Presidents ranked by historians

Manifest destiny is uncool these days, but Jemmy K did what he set out to do, and was dead a month after he was done.


President George W. Bush on the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln (May 1, 2003) to celebrate the end to major combat operations in Iraq.


Like I said, a lot of Bush’s ideas were bad. But he wanted an invasion of Iraq and he got it.

It’s astounding how he cannot be ranked absolute, dead last. I guess the argument is that the economy functioned - like it had any fucking thing to do with him.

Donald Trump is the worst president of all time.

Actually Dick Cheney wanted an invasion of Iraq. Bush just wanted a cool moment where he got to land a fighter plane on an aircraft carrier in front of a cheering crowd. And I guess he got that. We got a decade-long war, massive recruitment of insurgents for a fundamentalist uprising, and military veterans getting sick from exposure to open burn pits. Mission Accomplished!


I think he will eventually be either last or second to last.

I never bought into the idea that Cheney was the real mastermind of the Bush administration and Bush was just the amiable dunce Cheney chose as his figurehead. I believe Bush was the one in charge and he made the big decisions. And one of the decisions Bush made was that Cheney would be useful as an attack dog in his administration and would deflect animosity away from Bush himself.

Keep an eye on that Grant; he’s climbed thirteen spots since 2000. And don’t forget that there are several more presidents to compete with than when his rise began.

Odd how the FDR-HST-DDE-JFK run produced half of the top 8.

I think they have Wilson a bit overrated, Reagan should be in the bottom 10 not the top 10. Mr. Tangerine Man should definitely be at rock bottom.

I’m surprised that John Tyler ranks so low. After all, he’s one of the most important precedent-setters that we’ve had. After Harrison died, it was largely due to Tyler’s force of will that subsequent transitions due to death went so well. It seems to me that that alone would bump him up a few spots.

It’s no coincedence that as America has reevaluated how we think about the Civil War and its legacy that regard for Grant’s Presidency has risen. For decades, academic and public sentiment regarding his Administration was dominated by “Lost Cause” narratives that condemned Reconstruction as an unmitigated failure and his Presidency as a cesspool of corruption and scandal.

But more recent scholarship has emphasized his effectiveness in bringing federal power to bear to protect the rights of newly freed men and women. He championed the 15th Amendment, created the Department of Justice in part to defend civil rights, and broke the first flowering of the Ku Klux Klan through aggresive federal intervention. Even as Northern support for Reconstruction waned, Grant’s dedication to defending the rights of freedmen never did.

Grant did indeed try to fight Southern insurrectionists. What some scholars don’t appreciate is the lack of resources that Grant had at the time, relative to today. But let’s not forget that there’s a parish in Louisiana named after him, and for a reason. It wasn’t because Grant was a puss who was conflict-averse; he threw his government and his presidential reputation right into the heart of the most intense resistance against federal control. Ironically, the parish for which he was named is the site of the worst racial massacre in American history: the Colfax Massacre of 1873, and it is the turning point that made the “lost cause” successful.

Yeah I think too many people ate up the public personas in that administration.

I think Bush knew exactly what he was doing and didn’t care if hundreds of thousands of people died over a complete fabrication.

“Smiling faces show no traces of the evil that lurks within”

You may believe that but it is contrary to pretty much everything that has been written about the Bush Administration including Cheney’s own statements. As president, George W. Bush was certainly responsible for “the big decisions”, but all available evidence is that he was not deeply involved in policy decisions, while Cheney had advocated for the US invasion of Iraq immediately after the September 11, 2001 attacks even though there was no evidence of the involvement in Iraq in training or supporting the hijackers or al-Qaeda overall.


Possible; and I’m definitely not a fan of GWB; but this may be unfair to him.

You mean like the federal response to Katrina? Or the occupation of Iraq after Saddam Hussein fell?

Thanks for that. I’ve long thought that while GWB was a terrible president that he was (and is) a good man, a bit like Jimmy Carter.

Bush certainly made the “big decisions,” but what Cheney and Rumsfeld were masters at was the sort of bureaucratic manuevering that ensure the decision was always going to go their way – framing the debate to advantage their preferred options, shutting out dissenting voices, etc. Bush was too lazy and dimwitted to realize what was going on until Iraq was on fire and he was getting hammered over policy choices he’d inattentively signed off on.

The one that is both most surprising and which I disagree with most is Woodrow Wilson at 13. He was a racist asshole, even when being judged against the standards of his time. The last 1 1/2 years or so of his presidency were basically a regency, with his wife running things behind the scenes. He should be much lower on the list.

Harry Truman being so high surprises me. As far as I know, he was a good guy, but I don’t recall any specific accomplishments that warrant him ranking so high. Did he play a bigger role in winning WWII than is popularly known?

Jackson and Polk also seem like they’re too high on the list, mostly due to their responsibility in the treatment of Native Americans in the 19th century.

I can imagine a world where Cheney was the driving force behind Bush’s policy decisions, but my opinion of Bush’s intelligence is not that low that I think it was possible for him to not realize he was lying to the public or that his lie would cost countless lives of both Americans and Iraqis.