U.S. Presidents Ranked

Here are one man's (correct) rankings of the presidents.  I have applied the approach that those who served brief periods or were vanilla presidents (did little good but no hard to the country) are ranked in the middle.  Those who were active and whose policies benefited the country are ranked in the upper third.  Those whose policies damaged the country (no matter how well intended) are ranked in the lower third.

Also taken into consideration was the man's effect on the world.  For example, FDR was a fine war leader but his failure to stand up to Stalin at the Conference on Malta resulted in the suffering and deprivation of 50 million people behind the iron curtain for two generations.  Thus, he is rated lower than his war leadership skills might warrant.
  1. Abraham Lincoln  What can you say? A man who was berated, hated and despised. A man who aged 20 years in 4 years. A man who saw slavery in his early 20's and lived a life opposed to it thereafter. A man with charity toward all and malice toward none. A man who had the wisdom of the ages. And a man who saved his country.
  2. George Washington  The man who could have been king who stepped down after two terms. The man who warned against 'foreign entanglements'. The man who understood that every single thing he did while president could be used to set a precedent. A great man.
  3. Ronald Reagan  He cleaned up the mess that Jimmy Carter left in his wake. But most importantly, he paved the way for the freedom of 50 million people in Eastern Europe through his strong stance against the Evil Empire. It might not have been evil to our intelligensia. But try telling that to the poor souls living under the iron fist. Oh, and let's not forget the 8 years of prosperity.  Thank you, Mr. Reagan.
  4. Theodore Roosevelt   The first president to recognize the need to conserve our beautiful country. A fabulous trust-buster. Inspirational leader who romanticized the National Park movement.
  5. Thomas Jefferson  The prototypical Renaissance man. He governed his country well - always with a focus toward a small central government. Completed the Louisiana Purchase. Sent Lewis & Clark searching for waterway to the Pacific. A true visionary. 
  6. John Adams  An underappreciated president. He kept the country out of war with France: A completely forgotten accomplishment now - but a great achievement in his day. No man had a greater love for his country.
  7. James Monroe  Father of the US Constitution.  Father of the Bill of Rights.  Creator of the Monroe Doctrine.  Great servant of our country.
  8. Dwight D. Eisenhower  Ended the Korean War six months after taking office.  Once again the Peace through Strength philosophy worked --- not to mention saved lives.  Created the interstate system.  Oversaw a period of peace and prosperity.
  9. James Madison  One of the creators of the Federalist papers.  Staunch believer in individual rights.  Led the country through the War of 1812.  Favored a build up of American military strength after the nearly disastrous war.
  10. Calvin Coolidge  Advocate of small government which resulted in widespread prosperity. Restored confidence in the presidency after the Harding scandals.  A man who said little but spoke with gravitas.
  11. James K. Polk  The "least known consequential president".  Led America to victory in the Mexican-American War paving the way for the annexation of Texas and most of the Southwestern states.  Established a national treasury system.  Reduced tariffs.  Promised to serve only one term and honored his promise.
  12. John F. Kennedy Great leader who inspired the country to "put a man on the moon". Understood that high tax rates discourage business investment and reduce revenues to the government. Would be ranked higher but he began our involvement in Vietnam which resulted in the loss of over 58,000 American young men.
  13. William McKinley  His gold standard policy returned the country to prosperity after the Panic of 1893.  Presided over a quick victory in the Spanish-American war.  Annexed many countries in the Pacific into the United States.
  14. George W. Bush  Under-appreciated president whose accomplishments will be evaluated more objectively over time. Protected the country after 9/11 while maintaining individual freedom. Was blamed for the 2008 financial meltdown despite having warned congress of its potential. His Bush Doctrine led to freedom spreading across the Middle East. Initiated faith-based programs in prisons.
  15. William H. Taft  A man who stood by his principles but was oblivious to their ramifications.  A trust-buster who reformed the civil service but made too many political enemies doing so.
  16. Bill Clinton The man knew how to work a situation. Triangulation. Interns. "I didn't have sex with that woman, Miss Lewinski." The man could parse a sentence. Eventually even the traditional media figured him out. But the give the man credit, he knew how to balance the books. 
  17. Harry Truman A stable leader who steered the country through the post WWII period. "The buck stops here."  Think he didn't care about the soldiers? Ask one of the WWII veterans still alive what they thought of him. To a man, they will tell you that his use of the atom bomb saved 100,000 lives of American servicemen - in a war they didn't start.  He is rated highly because of that decision. 
  18. George Bush  Maintained the Reagan Doctrine which resulted in freeing 50 millions souls in Eastern Europe. Believed in public service for the sake of the nation, not for himself.
  19. John Quincy Adams  A man who served his country beginning in his early teens (as he traveled to Europe with his father).  Having been elected president in the House of Representatives through a deal with Henry Clay, his presidency was on weak footing from the beginning.  Stewarded his responsibilities, but no significant accomplishments.
  20. Grover Cleveland  Political reformer and fiscal conservative. But was overwhelmed by the nation's economic disasters including the Panic of 1893.
  21. Chester Arthur  Political reformer. Presided over the rebirth of the U.S. Navy. "No duty was neglected in his administration, and no adventurous project alarmed the nation." 
  22. Gerald Ford  His controversial pardon of Richard Nixon doomed his election possibilities. But, in retrospect, it was the right thing for the country. A man with a good heart who was a pretty vanilla president, thus the mid-tier rank.
  23. Rutherford B. Hayes  In compromise move with Democrats, ended occupation of the south. Practiced equal treatment of all regardless of race. Advocate of social and educational reform. Promised one term and honored his promise.
  24. Franklin D. Roosevelt A man who has gotten a free ride in the history books. Did his new deal help the country? To an extent, yes. Would the country have pulled out of the great depression earlier without all his tampering? Probably, yes. But why did he run for president four times? Was he really that important (outside of his own mind)? No, he wasn't. Biggest issue:  Pity the 50 million people in Eastern Europe he sold to Stalin during the summit on Malta. Would a healthier, more vital president been able to stand up to Stalin? Yes.  Was FDR able to?  No.
  25. James Garfield  Proposed substantial civil service reform which led to his assassination. Served only 200 days. Did no harm. 
  26. Richard Nixon  So much talent and so much waste. One of the truly tragic figures in American history. A brilliant geopolitical thinker yet a small man who kept an enemies list. Ended the Vietnam War.  He remains a man who could have been great.
  27. Benjamin Harrison  Supported and signed the Sherman Anti-Trust Act. But also supported high tariffs which hurt the economy and increased government spending. 
  28. Andrew Jackson  First president of the Democratic party. Destroyed the national bank. Relocated most Indian tribes in the Southeast to west of the Mississippi, including multiple illegal and despicable Trails of Tears. In summary, a far better general than president.
  29. Zachary Taylor  A 40 year general and a 16 month president (before succombing to disease). His ineptness led to the demise of he WHIG party. But from its demise arose the Republican party led by Abraham Lincoln dedicated to freedom for all races.
  30. William Henry Harrison  40 days in office. Taught later presidents that the inaugural speech really isn't that important if the weather will kill you. On the positive side, he did the country no harm.
  31. Warren Harding  Rewarded friends and political contributors beyond the norm. Plagued by scandal.  Yet unemployment went down 50% during his term in office. An early supporter of equal rights for African-Americans. 
  32. John Tyler  Led the annexation of Texas. Other than that, not much. Won election to the Confederate House of Representatives shortly before his death. Yes, that's a correct statement.
  33. Millard Fillmore  Opposed proposals designed to keep slavery out of the western states. Signed the Fugitive Slave Act. Furthered trade with Japan and stood up to Napoleon III's attempt to annex Hawaii. 
  34. Martin Van Buren  Had few tools to deal with the Panic of 1837, a devastating downturn for the country.  Denied Texas' request to be annexed (which happened later under John Tyler).  Oversaw the last of the 'Trail of Tears' Indian relocations.
  35. Andrew Johnson  Despite being a southern senator, he supported Abraham Lincoln during the war.  As president his conciliatory policies toward the south brought him up for impeachment.  But rushed the return of the southern states without sufficient proof of 'freedmen rights'.
  36. Herbert Hoover  A man treated harshly by circumstances. Instituted public works on a smaller scale than his successor in creating the Hoover Dam and other projects. But didn't understand economics. Raised tariffs and taxes on the high income earners in the midst of a depression only deepening the problems.
  37. Ulysses S. Grant  Alcoholism is a cruel disease. Presidency marred by economic disaster and multiple scandals. But supported rights of African-Americans during Reconstruction.
  38. Lyndon Johnson  Gets major credit for Civil Rights initiative. His unsuccessful War on Poverty was a great idea. However, empirically speaking, it was a failure. His political meddling in the management of the Vietnam War resulted in thousands of needless deaths and years of unnecessary war. He must be placed down here due his mismanagement of the war.
  39. Jimmy Carter  Where does one begin? With the 15% inflation or the high unemployment? Or with the self-righteous "It's not my fault" speach. A paradox in retirement. Started Habitat for Humanity yet the most bitter former president in recent memory. A true failure.
  40. James Buchanan  An individual who hated being president and it showed. While the Civil War was probably inescapable by his time, he did nothing to prevent it. 
  41. Barrack Obama  Perhaps the most partisan president in the history of the republic. The first president to keep an enemies list since Richard Nixon.  Instituted the view that "The buck stops with my predecessor."  Architect of the most massive deficit spending in world history.
  42. Franklin Pierce  While James Buchanan did noting to prevent the Civil War after him, Franklin Pierce actively contributed to it through his support of the Kansas-Nebraska act which paved the way for slavery west of the Mississippi. Another man who was more successful as a general than a president.
  43. Woodrow Wilson  A man with great dreams but, unfortunately, also a man who bartered peoples and nations at the Treaty of Versailles - all for the sake of his beloved League of Nations dream. How different our world would have been had he shown mercy toward the vanquished. Yet, he was front and center in forcing punitive demands on the German civilian population resulting in joblessness and starvation --- thus paving the way for the rise of Adolf Hitler.
I hope you've enjoyed the list.  I know there were some surprises, probably the greatest being the ranking for Woodrow Wilson.  To expound on his ranking:  He 'did what he did' at Versailles regardless of the historians pining for his League of Nations idea.  Bottom Line:  How many people and nations is OK to barter in exchange for your dream?  How many people must starve because of your backroom deals?  While he was no greater failure as president than a Jimmy Carter, his failures were far more injurious since they paved the way for the suffering and deaths of untold tens of millions of people.

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