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Who Was the Worst President in American History?

Updated on November 26, 2016
Franklin Pierce
Franklin Pierce | Source

Many People Forget History in Favor of the Present

Based upon the frequent posts on Facebook, Twitter, and various blogs and message boards, many Americans think that either George W. Bush (for liberals) or Barack Obama (for conservatives/libertarians) is the absolute worst president ever to occupy the White House. These comments continue and seem to be going nowhere anytime soon. Chances are that the next president will have people saying the same thing about him or her within months (or even days) of taking the oath of office.

George Washington can't count as the worst ever to occupy the White House, although he could be considered the worst president to never occupy the White House, as well as the best. His successor, John Adams, was the first president to live in the new presidential mansion in the Federal City later known as Washington, D. C.

In thinking of the best and worst presidents ever, it is a bit problematic to include men such as Bush or Obama, because the full impact of their actions and policies are difficult to gauge from such a short chronological distance. For example, Harry Truman was fairly unpopular during his time in office, yet now he is now considered one of the better presidents in United States history because of his handling of important events in the late World War II and early Cold War era.

Who Is the Worst President Ever?

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What Makes a Bad President?

In 2007, US News and World Report averaged five different polls to come up with the worst president in American History. One thing that was quite evident in their list, as it is in various other similar lists is the time period that most of the worst presidents inhabited. Most of those considered terribly bad tended to serve in the years just before or after the US Civil War. What is the reason for this chronological concentration? One important thing that these presidents tend to have in common is a belief that the President should to some degree defer to Congress.

None of the nineteenth-century presidents on the list from one of the polls used by US News and World Report could be considered an activist president. In other words, they did not lead. Harvard historian Arthur Schlesinger, Sr. questioned 55 major historians to come up with the list in question, which included such well-remembered presidents as U. S. Grant (president from 1869-1877), Franklin Pierce (1853-1857), James Buchanan (1857-1861), Zachary Taylor (1849-1850), Millard Fillmore (1850-1853), and John Tyler 1841-1844). More recent polls, including that listed by US News and World Report, list Buchanan as the worst. This belief seems to have a fairly strong consensus.

Most of the presidents listed above, as mentioned previously were not considered strong leaders with great ideas. Three served only partial terms, as Taylor died in office and Fillmore succeeded him. Tyler was the same Tyler from the Tippecanoe and Tyler Too slogan. He succeeded Old Tippecanoe, William Henry Harrison, after the latter caught pneumonia and died just one month following his excessively long inaugural address in a cold spring rain.

Taylor, Fillmore, Pierce (himself an ancestor of George W. Bush through his mother's line), and Buchanan all had to deal with the major sectional difficulties that festered below the surface for years and then blew up after the Mexican-American War. None did a good job of dealing with the situation.

Buchanan generally gets to inhabit the bottom of the barrel in terms of US presidents because he did nothing to deal with the sectional difficulties and then did nothing to stop the secession of South Carolina as a lame duck after the election of Abraham Lincoln. It could also be argued that presidents such as James K. Polk and Andrew Jackson were the worst because of some of their (nearly universally deplored) misdeeds, such as starting a war with Mexico that many contemporaries questioned on moral grounds and the removal of American Indians to the southern edge of the Great American Desert, AKA Oklahoma.

Corruption around various presidents also tends to earn a spot on the list. Although he was not on the list given by Schlesinger's historians, Richard Nixon was on the US News and World Report list. Not only was Nixon considered corrupt (so much so that he had to resign from office in 1974), he also had several associates imprisoned for various improprieties during his administration.

The Teapot Dome Scandal (which interestingly had to do with oil companies in the 1920s) rocked the administration of Warren G. Harding, although Harding himself was not really considered an active participant in the scandal. Likewise, the administration of Ulysses S. Grant was riddled with controversy. Many of Grant's associates were quite unscrupulous. An attempt to corner the gold market and the infamous Credit Mobilier Scandal are among the better known scandals that occurred while Grant was president. Scandal was so rampant that it led to a new term: Grantism.

James Buchanan--The Worst President Ever?
James Buchanan--The Worst President Ever? | Source

The Final Verdict

The presidents listed above, such as Grant, Buchanan, and Nixon, could also have presidents such as Andrew Johnson and Herbert Hoover listed. Those who view big government as a problem might find Franklin Delano Roosevelt (and his cousin Teddy), Woodrow Wilson, Lyndon B. Johnson, and even Abraham Lincoln as poor historical examples, although most polls of historians would hold these men, with the possible exception of LBJ, among the better presidents in US history.

Will George W. Bush or Barack Obama find themselves on similar lists fifty years from now? Or will historians be more kind than their contemporaries? The answer to these questions is difficult to tell at this point. One thing that is quite evident, a rehabilitation of James Buchanan's reputation is not likely anytime soon, and he will most likely continue to be considered the worst president in American history until someone comes along who is worse. Hopefully, that person doesn't come anytime soon.

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      Robert Illes 8 days ago

      Interesting to read this, written with some spooky premonition, just as inarguably (I'm pretty sure) the worst president to ever enter the White House, Donald J. Trump, was "elected" and now occupies the office.

    • Ed Schofield profile image

      Ed Schofield 7 months ago from Nova Scotia, Canada

      I see you avoided answering your own question, and leave it up to the readers themselves. Crafty devil. Woodrow Wilson for the last year in office was paralyzed by a stroke, and Edith Wilson would take questions to him privately, emerge from the office and declare 'the President has decided this...' so he should be high on the list for being mentally incompetent for one year of his term. Ronald Reagan was reputed to be non compos mentis as well, due to Altzheimers and was reputed to have said, "If there is anything important to report I want you to wake me up, even if I'm in a cabinet meeting.' So he could get a few votes for that time period. But my vote for the worst President ever would one that threatened the very existence of US democracy itself, having taken the oath to preserve the constitution, decided to work to undermine it. There are a few choices in that category, but I'll use the same tactic as the teacher did, and simply ask who you think that was. Oh, I should have said right up front, I enjoyed your article.

    • profile image

      Watsup 7 months ago

      Why Washington may be considered the worst? Are you crazy?

    • profile image

      Peter Goldring 19 months ago

      Jimmy Carter sponsors this page. Hmmmm. Unquestionably the worst president, trying to fake a legacy. Nice try, jumbo.

    • profile image

      JOSEPH E. BOWKER 19 months ago

      FDR did more for America and the American People than any other President, before and after him. President Obama, 2nd best. Had he not been treated so badly by the Republicans in office, he had the opportunity to be greatest. He should have used the Executive Order more often to get his job done against treasonous Republicans in the Congress.

    • profile image

      Harris Healy 2 years ago

      Franklin Pierce was the worst. New Englander and friend to Nathaniel Hawthorne, Pietce opened the states of Kansas and Nebraska to slavery and left

      an impossible situation for his successor,

      James Buchanan.

    • profile image

      Paul Glover 2 years ago

      Obama is unquestionable the worst President we have ever had. He has almost destroyed our military, if he continues, we'll be back to the 30's,

      We were once the strongest military in the world. He destroyed the carers

      Of many officers in all services.

      Why anyone voted for him, unless they were on the dole, is still difficult for me to understand.

      Please find someone like General Patton, to salvage what little we have left!

      At 92, I will not worry much longer, but I have 21 grand and great grand

      children, who will have to live in the shell of this, once great, country!

      Copy Switzerland and require all males, and probably, all females to spend 2 years of their life in a copy of Parris Island, this, to me, is the

      only way we can ever return to the country I was born in 1923!

      Semper Fi, Paul W. Glover jr.

    • profile image

      Larry Wall 2 years ago

      Is it really fair to try to rank the past presidents as best or worst since over the years the issues they face were different.

      Would we not be better off just trying to determine if the president was honest, offered new ideas and responded to whatever issues he inherited from the prior administration. There are hubs all over the place about who was the best or the worst--I think we need to change the categories and and make adjustments for the issues each faced in their administration.

    • cprice75 profile image
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      cprice75 2 years ago from USA

      No doubt he was bad, too. He's usually somewhere in the bottom 5 or 10 on these types of lists.

    • profile image

      SocraticGadfly 2 years ago

      Erm, where's Andrew Johnson on your poll and list? IMO, he was even worse than Buchanan (who would still be a comfortable No. 2).

    • cprice75 profile image
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      cprice75 2 years ago from USA

      Most people wear their political viewpoints on their shoulders, which is why Obama and Bush tend to get so many votes in this contest. If we take an objective view, however, we'll see that many of the nineteenth-century presidents were quite weak.

    • profile image

      George Miller 2 years ago

      If you know anything about history and can step away from your biased political views two things are very clear. James Buchanan is by far and away the worst, most ineffective President in our history and Barack Obama should not be in the conversation. President Obama was handed the worst economy in decades, a war nobody wanted and a 9/11 mastermind on the loose. He has been effective righting the ship regardless if we are all the way back or not.

    • Jason R. Manning profile image

      Jason R. Manning 3 years ago from Sacramento, California

      Greetings, I really enjoyed your article and probably your comments section even more. How interesting that no one really jumped on Andrew Jackson for his pompous and dangerous view of popularity. While I am only 35 years old, I cannot imagine there will ever be any serious agreement of who the top 5 and bottom 5 presidents are. Ideologically this is an impossibility, we each choose favorites based on how we wish they executed their office and the crisis they faced. I find FDR as someone who very nearly ruined democracy had he been a healthier man. Anyone who believes they deserved more than 3 terms has the despot gene. How he viewed the courts and the universities, his meeting with communists, it is shocking to read his ideas. I judge him for what he did and what he tried to do but only failed because of his death.

      If we were to judge our presidents based on character or moral scruple, as brilliant as Jefferson was, his hypocrisy was incredulous. Since I prefer a strong leader with a mild touch, I favor the Coolidge years, or as someone else commented, they could not remember what Eisenhower did accept build us highways; what again is wrong with that??? I think we have bigger problems ahead of us as the pressure to make big changes in the first 100 days requires action, even if it is the wrong kind.

      Great topic and fabulous dialogue so far. Cheers.

    • S Leretseh profile image

      S Leretseh 3 years ago

      FIRST, let's not just dismiss ONE very important fact: 1790 to 1964 was ONE system , 1964 to the present is quite another system (pre integration - post integration)

      Under the pre integration system, America was structured consistent with every other society in human history (one male group - in America it was White Christina males run the create-run all the political & economic arenas within the system). Under this system , I would say President Wilson was worth president. I say this because he failed to take a firm hand with the French after World War I. America won that war NOT the trench-hiding French. The French demand for reparations from the Germans ruined the German economy and led to the Nazis,which led to World War II.

      Post compulsory inclusion (1964 to the present)...I would say hands down G.W. Bush. He seemed dedicated to destroying the American economy. He was most definitely behind 9-11 attack; he failed to take a firm hand with Federal Reserve , Wall street thieves and Federal National Mortgage Association.

    • cprice75 profile image
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      cprice75 4 years ago from USA

      Andrew Johnson would probably rank up there for sure. Harding had some corrupt underlings, much like Grant.

    • steveamy profile image

      steveamy 4 years ago from Florida

      Harding or Andrew Johnson

    • cprice75 profile image
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      cprice75 4 years ago from USA

      Johnson really was a piece of work. They should have known it when he showed up the Lincoln's inauguration drunk. Then he would almost get into fights with hecklers when he was president. Talk about a class act.

    • Gawth profile image

      Ron Gawthorp 4 years ago from Millboro, Virginia

      I think the one before Lincoln (Buchanan) and the one after Lincoln (Johnson) were equally inept and tie for the worst. Buchanan could have mitigated and maybe even avoided the Civil War. Johnson could have mitigated Reconstruction. Both events laid lasting scars on our society.

    • cprice75 profile image
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      cprice75 4 years ago from USA

      This is by far my best hub in terms of traffic. Thanks for reading.

    • ib radmasters profile image

      ib radmasters 4 years ago from Southern California

      cprice75

      It looks like you got good response from your hub, looking forward to reading more hubs from you.

    • cprice75 profile image
      Author

      cprice75 4 years ago from USA

      Thanks for visiting and the comments, Brian. I totally agree with your assessment of Nixon's personality flaws. I also agree that he probably only reached out to help his image after the whole Watergate fiasco. That said, I think you are correct that he was a better-than-average president. I also think he would have absolutely no chance of getting a Republican nomination today (nor would Reagan for that matter).

    • Brian Tomlinson profile image

      Brian Tomlinson 4 years ago from Jamaica, New York

      Excellent hub, though I am not so sure about Nixon. He was a brilliant politician, and tactician. However he was paranoid, fearful, and always felt that everyone was out to get him, and that he had to get "them" before "they" got him. His dealings with Vietnam while campaigning for President was criminal and boarder-line treasonous. He was conducting foreign policy as a private citizen before being sworn in as President. In later life he became an elder statesman to all Presidents, but they all knew he was only in it to get back in the the light. I think history has Nixon right, a better than average President, but a flawed man. A great book that I just read was The President's Club by Nancy Gibbs and Michael Duffy. Great read.

    • cprice75 profile image
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      cprice75 4 years ago from USA

      Chelsea,

      Thanks for reading. I actually believe that Nixon would be considered one of the better presidents in US history if not for Watergate.

    • profile image

      Chelsea Heaps 4 years ago

      Though Nixon was a crook and a liar, he was never a terrible President. He did a great deal for the environment, helped move along the process to integrate schools and basically created affirmative action. He may have been a paranoid man and got caught up in the power play of politics, but he wasn't nearly as bad with policy as George W. Bush.

    • cprice75 profile image
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      cprice75 4 years ago from USA

      The Fed could use some oversight, but a central bank of some sort is a good idea. There have been two really bad depressions since the Fed came into existence. Depressions the size of the Great Depression took place about every 15-20 years in the nineteenth century after the end of the 2nd Bank of the US. They would sometimes have about 25% unemployment that could last for around 5 years. I agree about WWI to an extent, but the animosity that Britain and France had against the Germans had more to do with the ultimate outcome.

    • Mikeg422 profile image

      Michael Gill 4 years ago from Philadelphia, PA

      Great hub and comment section. If I could I would like to offer a short sweet answer to the question of who was the worse president ever. Woodrow Wilson has 100% of my vote, aside from the mess he made with WWI, he is also the jackass that signed the federal reserve into being, and basically doomed our economy to failure on Dec. 24, 1913. Hopefully the Federal Reserve never gets to see it's 100th birthday.

    • cprice75 profile image
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      cprice75 4 years ago from USA

      The Constitution was actually written to strengthen the government. The nation was not exactly in good shape with the very weak Articles of Confederation. Most of the limits to government in terms of civil rights were not added until after the ratification of the Constitution. The Bill of Rights was made up of amendments to the Constitution as originally written. The Republicans (of the Jeffersonian era) were supposed to be the more strict of the constitutionalists, but they quickly adopted many of the Federalist's policies. It's important to understand the social upheaval that industrialization caused in the latter 19th century. It was not pretty. The government was so limited that it needed a loan from J.P. Morgan (the man, not the corporation) to keep running at one point. There was widespread unrest among labor. This was the reason for the Progressive Era. Without some of the reforms that took place, the US could have theoretically wound up looking more like Russia or China in terms of revolution.

    • wba108@yahoo.com profile image

      wba108@yahoo.com 4 years ago from upstate, NY

      cprice75- I agree with you about TR and Wilson, they did strongly uphold Christian values and principles, my beef with them is their rejection of the American founding principles in the Constitution.

      I see the Progressive Era as marked by the rejection of the founders vision of a self governing nation with limited government, in favor of a nearly limitless government run by an elite group of bureaucratic experts!

    • cprice75 profile image
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      cprice75 4 years ago from USA

      It's interesting that you bring up TR and Wilson as being against Christian values. Roosevelt wanted a manly Christianity in America, and Wilson was a minister's son. His belief in Reformed Christianity is quite well documented. If we are discussing the plain meaning of the Constitution, just about all presidents have gone against this. Washington signed the bill signed by the very first Congress (AKA the actual original Founding Fathers themselves) to set up a national bank. Nowhere in the Constitution did it say that Congress can set up a National Bank. Jefferson, who had more constitutional scruples than most, bought Louisiana in spite of his belief that it was unconstitutional. Lincoln ignored important civil rights during the Civil War. The current talk of "constitutional conservatives" in the past is largely a myth.

      TR was rightly concerned that socialism could prevail if the country continued on the path it was on. One needs to look no further than the violent labor unrest of the late nineteenth century. Many historians look at the Progressive Era as a basically conservative time in American history. Conservapedia, not exactly a liberal outlet, describes Wilson this way, "Wilson was the most profoundly Christian political leader in the world in the 20th century. He felt assured that he was following God's guidance. Wilson considered the United States a Christian nation destined to lead the world. He was a prophet and a postmillenarian, and if idealism clashed with reality, he was certain idealism would prevail." That's hardly against America's Christian values by any definition of the term. He was quite the racist, though, owing to his Southern roots.

    • wba108@yahoo.com profile image

      wba108@yahoo.com 4 years ago from upstate, NY

      I guess the question of who the worst president is, depends on what one considers the most important duties of the president. For me, its their allegiance to the plain meaning of the Constitution and to American Christian values. On that count, I consider the worst offenders to be Teddy Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, FDR, LBJ, Clinton and Obama.

      Among the group of worst presidents I would say that the two worst were Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, based on their trampling of the Constitution, rejection of America's christian values, increased role of the state and corruption.

    • cprice75 profile image
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      cprice75 4 years ago from USA

      My guess is that history will not be kind to the GW Bush administration. I think his father will probably look better in hindsight, though.

    • crystolite profile image

      Emma 4 years ago from Houston TX

      To my own opinion, i will give the best president to Abraham Lincoln and the worst president to George Bush after all all he is implementing the plans towards the new world order.

    • cprice75 profile image
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      cprice75 4 years ago from USA

      Thanks for the comments. Glad you enjoyed.

    • SkeetyD profile image

      SkeetyD 4 years ago from Barbados

      This was a very interesting hub. It makes you really think and examine the presidencies. Keep up the great work!

    • maximioum profile image

      maximioum 4 years ago from Spain

      That was interesting.. thank you

    • cprice75 profile image
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      cprice75 4 years ago from USA

      What are the criteria used for this assertion?

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      ffdztdr 4 years ago

      Barack Obama, is the worst president in history, enough said.

    • cprice75 profile image
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      cprice75 5 years ago from USA

      Thanks for visiting Farmer Rachel. Glad you enjoyed the hub. Grant was pretty bad, but these polls are pretty subjective.

    • Farmer Rachel profile image

      Rachel Koski 5 years ago from Minnesota

      Great hub, kept me reading 'til the very end. I thought you might say that Grant was the worst president in history (my opinion). Voted up, awesome, interesting!

    • cprice75 profile image
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      cprice75 5 years ago from USA

      Thanks for visiting, gentlemen.

      Nick, I must agree I'm not a huge fan of WW. He was in many ways a idealist, and those people frequently are quite naïve as you mentioned. I actually think a central bank of some sort is necessary. Without such a bank, massive depressions are much more frequent--look at the nineteenth century. Wilson was also quite the racist.

      Old Empresario, Grant was pretty bad at keeping his friends in line as president. The term "Grantism" didn't come from nowhere. Johnson was a big racist, but his plan for bringing the South back in was in between the extreme leniency of Lincoln and the punitive goals of the Radical Republicans. None of the above really would've changed attitudes, I'm afraid. One of my favorite late nineteenth-century presidents is actually Chester Arthur. He was a product of the political machines and then stood up to them in passing the Pendleton Civil Service Act. Talk about biting the hand that feeds you.

    • profile image

      Old Empresario 5 years ago

      What a great analysis you wrote here. It was well-written, academically sound, and presented facts without political slant. I never see (or write) essays like this on Hubpages, so it's very refreshing. One thing that irritates me about so many of those historians that you mention here is that their attempts to qualify their rating of a president is always so vague. I think Buchanan was a mediocre president, but not because he was a "weak leader", as they do (do they want Hitler?). No one mentions his war against the Mormons, his military threats against Paraguay, or his bloody wars against the Indians (albeit most of this had to do with his Secretary of State, Lewis Cass). He did end Franklin Pierce's relentless support of southern Freebooters in conquering Latin American. I think Pierce was a souless puppet when he became president and Buchanan was just too old. I think Andrew Johnson saw himself as another Andrew Jackson and thought he had the force of will to stand up to a bloodthirsty Congress. Unfortunately for him, he had no real vision other than his own interpretation of what he thought Abe Lincoln had wanted for the future. Historians used to like Johnson until it because politically incorrect to like him. Grant shamelessly protected his political friends that had showered him with gifts and he obstructed justice during the investigations. He also took some part in the fraudulent 1876 presidential election. He was one of the worst presidents in my mind. I'm not sure we've had a good president since the 1920s--or possibly as far back as Grover Cleveland. Thanks again for the good read.

    • Nick Hanlon profile image

      Nick Hanlon 5 years ago from Chiang Mai

      You didn't mention Woodrow Wilson.Introduced Federal Reserve,Income Tax and racial segregration in the navy.Signed Versailes Treaty.Within 6 months of being re-elected got America involved in WW1 which he had campaigned to keep out of.Comes across as a naïve,pompous know-it-all with zero sense of humour.

    • ib radmasters profile image

      ib radmasters 5 years ago from Southern California

      cprice75

      Have a great week yourself.

    • cprice75 profile image
      Author

      cprice75 5 years ago from USA

      Fair enough on the problem with not having government employees pay into SS. Enjoyed. Have a great week.

    • ib radmasters profile image

      ib radmasters 5 years ago from Southern California

      cprice75

      Actually that comment was stopped because it was at the max allowed by hp.

      You make some valid points about WWI and Germany. It gave Hitler the grip that he needed.

      Where the politicians made their mistake was not monitoring what Japan and Germany were doing, as well as Russia, and Italy.

      My biggest problem with FDR was SS, it needed to include government employees. Or more to the point, it needed to include all wage earners. As it was a TAX on wages, and government workers work for a wage.

      It would have also helped to throttle the government whenever they decided to raise the contribution limits and the rate.

      Before and during WWII, China had a real problem with communism. Even though the Japanese were all over China, the communists didn't protect their country from the Japanese, they just rolled up into a ball.

      On GHW Bush, all it did was defer a war that we believe his son chose to finish for him. Not a real valid reason, but that is family.

      It would have been easier to deal with Saddam during Desert Storm, and we would still have had occupation problems. We could have partitioned the country in Shites and Sunnis. My point is that we had already done the heavy lifting in Desert Storm, and much like WWI we left so that Sadam could rebuild. You would think that someone would learn from history.

      George W Bush made a big mistake by not dealing with Afghanistan before tackling Iraq. Another history lesson from Vietnam and the French, And Afghanistan with the Russians.

      Today the US is totally tapped out emotionally to be able to adequately handle, Syria, N Korea and Iran.

      In conclusion foresight can be helped by learning from hindsight.

      Thanks for the great discussion.

    • cprice75 profile image
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      cprice75 5 years ago from USA

      Wow...and you said my reply was detailed. I agree partially on WWI, although I would argue that the main way that it led to WWII was the harsh treatment of the Germans at the end. Reparations crippled their economy. The war-guilt clause was an affront to German national pride. Without these issues and the massive inflation under the Weimar Republic, there may not have been an environment in which Hitler looked like a better alternative. People are hard on Chamberlain, but if we were in his shoes, would we really want a war as bloody as WWI? Of course, hindsight is 20/20 and he got a war bloodier than WWI. Japan would probably have been an issue, but they may have been dealt with differently had there not been a war going on in Europe. Of course, historians cannot deal in ifs. You are right that FDR did not end the Depression. I would argue that he merely made it a bit easier on many people by giving them work and a paycheck (I think welfare would be better now if it followed that model--you get benefits? If you are able-bodied, you have to work for them in public works or cleaning up your community). Also, with real socialism (AKA Soviet-style) looking like a viable alternative because the Depression did not affect Russia much, the New Deal probably kept some people a little less likely to support revolution. There were people like the Kingfish Huey Long and Father Coughlin calling for more radical action. I think FDR was a sort of middle way that immediately gave some relief while avoiding radicalism. WWII actually ended the Depression in America because of the massive wartime demand for heavy industry.

      Regarding Desert Storm, I think GHW Bush feared the power vacuum and resulting violence that would likely appear if Saddam was ousted. This would lead to a long US or UN occupation. I'm not saying that Saddam was a good leader or a nice guy, and I definitely would not have wanted to live under him, but I do think the fears of Bush I administration were realized under his son.

    • ib radmasters profile image

      ib radmasters 5 years ago from Southern California

      Cprice75

      Thanks for the detailed reply, I agree on the others but I still question some.

      ----I agree that Johnson was very problematic, specifically because he started Vietnam with the spurious Gulf of Tonkin incident. Kennedy, however, supported many of the same measures that Johnson did. He just died before he could get many of them implemented.

      --ib JFK was a better tactician than Johnson, so even if JFK might have escalated the Vietnam War, I think he would have handled it better---

      FDR's New Deal possibly prevented unrest and calls for communism because it put many people to work. Look up the Bonus Army under Hoover. These weren't unpatriotic communists, but if former soldiers are marching into Washington because they are in such bad financial shape, there are major problems. Social Security would actually be in really good shape if the funds had not been raided since Johnson.

      --ib SS would have been better if not pillaged by both parties in Congress. But it is an unfair Tax because the government employees weren't included in it till later. As long as you earn a wage, you contribute to it, even after you retire. Then if you earn more money the government deducts from your benefits. --

      I think the worst president in the last 100 years was quite possibly George W. Bush. He greatly expanded the size of government and started a war that had an objective that was not accurate.

      --ib As for the war, I would put him in the same category as LBJ. In addition, because we listened to the UN during Desert Storm we never completed the job in Iraq. If we would have dealt with Iraq then, there would have been no need to do it later. --

      The Medicare Part D was a giveaway to Insurance Cos. in many ways.

      --ib Medicare has been plagued by fraud almost since its creation. It was another Tax. Now today many people are dependent on SS and Medicare, except for politicians and government employees.--

      The tax cuts for someone who wants to pay down the debt made no sense to me, nor did much of the stimulus that he provided. The deficit exploded under Bush without even putting the wars in the budget. Obama has not been much better, IMHO, though.

      --ib Tax cuts are not the problem. The income tax system is the real problem. The biggest tax cuts for the wealthy are found in the Internal Revenue Code. The exceptions, and exemptions, and tax credits can only be used by the wealthy. The other problem is that the size of the government has continually increased under all of the presidents and congress for quite some time. With it comes increased spending, bigger pork barrels and more expensive salaries, benefits, and pensions fir the government employees. The national debt went from ten trillion dollars to over seventeen trillion just during Obama's reign. The real problem is the two party system, because both parties have had total control over the congress and the presidency at different times, and yet here we are today at the valley of doom. WWII got the country out of the depression, but no war is going to do today.----

      I think the choice we have between Obama and Romney is a bad one all around. Romney wants to return to Bush and Obama's basically continued most of Bush's economic policies, despite cries to the contrary.

      --ib again it is the two party system with their blind loyal sheep that allows the parties to give us the continued choice of voting for the lesser of two evils. The parties have a solid record of not working across party lines for the good of the country. The parties only move the country left or right, hardly ever forward. many times backwards.--

      In the last hundred years, my opinions are:

      McKinley--too imperialistic --ib agree--

      TR--great leader who at times stood up to special interests--too imperialistic though --ib apparently he had a dark side that we don't see --

      Taft--actually more of a progressive than TR, but got on his bad side, hence the loss in '12--ib The start of the income era---

      Wilson--WWI was one of the dumbest wars ever in human history

      --ib The problem with both WWI and WWII was they both had military victories, that were thrown aside by the politicians. This allowed the losers in WWI to rebuild, and for the Cold War to take hold after WWII. This also set the tone for the Korean and Vietnam wars where China and Russia would makes these wars political and for us to win them. Even though militarily we could have done it. --

      Harding--had an administration that was very corrupt, trickle down guy --ib Math is a poor subject for politicians. --

      Coolidge--more trickle down --ib It is more like spending up --

      Hoover--more trickle down--huge depression

      --ib It wasn't trickle down that cause the depression, and it wasn't the New Deal that ended it. --

      FDR--New Deal necessary, good job mobilizing for WWII, which was not a dumb, but rather a very necessary war

      --ib I disagree with some of that. It wouldn't have been necessary if the politicians didn't give away the military victory of WWI, and if we would have monitored the rebuilding of the losing countries. We didn't rock their boat. That was dumb. All WWI did was defer war for twenty years. The same is true with Korea and Vietnam followed. It was private industry that actually came to the rescue by outbuilding the weapons we needed compared to the enemy. FDR had been helping England by supplying them weapons for at least a year before Pearl Harbor. That was OK, but he wasn't prepared for Pearl Harbor. The enemy doesn't recognize Sunday's. With the war going on in Europe, the military should have been on wartime alert. FDR did support the A bomb which ended the war. --

      Truman--great job of ending the war and dealing w/the early Cold War, was not afraid to take the blame for things.

      --ib It was the A bomb that ended the war, and if the politicians didn't give Russia the farm, there might not have been a cold war. Because Russia didn't steal the A bomb until 1949. We had the power, but Truman didn't know how to use it.--

      Eisenhower--one of my favorites of all time, interstates and St. Lawrence Seaway were brilliant moves, warned of the MIC

      --ib I agree, without him we would still be traveling across the US on two lane country roads. --

      Kennedy--Johnson light, assassinated before he could get the credit

      --ib One of the two best presidents in the last one hundred years. --

      Johnson--heart in the right place domestically (financial feasibility questionable), bad on foreign policy for really starting Vietnam

      --ib Johnson one of the worst. It is no wonder he didn't even run for reelection--

      Nixon--would be viewed in a much better light if not for Watergate

      --ib he did what most presidents had done, he just got caught, and he was too vain --

      Ford--did not really have enough time to do much

      --ib I agree --

      Carter--out of his element

      --ib I agree --

      Reagan--did some good and some bad, but the real RR would not be popular w/the Tea Party today

      --ib his bad was letting Col Oliver North hang in the breeze. His good, he took the government employee union for the FAA to task. He also took over a bad economy from Carter. And the prime rate was over 20% then. Most great presidents have been assassinated or have had attempts on their life. At his age, just surviving his gun shot was a great feat.--

      Bush I--better than most people give him credit for, IMHO. Much smarter in foreign policy than most hawks today, including his son

      --ib his failure was listening to the UN and stopping Desert Storm before taking down Saddam Hussein. --

      Clinton--a pragmatist that would actually work with people (kind of like the actual Reagan), tax hikes balanced the budget, and the debt would be much better if Bush II had followed his policies. As a person--well--let's just say he had his failings.

      --ib I disagree, any time tax hikes solve the problem, then that was not the real problem to be solved. The real problem was that the government was spending more than they had. Going off the gold standard allowed them to print all the money that they didn't really have. BTW, Obama hired most of these people from the Clinton administration, didn't help did it. Clinton didn't diffuse the terrorists.

    • cprice75 profile image
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      cprice75 5 years ago from USA

      Thanks for stopping IB Radmasters:

      I agree that Johnson was very problematic, specifically because he started Vietnam with the spurious Gulf of Tonkin incident. Kennedy, however, supported many of the same measures that Johnson did. He just died before he could get many of them implemented.

      FDR's New Deal possibly prevented unrest and calls for communism because it put many people to work. Look up the Bonus Army under Hoover. These weren't unpatriotic communists, but if former soldiers are marching into Washington because they are in such bad financial shape, there are major problems. Social Security would actually be in really good shape if the funds had not been raided since Johnson.

      I think the worst president in the last 100 years was quite possibly George W. Bush. He greatly expanded the size of government and started a war that had an objective that was not accurate. The Medicare Part D was a giveaway to Insurance Cos. in many ways. The tax cuts for someone who wants to pay down the debt made no sense to me, nor did much of the stimulus that he provided. The deficit exploded under Bush without even putting the wars in the budget. Obama has not been much better, IMHO, though. I think the choice we have between Obama and Romney is a bad one all around. Romney wants to return to Bush and Obama's basically continued most of Bush's economic policies, despite cries to the contrary.

      In the last hundred years, my opinions are:

      McKinley--too imperialistic

      TR--great leader who at times stood up to special interests--too imperialistic though

      Taft--actually more of a progressive than TR, but got on his bad side, hence the loss in '12

      Wilson--WWI was one of the dumbest wars ever in human history

      Harding--had an administration that was very corrupt, trickle down guy

      Coolidge--more trickle down

      Hoover--more trickle down--huge depression

      FDR--New Deal necessary, good job mobilizing for WWII, which was not a dumb, but rather a very necessary war

      Truman--great job of ending the war and dealing w/the early Cold War, was not afraid to take the blame for things.

      Eisenhower--one of my favorites of all time, interstates and St. Lawrence Seaway were brilliant moves, warned of the MIC

      Kennedy--Johnson light, assassinated before he could get the credit

      Johnson--heart in the right place domestically (financial feasibility questionable), bad on foreign policy for really starting Vietnam

      Nixon--would be viewed in a much better light if not for Watergate

      Ford--did not really have enough time to do much

      Carter--out of his element

      Reagan--did some good and some bad, but the real RR would not be popular w/the Tea Party today

      Bush I--better than most people give him credit for, IMHO. Much smarter in foreign policy than most hawks today, including his son

      Clinton--a pragmatist that would actually work with people (kind of like the actual Reagan), tax hikes balanced the budget, and the debt would be much better if Bush II had followed his policies. As a person--well--let's just say he had his failings.

      Bush II--see above

      Obama--see above

      Although the jury on the last two or three is still kind of out because the full ramifications of their policies are not fully known.

    • ib radmasters profile image

      ib radmasters 5 years ago from Southern California

      cprice

      You would think that there would be more people commenting on a question like this.

      My opinion on the worst president of the US would have to be someone in the last one hundred years. The fact that the country survived up to the twentieth century says that there was some good leader.

      I did a hub on the four worst presidents in the last one hundred years. and my number one choice was FDR.

      He was the father of SS, and it is simply a tax with a promise. At the same time the government was excluded from participating in it. In more recent time the government was added to it, only because it was running out of contributors. It is an unfair system and to have government employees with defined benefit pensions with only twenty or less years of contributions and guaranteed by the taxpayers is something that is extremely unfair.

      Second after FDR would be LBJ, and his continuation of the SS by adding Medicare. He was also incompetent in handling the Vietnam War which he escalated from 15,000 to 550,000 troops.

      Had JFK lived it is most likely that the country would have had a better outcome.

      The reason why these two presidents are the worst is that we are still living with these TAXes.

      A better plan for SS and Medicare would have been to follow was the one that exists for government employees. At least it could have been copied to follow it.

      401ks where employers kick in their share just like they do for SS, and the employee share would go into it as well. The difference is that it would be managed for the individual, and even if the type of investments were limited to conservative ones, it would still give a better return to the retiree than SS.

      Current retirees of the SS system have contributed their entire life if they earned a wage, and they will continue even after retirement under SS, if they make a supplemental wage.

      SS also penalizes retirees if they make to much supplemental income.

      None of this exists in the Federal Employee Retirement System.

      There is more but you get the picture.

    • cprice75 profile image
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      cprice75 5 years ago from USA

      Thanks for visiting Miles...sorry for the delay in replying. I agree with you that all presidents have strengths and weaknesses. Some are quite lucky. I personally think Clinton was kind of lucky during his presidency with the economy.

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      MilesArmbruster 5 years ago from Somewhere on the journey

      Excellent hub. This is a debate that will go on forever along with the endless "what if" questions of history. It is always a challenge to evaluate any historical character, and even if a thoughtful person tries to be unbiased it is a challenge to wade through and make conclusions. Reagan was an amazing leader, but I wonder how many people would have put up with the teflon President if the economy wasn't making everyone tons of bucks. Was Eisenhower a leader? I guess he gave us the Interstate system, but gee, I can't remember what he did. Nixon was the most experienced statesman our country has ever seen, but his fatal paranoia ruined his Presidency. If only Tom Hanks hadn't been staying at the Watergate. Carter was so smart and so principled that there was no way he could lead, or was it that Iran did everything to make him look bad. So what is the Criterion that makes a good President? Principles? Brains? Leadership? Domestic or international policies? Does it matter if those policies succeed or is it just that they were right?

      One thing is true about every President. They were all men with strengths and weaknesses. Some of them were tested and others breezed through the office. Some failed in impossible situations, some failed because they had the wrong principles, some failed because they just did the wrong thing. This is not a surprise when you consider that the President's job is probably the most demanding and complex executive position ever. But this also means that some Presidents will be remembered for amazing successes. Some of these successes were because they made the right decision, or because they got the right advice, or just out of sheer dumb luck.

    • cprice75 profile image
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      cprice75 5 years ago from USA

      Thanks for the comment, Phd. Glad to have the opportunity to help a fellow historian. To be honest, outside of early modern England/Britain, I'd be lost on much of European history.

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      Theresa Ast 5 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      Very interesting and well-written glimpse at the American presidency. I have spent almost all my time, training and teaching, on European history. So a hub like yours helps me to have a better grasp of America...and her worst presidents. :)

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      cprice75 5 years ago from USA

      Thanks for the comment, Robert. Buchanan is easy to forget, as are most of the presidents from the nineteenth century. Most of those guys were pretty underwhelming because they basically let Congress do whatever it wanted to. Jefferson, Jackson, Polk, and Lincoln were some of the few who actually had an agenda that they tried to get done with presidential strength.

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      Robert Erich 5 years ago from California

      You write great history hubs. I believe you will make a fantastic professor. This was a very interesting article. I had heard of Nixon being terrible, but I guess Buchanan was just someone I had always ignored. Thanks for the insight and for making it clear that we may be harder on our contemporaries then is necessary. Voted up and shared!

    • cprice75 profile image
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      cprice75 5 years ago from USA

      Thanks for the comment. Carter had the misfortune to be president during a period with high oil prices. Sure, there was a recession during his administration, but just about every recession in the last forty years has gone hand-in-hand with high oil prices. There was runaway inflation and the Iranian hostage crisis. These all hurt him in the 1980 election. I think most people actually look at the Camp David Accords as a positive from his administration. For some reason, restraint is not valued in the current atmosphere. He's probably one of America's best ex-presidents, having been involved in all sorts of endeavors aimed at helping people.

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      carterchas 5 years ago from Texas

      Though vilified today, I believe Jimmy Carter will be highly regarded in the future. His restraint in using force against Iran will in the future be venerated. More importantly, the Camp David accords bringing peace to Isreal and Egypt, will be considered the crowning acheivement of his administration.

    • cprice75 profile image
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      cprice75 5 years ago from USA

      Thanks for the comments. The declension model is something that's been around throughout American history. We always think that the country is going downhill and that the people who are running things now have to be worse than those upstanding leaders of yesteryear. History, however, shows us that things really haven't changed much. There have been bad presidents throughout much of American history.

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      Randy McLaughlin 5 years ago from Liberia, Costa Rica

      Thanks for the perspective. It does serve as a reminder that the judgement if a presidents ranking requires a test of time based on the consequences of their decisions.

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      Dianna Mendez 5 years ago

      It is hard to claim the best or worst president based upon recency of office, but we can look at the past history of presidential accomplishments for this matter. I believe many presidents were undervalued at the time but later proved worthy and honorable. Of course those that made obvious errors such as Nixon, will always be looked upon unfavorably. Enjoyed the read and this topic was very well presented.

    • cprice75 profile image
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      cprice75 5 years ago from USA

      Thanks for the comment, Dave. I totally agree that presidents need to be out of office for quite a while. I also agree with your assessment regarding JFK and Nixon. Was Nixon corrupt? Yes. Did he accomplish some good things? Yes. It's important to look at the totality of the work that these presidents did, not just one speech or one (in the case of Nixon very) bad deed.

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      Davesworld 5 years ago from Cottage Grove, MN 55016

      The best/worst presidential judgement requires a dispasionate look at the various individuals and their accomplishments and/or failures. This is simply not possible for recent presidents as ideology tends to get in the way. Kennedy's reputation is higher than it should be and Nixon's lower than it ought to be, all because we love the martyred JFK and revile Tricky Dick to this day. To figure out the current crop, they probably need to be 50 years dead.

    • cprice75 profile image
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      cprice75 5 years ago from USA

      Obama still has some time left in office, so the jury is still out on his presidency. I think history will probably render a bad judgment on the Bush administration. I think Clinton will be middle of the road. I actually think George H. W. Bush will probably have a better reputation as time goes on.

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      Sooner28 5 years ago

      I'm really looking forward to history showing the ramifications of the actions both Bush and Obama have taken. History may vindicate, but it could just as easily render a harsh judgment.