Thursday, January 15, 2009

On a Lighter Note

Things have been getting a little "spicy" around here as of late, so I thought a somewhat mindless little exercise in history might get our minds off things.

In just a couple of days our nation will witness the inauguration of its 44th president. As is the case with any president about to leave office, historians, politicians, etc. are making their early historical assessments of the Bush Administration by comparing him to the presidents of the past. Of course ranking a president is a bit ridiculous to begin with. After all, we are comparing so many variables that it is virtually impossible to make any serious scholarly inquiry on the matter. But since I am not trying to be "scholarly" at all in this post, I think this might be some fun.

So, with this in mind, where do YOU rank our presidents? Who, in your opinion, were the top 10 GREATEST presidents? Who were the 10 WORST? Which president, in your opinion, was the most overrated? The most underrated?

Yes, I know this has nothing to do with the blog and is not a profound post in the least, and that is EXACTLY what I think we need right now. Just a brief moment to unplug from the founders and religion and discuss something that is somewhat mindless, completely biased, and really has nothing to do with the blog.

Let the debating begin!!!

19 comments:

Brad Hart said...

Well, since I made the post I should probably give my choices.

Top 10 Greatest Presidents:

1.) George Washington
2.) Abraham Lincoln
3.) Franklin Delano Roosevelt
4.) Thomas Jefferson
5.) Dwight D. Eisenhower
6.) Theodore Roosevelt
7.) Andrew Jackson
8.) Woodrow Wilson
9.) James Monroe
10.) Ronald Reagan

Top 10 Worst Presidents

10.) Martin Van Buren
9.) Jimmy Carter
8.) George W. Bush
7.) Herbert Hoover
6.) Millard Fillmore
5.) Richard Nixon
4.) Franklin Pierce
3.) Andrew Johnson
2.) Warren G. Harding
1.) James Buchanan

Most underrated president:
-James Monroe

Most overrated president
-John Adams

Scott Case said...

Of course ranking a president is a bit ridiculous to begin with. After all, we are comparing so many variables that it is virtually impossible to make any serious scholarly inquiry on the matter.

Yes, but every historian has thought about it, just like every NFL fanatic can tell you his all-time deam team (incidentally, Joe Montana is my QB if anyone cares).

The 10 Best
1. Abe Lincoln
2. George Washington
3. Thomas Jefferson
4. FDR
5. JFK
6. Harry Truman
7. James Madison
8. Teddy Roosevelt
9. Old Hickory
10. James K. Polk

The 10 Worst

1. James Buchanan (I agree, Brad)
2. Franklin Pierce
3. George W. Bush
4. John Tyler
5. Benjamin Harrison
6. Andrew Johnson
7. Richard Nixon
8. Millard Fillmore
9. Chester Arthur
10. Warren Harding

Overrated
Ronald Reagan

Underrated
Yeah, James Monroe sounds good.

Pinky said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Brian said...

I fear I don't know enough to justify listing 10 of each, so I'll stick with 5:

Top 5 Greatest:
George Washington
James Madison
Harry Truman
Woodrow Wilson
John Quincy Adams


Top 5 Worst:
James Buchanan
George W. Bush
Bill Clinton
Andrew Johnson
Richard Nixon


Most overrated:
Abraham Lincoln


Most underrated:
John Quincy Adams

Pinky said...

The 8 Best

1. Abe Lincoln
2. FDR
3. Thomas Jefferson
4. James Madison
5. George Washington
6. JFK
7. Andrew Jackson
8, Dwight Eisenhower

The 7 Worst

1. George H.W. Bush
2. George W. Bush
3. Harry Truman
4. Ronald Regan
5. Richard Nixon
6. Woodrow Wilson
7. Bill Clinton

The 4 Most Over rated Presidents:

1. George W. Bush
2. Harry Truman
3. Teddy Roosevelt
4. Ronald Regan
.
At this time and with my present knowledge, my choices can't be seen as final. Of course, my choices are based on my personal values for American Society.
.

Brian said...

I mistakenly omitted Thomas Jefferson on my "Top 10 Best" - my apologies.

(And Scott, my quarterback would be Joe also, with Barry Sanders in the backfield)

Raven said...

How does one justify Abe Lincoln as being overrated? That's like saying that Tiger Woods sucks at golf, or that the Christian Nation myth is true...wait...we were supposed to get away from that...my bad.

Here's my picks

1-Washington
2-Lincoln
3-Jefferson
4-Jackson
5-FDR

THE WORST
1-W BUSH
2-W BUSH
3-W BUSH
4-Millard Fillmore
5-W BUSH

OVERRATED:
Probably all of them are to a certain point.

Underrated:
Probably all of them are to a certain point.

Brian said...

How does one purport to ask a serious question about Lincoln, and then follow it up by answering "THE WORST" category in that manner? I never said Lincoln was a bad president, or that he didn't know how to be president - just that he is overrated.

The main reason I think Lincoln is overrated has to do with the importance placed on his keeping the Union together. All other issues aside, most people credit him supremely with saving the Union, as if it was and is the most important thing that has ever existed in this country. However, if one does not consider the indissolubility of the Union as a matter of utmost importance, then Lincoln's importance for having "saved" it diminishes as well.

Although I do not side with many of the Confederate states who seem to have withdrawn rather hastily in 1861, and for some very bad reasons, I do not think that the Union was or is so important as people believed or believe.

Brian Tubbs said...

With any of these rankings, you need some kind of measuring criteria. Are we asking which Presidents are our personal favorites? or which ones shaped American history the most? or which ones were the most effective?

The ranking really depends on that, so I'll say the following are my top 5 and worst 5 in terms of....

The Presidents who brought out the best in the United States (subjective) and who strengthened and positioned it to be the world leader that it is today (a little more objective, though still subjective)...

I'm too lazy to think about the Top 10 and worst 10, so I'll go with the other Brian - and do Top 5 and Worst 5...

Top 5

1. George Washington
2. Abraham Lincoln
3. Teddy Roosevelt
4. Thomas Jefferson
5. James K. Polk

Worst 5

1. James Buchanan
2. Andrew Johnson
3. Franklin Pierce
4. Martin Van Buren
5. Jimmy Carter

Most Overrated

Franklin D. Roosevelt - a solid President and great leader, but his New Deal programs were a mixed bag (some hurt more than they helped)

Most Underrated

John Adams

Too Early to Tell

George W. Bush - Respectable historians will tell you that you can't effectively judge a President until about 20 years AFTER he (or she) leaves office. I tend to agree. There's too much emotion surrounding Bush to be objective, and most of the comments about him - including in this thread - prove it.

And, frankly, it's too early to fully assess President Clinton as well.

Brad Hart said...

What criteria you ask, Brian??? Well...whatever you like, since this is simply a "freebie" post.

I was surprised to see that you and I think very different of John Adams. You have him as the most underrated and I the most overrated. Very interesting. I also see that you and I are the only ones with sense enough to rank Washington #1. =)

Pinky said...

.
Taking the stand that there is some sort of scientific method for measuring the "greatness" of a president either positively or negatively is off the wall.
.
I was able to judge Clinton during the time he was president. A man who will lie to his wife will most certainly lie to the country.
.
There have been too many liars in the White House--not to mention the Halls of Congress.

Sarah said...

Pinky - If you take your phrase "a man who will lie to his wife will most certainly lie to the country", you'd have to apply it to JFK, too. If you judge Bill Clinton by his affairs, you should also judge JFK.

Pinky said...

.
You are right, Sarah.
.
I suppose most of them lied to some degree.
.
Bill Clinton strikes me as a complete opportunist who has always played his cards to win at the game of politics putting his personal interests first. He plays both sides of the street with great cunning. I think he has always been for sale.
.
I don't think, for example, Jimmy Carter ever sold his integrity to anyone for anything. For this reason, I think he belongs on the positive side of the greatest presidents..
.

Lori Stokes said...

I used to think "Union" was the most lukewarm rallying cry, too (re Brad's comment on Lincoln), but think about it. Say that an issue that has been hot for decades, like illegal immigration, suddenly became so hot that the western states and Texas were threatening to secede over it. The U.S. would disappear. What would the financial and political future be for the two remnants? The U.S., with its real good and symbolic meaning and value, would seem a distant, ridiculously high-hopes enterprise by 2060.

So Union forever, and up Lincoln its Savior!

Best:
1. Washington and Lincoln (can't believe I'm the first to have a tie)
2. FDR
3. Monroe
4. Eisenhower
5. LBJ

Worst:
1. George W. Bush
2. Andrew Jackson
3. Pierce (it's not Buchanan who's the villain of the 1850s)
4. Reagan
5. JFK

Overrated: Before 2004 I would have said JKF, but now it's Reagan.

Underrated: Eisenhower

Jonathan Rowe said...

I'm not sure if my politics are amenable to making a list like this. But, I don't think that either Bill Clinton OR Ronald Reagan should end up in the bottom 5. Both did enough things with which I disagree to not be in my top 5. But both were effective Presidents.

Re top 5, I'd agree with everyone else that Washington is #1. I'd also rank Calvin Coolidge within the top 5.

Jonathan Rowe said...

I also agree with Brian Tubbs that FDR is the most overrated President.

Our Founding Truth said...

Andrew Johnson has to be the worst President regardless of accomplishments. He was an admitted racist, who, could care less about the Constitution.

Bush, LBJ, Carter, and Clinton are among the worst. FDR is definitely overrated.

Washington, has to be amongst the best.

Pinky said...

.
Of course, this thread is just for fun.
.
The times make the man or woman.
.
So, when we think of a president, it seems we should fudge our choices in consideration of the times under which anyone served.
.

Tom Van Dyke said...

That last one about "fudging" was good, Pinky.

I don't want to judge Bill Clinton as a human being, meself. We are all flawed, it goes with being human.

And as you say, if we put them in their times, the criticism of FDR is to me unwarranted too, even if he was later proved wrong about this or that. The economy had collapsed and then came Hitler and WWII.

Whatchgonnado? You do your best, trying to peer into the fog.

Presidents aren't messiahs. They're men who do the best they can. They can't see into the future. None of us can.

I don't know much about the presidents of the 1800s, but looking at the 20th century---and the 21st---I think the American people have elected the right man every time.

[Including this last election, even though I voted the other way.]

But neither would I argue that the other guy wasn't worthy either. Al Smith, Wendell Wilkie, Tom Dewey, Adlai Stevenson...

Well let's leave it there. Walter Mondale and Bob Dole were good men too. And I voted for Dukakis.

Would the country have been better off if Bill Clinton hadn't beat Bush 41 or Dole '96?

I don't think so.

Better off if McCain had beaten Obama? So far, I don't think so. In fact, I think it'll be pretty much identical either way. Presidents, once elected do that presidential thing, that centrist thing, that American thing, what's best for our country.

I think if Herbert Hoover had beat FDR and been elected to countless terms, it would have come out about the same.

[Hoover died in 1964, not 1945! and Harry Truman pulled him out of obscurity and gave him a government oversight job.]

So, I'm OK with this president thing. I'm an apologist for George W of course, but the more I research Jimmy Carter and the load of crap he got handed, I'm not really tough on him either. {Although I despise his post-presidency.]

I'm glad we picked Barack Obama. Once again, I think the wisdom of the American people will be borne out. All things considered, he was the best man for the job. Mebbe I trust our collective wisdom too much, but I don't think so.