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George Washington, the Original America First President

State of the Union: Happy Presidents’ Day!

George,Washington,Statue,In,Boston,Public,Garden,-,Clipping,Path
Credit: Jorge Salcedo

The 2024 Presidential Greatness Project Expert Survey results are out just in time for Presidents’ Day: “Presidential experts” have ranked Joe Biden the 14th-best president in U.S. history, and Donald Trump last. The list is riddled with other questionable rankings (FDR is ranked second, Woodrow Wilson 15th, and Richard Nixon 35th). Abraham Lincoln was first; George Washington came in third.

That’s a shame, if not entirely unexpected. Washington has always been a cipher; worse, some of his ideas have become downright unfashionable among the people who are polled for such lists. Washington particularly wanted to ensure the survival of the newly United States and protect it from meddling influences abroad. In what could be called the budding language of “America First,” Washington said in his Farewell Address

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As avenues to foreign influence in innumerable ways, such attachments are particularly alarming to the truly enlightened and independent patriot. How many opportunities do they afford to tamper with domestic factions, to practice the arts of seduction, to mislead public opinion, to influence or awe the public councils. Such an attachment of a small or weak towards a great and powerful nation dooms the former to be the satellite of the latter.

In 2024, when our Congress is debating how many billions of dollars ought to be sent across the ocean to placate foreign powers, Washington’s warnings become ever-more relevant.

He also favored other practical ways to help the republic survive its early days. Just today, Congressman Josh Brecheen wrote for The American Conservative,  

In his 1796 Farewell Address, George Washington highlighted the importance of paying off our Revolutionary War debt, and his words should be a lesson for us today. He called on Congress to make debt retirement a priority in peacetime, instead of “ungenerously throwing upon posterity the burdens which we ourselves ought to bear.”

Our first president would be floored to see that our national debt is up to $34 trillion and is only rising every day. Unfortunately, our 14th-best president is spending today at his beach house in Delaware, so those problems must be solved another time. Happy Presidents’ Day!

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