Best and Worst Presidents

I am frankly sick of this kind of hyperbole. Bush worst ever? Hardly, considering what he has faced. Anyway, here’s a commonsense list of best and worst presidents from one of my favorite blog stops and a fine one…

1. James Buchanan (near universal agreement on this one)
2. Andrew Johnson (ditto)
3. Ulysses S. Grant (pretty much universal on this one)
4. Herbert Hoover (some discussion on this one; was he responsible for the Depression, or not?)
5. Richard Nixon (interesting debate about him; did Watergate define his presidency?)

1. Abraham Lincoln (of course)
2. George Washington (another no-brainer)
3. Ronald Reagan (surprising amount of debate about the Gipper; he still has his detractors)
4. Franklin Roosevelt (real interesting conversation here about the “imperial presidency”)
5. Teddy Roosevelt (surprising lack of debate here; most of my students really like TR).

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4 Responses to Best and Worst Presidents

  1. Chris,

    While I respect your opinion, you have to keep in mind that everyone has his or her own views on things.

    My own perspective is that while I think that George W. Bush is not THE worst–I agree with Buchanan about that dubious title–he is without doubt in the top two or three worst. Why? The guy is a liar and a felon (I can’t even count the number of felonies committed through the warrantless wiretapping program) who has demonstrated a flagrant disregard for the law. It’s also clear to me that they guy is dumb as a stone–cinder blocks are more eloquent than he is. Mix in some of the worst political decisions ever–NOTHING will ever persuade me that we had any business going into Iraq when those military resources could and should have been devoted to al-Qaeda and bin Laden–and a disregard for civil liberties, and you have a God-awful presidency. From my perspective, 2008 cannot come soon enough.

    Having said all of that, my father, who is 86 and a wise old man, is fond of saying that opinions are like assholes–everybody has one. Folks, including Mr. Foner, are entitled to their opinions, and while it’s appropriate to disagree, I’m not sure it’s appropriate to say that Foner’s not entitled to his.


  2. admin says:


    I have no problem with opinions. I think as a historian Foner has a responsibility to encourage historical investigation, a trial, whatever. Did I miss Bush’s trial? Besides the daily editorial in the NY Times?

    I am actually all for impeaching him, let’s find out how this happened. Let’s have an “investigation” and get the “historical record” right! It might be as everyone on the left is saying, but we don’t know.

    Condemn him and call him a liar, for whatever reason, and that’s fine, that’s your right.

    Bush may very well be all the things you, Foner and the rest get so worked up about.

    “The guy is a liar and a felon (I can’t even count the number of felonies committed through the warrantless wiretapping program)”

    Eric, beyond our intelligence agencies being a complete debacle (no Thanks to Clinton, among others), we do not know what happened in the decision making process. Who mislead or lied to whom. That has yet to be investigated, as I said.

    BTW- Democrats were right there at the beginning with the same intelligence and were in favor of going into Iraq, did I miss something there?

    Ok, the “wiretapping,” seems to me it’s about finding the BAD GUYS… I know, there I go again. There are no terrorists (bad guys) except Bush. There are freedom fighters and insurgents.

    Name me one case where we have “illegally” wiretapped a regular American because of Bush’s initiatives? BTW, you might want to be more concerned about this government program (I just posted it and there is a link below)), than Bush’s war on Terror excuse to wiretap us all. It’s a dumb idea by our idiot intelligence agencies, once again doing the wrong thing.

    “…demonstrated a flagrant disregard for the law.”

    You are an attorney and I understand this. Bush is pushing the limits in his efforts to protect this country. He might be out of line. Has he gone too far, perhaps. But I guess that’s the rub. I see it as protection, I see a real threat (besides Bush) and others see it as Bush just wanting to tap all our phone calls or something. As if it’s a master plan to just continue to subjugate regular Americans or something.

    “It’s also clear to me that they guy is dumb as a stone–cinder blocks are more eloquent than he is.”

    Now you might be on to something!!!


  3. Chris,

    My point in raising the issue about flagrant disregard of the law was, in part, to demonstrate the double standard.

    And I kind of take offense to the implication that because I think that the policy is a flagrant violation of the law, that somehow makes me soft on terrorism and that I view al-Qaeda as being freedom fighters. That sort of knee-jerk reaction is extremely typical of this administration and its supporters: anyone who fails to blindly support these policies is not patriotic.

    Let’s see here: what’s worse? Lying about getting your hooter puffed by an intern? Or completely disregarding statutes put in place more than twenty years earlier that explicitly provide that the intentional disregard constitutes a felony? Yet, who’s the one who was impeached? It seems to me that the big issue here is that there is no consistency.

    The other issue is that the fundamental error made by this Administration was the assumption that if we got rid of Saddam, Iraq would embrace us with open arms, put aside years of smoldering resentment by the Sh’ia, who were repressed under the minority rule of the Sunnis, and suddenly become a parliamentary democracy. That was either naive beyond description, or it was irretrievably and unforgivably stupid, or it specifically ignored the reality of the situation. If it was the first of the three options, I can forgive it. If it was the latter two, then someone surely should be impeached.

    The neo-cons, I think, genuinely believed that Iraq was crying out for us to come and liberate them and institute democracy, and I think that they have to be shocked to learn that they were dead wrong. That’s a hell of a thing to stake a war, a country’s international reputaiton, and countless billions of dollars upon.

    Finally, as you point out, I’m a lawyer. We lawyers are trained to believe that the system, the process, is more important than an individualy result. By that, I mean that it’s more important that constitutional protections are adhered to and preserved, and that it’s better that a guilty man get off rather than to encourage the disregard of constitutional rights. That is, in large part, why I cannot believe that the Bush administration’s flagrant disregard of the plain language of the statutes overrides any concerns about “protection”. If you don’t like the statutes, change them. Simply ignoring the law is not acceptable, and if there is any single lesson about Watergate that this administration seems to have failed to learn, it’s that nobody–not even the occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue–is above the law.

    It’s that arrogance and hypocrisy that I despise the most. Considering that Skippy Bush has on two occasions worn an oath to preserve and protect the Constitution of the United States, I have a difficult time believing that he should not have to pay for flagrantly disregarding the law.

    In conclusion, please allow me to quote the words of a great Republican president, a man almost universally acknowledged to be one of the five best presidents to ever occupy the White House: “Patriotism means to stand by the country. It does not mean to stand by the president or any other public official save exactly to the degree in which he himself stands by the country. It is patriotic to support him insofar as he efficiently serves the country. It is unpatriotic not to oppose him to the exact extent that by inefficiency or otherwise he fails in his duty to stand by the country.”–Theodore Roosevelt, 1908.


  4. admin says:

    Eric – I thank you for posting, but obviously I will respond as I feel compelled to.

    I have typed and retyped several responses and have decided to make this simple and short, and move on.

    Your second post is just a continuation of a rant that displays how passionate you are in your differences with neo-cons and president Bush. I got that in your first post.

    I was asking for some specific questions and trying to point out that the rhetoric by Foner and others is disappointing to me as he is a historian. Not that he (historians) can’t have an opinion. But his article is based not on any historical investigation or research, but by his hatred of Bush. He is absolutely entitled to his rant.

    I understand that people are allowed to have different opinions. But I didn’t attack Foner or call him names, I just asked for some evidence other than banter.

    I then tried to layout an argument that we really don’t know anything yet, other than just how much some people hate Bush….

    I am not defending Bush and do believe he and Rumsfeld and their handling of Iraq border on incompetence.

    Clearly we can agree to disagree.

    Kind Regards.

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