Starting Nine is the method a lineup nerd uses to rank his personal favorites. These are not necessarily the nine all-time best entries of the subject being covered. It’s an exercise in finding the entries that best fit the profile for each spot in the batting order. 

I’m a lineup traditionalist: I like dependable table-setters in the 1 and 2 spots, world-beating franchise powerhouses 3rd and 4th, potent sluggers 5th and 6th, hard-nosed role players 7th and 8th, and an underrated, dirt-dog workhorse in the 9-hole.


The last thing I am is a presidential historian. I do find U.S. history interesting, mostly the World War I and II periods, but I was never really into politics. I consider myself a moderate Republican, although I do find my views leaning slightly more toward the left these days. With all that said, this Starting Nine will not be a dissection of the political platforms and policies of the presidents in my lineup.

I am crafting my order based on the accomplishments, historical importance, and strength of character that history associates with each president. Certain historians, political science majors, and know-it-all Dombrowski-loving college boys may be able to pick apart my selections with some accuracy. Luckily, I don’t claim this batting order of executive excellence to be some definitive list of the greatest presidents of all time. These are just the chiefs that I like most based on what I know about them.


1. Dwight D. Eisenhower
What better choice for a leadoff hitter than a guy with the legitimate title of Supreme Commander? “Ike” led the Allies in the greatest war this country has ever seen, so it’s no surprise that his foreign relations game was so on point. He ended a 20-year run of Republicans in office, and presided over what is remembered as the golden era of American history; the stretch between the dutiful unity of World War 2 and the divisive hysteria of the 1960s. The economy boomed, some major strides in Civil Rights and desegregation were made, NASA was founded, and interstate highways became a thing. American nuclear arms proliferated, but the threat of using them got us out of the Korean War and kept the Soviet Union from feeling too froggy as the Cold War progressed.


2. Franklin D. Roosevelt
Elected in the midst of the Great Depression, FDR’s New Deal ushered the U.S. back on the path toward prosperity. He wooed Joseph Stalin over to the Allied side to crush Hitler and win World War II. Winston Churchill, a nerdy little lord that happened to be one of the greatest diplomats of the last hundred years, idolized FDR and desperately wished he could be as effortlessly tactful and cool as Hyde Park’s favorite son. The only man to win four presidential elections, Roosevelt managed to win his last one from a wheelchair while stricken with polio. He was the leader of the “Greatest Generation” of Americans, and in the eyes of many he is the greatest president America has ever seen.


3. Abraham Lincoln
A slew of nineteenth-century presidents put off the slavery issue to curry favor with the South until Abe came along to show just how pathetic it was to avert one’s eyes to the concept of owning human beings due to their political aspirations. Lincoln was the first member of Congress in his time to openly address what a plague upon this country slavery was. He didn’t just condemn slavery as a public relations move. He played the long game, insisting at his inauguration that he would not end slavery, all the while politicking his way toward eradicating it once and for all. And when his insistence on doing the right thing caused the deadliest war in American history, he led the North to victory and preserved a Union dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. Historically speaking, the 1860s were not that long ago. To think that people were still enslaved in this country at that point feels unfathomable to me. Yet it happened. And it took all the savvy and political capital of the greatest president of all time to finally put a stop to it.


4. George Washington
It may seem cliché to put the first president in the cleanup spot, but he was the first cornerstone of the freaking country. He defeated the British, oversaw the inception of the first United States Army, and steered the U.S. through our complicated role in the French Revolution, all long before the president was able to stack the Cabinet with people that shared his political agendas. Washington set the standard for what U.S. citizens should expect from their president, including the most important standard of all. Washington’s most impressive feat during his tenure as President was his realization that it had to end! Not only was Washington referred to as “Your Excellency” as president, he was begged by many colonial heavyweights to take office for life. Washington, however, understood how precious a concept the United States of America truly was. He knew that allowing our country to start out as a monarchy or dictatorship would doom it to failure. This is perhaps the most selfless and important presidential act in American history, and may be reason enough alone for George Washington to land in the heart of the order.


5. Thomas Jefferson
Writing the Declaration of Independence before you even take office is one hell of a way to beef up your resume, and doubling the size of the country with the Louisiana Purchase is enough to crack the starting nine. Now let’s consider that Jefferson also somehow managed to cut taxes while reducing the national debt by a third. He pulled the U.S. out of the never-ending conflict between England and France, which didn’t do the economy any favors, but he also barred the U.S. from participating in the international slave trade. That didn’t stop him from owning his own slaves on Monticello, but historically speaking, it’s the thought that counts, amIright? Plus, how can you not respect the fact that he took ample downtime galivanting and womanizing in France while letting James Madison do all of the thankless grunt work at home?


6. John F. Kennedy
Did he ascend to the presidency through questionable means? Sure. What more do you expect from the son of a bootlegger? But JFK created a borderline cult of personality with his charm, looks, and the stone cold guts he displayed as president during perhaps the most tumultuous era in the country’s history since the revolution. He stared down Nikita Khrushchev at the moment when the Cold War  came closest to getting hot … real hot. He battled for Civil Rights amid Medgar Evers being assassinated and the KKK bombing churches, he slowed down the nuclear arms race with the Soviets, and he even shot for the moon. And even though the whole Bay of Pigs thing blew up in his face, the guy partied with Frank Sinatra and Marilyn Monroe! Not too shabby for a guy who spent less than three years in the Oval Office.


7. Harry S. Truman
I waver on Truman, so if I made this lineup out tomorrow he would possibly not even crack the starting nine. The first thing we all think of regarding Truman is dropping the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and I have a very hard time justifying the deaths of upwards of 215,000 Japanese civilians. However, if you only consider the lives of the American soldiers that were spared as a result, Truman is undoubtedly a hero for ending World War II. With Nazism squashed and Communism on the rise, Truman asserted the U.S. further into international affairs than we had ever been before. The United Nations and NATO were created under his watch, and the Civil Rights and postwar economic recovery initiatives he spearheaded helped lead the country into the golden age of the 50s that my mother speaks about with such reverence.


8. James Monroe
The final founding father to serve as president, Monroe held virtually every important job a federal politician can occupy. He was U.S. Minister to France, Minister to Great Britain, Secretary of State, Secretary of War, and one of Jefferson’s primary negotiators for the Louisiana Purchase before finally being elected to the big job. The U.S. added five new states during Monroe’s tenure (Mississippi, Illinois, Alabama, Missouri, and Maine), and the country grew in area by about a third. His most historically significant piece of business, however, was the Monroe Doctrine, which essentially declared the entire western hemisphere off limits for colonization by any European country. The country grew under James Monroe, and the world took notice that the United States was a superpower in the making.


9. Teddy Roosevelt
Teddy gave zero f***s. He was happiest fighting in wars or alone in the wilderness hunting dangerous wildlife, which spurred him to establish the U.S. national parks system. He was a hero of the common man despite his extraordinary wealth, supporting labor unions and the creation of a welfare state while enforcing antitrust laws against the rich. He considered the construction of the Panama Canal his greatest accomplishment as president, but I mostly love Teddy just because he was such an unapologetic badass. This guy resigned as Secretary of the Navy to go to fight in a war in Cuba on horseback. He bareknuckle boxed world heavyweight champion Jack Johnson in the White House. He hunted bears in the woods by himself while using nineteenth century weaponry.

He was Chuck Norris in spectacles.

Need more proof?

Teddy Roosevelt was once shot in the chest while delivering a speech, the bullet lodging in his chest after going through his glasses case and the fifty-page speech in his jacket pocket. Teddy shrugged it off, smiled, and finished his speech.


By Luke

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