Ranking the Presidents

Here is a list of the US Presidents ranked, as I see it.

1. George Washington
Not faultless, but given that we are all human, as good as it gets.

2. Andrew Jackson
He substantially extended political power to larger groups of people. His changes in the way the country was governed and its philosophy were not overturned until the early 20th century with the Federal Reserve system, personal income tax, etc.

3. Abraham Lincoln
He, like Jackson and Washington, did what was necessary to preserve the Union in the face of the most determined opposition of his inferiors.

4. Dwight D. Eisenhower
He did much to bring on the nuclear balance of terror, but he also supported the law, even when, seemingly, did not agree with it, which helped establish the idea that America was not going to tolerate the legal suppression of minority groups. He helped bring rock-solid stability to the nation which did much to sustain it during the next couple of decades of turmoil.

5. Franklin D. Roosevelt.
He did much to change the America he found and much to curtail freedom, or license, depending on your point of view. But he was a great war leader at a time one was needed, who was able to unify America as none of the other seven Presidents who have presided over the country during a major war were ever able to do.

6. Ronald Reagan
He was either smarter than any of us, or dumber, it really doesn't matter which. He was able to sell the American dream to the mass of people and did more, I think, than any other president to end the nuclear terror, an act which benefitted the entire world as much as the USA.

7. Harry S. Truman
A great politician. He desegregated the Armed Forces though he knew there was a serious political cost. He mobilized the country to help Western Europe. Either through lack of courage, or sincere belief, though, he encouraged paranoia against Communists.

8. Thomas Jefferson
That he is ranked so high demonstrates more, I think, the general lack of quality in those who follow, rather than any great positive actions of his. He did stumble into the Louisiana Purchase, and at least had the sense to take advantage of it. On the negative side he did as much as any President to bring on petty political bickering, at which he excelled, from the time he was called to federal office and until he took his last breath. Of the slaveholding presidents the most hypocritical, I think. On the one hand he asserted his hatred of the institution, but used this "property" as collateral for loans to support one of the most lavish lifestyles in America, thus assuring that most of his slaves could not be freed even on his death.

9. James K. Polk
He did not, as has often been stated, say what he was going to do and then do it. Rather he said what he was going to do and then attempted to bully England and Mexico into compromises. England seems to have thought the stakes not worth the gamble and so compromised. Mexico was in a worse political situation and so, as unwittingly as he, stumbled into a war. Unfortunately for Mexico, the USA had "Perfect" Bliss, Winfield Scott and the Texas Rangers with very little conscience and so was able to separate about 40% of Mexico's territory, which enriched the USA for its coming reign as a superpower.

10. Theodore Roosevelt
Like Polk, a bully, unlike Polk more interested in political preservation than performance. He was as sure of himself as old money is, and a relentless self-promoter standing out even in this list for the trait. He did steal the territory to build the Panama Canal from Colombia, which did much for the USA and benefitted the rest of the world. He also continued building a world-class Navy, and let everyone know it, which came in handy in the ensuing decades when other Latin American countries, like Colombia above, needed intimidating for the benefit of one USA commercial interest or another.

11. James Monroe
His reputation was not one of intellectual achievement nor brilliance, but he added Florida to the USA without a war, and (or "because") he was able to get along with JQ Adams. He peacefully presided over the USA when the rest of the hemisphere was in turmoil without getting the USA involved.

12. Grover Cleveland
He was constantly opposed by Tammany Hall which cost him a chance at re-election against Benjamin Harrison. Cleveland opposed the brute force annexation of Hawaii. But he supported the wacky Sherman Silver Act, a Republican measure by which Mining Interests in Nevada were guaranteed a price for their silver which, in effect, caused them to be able to exchange their silver for gold at a favorable rate, and thus began a run on the gold reserves of the country at a time when it was on the gold standard. He did do as much as politically possible to stem the government mandated transfer of wealth from the rest of the country to the North Eastern quarter by dramatically reducing the tariff.

13. Calvin Coolidge
It's hard to say what he did, other than not interfere because things were working so well, a strategy which might have benefitted many other politicians through the ages.

14. Zachary Taylor
A simple man, an authentic southern gentleman who, had he lived, would not have tolerated secession, according to him. Wisely he opposed the Compromise of 1850, thinking instead that while slavery was a part of the constitution it ought not to be extended under any circumstance. His death was a tragedy for the nation as his inept successors were unable to stem the slide toward civil war.

15. Woodrow Wilson
A general failure, scorned by the rest of the world for his narrow views, a self described pacifist who invaded Latin American country after Latin American country because he had the power to do so. He re-segregated the government service, more or less integrated since Lincoln, and empowered the Justice department to ferret out Communists and labor unionists wherever they could be found. He fought an undeclared war in Russia, and, ending a precedent which had stood the USA in good stead since Washington, declined to recognize the Communist government because he didn't agree with its policies. His administration resulted in the resounding defeat of John Cox in 1920 by Harding. He did much, by his example, to fan the flames of hatred of blacks, which may well have helped the spectacular rise of the Ku Klux Klan in the 20's. Generally the revolutionary film, "Birth of a Nation", romanticizing the Klan, was based on his view of Reconstruction, from an American History book he wrote. He was able to unify the country for the effort in WWI, though that may have been a war America should never have fought.

16. Chester Arthur
A hack politician who rose above his talent and his station. He deserved much better, but his reforms alienated him from the Republican Party Regulars and his previous association with Grant's good friend Roscoe Conklin alienated him from the Republican reformers, so had no real chance of re-nomination, much less re-election.

17. William Taft
A political failure as president, because his term was torpedoed by his friend Theodore Roosevelt.

18. William McKinley
One of the Ohio Republican mediocrities who plagued the nation in the late 19th century. The tariff named after him ruined the re-election chances of Benjamin Harrison who lacked the good sense to veto it. McKinley led the American expansion into the Pacific, fighting to assert American rights to autocratically govern the Philippines even as Spain had.

19. Martin Van Buren
A vacillating but clever politician, he got caught up in the Panic of 1837. His administration was marked by incredibly wrong-headed decisions, like the Amistad fiasco, which in every way violated the principles of States Rights and Republican government which he otherwise espoused. He showed great courage in opposing the Annexation of Texas and the extension of slavery into the territories, though the rest of his party supported it, and it cost him reelection in 1840 and again in 1844.

20. James Madison
He was an ineffective war-time president who constantly appointed general officers for political reasons, ignoring merit. Jackson, as an example, would never have been appointed had the Governor of Tennessee not interpreted Madison's instructions in a convoluted way. He supported chartering the 2nd Bank of the United States.

21. John Tyler
An ineffective politician who pushed his own agenda in opposition to his own party, with the support of the opposing one.

22. Benjamin Harrison
He invaded a peaceful, small country, Hawaii, which was doing no one any harm, because he could. He signed the largest tariff bill ever (48%). Unlike most of the rest of his Midwestern Republican friends, however, he stole little, and didn't allow his friends and supporters to, either.

23. John F. Kennedy
He brought the world to the brink of destruction, and lied about how he settled it. He, however, was well liked and brought a spirit of "doing the right thing" to the country, a spirit, had he been sincere, which may well have indicated a different course for his personal life than the one he followed.

24. John Q. Adams
He gained the presidency by an unholy bargain with Henry Clay, and the American people punished him for it. This was an ironic justice, though, because he never thought that the mass of people were capable of seeing through the machinations of clever people like himself.

25. Gerald Ford
He helped heal the country after the disastrous administration of Nixon, but had no real program of his own, no vision for the country.

26. Herbert Hoover
He never understood politics, never understood government. He did understand how to do things, a real pity he could never understand what to do.

27. Lyndon Johnson
He assured civil rights to many who did not have them before, but slipped into a disastrous war he had no idea how to win, nor how to mobilize the people to win it, nor why it ought to have been fought.

28. John Adams
He never believed that you, or I, were capable of governing the country. He was certain that we needed intelligent and refined people like himself, his son, and the members of his class to do it for us. He sought to limit political discussion by arresting those who had different political views and expressed them. He was astounded and bitter that he was not appreciated for his despotism as he seems to have sincerely believed his own humbug, unlike most of his supporters.

29. Millard Fillmore
A failure as president, his signing of the Compromise of 1850 after Taylor's death started the nation toward a disastrous war which killed millions. Fillmore is a testament to the idea that there are no limits to the evil which can be brought about by misjudgment fostered by ignorance.

30. Andrew Johnson
A man who stubbornly held to politically untenable views even after they caused him to be the only president impeached, though not convicted. Lincoln thought much of his integrity and devotion to the Union. His stubborness made him unable to govern and so that must be considered a fatal flaw, but the man, who hated the planter slaveowning class, deserved better. I have difficulty believing Stanton and Sumner assessed his character so correctly and Lincoln assessed it so badly, but can millions of present day Americans be so wrong?

31. Franklin Pierce
A man whose principles were dictated by the last person to talk to him, evidently. He never understood that slavery was wrong if the US Declaration of Independence was right. He deserves as much credit as his predecessor and successor for bringing on the Civil War.

32. James Buchanan
A man who seems to have thought that slavery was a political question, not a moral one, and acted accordingly. He was right, in one way, as most of the Radical Republicans who jumped on the abolitionist bandwagon were simply political opportunists. He was wrong about slavery however, and he never understood how, as a moral issue, it could impassion the North and alienate the South, even with the events that occurred daily during his administration. He was a man of great integrity, however, who personally opposed slavery. Reportedly he routinely bought slaves in Washington DC and took them home to Pennsylvania and freed them.

33. Warren Harding
Leader of one of the two or three most corrupt administrations in American History. Luckily, so few of his contemporaries respected him he was unable to do lasting damage to the Republic. His story, though, shows that courage and judgement are not the exclusive realm of the competent, by making a speech in Alabama encouraging full civil rights for Blacks during the beginnings of the KKK resurgence in the early 20's. In this he was the counterpoint to Woodrow Wilson, whom he succeeded, who despised Blacks and thought them inferior and not worthy of civil rights.

34. Rutherford Hayes
He stole the election of 1876 for the purpose of continuing corruption for his political party, and all he had to do was abandon Blacks to the tender mercies of their enemies in the South to make his profit.

35. James Carter
He was an inept administrator who gave the impression of great weakness thus encouraging those who had long harbored resentments against Americans to get even.

36. Ulysses Grant
Pawn of the "regular" Republicans who stole what they could when he wasn't looking. Of course, he never looked, except when it seemed his personal secretary might be implicated in graft, whereupon he promptly fired the cabinet official responsible for the investigation. He was a typical hypocritical Radical Republican politician who railed against the Mexican War, and what he saw as the reasons for it, but was unable, twenty years after its conclusion, to simply propose giving Mexico back the territory he asserted had been stolen from them. Of course this might have had something to do with the amount of graft his friends were extracting from New Mexico and Arizona, but that is speculation.

37. Richard Nixon
He instituted Wage and Price controls which benefitted his rich friends and few others. He made an agreement with the USSR that they had a right to continue suppressing half the world for which he is admired by academics. Lastly he became entangled in Watergate. What in the world anyone sees positive in his administration has always been a mystery to me.

William Harrison, James Garfield not rated due to their short administrations, George Bush and William Clinton not rated since discussion of their limitations and successes fall under the heading of current events.

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