U.S. Presidents Ranked by ``Greatness''


I've ranked the 42 American Presidents on a scale of 1 to 10. (Some go ``off the scale.'') They're listed here in order of greatness. Use the top of the list as a ``List of the Best Presidents.'' Or turn the list upside-down to get a ``List of the Worst Presidents.''

RatingNamePres #Reason for Ranking
Greatest Presidents
12George Washington1Founder of the Republic
12Abraham Lincoln16Led America in her darkest hour; abolished slavery
11Theodore Roosevelt26Charismatic populist, environmentalist, curbed capitalism's excesses
11Franklin D. Roosevelt32New Deal; victory in WW II
Great Presidents
10Harry S Truman33Marshall Plan; Cold War leadership
10Thomas Jefferson3Smartest President; purchased Louisiana
Outstanding Presidents
9James K. Polk11Expanded U.S. territory
9Dwight D. Eisenhower34-
Above Average Presidents
8+John F. Kennedy35Inspired with programs like Peace Corps and Moon landing
8+Bill Clinton42-
8+Barack Obama44-
8+Lyndon B. Johnson36Would have been one of greatest, but Vietnam was big mistake.
8James Monroe5-
8John Adams2-
8James Madison4-
8Grover Cleveland22,24-
8John Quincy Adams6-
8-Andrew Jackson7He strengthened Presidency and populism, but policies were largely poor.
8-Ronald Reagan40Like Jackson he strengthened, but again policies were largely poor.
Average Presidents
7+Ulysses S. Grant18-
7William H. Taft27-
7Chester A. Arthur21-
7Martin Van Buren8-
7George H. W. Bush41-
7Gerald Ford38-
(7)James A. Garfield20(brief tenure)
7-Jimmy Carter39-
Below Average Presidents
6Rutherford B. Hayes19-
6Calvin Coolidge30Let policy drift
6Woodrow Wilson28-
6Zachary Taylor12-
6William McKinley25-
(6)William H. Harrison9(brief tenure)
Bad Presidents
5John Tyler10
5Millard Fillmore13Failed to heal North-South division
5Benjamin Harrison23-
4Herbert Hoover31Failed to combat financial problems
4Richard Nixon37Criminal activities
4Franklin Pierce14Indecisive
3Andrew Johnson17Ineffective, White supremist
3James Buchanan15Failed to prevent Civil War
3Warren G. Harding29Corrupt Administration
In a class by themselves
- 5George W. Bush43Close-minded cronyist demagogue who moved country
backwards socially, ecologically, economically;
Endangered global security with foolish unprepared war
- 450Donald J. Trump45The tragedy of his election is such cause for grief
it makes me want to retract the bad things I've said about #43.

Given the blunders of Bush-43, especially the Adventure in Iraq, it is hard to give him any score higher than Minus 5. Yet Dubya appears almost Presidential when contrasted with DJT. When I started this point system I didn't know there'd be Presidents like Trump. Perhaps I'd have used a logarithmetic scale, like Richters,

The criteria are complex and ambiguous: Some Presidents had good programs but were ineffective; others were very effective, but at advancing bad programs. James Polk was hugely successful, but many would regard his War and threats against Mexico as immoral. I've promoted some Presidents (John Q. Adams, Woodrow Wilson) for their inspirational or moral qualities. John Kennedy is hard to rank: When he was good he was very very good, but when he was bad he was horrid.

Many who disapprove of Reagan's policies would disapprove of the high rank I give him. However Reagan pursued his programs effectively, contributed to the end of the Cold war, ended the economic malaise of the 1970's, enhanced American confidence, and, unlike Kennedy and Johnson with their Vietnam War, made no major foreign policy blunder. Reagan would be a clearcut '9' except that, as we now know, his anti-regulation stance ("Government is the problem") proved eventually to be complete disaster.

The ranking which will be most controversial, I'm afraid, is my placement of the Abomination, George W. Bush. But I think the ranking is clearcut. How can one compare the Trillion Dollar War, fought in part to enrich Halliburton and oil companies, with the minor Teapot Dome scandal? How can one compare the deliberate polarization of the world, promoting terrorism for selfish political ends, with Buchanan's well-meaning but ineffective efforts to reconcile the fractured Union?

When the history books of the 22nd century are written, I promise you that George W. Bush will be viewed as having damaged America and humanity more than Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden combined. The poem is from Calvin Trillin's recent bestseller, Obliviously On He Sails: The Bush Administration in Rhyme.

At least there's no Bush eulogy
On why they had to die.
It's better that they're laid to rest
Without another lie.
Please read
Some comments
by Frank Rich
Please read
Some comments
by Paul Krugman
Please read
Some earlier comments
by Sen. Byrd
Please read
Some quotations
by George W. Bush

This is not a political website, but these days Americans should be very concerned. Here are some of my thoughts.

Some Quotations by Great War-Leaders

Winston Churchill:Franklin D. Roosevelt:
``... we shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing- grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender ...'' ``Let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself -- nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.''
Woodrow Wilson:William Tecumseh Sherman:
``Only a peace between equals can last. Only a peace the very principle of which is equality and a common participation in a common benefit.'' ``It is only those who have neither fired a shot nor heard the shrieks and groans of the wounded who cry aloud for blood, more vengeance, more desolation. War is hell.''
Abraham Lincoln:George W. Bush:
``It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us -- that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion -- that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain...'' ``When I was coming up, it was a dangerous world, and you knew exactly who they were. It was us versus them, and it was clear who them was. Today, we are not so sure who the they are, but we know they're there.''


(Most of the great war-leaders wrote their own speeches, but since Bush's formal attempts at communication are put into his mouth by fiction writers pimped by Karl Rove, I excerpted from his impromptu views. In other words, since I quoted the actual thoughts produced by Mr. Lincoln, Mr. Roosevelt, etc., it seemed fair to extend Mr. Bush the same courtesy.)

It's easy to make fun of Bush's speechifying, but sometimes he really does ``tell it like it is.'' Here's an example, though one has to believe his truthtelling here was the result of a Freudian slip:

``Our enemies are innovative and resourceful, and so are we. They never stop thinking about new ways to harm our country and our people, and neither do we.''
    -- George Walker Bush, 43rd "President" of the United States.

 Click here for more quotations by George W. Bush


Here's another quote. I thought for sure it was by Karl Rove, until I noticed the name:

``The people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country.''
        -- Hermann Goering

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