Best Presidents
How Many Good U.S. Presidents Have We Had?


This is an objective look at the presidents of the United States and how good of a president each one was.  Below is a ranking of the presidents from best to worst.  Considerations included effectiveness, leadership, and the challenges that each one faced (with little regard to their ideology or political party).  In many cases, their challenges weighed heavily in this ranking and some were just victims of the times and events.  It could be possible that one man was a better leader than another, but he ranks lower because his administration just didn't happen to include larger challenges and obstacles that he was able to overcome.  However, it is also true that one man with few challenges could rank higher than one who was unable to overcome his obstacles.  Also, a president's ability to be re-elected serves as a direct show of confidence by the people for that man's proven leadership.  (Twelve presidents served eight years or more.)  History also shows a president's effectiveness by what kind of impact he made upon the country and the presidency.  Finally, each man's moral character was considered, including his honesty, his integrity, and the moral code by which he lived and led. 

The presidents are grouped into four categories:  best; great; good; and, poor.  Of these 43 presidents, only two are included as our best presidents; five were great presidents; and, two were good presidents.  As a result, surprisingly, we have had only nine presidents (about 20%) which ranked as good or higher, and 34 presidents (about 80%) are included in the poor category.

The Best Presidents

Two presidents stand above the rest as being our best presidents:  Abraham Lincoln and James K. Polk.  Both men were war-time presidents, called upon to use their office of Commander-In-Chief, and both served admirably in this role.  Both men had high moral standards of honesty and integrity.  In addition to the positive aspects of their presidencies, neither man had a negative aspect that was so severe as to overshadow his 
accomplishments.

1) Abraham Lincoln

Abraham Lincoln became the 16th president in 1861 as a member of the new Republican party.  He was a humble man, and he was often able to disarm people with self-degradation humor.  No president faced greater challenges than Lincoln.  After the election of 1860, but before Lincoln took office, South Carolina and six other states seceded from the Union, and the ensuing Civil War consumed his entire presidency.  His leadership and decision making during the most difficult time in our history made him the best president in history.  He achieved his goal to preserve the Union in spite of the atrocities of the Civil War.  More than 600,000 people died during the Civil War, when the population of the U.S. was only 31 million.  He had strong convictions against slavery, and he felt that it was absolutely critical that the Union be saved, restored, and preserved.  Although he had no military background, during his first year in office he studied and taught himself the strategies of war.  As president, he worked 18-hour days.  During his presidency, his 11-year-old son Willie died of Typhoid Fever.  In 1863, he abolished slavery with the Emancipation Proclamation.  He was re-elected in 1864, and in his second inaugural address in 1865, he promised "malice toward none and charity for all."  He wanted to restore the south and allow the blacks to vote.  He was assassinated by John Wilkes Booth shortly after his second term began.

2) James Polk

James Polk became the 11th president in 1845 as a Democrat.  It could easily be argued that he was the best president in history.  Like Lincoln, he was a war-time president, but his leadership during the war with Mexican pales when compared to the challenges that Lincoln faced.  Polk said that he would serve only one term, and he kept good on this promise, not running for re-election in 1848.  He was the most accessible president, meeting with ordinary citizens who would come to the White House and were willing to wait in line to talk with him.  He was the hardest working president, even having gas lights installed in the White House so that he could work through the night.  He was careful to understand the details of the budgets that he presented to Congress.  He was responsible for the Manifest Destiny, the great westward expansion of the U.S.  Upon taking office, he had four major goals:  1) The annexation of Oregon, from Great Britain; 2) The annexation of California; 3) Fixing the credit mess; and, 4) Lowering federal tariffs.  He successfully achieved all four of these goals in addition to the annexation of additional Southwest territories through the war with Mexico.  He won that war and fixed the credit mess by setting up an independent Treasury.  It was because of President Polk that we sing of the United States as a continental nation "from sea to shining sea," words penned for the song America the Beautiful in 1895.

The Great Presidents

Our great presidents include five men who had a positive impact upon the country and the presidency.  They made things better for the American people while also strengthening the position of our country on the global scene.  They set precedents that were felt far beyond their own administrations.  As it happens, all of the great presidents and good presidents served for more than four years.

3) George Washington

George Washington became the first president in 1789 as a Federalist (liberal).  He elected to serve only two terms, setting a precedent for his office.  He avoided getting involved in the war between France and England.  He put down the Whiskey Rebellion in Pennsylvania, insisting that taxes must be paid and that this was different from the taxes that had previously been imposed by England.  He was re-elected in 1792.

4) Theodore Roosevelt

Theodore Roosevelt assumed the presidency upon the assassination of President McKinley when he became the 26th president in 1901 as a Republican.  However, some would say that he was actually a Democrat.  He had a high-energy and charismatic personality; he was an electrifying politician; and, he worked hard and was always busy.  He believed that corporate America had become too powerful.  He halted industrialist J. P. Morgan's monopoly of the railroads.  Through his Square Deal, he enacted social reform against unsafe conditions in sanitation, child labor, and unsafe conditions for coal miners (he favored labor in the coal strikes).  Regarding foreign policy, he believed that the U.S. needed to civilize the rest of the world (similar to McKinley and Bush 41).  He supported local rebels in a revolution in Latin America, clearing the way for the building of the Panama Canal.  He invoked the Monroe Doctrine, putting the U.S. in charge of the Western Hemisphere.  In 1904, he won re-election with the biggest majority of the popular vote in any presidential election, but he promised not to seek another term after that one.  He continued increasing business regulations on unsafe and unfair labor conditions.  The Meat Inspection Act addressed the unsanitary conditions in the meat packing industry, and the Pure Food and Drug Act addressed unsafe conditions in the processing of food and drugs.  He greatly expanded conservationism through the Antiquities Act.  In 1908, he honored his pledge not to seek another term, although he did run again in 1912.

5) Ronald Reagan

Ronald R. Reagan became the 40th president in 1981 as a Republican.  He was known for being a great patriot, and he reduced the size of government through cutbacks in many federal programs.  He drastically lowered taxes through major income tax reform, and he saved Social Security from insolvency.  He built up the military and introduced the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI), and this resulted in the end of the Cold War and the end of Communism in the U.S.S.R.  He supported anti-communist governments and forces around the world.  He was effective in getting legislation through Congress by reaching across party lines, as the Democrat party held a majority in the House throughout his whole presidency, and the Democrats also held  Senate during part of his second term.  In his re-election victory in 1984, he won the electoral vote for every state except for one.  The low point of his presidency was his involvement in the Iran Contra Affair, where his administration secretly violated the Boland Amendment by facilitating the sale of arms to Iran in order to secure the release of hostages and allow U.S. intelligence agencies to fund the Nicaraguan Contras.

6) Harry Truman

Harry S. Truman assumed the presidency up the death of Franklin Roosevelt.  He became the 33rd president in 1945 as a Democrat.  He is the only president to have used a nuclear bomb when he effectively brought about the end of World War II by dropping two atomic bombs on Japan.  He instituted the Marshall Plan for the reconstruction of Europe.  He ended segregation in the armed services and the civil service.  When war broke out in Korea, and China supported North Korea, he sent troops to South Korea, although this war ended in a stalemate.  He was the first president to become involved in the struggle in Vietnam.  He was re-elected by a narrow margin in 1948.

7) Franklin Roosevelt

Franklin Delano Roosevelt became the 32nd president in 1933 as a Democrat.  He came from a wealthy family, and his personality included both charm and arrogance.  He contracted polio at the age of 39, which rendered his legs almost useless, even with the aid of ten-pound leg braces.  He was very charismatic and he exuded public confidence.  He signed a huge amount of legislation into law, but this was facilitated by a Democrat majority in both houses of Congress throughout his entire administration.  In his New Deal, he signed legislation to fight the depression, including bills on banking, investments, home building, and employment.  He signed the Social Security Act to provide for a safety net for the elderly and the disabled.  In an attempt to prevent any of his legislation from being overturned by Republicans, he tried to have additional members added to the Supreme Court.  Although this power grab failed, he did break with the precedent set by George Washington in being the first man to run for a third term as president.

World War II had not yet touched the U.S. directly by 1940.  However, just as Americans are reluctant to change presidents during war, they also proved to be reluctant to change presidents during a depression.  They re-elected FDR to an unprecedented third term in 1940.  Furthermore, FDR won a fourth term in 1944, although he probably should not have run again because his health was so bad.  This gave rise to the Twenty-Second Amendment which says that no person shall be elected to the office of President more than twice.  Although FDR had promised neutrality, when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, he asked Congress for a declaration of war against Japan and Germany.  Perhaps the low point of his presidency was his internment of 100,000 Japanese-Americans.  Also, FDR knew about the Jews in German concentration camps as early as 1942 although he made no concerted effort to help the Jewish prisoners.  FDR and his generals planned and executed D-Day in 1944 which eventually led to the end of the war in Europe, although he died before the war ended, just three months into his fourth term.  FDR's planning with the Allies resulted in the formation of the United Nations after the war.

The Good Presidents

There are three other presidents who rank as good presidents.  Any weak aspects of their presidencies were far outweighed by their strengths.

8) William McKinley

William McKinley became the 25th president in 1897 as a Republican.  His opponent was William Jennings Bryan, a Democrat who unsuccessfully ran for president three times.  McKinley's presidency had many similarities to that of George W. Bush over 100 years later.  He was a spiritual man with high standards of morality.  At a time when corporate America ruled political America, he believed that America should take a stronger leadership role in the world, including American colonization, military power, and use of the world's resources.  He believed that an expansion of U.S. power would be good for the U.S. as well as for the rest of the world (much like Bush believed in promoting democracy in other countries).

Cuba was a Spanish colony at this time, and the people there were being subjected to much human suffering (much like the humanitarian argument for invading Iraq in 2003).  McKinley was greatly influenced by Theodore Roosevelt, his Assistant Secretary of the Navy.  In 1898, the U.S.S. Maine was sent to patrol the waters near Cuba, but it mysteriously exploded, and it was assumed that this was the result of hitting a Spanish mine.  (Later it was confirmed that there had been a malfunction in the engine room.)  The U.S. declared war on Spain, and the Spanish-American war ensued.  The U.S. quickly won the war and became an imperial power by taking control of Cuba, Puerto Rico, the Philippines, and Guam.  McKinley won re-election in 1900, with Roosevelt as his vice president, but McKinley was assassinated in Buffalo, New York by Leon Czolgosz on September 6th, 1901.  (As another parallel to the Bush administration, it was almost exactly 100 years later when the terrorist attacks of September 11th, 2001 occurred.)  McKinley became the third president to be assassinated in 36 years.

9) Calvin Coolidge

Calvin Coolidge became the 30th president in 1923 as a Republican.  He believed in a small federal government.  He vetoed many spending bills, he lowered taxes, and the U.S. enjoyed a prosperous and growing economy.  However, he failed to anticipate the coming depression.  He was re-elected in 1924.  He chose not to run again in 1928 simply because he felt that no man should hold the office for ten years.

The Poor Presidents

By far, most of our presidents have been poor presidents.  Although some of them had positive accomplishments, each one had net negative impact as president.  Of these 34 poor presidents:

- Two were impeached.

- One resigned.

- One was censured by Congress.

- Five were never elected by the people as president.

- One never registered to vote.

- One was kicked out of his own party.

- One was accused of treason by his critics.

- (At least) six were pro-slavery (racists).

- One was mentally unstable.

- Seven actually hated the presidency.

- One had an illegitimate child.

- One was married to a woman who was not yet divorced from her previous husband.

- 17 were unable to be elected to an additional term.

- Six were not even re-nominated by their own party.

- 10 served less than a full 4-year term in office.

- Eight died in office.

This is a sad commentary on our presidents because the bar for being a good president is really quite low.  As it turns out, to keep from being on the list of poor presidents, each one had only to:

- Serve at least a full four years as president, and show an eagerness to be president and a patriot.

- Be re-elected (as long as he was still eligible to run), or honor his promise not to run for re-election.

- Not resign; and, not be:  impeached; accused of treason; a racist; or, mentally unstable.

- Serve admirably as Commander-In-Chief; minimize fraud in his administration; and, do more good than harm.

10) Dwight D. Eisenhower

Dwight D. Eisenhower became the 34th president in 1953 as a Republican.  He didn't seek the presidency, but he was recruited by both major parties.  He was reluctant to run, but he thought he could bring about some positive changes, and he was so popular as a World War II hero that he won easily.  He was a much better general than a president.  As president he seemed determined to make peace, and his presidency was a relatively leisurely one, allowing him to play a lot of golf.  His greatest achievement as president was probably the Federal Highway Act, enabling the construction of the interstate highway system.  He was not proactive in civil rights, and he showed no real support for de-segregation.  He suffered a heart attack in 1955, but his administration oversaw a time of peace and prosperity, especially during his first term.  He ended the Korean War with an armistice instead of a victory, and he downsized the military.  He increased U.S. involvement in the Vietnam crisis by siding with South Vietnam, sending "advisors," and setting the stage for U.S. escalation in the Vietnam War for the next twenty years (which also ended without victory).  During his second term, the Cold War escalated, the U.S.S.R. gained a lead in the space race, and Castro took over in Cuba.  His interactions with Korea, Vietnam, U.S.S.R., and Cuba made for a relatively weak administration in foreign affairs, especially for a five-star general. 

11) George W. Bush

George Walker Bush became the 43rd president in 2001 as a Republican.  He was the son of the 41st president--the only father and son to serve as president other than John Adams and John Quincy Adams.  In the 2000 election, he lost the popular vote (the third president to do so) to Vice President Al Gore, and there was extensive controversy over the vote count in Florida, where that state's electoral votes would decide the election.  Vote recounts repeatedly showed that the race there was within just a few hundred votes.  Finally, in December, 2000, the Supreme Court gave the election to Bush.

When Osama Bin Laden killed nearly 3,000 Americans in the 9/11 attacks in 2001, Bush launched the War in Afghanistan.  In 2003, he also invaded Iraq (extending his father’s prior struggle with Sadaam Hussein) based upon questionable evidence, including:  Iraq's ties to terrorist activities (not well documented); Iraq's violation of UN sanctions; and, the existence of Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMDs) in Iraq (which proved to be incorrect).  The War in Afghanistan defeated the Taliban, and the Iraqi War brought down Sadaam Hussein.  However, Al Qaeda remained as a terrorist entity.  Bush believed in expanding democracy throughout the world.  His administration increased spending as well as the deficit.  He expanded the centralized federal government, including the creation of the Department of Homeland Security.  He was easily re-elected in 2004.

12) John F. Kennedy

John F. Kennedy became the 35th president in 1961 as a Democrat.  He had been a hero in the South Pacific during World War II, and he was the first Roman Catholic president.  Although he was the youngest president ever elected, he suffered from multiple chronic health problems, including back pain and Addison's Disease.  Although the press did not report on his many extra-marital affairs while he was in office, history has since shown that his standards for character and morality were quite low.  He supported the Bay of Pigs, which was an effort to have Cuban exiles overthrow Castro, but it failed miserably.  He created the Peace Corps, escalated our space program, and cut taxes.  During the Cuban Missile Crisis, when the U.S.S.R. was establishing bases for nuclear-armed missiles in Cuba, he stood up to the Soviet Union by blockading the region and preparing for an invasion of Cuba.  This was the closest the world has ever been to a nuclear war, but the crisis was settled diplomatically. He was weak on civil rights until 1963 when television news showed the nation the awful white-on-black violence in the South.

Kennedy escalated U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War by approving the assassination of the President of South Vietnam.  Oddly enough, only one week later he was assassinated himself--in Dallas, by Lee Harvey Oswald.  He was the fourth president to be assassinated, and he had served only about 1,000 days in office.  Oswald was killed by Jack Ruby only two days after Kennedy's assassination.  Much controversy remains about the motive for his assassination, including the following theories:

- Oswald acted alone, suffering from various personality disorders.

- Kennedy was assassinated on orders from the Mafia because of Attorney General Robert Kennedy's crackdown on organized crime, and the president's rebuff of Mafia-related personalities such as Frank Sinatra.

- He was killed by Castro or by communist sympathizers who opposed his actions against Cuba.

- He was killed by anti-communist sympathizers who thought he should have invaded Cuba.

- His assassination resulted from his desire to pull out of Vietnam, as he didn’t think we could win the war.  Such theories include corruption among high level officials in the FBI, the CIA, the military, and other government entities, along with defense contractors, in a vast conspiracy to escalate the war for political and economic gain.

- JFK was killed because of where he stood on the civil rights issue (again, as with the communist conspiracies, either because he was too strong or too weak on civil rights).

Kennedy is not here considered to be a good president, largely due to both his shortened presidency and his low standards for moral character.

13) Rutherford B. Hayes

Rutherford B. Hayes became the 19th president in 1877 as a Republican.  In the election of 1876, he lost the popular vote, and it took four months to settle disputes and recount the votes in several states (much like the election of 2000).  A commission was appointed to decide the outcome of the election, and the House of Representatives had to confirm the decision.  During his administration, reconstruction in the South was ended.  Although Hayes himself was not a racist, blacks were treated as second-class citizens, setting the precedent for the next 85 years.  The Civil Service was started under his administration.  During his campaign, he had promised not to seek re-election after one term, and he honored that promise.  He hated being presidentHowever, after his presidency, he continued to fight for civil rights for blacks. 
 

14) James Monroe

James Monroe became the 5th president in 1817 as a Democratic-Republican (conservative).  He had previously served as Secretary of State.  The issue of slavery became a factor when Missouri became a state, and it had to be determined whether it would be a free state or a slave state.  With the Missouri Compromise of 1820, Missouri was admitted to the Union as a slave state, and Maine was admitted as a free state.  Monroe favored returning slaves to Africa.  Monroe's administration is best known by the Monroe Doctrine, ensuring that none of the U.S. would be subjected to colonization by other countries.  He was re-elected in 1820.

15) James Madison

James Madison became the 4th president in 1809 as a Democratic-Republican.  He had previously served as Secretary of State.  He usually dressed in black.  During the War of 1812, the British burned the president's mansion and forced Madison to retreat from Washington.  Although the U.S. essentially lost that war, it was ended with the Treaty of Gent in 1814.  Before the news of the treaty reached New Orleans, Andrew Jackson won one last battle at the Battle of New Orleans.  He was re-elected in 1812.

16) Benjamin Harrison

Benjamin Harrison became the 23rd president in 1889 as a Republican.  Although President Cleveland won the popular vote, Harrison won the electoral college (like the year 2000).  Harrison was the grandson of former president William Henry Harrison, and the only president who was the grandson of another president.  Harrison nearly bankrupted the Treasury.  He secured pensions for Civil War veterans, but there was widespread abuse when these pensions were implemented.  He also raised tariffs by signing the McKinley Tariff Act, resulting in fewer imported goods, monopolies by U.S. companies, and rampant inflation.  He was unable to be re-elected in 1892.

17) Ulysses S. Grant

Ulysses S. Grant became the 18th president in 1869 as a Republican.  The election of 1868 was the first election where blacks were allowed to vote, and most blacks voted for Grant.  In fact, he wouldn't have won without their vote because he did not receive the majority of the white vote.  He was a loyal and humble man, and he essentially crushed the KKK.  However, his administration was filled with scandals, corruption, and abuse of power.  He appointed his cronies to most positions, and he was responsible for the Whiskey Ring fraud (concerning tax revenues), the Credit Ring fraud, and the many frauds associated with the Department of Indian Affairs.  (Custer's Last Stand occurred during his administration.)  In 1873, he dealt with the economic depression in the North while tolerating extensive violence in the South.  He was re-elected in 1872, but history has viewed his as a failed administration.

18) Thomas Jefferson

Thomas Jefferson became the 3rd president in 1801 as a Democratic-Republican.  He had previously served as Secretary of State.  He came into office believing that a small federal government was best, but he ended up substantially increasing the reach of the federal government.  His administration brought about the Louisiana Purchase, for only $15 million, essentially doubling the size of the U.S.  However, he was criticized for this, and questions arose concerning the constitutionality of this purchase.  He refused to become involved with the war between France and England, essentially taking an isolationist stand.  He also signed the Embargo Act, stopping all foreign trade.  He had an affair with a slave woman, but he dealt with the bad publicity by just ignoring it.  He was re-elected in 1804, but he hated the presidency so much that he omitted it from his gravestone.

19) John Adams

John Adams became the 2nd president in 1797 as a Federalist.  He dealt with the XYZ Affair when the French interfered with U.S. trade ships and attempted bribery during their war with England, and Adams eventually made a treaty with France.  He signed the Alien and Sedition Acts, making it a crime to speak out against the government--possibly the low point of his presidency.  Although he did establish a strong U.S. Navy, his presidency was probably the low point of his distinguished political career.  He was unable to be re-elected to a second term, and this was so upsetting to him that he snubbed the incoming president, Thomas Jefferson, and he probably hated the presidency.

20) Grover Cleveland

Grover Cleveland became the 22nd president in 1885 as a Democrat.  He was unable to be re-elected in 1888, but he was re-elected in 1892, making him the only man to serve two non-consecutive terms as president.  During the campaign of 1884, his morality was questioned when it was discovered that he had had an illegitimate child, and he confessed to this.  He was the only president ever to be married in the White House.  As president, he had the most vetoes (414) of any president so far.  He supported the gold standard, but the economy became even worse in the Panic of 1893.  He was not re-nominated by his own party.

21) Bill Clinton

Bill Clinton became the 42nd president in 1993 as a Democrat.  He balanced the budget for the first time since the Jackson administration.  However, he failed to take action against terrorists, including Osama Bin Laden, even after the bombing of the U.S.S. Cole.  Furthermore, his administration included many scandals such as White Water, and numerous sexual harassments suits against the president.  He did reach across party lines when he had no other choice.  He was re-elected in 1996, but in the Paula Jones case, Monica Lewinsky was called as a witness, and this uncovered more incidents of the president's extra marital affairs.  When he lied under oath, he was accused of perjury and abuse of power.  He became only the second president to be impeached, but he was acquitted by the Senate.

22) Barack Obama

Barack Hussein Obama became the 44th president in 2009 as a Democrat and the first African-American president.    He came out of nowhere to win the election in 2008 after being a national figure for only three years as a U.S. senator.  His far left views implied that he supported socialism over capitalism.  He won the Nobel peace prize in 2009 despite having no foreign policy experience.  He was an arrogant man, and he seemed to despise America's history of colonization.  He apologized to the nations of Europe for American actions of the past.  He implied that American exceptionalism was no more special than that of other countries such as Greece (a country that went bankrupt during his administration).  He declared that the U.S. was no longer a Christian nation. 

Obama bailed out large banks and auto manufacturers.  During his presidency, the credit rating of the U.S. government was downgraded for the first time in history, although he blamed most problems on the previous administration.  He ran up historic deficits.  His 2012 budget was voted down in the House by a vote of 414 to zero, and in the Senate by a vote of 99 to zero.  He spent $800 billion on a failed stimulus package, later laughing about his "shovel-ready" projects not being so shovel-ready after all.  He said that unemployment would top out below 8%, yet his administration was the only one in history to see unemployment near or above 8% for four years.  He promised that his administration would be the most transparent in history, but it was probably the least transparent--basically bringing the dirty politics of Chicago to Washington.  He passed Obama-care (national healthcare) through a series of back room deals.  Although he promised not to raise taxes on the middle class (anyone making less than $250K), Obama-care did just that, as the Supreme Court ruled that the mandate for everyone to purchase healthcare insurance was indeed a tax.  He was unable to effectively reach across party lines when there was a Republican majority in the House.    He did get Osama Bin Laden, and he was re-elected in 2012.

23) Jimmy Carter

James Earl Carter became the 39th president in 1977 as a Democrat.  He negotiated peace between Israel and Egypt in his Camp David Peace Accords.  He expanded the federal government by adding the departments of Energy and Education.  During his administration, the economy was awful, with double-digit inflation, unemployment, and interest rates.  When 52 Americans were taken hostage from the U.S. embassy in Iran, he appeared to be a weak president when he was unable to negotiate their safe return.  After more than a year of imprisonment, the hostages were finally released on his last day in office, and many surmised that this was because Iran was fearful of the new president (Reagan).  He was unable to be re-elected.

24) Woodrow Wilson

Woodrow Wilson became the 28th president in 1913 as a Democrat.  His wife died in 1914, he remarried in 1915, and he was re-elected in 1916.  He created the Federal Reserve to control monetary policy and stabilize U.S. currency.  Wilson signed the Sedition and Espionage Act, making it a crime to criticize the government.  When War broke out in Europe, he pledged to remain neutral, even when Americans were killed aboard British ships that were attacked by Germany.  However, in 1917, when Germany began attacking American ships, he had to renege on his promise of neutrality.  The U.S. declared war on Germany, but Wilson insisted that the U.S. maintain a separate Army (instead of just being a part of an allied effort with Great Britain).  Wilson desperately sought to form the League of Nations, believing that it would put an end to war forever, and he successfully negotiated the origin of the League of Nations at the Treaty of Versailles.  However, when he backed legislation for the U.S. to become a part of the League of Nations, it was defeated in the U.S. Senate, so the U.S never joined it.  Wilson's legacy was an administration that was unable to compromise (with Republican leaders such as Henry Cabot Lodge).  With the onset of World War II, the League of Nations lost credibility since it had been proven to be unsuccessful in ending war forever, but it was essentially replaced by the United Nations after the war.  Wilson suffered a stroke in 1919 and he was unable to govern effectively during his last 18 months in office. 

25) William Howard Taft

William Howard Taft became the 27th president in 1909 as a Republican.  He had no real desire to be president, but he was pressured into running for president by President Roosevelt, as well as his own wife who desperately wanted to live in the White House.  Shortly after taking office, his wife suffered a stroke and was unable to enjoy her role as first lady.  President Taft hated the spotlight, and the stress of the job caused him to over-eat until he weighed 355 pounds--our heaviest president.  He was quick to delegate responsibility as he was a weak leader and a poor decision maker.  During the election of 1912, President Roosevelt ran for the Republican nomination against President Taft, but Taft won.  As a result, Roosevelt ran in the general election as a member of the progressive Bull Moose Party.  This split the Republican vote (much like Ross Perot's third-party runs in 1992 and 1996), paving the way for a victory for the Democratic party, so he was unable to be re-elected.  President Taft later became the Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court.

26) John Quincy Adams

John Quincy Adams became the 6th president in 1825 as a Democratic-Republican.  He had previously served as Secretary of State, and he was the son of John Adams, the second president.  The election of 1824 was the first presidential election to test the constitutional direction of controversial elections.  This was the first election where the popular vote was counted.  Andrew Jackson had the most electoral votes, but he didn't have a majority.  The election then went to the House of Representatives where Henry Clay was the Speaker of the House (and he had ended up in fourth place in the election).  John Quincy Adams was the winner of the vote in the House, and he chose Henry Clay as his Secretary of State.  This brought accusations of scandal and corruption, as some thought that Clay had guided the election in the House in order to bargain with Adams.  As a result, during Adams' term in office, the Jacksonians in Congress blocked all of his legislation, making for a miserable administration for Adams, and he hated the presidency.  Jackson also thought that the election had been rigged.

The presidential election of 1828 was a repeat of the 1824 election between President John Quincy Adams and Andrew Jackson, so it was a very dirty election.  The Adams campaign dug up dirt on Jackson by noting that Jacksons wife Rachel had not been legally divorced from her first husband when she married Jackson in 1791, 37 years earlier.  Still, Adams was unable to be re-elected, and Jackson won in a landslide.  However, his wife Rachel had endured much stress during the campaign.  After the election, and after she had picked out her dress for the inauguration, she died of a heart attack in December, 1828, before ever seeing her husband as president.  John Quincy Adams was so aggravated by Jackson and the election that he refused to attend Jackson's inauguration.  However, Adams went on to become a member of the House of Representatives, the only president ever to serve in the House after his presidency.  Also, Adams was the first president to ever be photographed, in 1843.

27) George Herbert Walker Bush

George Herbert Walker Bush became the 41st president in 1989 as a Republican.  He was a World War II hero.  His presidency oversaw the end of the Cold War.  When Sadaam Hussein invaded Kuwait, President Bush led a UN coalition to oust Hussein from Kuwait in the Gulf War.  He promised not to raise taxes, but large deficits forced him to renege on this promise.  Largely because of this, as well as third-party candidate Ross Perot’s splitting of the Republican vote, he was unable to be re-elected.

28) Martin Van Buren

Martin Van Buren became the 8th president in 1937 as a Democrat.  The Panic of 1837 was the first economic depression that the U.S. suffered, resulting in high unemployment and many bankruptcies.  The Panic of 1839 was even worse, due to a glut of cotton on the market, the major product and export.  Van Buren was incapable of making tough decisions.  He spoke out against the annexation of Texas, basically because this allowed him a way of ducking the slavery issue.  He was unable to be re-elected in 1840.

29) Lyndon B. Johnson

Lyndon Baines Johnson assumed the presidency when JFK was assassinated.  He became the 36th president in 1963 as a Democrat.  In his Great Society, he signed a flood of legislation, second only to FDR, including the Civil Rights Act, the Voting Rights Act, Medicaid, Food stamps, EPA laws, National Public Radio, and the Public Broadcasting System.  Like FDR, his legislative victories were made possible by a Democrat majority in both houses of Congress throughout his entire administration.  Although his legacy may be the Civil Rights Act, politics may have overruled his compassion and sincerity, as he sometimes referred to it as the "N... bill."  He greatly escalated the Vietnam War, in a losing cause.  He was so unpopular for this that he decided not to run for re-election in 1968.  He would have been unable to be re-elected, as he had no chance of winning.

30) Herbert Hoover

Herbert Hoover became the 31st president in 1929 as a Republican.  When World War I veterans marched on Washington, demanding bonuses, he ordered General MacArthur to stop the march, and this ended in violence against the protesters.  Hoover was a business man and a hard worker, but he had no charisma and he was unable to do anything to pull the U.S. out of depression.  He hated (detested) the presidency, and he was unable to be re-elected in 1932.

31) Andrew Jackson

Andrew Jackson became the 7th president in 1829 as a Democrat (a Jeffersonian).  His opponents nicknamed him Jackass, and this image stuck as the mascot of the Democratic party.  He supported slavery and he was a slaveholder himself.  Although he was a good general, he was actually a poor president.  He blamed the politics of the opposing party (and perhaps politics in general) for his wife's death.  He fired his whole Cabinet, and he went through four Secretaries of State.  He signed the Indian Removal Act of 1830, leading to the infamous Trail of Tears where many peaceful Indians lost their lives during their "removal."  He was 
re-elected in 1832.  During Jackson's presidency, the state of South Carolina nearly seceded from the Union over the Nullification Crisis (an issue of taxation).  During "The bank War," Jackson closed the Bank of the United States, causing him to be censured by Congress.

32) Richard M. Nixon

Richard Milhous Nixon became the 37th president in 1969 as a Republican.  
He established diplomatic relations with China, and he agreed to weapons limitations with the U.S.S.R.  However, his administration goes down in history as one that abused the power of the presidency on many fronts.  He escalated the Vietnam War and used it for political advantage.  He was re-elected in 1972.  He wire-tapped phones at leisure, including those of politicians and reporters, and he apparently considered himself to be above the law.  The Watergate burglary and cover-up proved to be his downfall.  With impeachment and prosecution looming, he resigned in 1974, becoming the only president to resign from office.  Although he was a master politician and he reached across party lines, he ranks near the bottom of the list due to his abuse of power and impending impeachment.

33) Gerald R. Ford

Gerald R. Ford assumed the presidency upon the resignation of President Nixon.  He became the 38th president in 1974 as a Republican.  He granted a full pardon to President Nixon.  Although he wanted to escalate the war in Vietnam, Congress would not oblige, and he was in power when Saigon fell to the Communists.  Since he was unable to be re-elected in 1976, he was never elected by the people as president.  He served less than two-and-a-half years in office. 

34) Chester A. Arthur

Chester A. Arthur assumed the presidency upon the assassination of President Garfield.  He became the 21st president in 1881 as a Republican.  He was the third president to serve in 1881.  He was competent, but he liked to party, and he was not a hard worker.  He signed the Pendleton Act which 
reformed the Civil Service, and he upgraded the Navy.  He was not re-nominated by his party in 1884, so he was unable to be re-elected, and he was never elected by the people as president, and he served less than three-and-a-half years in office. 

35) Andrew Johnson

Andrew Johnson assumed the presidency upon Lincoln's assassination.  He became the 17th president in 1865 as a member of the Democrat-Union (liberal) party.  He had no formal schooling at all.  He was probably the most racist of all presidents and he hindered the reconstruction of the South.  He fought for amnesty for veterans, but he sought no rights for blacks.  He executed his veto power 29 times, more than any other president to that time, indicating an inability to reach across party lines.  Congress charged that he violated the Tenure of Congress Act, which required Congressional approval for appointed officials, by firing Secretary of State Stanton and replacing him with Ulysses S. Grant.  As a result, he was the first president to be impeached.  He avoided conviction and removal from office by only one vote.  His tenure as president weakened the office of the presidency considerably.  He was unable to be re-elected, so he was never elected by the people as president, and he served less than four years in office.  After his presidency, he became the first former president to become a U.S. Senator.

36) James Buchanan

James Buchanan became the 15th president in 1857 as a Democrat.  He never married and it's quite possible that he was gay.  He was one of the worst presidents, and some of his critics even thought that he was guilty of treason.  During his oath of office, he omitted the pledge to "preserve, defend, and protect the Union."  He was pro-slavery.  He was not re-nominated, so he was not able to be re-elected, but hated the presidency and was happy to leave it.

37) Warren G. Harding

Warren G. Harding became the 29th president in 1921 as a Republican.  He was a poor leader.  He signed the Budget and Accounting Act which gave the executive branch greater control over spending, and required the president to submit an annual budget.  He supported the
first arms limitations by promoting world naval disarmament.  first arms limitations by promoting world naval disarmament.  Harding died in 1923, presumably of natural causes, after serving only two years and five months in office.  After his death, many scandals of his administration came to light, including the Teapot Dome scandal where members of his administration were involved in the illegal leasing of oil reserves.

38) Millard Fillmore

Millard Fillmore assumed the presidency upon the death of President Taylor.  He became the 13th president in 1850 as a member of the Whig party.  He was a poor president.  He signed the Compromise of 1850 as a supporter of slavery.  He was not even re-nominated by his own party for the next election, so he was unable to be re-elected, he was never elected by the people as president, and he served only two years and eight months in office.

39) Franklin Pierce

Franklin Pierce became the 14th president in 1853 as a Democrat.  He was a poor president, and an alcoholic; and, he was mentally unstable.  Just after he was elected, his 11-year-old son was killed in a train accident.  He had previously lost two other children, and this was his last surviving child.  During his presidency, his vice president also died.  He was pro-slavery, and he was not re-nominated by his party, so he was unable to be re-elected.  After leaving office, he lived out the rest of his life as a recluse.

40) John Tyler

John Tyler assumed the presidency upon the death of President William Henry Harrison.  He became the 10th president in 1841 as a member of the Whig party.  He was a poor president, and he was kicked out of his own party.  During his administration, the modern day border with Canada was established, and the state of Texas was annexed.  He was not re-nominated in 1844, so he was unable to be re-elected, and was never elected by the people as president, and he served less than four years in office.

41) Zachary Taylor

Zachary Taylor became the 12th president in 1849 as a member of the Whig (conservative) party.  He was not a politician.  He was a Mexican War hero, and his nickname was Old Rough 'n Ready.  He never registered to vote, and he didn't even vote in his own election.  He died in 1850, probably of cholera, after serving only 16 months in office. 

42) James A. Garfield

James A. Garfield became the 20th president in 1881 as a Republican.  He had narrowly defeated Ulysses S. Grant in the Republican convention.  He was the only preacher to ever become president.  He was perhaps the most detail-oriented of all presidents.  In July, 1881, he was shot by an assassin, Charles G. Guiteau, although he lingered for two months before he died, after serving only six months in office.  He was the second president to be assassinated in 16 years.

43) William Henry Harrison

William Henry Harrison became the 9th president in 1841 as a member of the Whig party.  His campaign slogan had been "Tippecanoe and Tyler too," commemorating the heroics of Harrison and his Vice President in the Indian Wars.  Harrison was 68 years old when he became president.  At his inauguration, he gave a two-hour speech, in the outdoors, on a very cold day.  As a result, he contracted pneumonia, and he died after serving only one month in office. 

Please note that this list currently ends at 43 presidents, but we have had 45 presidencies. This is due to the following: 

1) Grover Cleveland had two non-consecutive presidencies; and, 

2) Donald J. Trump, our current president is still in office and yet to be evaluated.

The Presidents in Chronological Order: 

1) George Washington, 1789 – 1797, Federalist

2) John Adams, 1797 – 1801, Federalist

3) Thomas Jefferson, 1801 – 1809, Democrat-Republican

4) James Madison, 1809 – 1817, Democrat-Republican – The War of 1812

5) James Monroe, 1817 – 1825, Democrat-Republican

6) John Quincy Adams, 1825 – 1829, Democrat-Republican

7) Andrew Jackson, 1829 – 1837, Democrat

8) Martin Van Buren, 1837 – 1841, Democrat

9) William Henry Harrison, 1841 – 1841, Whig

10) John Tyler, 1841 – 1845, Whig

11) James K. Polk, 1845 – 1849, Democrat – Mexican-American War

12) Zachary Taylor, 1849 – 1850, Whig

13) Millard Fillmore, 1850 – 1853, Whig

14) Franklin Pierce, 1853 – 1857, Democrat

15) James Buchanan, 1857 – 1861, Democrat

16) Abraham Lincoln, 1861 – 1865, Republican – The Civil War

17) Andrew Johnson, 1865 – 1869, Democrat-Union

18) Ulysses S. Grant, 1869 – 1877, Republican

19) Rutherford B. Hayes, 1877 – 1881, Republican

20) James A. Garfield, 1881 – 1881, Republican

21) Chester A. Arthur, 1881 – 1885, Republican

22) Grover Cleveland, 1885 – 1889, Democrat

23) Benjamin Harrison, 1889 – 1893, Republican

24) Grover Cleveland, 1893 – 1897, Democrat

25) William McKinley, 1897 – 1901, Republican – Spanish-American War

26) Theodore Roosevelt, 1901 – 1909, Republican

27) Howard Taft, 1909 – 1913, Republican

28) Woodrow Wilson, 1913 – 1921, Democrat, World War I

29) Warren G. Harding, 1921 – 1923, Republican

30) Calvin Coolidge, 1923 – 1929, Republican

31) Herbert Hoover, 1929 – 1933, Republican

32) Franklin D. Roosevelt, 1933 – 1945, Democrat – World War II

33) Harry S. Truman, 1945 – 1953, Democrat – World War II, Korean War

34) Dwight D. Eisenhower, 1953 – 1961, Republican – Korean War

35) John F. Kennedy, 1961 – 1963, Democrat – The Vietnam War

36) Lyndon B. Johnson, 1963 – 1969, Democrat – The Vietnam War

37) Richard M. Nixon, 1969 – 1974, Republican – The Vietnam War

38) Gerald R. Ford, 1974 – 1977, Republican – The Vietnam War

39) Jimmy Carter, 1977 – 1981, Democrat

40) Ronald Reagan, 1981 – 1989, Republican

41) George Herbert Walker Bush, 1989 – 1993, Republican – Gulf War

42) Bill Clinton, 1993 – 2001, Democrat

43) George W. Bush, 2001 – 2009, Republican – Afghan War, Iraq War

44) Barack Hussein Obama, 2009 – 2017, Democrat – Afghan War, Iraq War 

45) Donald J. Trump, 2017 – , Republican – Afghan War, Iraq War

Legend:  

   
Green = Positive  
   Red = Negative 
   
Blue = Historical Re-occurrence

Owen Weber 2012