Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Best and Worst Presidents

A few days ago I picked up Rating the Presidents: A Ranking of U.S. Leaders From the Great and Honorable to the Dishonest and Incompetent from the library.

The rankings are based on five categories: Leadership Qualities, Accomplishments and Crisis Management, Political Skill, Appointments, and Character and Integrity.

Overall, the top ten picks were Lincoln, FDR, Washington, Jefferson, T.Roosevelt, Wilson, Truman, Jackson, Eisenhower, and Madison.

The bottom ten were (starting with the worst) Harding, Buchanan, A.Johnson, Grant, Pierce, Fillmore, W.Harrison, Tyler, Coolidge, and Nixon. Even though Nixon comes in 32nd place, he's given the 41st spot for Character and Integrity.

Clinton is ranked 23rd (38th in character), G.H.W.Bush as 22nd (24th in character), Reagan 26th (39th in character), and Carter 19th (5th in character).

James Knox Polk is ranked 11th overall and 20th in character. For the president who shoulders most of the blame for the Mexican War, I would have thought he'd be much lower. Personally I would rank the war with Mexico as the single worst act America has ever committed (but thanks to Germany, North Korea, and Argentina we still wind up smelling like roses) so I'd place Polk much lower than 20th.

Millard Fillmore who signed onto the Compromise of 1850 and the Fugitive Slave Law ranked 36th overall and 31st for character. How this could be better than hard-drinking and making bad choices in friends (Grant with 32nd) or being an ineffective fop (Buchanan 36th), I'll never know.

Jackson ranked 8th with character. I think I'd weigh the Trail of Tears a wee bit more harshly.

I did enjoy the book and it provided good information about several of the mediocre presidents, Chester A. Arthur particularly, but I did wonder about the character category.

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