Historians and others like to rank presidents in terms of their greatness. The exercise has value insofar as it helps to clarify what we can and should expect from our political leaders and, as a parlor game, it is fun to hear why some people advocate for one president over another.
Greatness seems to require two things. First a great president must be a skilled politician, able to harness both public opinion and the intentionally distinct levers of political authority built into our constitutional framework, he must be able to get things done and to get the right things done. Second, the times must require greatness. As written, the Constitution does not vest extraordinary power in the executive and through much of the nation’s history, the key political players were in the Congress not the White House. It is easier to recall Clay and Calhoun and Webster than any of the presidential nonentities who governed in the antebellum era. Great president emerge when there is a systemic, profound crisis that requires greatness.
So, with these criteria, I submit there were four great presidents.