quite a few other initiatives. There's also Obamacare, and 20M more Americans have coverage today thanks to his efforts (yes, I would prefer single-payer, but this is the best we could get given the political atmosphere). There's ending two stupid wars (and keeping us out of other wars), ending torture, ending the stupid embargo on Cuba, ending Don't Ask Don't Tell, and quite a bit more.

Regardless of your personal perception, he's done more for America than most people are willing to give him credit for.
 

Carjosse

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That's your perception. But look instead at his wealth of accomplishments, most especially at the 66 consecutive months of private-sector job growth, by far the longest such streak in American history. And yes, Obama had a lot to do with that, given the stimulus, Dodd-Frank, and quite a few other initiatives. There's also Obamacare, and 20M more Americans have coverage today thanks to his efforts (yes, I would prefer single-payer, but this is the best we could get given the political atmosphere). There's ending two stupid wars (and keeping us out of other wars), ending torture, ending the stupid embargo on Cuba, ending Don't Ask Don't Tell, and quite a bit more.

Regardless of your personal perception, he's done more for America than most people are willing to give him credit for.

Those are not that large of accomplishments in the grand scheme of things, as I said McCain or Romney could have also very easily done those things. The economy was most likely going to recover regardless and end the wars anyways, it is like crediting Bill Clinton with the dot-com boom. Obama did not change America, he has not changed what it means to be American, all he did was pass some legislation that helped a few million Americans, good presidents change the entire country.

Roosevelt, Wilson, Reagan, Kennedy, they all fundamentally changed America and were good presidents.
 
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Generals - even though they're often not anywhere near the battlefield - pretty much get all the credit and all the blame for what happens while they're in charge.

So it goes with presidents.

Not a valid comparison. A general has ultimate control and authority over every single resource under his command. Not so with presidents and the economy.

The economy is influenced by MILLIONS of things that the Prez has no control over. He represents, at best, only a third of the Federal government, and that's just the fed: state & local governments have a lot of impact also, and the Prez does not control them. And that's just the government: the actions of millions of private-sector entrepreneurs, workers, innovators, businessmen, volunteers, and pundits ALL effect the economy - and let's not forget natural disasters such as hurricanes & earthquakes - no Prez can control those things. And that's just the United States - what goes on in the rest of the world impacts us also, and the Prez can't control that.

And besides, whatever the Prez does is not instantaneous - his actions could take years, if not decades, to bear fruit.

No, you cannot compare the president's power to control the economy to a general's power to run a battle.
 

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Those are not that large of accomplishments in the grand scheme of things, as I said McCain or Romney could have also very easily done those things. The economy was most likely going to recover regardless and the ends anyways, it is like crediting Bill Clinton with the dot-com boom. Obama did not change America, he has not changed what it means to be American, all he did was pass some legislation that helped a few million Americans, good presidents change the entire country.

Roosevelt, Wilson, Reagan, Kennedy, they all fundamentally changed America and were good presidents.

You're committing a logical fallacy by assuming that the economy would have recovered anyway, especially given that none of the Republicans would have allowed a Keynesian stimulus to pass. What's more, their position was for more deregulation, not for something like Dodd-Frank. I do not credit Clinton for the economic progress in the mid '90's - I say instead it's more due to Bush 41 when he raised taxes against the wishes of his own party.

There are no presidents who "changed the entire country" in a positive manner, except for Washington, Lincoln, and FDR. And Wilson was IMO the worst president in our history. He was president when the Great Influenza hit. America had about 100M people at the time, and the Flu killed nearly a million...and Wilson never once mentioned it in public, but kept silent in order to preserve the "war morale". Kennedy didn't change the nation, though he did a couple very important things right. Reagan was a great president for two reasons, one, that he won the Cold War, and two, he gave America back its nationalistic pride...but at the same time, he tripled our debt, allowed us to get involved in Iran Contra (which is a bigger scandal than anything the Clintons or Obama did), and helped spread the myth of the "welfare queen". When he announced his run, he did it in Philadelphia, Mississippi, the same town where civil rights activists had been lynched. He didn't do that because he supported civil rights - Google "Lee Atwater quote" sometime - he was one of Reagan's chief advisers. Probably worst of all, he got rid of the Fairness Doctrine that required news outlets to at least attempt to tell both sides of the story. That, more than anything (except for Nixon's "Southern Strategy"), enabled the rise of the Religious Right and the hyperpartisanship we see today.
 

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So only ONE person actually answered the question in the OP and everyone else was either cheerleading for their guy or attacking the cheerleaders. sad....


What makes a good President:
The ability to lead from a position of being a servant to the nation.
To make good decisions for the best of the whole nation and not just parts of it
To unify the nation behind a common vision.
To establish/maintain a position of respect within the int'l community.
 

Carjosse

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You're committing a logical fallacy by assuming that the economy would have recovered anyway, especially given that none of the Republicans would have allowed a Keynesian stimulus to pass. What's more, their position was for more deregulation, not for something like Dodd-Frank. I do not credit Clinton for the economic progress in the mid '90's - I say instead it's more due to Bush 41 when he raised taxes against the wishes of his own party.

There are no presidents who "changed the entire country" in a positive manner, except for Washington, Lincoln, and FDR. And Wilson was IMO the worst president in our history. He was president when the Great Influenza hit. America had about 100M people at the time, and the Flu killed nearly a million...and Wilson never once mentioned it in public, but kept silent in order to preserve the "war morale". Kennedy didn't change the nation, though he did a couple very important things right. Reagan was a great president for two reasons, one, that he won the Cold War, and two, he gave America back its nationalistic pride...but at the same time, he tripled our debt, allowed us to get involved in Iran Contra (which is a bigger scandal than anything the Clintons or Obama did), and helped spread the myth of the "welfare queen". When he announced his run, he did it in Philadelphia, Mississippi, the same town where civil rights activists had been lynched. He didn't do that because he supported civil rights - Google "Lee Atwater quote" sometime - he was one of Reagan's chief advisers. Probably worst of all, he got rid of the Fairness Doctrine that required news outlets to at least attempt to tell both sides of the story. That, more than anything (except for Nixon's "Southern Strategy"), enabled the rise of the Religious Right and the hyperpartisanship we see today.

It was the Spanish Flu, there was nothing you can do about that. What Wilson did do was help start America on the track of world superpower and catapulted America to the top of the world stage. Kennedy changed civil rights in America and marked a great turning point in race relations in America while Obama's presidency has only seen an increase. Reagan defined what it meant to be a proud American, and had the entire country behind him. All Obama will be remembered for is the guy who passed the Affordable Care Act and happened to be black.
 
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Glen Contrarian

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Not a valid comparison. A general has ultimate control and authority over every single resource under his command. Not so with presidents and the economy.
The economy is influenced by MILLIONS of things that the Prez has no control over. He represents, at best, only a third of the Federal government, and that's just the fed: state & local governments have a lot of impact also, and the Prez does not control them. And that's just the government: the actions of millions of private-sector entrepreneurs, workers, innovators, businessmen, volunteers, and pundits ALL effect the economy - and let's not forget natural disasters such as hurricanes & earthquakes - no Prez can control those things. And that's just the United States - what goes on in the rest of the world impacts us also, and the Prez can't control that.

Um, no, the general does not have "ultimate control and authority over every single resource at his command". I used "general" because I felt the comparison would be more accessible to you. The more appropriate comparison would be to the captain of a Navy ship, something that as retired Navy, I do know something about. The best example is what happens when the ship runs aground at zero-dark-thirty while the captain was getting the rarest of commodities - sleep. When the captain goes in front of the court martial, will he say he was in his rack getting some sleep? No. He will say that he had the conn, that he was personally responsible for the ship running aground.

And he is. Why? Because if he had properly trained his Navigation department, if he had properly ensured that his Navigator vetted his quartermasters and watchstanders, if he had been maintaining the proper level of discipline on board his ship, the entire mishap likely would not have occurred...

...but even then, it might still have, because just as you pointed out above all the people the president does not control, the captain does not "control" his people. He LEADS them, and he can even order them with all the force of the UCMJ behind him...but he can't MAKE them do what he wants them to do. Leadership doesn't work that way. All he can really do is tell his XO and his department heads to do this or that, and then he hopes that they follow his orders in the way he wanted them followed. Just as the president doesn't personally control most of the federal government, the captain does not personally control most of the crew. Not only that, but just as the president does not control the actions of all the private-sector millions, the captain does not and cannot control the actions of the many, many civilians with whom he must deal, from contractors to foreign liaisons to lawyers, and - most significantly - the wives and families of the crew...and this directly impacts the effectiveness of the crew.

This is why, sir, that politicians and philosophers all the way back to Plato have referred to government as "the ship of state"...because the metaphor fits so very well.

And besides, whatever the Prez does is not instantaneous - his actions could take years, if not decades, to bear fruit.

Hm...let me see here. When Obama took office the first time, we were losing 800K jobs per month, and by March the Dow Jones had plunged below 7,000. Today, we've had 5.5 years of consecutive private-sector job growth (again, by far the longest such period in American history), and the Dow's at 17,902 as I write this. Obama instituted the stimulus and Dodd Frank and the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau - all which were virulently opposed by the Republicans and would not have been passed under a Republican president. I'd say we're looking at the fruits of his efforts right now.

No, you cannot compare the president's power to control the economy to a general's power to run a battle.

No, I switched it to the captain of a ship...just as politicians and philosophers have rightly done since the time of Plato.
 

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You're committing a logical fallacy by assuming that the economy would have recovered anyway, especially given that none of the Republicans would have allowed a Keynesian stimulus to pass. What's more, their position was for more deregulation, not for something like Dodd-Frank. I do not credit Clinton for the economic progress in the mid '90's - I say instead it's more due to Bush 41 when he raised taxes against the wishes of his own party.

There are no presidents who "changed the entire country" in a positive manner, except for Washington, Lincoln, and FDR. And Wilson was IMO the worst president in our history. He was president when the Great Influenza hit. America had about 100M people at the time, and the Flu killed nearly a million...and Wilson never once mentioned it in public, but kept silent in order to preserve the "war morale". Kennedy didn't change the nation, though he did a couple very important things right. Reagan was a great president for two reasons, one, that he won the Cold War, and two, he gave America back its nationalistic pride...but at the same time, he tripled our debt, allowed us to get involved in Iran Contra (which is a bigger scandal than anything the Clintons or Obama did), and helped spread the myth of the "welfare queen". When he announced his run, he did it in Philadelphia, Mississippi, the same town where civil rights activists had been lynched. He didn't do that because he supported civil rights - Google "Lee Atwater quote" sometime - he was one of Reagan's chief advisers. Probably worst of all, he got rid of the Fairness Doctrine that required news outlets to at least attempt to tell both sides of the story. That, more than anything (except for Nixon's "Southern Strategy"), enabled the rise of the Religious Right and the hyperpartisanship we see today.

Not entirely true. The first stimulus was passed by Obama AND Bush, together. Would the Republicans have done this if left on their own? Unknown but you are correct that they probably would not have.
I also think JFK changed the country in a positive manner by pushing and inspiring the Space Race.
But what is a significant and positive change to the country likely depends on the perspective and goals of an individual.

I don't like everything the President has done nor do I dislike everything he's done. I've been underwhelmed by most presidents since I've come of voting age. I think you are right in that the "great" country inspiring and country changing Presidents are in our past and I would add I don't see much chance of a future candidate of that caliber in the near future.

My opinion only though.
 

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It was the Spanish Flu, there was nothing you can do about that. What Wilson did do was help start America on the track of world superpower and catapulted America to the top of the world stage. Kennedy changed civil rights in America and marked a great turning point in race relations in America while Obama's presidency has only seen an increase. Reagan defined what it meant to be a proud American, and had the entire country behind him. All Obama will be remembered for is the guy who passed the Affordable Care Act and happened to be black.

The president LEADS. What do you think would happen to any president in the modern day who - when faced with an epidemic that was going to kill upwards of three MILLION Americans - refused to address the epidemic in public? What do you think would happen to that president who refused to find out from the best medical minds of the day what he could recommend - and what he could enforce - in order to limit or slow the spread of the flu in order to save lives? No, due to his deliberate refusal to act, Wilson is directly responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of American civilians. And he didn't "catapult" us on the world stage - IIRC he was in large measure an isolationist, and certainly was very much an idealist. We were catapulted on the world stage not by him, but by our involvement more than a decade before by our victory in the Spanish American war. All you need for proof of this is to read Rudyard Kipling's "White Man's Burden"...because as racist as the poem was by our modern standards, it was pretty tame stuff for the time...but one can clearly see in the poem that he was heralding the end of the British era, and the beginning of the American era.

Kennedy did give a great push for civil rights...but he wasn't president when the CRA was passed on 1964, was he? That was LBJ who, along with his implementation of the Great Society, would have been a truly great president...except for his being tainted by Vietnam. Reagan did bring nationalism back into style, but he also deepened the racial divide - and don't get me wrong - I voted for Reagan, and I'll always love him for making us proud to be in the military once more...but I also know the several things he did that caused - and are still causing - lasting damage to American society and our economy, the worst of which was "trickle-down economics". George H. W. Bush referred to "trickle-down" as "voodoo economics"...and Bush 41 was right. Bush 41 was a very good president (I voted for him, too), and is highly underrated, especially since I give him more credit than Clinton for the mid-90's boom.
 
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Glen Contrarian

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Not entirely true. The first stimulus was passed by Obama AND Bush, together. Would the Republicans have done this if left on their own? Unknown but you are correct that they probably would not have.
I also think JFK changed the country in a positive manner by pushing and inspiring the Space Race.
But what is a significant and positive change to the country likely depends on the perspective and goals of an individual.

I don't like everything the President has done nor do I dislike everything he's done. I've been underwhelmed by most presidents since I've come of voting age. I think you are right in that the "great" country inspiring and country changing Presidents are in our past and I would add I don't see much chance of a future candidate of that caliber in the near future.

My opinion only though.

I do appreciate the admonition in your first two sentences - you're right. And Kennedy did get us on the path of the Space Race...and the impact of that can hardly be underestimated.

But again, looking at accomplishments, I'd say that in your last paragraph, you may be falling afoul of the old saying, "familiarity breeds contempt". The more we see someone, the more we are familiar with them, the less admiration and wonder we're likely to have for them - we start seeing just how human they really are. What's more, in the modern 24/7 news cycle, the presidents are no longer distant figureheads whose flaws and failures are largely unknown to the common man - and so the more we feel that we know them...and the less admiration and respect we have for them.

So that's what I've told my sons, to beware of being too cynical. As with almost all else, too much cynicism is every bit as bad as too little cynicism. I hope you understand what I mean.
 

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You're committing a logical fallacy by assuming that the economy would have recovered anyway, especially given that none of the Republicans would have allowed a Keynesian stimulus to pass. What's more, their position was for more deregulation, not for something like Dodd-Frank. I do not credit Clinton for the economic progress in the mid '90's - I say instead it's more due to Bush 41 when he raised taxes against the wishes of his own party.

There are no presidents who "changed the entire country" in a positive manner, except for Washington, Lincoln, and FDR. And Wilson was IMO the worst president in our history. He was president when the Great Influenza hit. America had about 100M people at the time, and the Flu killed nearly a million...and Wilson never once mentioned it in public, but kept silent in order to preserve the "war morale". Kennedy didn't change the nation, though he did a couple very important things right. Reagan was a great president for two reasons, one, that he won the Cold War, and two, he gave America back its nationalistic pride...but at the same time, he tripled our debt, allowed us to get involved in Iran Contra (which is a bigger scandal than anything the Clintons or Obama did), and helped spread the myth of the "welfare queen". When he announced his run, he did it in Philadelphia, Mississippi, the same town where civil rights activists had been lynched. He didn't do that because he supported civil rights - Google "Lee Atwater quote" sometime - he was one of Reagan's chief advisers. Probably worst of all, he got rid of the Fairness Doctrine that required news outlets to at least attempt to tell both sides of the story. That, more than anything (except for Nixon's "Southern Strategy"), enabled the rise of the Religious Right and the hyperpartisanship we see today.

Woodrow Wilson is worse than James Buchanan.
 

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So only ONE person actually answered the question in the OP and everyone else was either cheerleading for their guy or attacking the cheerleaders.

Welcome to the world of online political debate.
 

Hawkeye10

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On this forum and elsewhere, there's a lot of talk about who would make a "good" president or a "bad" president, and whether previous presidents were "good" or "bad".

But I'm curious: What exactly constitutes a "good" or a "bad" president?

What is good and what is bad tends to change with time and circumstances. We can look back at what has worked and not worked for clues but very little is a firm rule. For instance being smart is important, but at some point too much smarts tends to be a problem.
 

Glen Contrarian

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I find this post to be very ironic.

Actually, that's precisely what a study showed: liberals might not like to say good things about the people they don't like...but they'll do it. Conservatives absolutely despise doing so and have no problem refusing to say good things about the people they don't like.
 
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