I was watching this 10 year old C-Span video of a call-in segment where callers who discuss who they believed was the most effective President. This was sort of a conclusion to a series where C-Span explores the lives and careers of the 41 Presidents of the United States. In fact you can visit their website @ http://www.americanpresidents.org/. There you can see most of the segments and this series was produced before the end of the Clinton Administration thus there are no programs for Presidents Bush and Obama's presidency is so young, yet!
The answers from callers ran the gamut from Ronald Reagan, Franklin Roosevelt, Abraham Lincoln (but, of course), George Washington, Dwight Eisenhower, Thomas Jefferson or Richard Nixon. Those answers weren't very bad answers, btw. In fact I would agree with most of them.
My answer, well most of the Presidents of my lifetime I couldn't necessarily see as very effective. I don't think Clinton was very effective. George W. Bush was probably more effective especially in terms of national defense and the fight against terrorism, but he wasn't without his problems. I know a lot of people like Reagan, but he also wasn't without his problems. He may have spurred economic growth and took the fight to the Soviet Union, but it's difficult for me to place it's eventual downfall as a result of his policies.
Nixon as one caller mentioned was effective, however he also wasn't without his problems. Those problems may have lead to his downfall in the middle of his second term. But he was pretty good in diplomacy especially in seeking relations with Communist China. Who knows Nixon's skills are missed in terms of figuring out how to deal with Muslim nations and on the situation in Afghanistan as things are heating up once again in that nation.
And finally let's point to Lyndon Johnson. He was very effective in domestic policy, whether you agree with it or not. He got a lot of things done in that area, however, his problems were in the area of military policy and foreign affairs. President Johnson before he left the Presidency was unable to secure the peace in Vietnam. It seems Vietnamese Communists were some very resilient adversaries and it wasn't so easy to defeat them. Any president who might have had to deal with them might have been kept up late at night by any persistent fighting. So whatever accomplishment Johnson might have had in domestic policy, it was sort of shoved aside by his activities in Vietnam.
Who do you think was the most effective President?