Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Best/Worst U.S. Presidents

  1. Jan 31, 2012 #1
    In your opinion, who were the best-worst presidents?

    I consider the following factors:
    1. I [try to] make sure I am as fair and non-partisan as possible.
    2. I grade on: administrative skill, domestic policy, foreign policy, and moral character.
    3. I consider that each leader is dealt a different hand, and try to judge them on a fair standard.

    Here is my list (excluding Bush Jr., Obama, Taylor, Garfield, Harrison).

    Best: Lincoln, Washington, T.Roosevelt, F. Roosevelt, Truman

    Lincoln, not only morally, but in terms of leadership through the nations' most difficult crisis, united the nation. Washington, through his humility, proved to critics that government could handle power without becoming corrupt. Theodore Roosevelt set the roadmap for the 20th century with domestic programs and a strong national defense. Franklin Roosevelt led the nation through its toughest times, defeating tyranny abroad. Truman ended WW2 and set the U.S. on a strong footing to contain communism.

    Favorable: Kennedy, Reagan, Adams Sr., Polk, Monroe, Eisenhower, Clinton
    Kennedy was a bold reformer who challenged the Soviet Union. Reagan restored confidence in the presidency and helped bring an end to the Cold War. Adams skillfully handled a naval conflict with France. Polk acheived all of his promises (including giving this country the West). Monroe's doctrine set the roadmap for the future of this country's foreign policy with Latin America. Eisenhower, despite being passive, managed the country well overall. Clinton, while he made many mistakes, also demonstrated great political skill and interpersonal skill.

    Mixed: LJohnson, McKinley, Ford, Adams Jr., Nixon, Coolidge, Bush Sr., Jefferson, Arthur, Cleveland
    Johnson's failure in Vietnam was checkered by his peerless legislative skills to pass Civil Rights. McKinley, often underrated, made the U.S. a global power. Ford, a great political expense, did what he thought was best for the country by pardoning his predecessor. Adams Jr., while poorly relating with Congress, was ahead of his time in domestic ideas. Nixon, while very corrupt, was an excellent diplomat and politically gifted. Coolidge, by his own standards did exactly what he was supposed to do: nothing. Bush Sr., while displaying many good leadership qualities, made a big mistake by reconfirming Saddam. Jefferson, is overrated. He weakened our national defense so much, it endangered our country's existence in 1812. His embargoes caused a national depression, as well. Arthur was a bold reformer who fixed government corruption at cost of re-election, but still, largely a forgettable do-nothing.

    Negative: Hayes, Wilson, Hoover, Carter, Tyler, Harrison, Madison, Filmore, Grant
    Hayes betrayed his black voters by ending the Reconstruction, in exchange, for political opponents not contesting the presidential election he wasn't supposed to win. Wilson tolerated segregation in the government, made a promise of nuetrality, then left the U.S. unprepared for when it did happen to enter the war and his lack of compromise ended his 2nd term in failure. Hoover, while compassionate and intelligent, in his stubborness worsened the depression by starting a trade war. Carter weakened the nation's defense, allowing the Soviet Union to gain a major advantage in the Cold War. Tyler betrayed his promises by vetoing his own parties national bank legislation. Harrison was a do-nothing. Madison entered the U.S. in a costly war that nearly destroyed the country, that was not necessary. Filmore, while trying to compromise, only delayed the inevitable rather than working on a real solution. Grant, while a skilled general, tolerated repeatedly scandal after scandal.

    Worst: Jackson, Van Buren, A.Johnson, Buchanan, Pierce, Harding
    Jackson created an economic depression, genocide against Indians and a model for corruption. Van Buren, without any of Jackson's redeeming qualities, continued it. Johnson's refusal to sign the Reconstruction acts impeded civil rights in the south for 100 more years. Buchanan and Pierce did [literally] nothing as the Civil War was looming. Harding, faced with no national crises, escaped his duties as president to play poker and philander with women. Imagine Harding handling a Civil War.

    Your thoughts?
  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 5, 2012 #2
    Your rankings generally seem to follow the rankings of many historians. There are some notable exceptions, although I agree with some of your exceptions for what it's worth. These include Wilson and Jackson who most historians rank higher, and Nixon, ranked lower by many historians.

    I don't agree with your ranking of Coolidge and JQ Adams (too high) or Jefferson (too low). If nothing else, Jefferson initiated the Louisiana Purchase and appropriately increased executive powers (IMO) despite his prior record of being opposed to this. I would also rate Bush Sr a bit higher. I agree with the way he handled the Persian Gulf War. We saw what happened with his son's 'regime change'. James Baker was one of the best Secretaries of State ever IMO.

    Here's historian Aurthur Schlesinger's list:

    Last edited: Feb 5, 2012
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook