THIS WEEK'S CONTEST: Ulysses S. Grant (Republican, 1869-1877) vs. George W. Bush (Republican, 2001-present)
GRANT: From unremarkable beginnings—finished middle of his class at West Point—Grant rose to command the Union army during the Civil War and is generally credited with winning the war. Military historian J.F.C. Fuller called Grant "the greatest general of his age and one of the greatest strategists of any age."
BUSH: Information not available.
FIRST IN PEACE
GRANT: When accepting Robert E. Lee's surrender at Appomattox, effectively ending the war, Grant offered generous terms that are credited with preserving some semblance of Southern pride, which was crucial in beginning the process of reconciliation.
BUSH: Presently threatening to veto a defense spending bill because it contains a provision prohibiting American soldiers from torturing prisoners.
GRANT: Though the image of Grant as a heavy drinker is part of American folklore—there's a dubious account of an inebriated Grant on a world tour having sex with his wife in front of wide-eyed British sailors—most facts point to a man whose drinking never affected him physically or mentally while executing his duties as general or president.
BUSH: Choked on a pretzel.
WORST: Grant (Even if it isn't true, can't get horrific image of grizzled Grant nailing his fiftysomething wife in public out of my head.)
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GRANT: Much of the turmoil and scandals that occurred during his administration have been blamed on giving many important government posts to ill-qualified and incompetent cronies.
BUSH: Said he picked Harriet Miers to take a spot on the Supreme Court because she was "the best person I could find." Miers' qualifications include having never been a judge, having been appointed to head the Texas Lottery Commission—by Bush—being Bush's White House counsel, and working so closely with him she's been described as his "work wife." Miers has described Bush as a "genius."
GRANT: Described as a man of "scrupulous honesty," Grant had the poor judgment to allow himself to be seen with speculators Jay Gould and James Fisk, who attempted to corner the gold market, wreaking havoc on American business.
BUSH: "I got to know Ken Lay when he was head of the . . ."
GRANT: Americans hoping for a strong leader in Grant were disappointed when the president seemed bewildered by his job. A visitor to the White House described Grant as "a man with a problem before him of which he does not understand the terms."
BUSH: "Brownie, you're doing a heck of a job."
RESULT: BUSH FINISHES STRONG TO WIN! The breadth of Bush's cronyism—Supreme Court appointment is for life; RIP New Orleans—trumps Grant's, though both showed an exceptional ability for killing Americans (Grant—Vicksburg, Shiloh; Bush—Fallujah, New Orleans).