IN his memoirs of John F. Kennedy's Thousand Days, Arthur Schlesinger Jr. recalls how his historian father early in 1962 asked Kennedy, among others, to rate previous U.S. Presidents on a scale ranging from "great" to "failure." It was the sort of thing that fascinated Jack Kennedy, and he started to fill out the form, then decided against it, replying: "A year ago I would have responded with confidence, but now I am not so sure." When the results of the survey were published, Kennedy was pleased that Truman ranked among the "near great," amused that Eisenhower stood near the bottom...

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