Which US Presidents are generally respected outside the US?

In my lifetime, there have been no US Presidents mostly highly thought of by US citizens:

GWBush: a mockery of a leader, no thoughts of his own or native ability to express himself; war for mostly politcal ends; economy in the tank is tossed a symbolic tax cut for the rich.

Clinton: A philanderer and a liar who squandered any chance he had to see through on the things he cared about

GHWBush: A failure at war, at the economy, and without a vision of where the country should go

Reagan: Another liar (or at least demogogic exaggerator) who ‘led’ the country into unbelievable levels of public debt and individual greed, and conspired to violate the will and laws of congress

Carter: At best ineffectual even if goals were good; a failure on the economy

Ford: No time to do anything really worthwhile

Nixon: Brought public repsect for its own government to an all-time low, conspired to cover up wrongdoing, bombed the hell out of vietnam for no good reason

I barely extent to LBJs days, but I think final verdict would be that while he flubbed big-time on vietnam, he did actually get a great deal of civil rights legislation passed.

So the question is, how are US Presidents of the past few decades perceived outside the US?

Or are they?

“A statesman is a dead politician.”

Regardless, I suspect you’d find that Bush is respected in many foreign circles, for instance. However, we don’t pick up on those much. Czech newpapers aren’t published much in America. Arab or Muslim states fear him, at the least.

Usual generalization disclaimer. Thanks.

In Ireland, people tend to like Kennedy (because he was Irish! :dubious: ), and Clinton, because he helped with the peace process. It helps that both of them visited here (to high adulation).

I know a lot of people who like Carter, because post-presidency he has made significant efforts towards peacemaking.

I’m not saying there aren’t people in Ireland who don’t think GWB is a scary idiot, but I’m afraid that I’ve yet to meet one.

Nogginhead, YYMV, but wherever I’ve lived (Deep South), Reagan is generally VERY well respected. Now, that may not be true in California, or Massachusetss, or on college campuses.

I got the sense that Clinton was respected internationally (correct me if I’m wrong). Folks on the outside were more perplexed by the ‘investigation’ into his sex life than they were by the blowjob.

Darn tootin’.

Clinton is still so popular here that Blair paraded him (and Kevin Spacey) at the Party Conference last year.

Try that with Bush Jr. or Reagan and the eggs will be flying. Some is presumably to do with politics, but their unpopularity seems to stem from the fact that they come across simply as staggeringly stupid men for their position. Bush Sr. is, I think, spared such animosity even though his politics were similar.

@smiling bandit
I don’t think Bush is very highly respected outside the US. He certainly isn’t respected at all here in the UK. Even people who support his policy on Iraq generally do it in spite of Bush…

I’d say Clinton is fairly highly respected in the UK though… Can’t really comment on any of the others.

Here in Alberta, the old boys’ oil club love Bush’s economics. But many Canadians think he’s an idiot and are appalled by his foreign policy. In general we fail to understand Americans’ rabid and insistent patriotism (especially superior patriotism - we have a kind of patriotism where we’re proud of our country, but we don’t feel the need to go on about how every other country sucks, that sort of thing).

As for Clinton, Canadians viewed the whole Lewinsky thing as sort of absurd - another example of American sensationalism, a la OJ, Jonbenet, etc. The common sentiment is something along the lines of “always looking for somebody to crucify, those Americans… knowing sigh”. Anyway, so most Canadians are pretty ambivalent about Clinton. I think he was a good guy, and it always helps when your leader has an IQ above 100. But that’s just me.

I’m not old enough to have been an adult witness to any of the others, but certainly not a lot of people love Nixon, mostly for Vietnam (and those of us who follow the history of the drug war have further reasons to lose respect for him… why commission a report and then not read it? etc.).

In general, we know a little more about your presidents than you know about our Prime Ministers, but as you’d expect, we only care about them inasmuch as they have the potential to affect us. In that sense, we care about GWBush more than average.

Do you know of any US leader whose IQ was lower than 100?

I just want to clarify that many, many, many Americans considered the Clinton thing as disgraceful as anything the GOP has ever done.

On the other hand, he was (and still is) unpopular enough here that his bright, effective, vice president could not get elected.

And his failure to do much but mover further and further towards the pernicious center was pretty disappointing to those of us who considered the impeachment a gross violation of the intent of the founders.

What??! There was another Clinton vice president besides Gore?

rim shot



Although it is obvious that the point was to criticize each and every president with cheap shots, I cannot let this one go. In which war did he fail. He captured Noriega’s butt in the blink of an eye, and drove Iraq out of Kuwait with no problem. I believe he sent the original troops to Somalia, but it was his predecessor that screwed things up by not supporting our troops.

Why would anyone in another country have a good impression of our president, after reading what was said by one of our citizens? It wasn’t intended to influence by any chance, was it? :rolleyes:

It was this little matter of leaving Saddam Hussein in power, which seems to have caused a lot of trouble.

I assume that my asking the question doesn’t influence anyone; I was just alerting the non-US readers that these guys aren’t all that admired here.

I don’t think any of those shots were cheap, btw. These men all had enormous failings as leaders, IMO, and I fear that if we get the leaders we deserve, we don’t deserve much.

The foreign press I’ve read, as well as the foreigners I’ve known, generally thought pretty well of Clinton—at least, they didn’t hate his guts. Now that Clinton’s out of office, I know several foreigners who still speak well of him; the worst opinion I hear from foreigners of Clinton is ambivalence.

Bush, on the other hand, seems to be loathed by every non-American I’ve ever talked about him with (with one exception—a Scot, for the record.)

stephstewart sums up the view of the Canadians I’ve known of the Ken Starr scandals, as well as that of the French, Germans, Dutch, Spanish, English, Japanese, Chinese and Austrians I’ve known: simply perplexing, and that the persecution of Clinton was essentially a non-issue, and more of an indication of a deep flaw in the American character and a taste for sensational non-stories than anything else.

As to our other presidents, I never had much contact with too many foreigners before the Clinton administration. Generally, it seems that foreigners aren’t going to maintain an opinion of an American president who is no longer in office. (Reagan was an exception—I’ve heard many say he was scary, arrogant and dangerous.) I’d say a waning number of Americans has an opinion of Kennedy anymore, much less Eisenhower, who used to elicit all kinds of outraged criticism. It’s arrogant to suppose that all American presidents would remain as fresh in the minds of all those around the world as they might in our own, even though I’ve noticed that the foreign leader that most people are most likely to be aware of is the president of the United States.

For the record, I know of no foreigner who has said they consider George W. Bush to be a legitimately elected leader—even those who understand our quaint Electoral College. Especially those who understand our quaint Electoral College.

Eh? It was Reagan’s fault? That doesn’t even make sense.

Most often I hear the blame for the Somalia failure heaped on Clinton’s shoulders. The problem with Somalia was that Bush sent the troops in there after losing the 1992 election and had no endgame in mind. There was no government for the United States to support, and no plan in mind for what this troop commitment was supposed to accomplish. Had Bush been reëlected, the result would have been pretty much the same. Saying that Clinton “screwed things up by not supporting our troops” is just silly, empty rhetoric. What’s that supposed to even mean, anyway?

You betcha. The investigation left Clinton with an image of a man whose enemies couldn’t target him with “fair” means, and that actually reflected well on him. And speaking as a Dane, Clinton’s visit to Copenhagen boosted his popularity immensely. He was certainly one of the more popular and respected presidents.

Bush v1.0 enjoyed quite a bit of respect, too, although he wasn’t liked as much. Still, he was considered professional, dependable, in control.

GWB is widely considered unlikeable, completely out of his depth and rather scary. His measured reaction to 9/11 was a positive surprise to quite a few people, whereas the current beating of wardrums is the cause of much concern. (Yeah, I know the Danish PM just offered to send forces to the war theatre. I believe - and polls confirm - that he is not acting in accordance with the voters’ wishes in this matter.)

Wouldn’t this be better in IMHO, btw ?

My perception of the popularity of American presidents here:

Probably the two most respected, historically, would be Woodrow Wilson and Franklin D. Roosevelt. When people remember Carter, he’s usually seen as one of the better presidents, too.

With Kennedy and Clinton, it really depends on who you ask. Most Canadians, I think, couldn’t care less about their extramarital affairs, but some of their foreign policy was a bit hawkish for some Canadians’ pacifist tastes.


GWBush: To be fair, the judgement can’t be made yet.

Clinton: We love people who talk about the big picture and can convince us that we have an integral part in it i.e. APEC. For me the scandals and there prosecution were a crashing bore.

GHWBush: Probably the #2 regarded in my estimation. Probably as much for his tenure as VP. He took us along without taking us for granted.

Reagan: Never understood what the US saw in him to justify any office … until GwB arrived. Then I understood, just didn’t like it.

Carter: Ineffectual probably sums it up. From this angle, do no harm also applies.

Ford: Sorry, barely registers

Nixon: China, for that I could forgive him most things. Watergate was simply astounding. Documentaries I’ve seen since on Nixon’s state of mind are disturbing.

LBJ About as far as my memory goes. The phrase and attitude of the “All the way with LBJ.” slogon from Prime Minister Holt is still well known here and still gets used occasionally with derision.