The United States for the most part has been most fortunate to have the right person at the right time when national emergencies and crisis have taken place. There are reasons why certain Presidents deserve to be at the bottom of the list of ranked Presidents. One of the key reasons is that during times leading up to a major event or crisis, inaction or in some cases the wrong actions have led to bad consequences. Major scandals are another reason for a low rating.
Take Warren G. Harding for example. His administration was racked by the Tea Pot dome scandal. Whether he was dishonest is not certain. He might have just picked the wrong people to be part of his administration. But picking the right people who are honest and real public servants is a part of leadership, too.
You might not remember but Warren Harding of Ohio, he was chosen as a candidate in the original smoke filled room. His main claim to fame regarding his choice as a candidate was that he looked like a President. To his everlasting credit he was probably the only President to actually admit that he was not qualified for the job. He would probably be the first person to admit that not everyone is prepared to be President of the United States.
President Grant is another example of actually an honest man, a man primarily responsible for the Union army defeating the Confederacy, being unfit for the job of President. He was taken advantage of. He did good things but the job was just too much for him. His administration was troubled by scandal.
Then there were the Presidents who fiddled while Rome burned or in this case, they sat in the Oval office and did nothing to temper the waves of the coming storm. Problems come to a head and it would not have taken a brain scientist to know and see that a Great Civil War was coming in the years preceding the election of Abraham Lincoln.
This is why historians list Presidents like James Buchanan and President Franklin Pierce among the worst Presidents of all time.
The bachelor President, James Buchanan had one of the best resumes in the history of our country. He was an ambassador to the Court of Saint James, in other words he was the ambassador to England and he was the ambassador to Russia. He was a Congressman and a Senator. He was sympathetic to the Southern positions and basically sat on his hands for 4 years.
President Franklin Pierce was so obscure it is hard to find a good book about him. I know that some modern day conservatives like the idea of a low key, do nothing President, because of their fears of a strong executive. But to be frank, sitting back and doing nothing can often be worse than having no one as President. Dangerous times require action. In a dangerous world, the ability to meet and address the challenges of the day is a key element of what it takes to be President of the United States.
Historians also list silent Calvin Coolidge among their cast of the worst of the bunch. I believe that he once said something like the business of America is business. We do not elect figureheads. Coolidge was elected to govern after all.
There is an old joke about silent Cal. A man told Coolidge that he bet he could make Cal say at least 3 words. Coolidge’s response was, “You lose!” Will Rogers liked to poke fun at Coolidge. He jokingly recalled the speech of silent Cal regarding the State of the Nation. Coolidge according to Rogers said in his Vermont twang that the State of the Nation was good. That doesn’t mean it couldn’t be better but it is good. And then Coolidge sat down.
Historians hold him in disfavor due to the fact that signs were present that the state of the economy was getting worse but Coolidge just did nothing thinking things were okay. Well, they were not okay and poor President Hoover not long after his Presidency began, saw the Market Crash and the Great Depression begin.
Herbert Hoover, the President who assured America that they would have a chicken in every pot, is blamed for taking the wrong actions after he took no actions in the beginning days of the Depression thinking that things would right themselves. He was not exactly your warm and fuzzy kind of guy. You did not get the feeling that he had any understanding of the depth of despair that descended upon America with the onset of the Great Depression. Hoover relied on charities to take care of the hungry and homeless. Charities soon ran out of food and clothing because there were too many Americans in bread lines. Soon Hoovervilles, tent cities cropped up everywhere. Men were riding the rails looking for work. Unemployment soon rose to 25%. Brother can you spare a dime became a widely stated saying. John D. Rockefeller handed out dimes to people. Believe or not deflation was so strong a dime would actually buy you a meal. Hoover lacked the empathy and the ideas to help a ravaged by bad times population.
President John Tyler and Millard Fillmore at the top of the most obscure Presidents. More people today have probably heard of the cartoon Mallard Fillmore than they have of the former President.
Ordinarily I would not want to list a recent President as one of the worst, but for many reasons we can already add President George W. Bush to the list. An Unpopular war, especially if it is based upon a lie is a good reason to consider President Bush for this ignoble list.
President Bush deserves credit for being there when we were attacked on 9/11. But Al Qaeda was based in Afghanistan not Iraq. Our war in Afghanistan was and is justified as part of the Geneva Accords self defense rationale for attacking another country. Al Qaeda was the hotbed of terrorist training camps. Our supposed ally Pakistan offers reasons for our continued involvement in the region as they give comfort, aid and sanctuary to our enemies.
Iraq had nothing to do with the attack on America on 9/11. We have lost way too many American lives and treasure in our war in Iraq. The war was based upon a lie. All the Bush administration’s reasons for our involvement were based upon lies. We were not greeted with flowers and fruit. We interfered in the affairs of another nation and attempted to build a Democracy in a country completely conflicted by religious and tribal differences.
The war set in motion the build up of a huge debt. Taxes were decreased instead of being increased to pay for the war. Instead of being a conservative, President Bush spent money that was not budgeted for. We went from being the biggest creditor nation to the biggest debtor nation. His lack of oversight and his administration’s failure to use the laws on the books to protect us from predatory lending practices precipitated the Great Recession.
The verdict is already in, his actions, although well meaning, were disastrous to the financial well being of the United States.
I hope you enjoyed the rather brief outline of a ranking of Presidents. If I omitted someone you would like me to write about please let me know and I will be happy to try to inform any reader about your President of interest.