Major crisis also tends to play a role in historians’ assessments of presidential greatness.

That’s why even the Wall Street Journal‘s politically balanced 2004 book on presidential leadership ranked Lincoln No. 2 and FDR No. 3. (Washington barely beat out Lincoln for the top spot.)

It’s interesting to read selections from early presidents in which they often refer to the federal government’s top executive job as “chief magistrate.” 

If more presidents acted like chief magistrates, we would probably have less to fear from the feds.