In 100 years time, which of the presidents of our time will be remembered by the average guy? If they are remembered, what will they be remembered for?
Let’s limit this to post-JFK presidents to stay within the timeframes of the two posters.
Not too many presidents are remembered 100 years later. Aside from the founding generation, the pre-1903 presidents who are seriously remembered are, what, Andrew Jackson, Abraham Lincoln, Ulysses Grant, and Teddy Roosevelt? Presumably, Woodrow Wilson, Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman, and Dwight Eisenhower will join them from the pre-JFK era. All of these are remembered primarily as great war presidents or, in the cases of Grant and Eisenhower, as great generals.
JFK continues to have a legacy far beyond his non-existent accomplishments, primarily because he was charismatic, young, and murdered. Will those things still matter in 2103? I wouldn’t think so.
While Vietnam will certainly be remembered to some extent 100 years from now, because it was so domestically polarizing, and the bulk of the civil rights movement came during his presidency, I’m not sure LBJ himself has stamped himself into the national consciousness.
Nixon certainly will be remembered, as the first president forced to resign from office.
Ford will be a great trivia question–the first (so far only) man to serve as president who got no electoral votes (not counting the loss in 1976). But he won’t likely be remembered for any actual governing.
Carter-Doubtful. A one-termer with little long-term impact. The Iran Hostage Crisis, is probably the most significant milestone, and it’s already largely faded from history.
Reagan-Certainly. He presided over the collapse of the Soviet Union.
Bush 41-Nope. Desert Storm may be remembered, likely as a prelude to the wars of this decade, but he’ll likely be mainly a trivia question as father of Bush 43.
Clinton- Good question. He had two terms which, aside from the scandals, were reasonably successful. But not much of lasting historical significance–no “real” wars–took place on his watch. He’ll likely be a trivia question–first elected president to be impeached–unless Hillary gets elected, in which case, he’ll be the answer to another trivia question.
Bush 43- Too soon to say. 9/11 will certainly be in the history books. His legacy depends on what happens over the next five years. If he is defeated in 2004, he’ll be a footnote like his dad.
Megan McArdle adds a degree of difficulty, requiring a one-line or less summary. Fine:
LBJ – The Vietnam Quagmire
Nixon – Watergate (Alternately, Old Vulcan Proverb: Only Nixon can go to China)
Carter – Nice cardigan, Mr. President
Reagan – Won the Cold War
Bush 41 – Won a war but lost the peace
Clinton – Impeached (Alternately, “I did not have sex with that woman. . .”)
Bush 43 – [Won/lost/started?] the Global War on Terrorists
Update (0848 11-13) Ford – The Accidental President (Which, thanks to Chevy Chase, has an amusing double meaning right now)