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Peace and Prosperity

In Praise of Grover Cleveland


Jesse Ventura released this week his new podcast conversation with Ron Paul. It is a pleasure to hear Ventura engage Paul in an unrushed, wide-ranging examination of United States wars and foreign policy, with some discussion of other matters including marijuana and the economy thrown in the mix. One particularly intriguing portion of the conversation comes near the end when Ventura asks Paul — a three-time presidential candidate — a fun, rapid-fire set of questions about what Paul would do as president. Ventura seems surprised, as likely are many listeners, when Paul answers that Grover Cleveland is the president Paul would most like to use as a model for a Paul presidency.

Paul and Ventura’s exchange regarding Cleveland, who served two terms as president in 1885-1889 and 1893-1897, follows:
Ventura: Now, question five: The president you’d most want to model yourself after?

Paul: Grover Cleveland.

Ventura: Grover Cleveland? That’s interesting. Why?

Paul: Well, he was an old-fashioned conservative Democrat; he was a noninterventionist overseas; he was a very, very strong gold standard person; and he vetoed more bills than anybody else — and he did it based on principle. So, he was in many ways the last, you know, libertarian-type president. There were others that had leanings, but he was the best over a long period of time.
Listen to the podcast conversation here.

One place to begin an exploration of US presidents is Independent Institute Senior Scholar Ivan Eland’s book Recarving Rushmore. In Recarving Rushmore, Eland discusses and ranks in turn each US president on the basis of the president’s support for peace, prosperity, and liberty. Cleveland comes in second, after John Tyler — another often overlooked president, in Eland’s ranking.

Eland notes in the concluding chapter of his book that “many presidents who are ranked highly by historians, journalists, law professors, and the public were not very good at all when we look at how well they stayed within the presidential portfolio, as intended by the Constitution, and how well they did promulgating policies that promoted peace, prosperity, and liberty.” Eland proceeds to explain that the presidents he ranks as excellent “are remembered as bland men with rather gray personalities, but they largely respected the Constitution’s intention of limiting government and restraining executive power, especially in regard to making war.”
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