Skip to comments.Who Makes the Cut for the Worst Presidents Ever? (What a Question)
Posted on 02/13/2013 7:59:52 AM PST by Kaslin
As President Obama prepares his State of the Union Address and the nation looks forward to a Presidents Day holiday, Americans should consider the warning examples of our worst chief executives.
While few of Washington and Lincoln's successors could hope to replicate their epic achievements, every president can and must focus on avoiding the appalling ineptitude of John Tyler, Franklin Pierce, James Buchanan and their feckless fellow travelers on the road to presidential perdition. The common elements that link our least successful leaders teach historical lessons at least as important as the shared traits of the Rushmore Four: Broken promises and gloomy temperaments lead inevitably to an alienated public.
All the chief executives unmistakably identified as failures displayed a self-destructive tendency to violate the core promises of their campaigns. Take Tyler, the unbending Virginia aristocrat who won election to the vice presidency in 1840 and assumed the highest office when his predecessor died just a month after inauguration. The new chief executive, dubbed "His Accidency" by critics, used 10 unpopular vetoes to block implementation of his own party's longstanding ledges. Most of his Cabinet resigned in protest, and eventually they all quit while the hostile Senate voted down four new Cabinet appointments a record that stands to this day.
Between 1853 and 1861, Pierce and Buchanan completed back-to-back disastrous terms in which personal weakness and pro-Southern sympathies shattered confident promises of unifying leadership. Buchanan pledged to stop "agitation of the slavery question" and to "destroy sectional parties." By the end of his term, seven Southern states seceded from the union and the nation lunged toward the Civil War.
After that war and Lincoln's assassination, Andrew Johnson (Lincoln's vice president) defied members of the martyred president's Cabinet and congressional leaders, ignoring commitments to lead former slaves to dignity and full civil rights.
In the 20th century, Herbert Hoover's slogan promised "a chicken in every pot and a car in every garage," but he presided over the beginning of the Great Depression. Similarly, Jimmy Carter's 1976 platform pledged to reduce unemployment to 3%, but Carter ran for re-election with more than twice that rate.
No wonder that Hoover and Carter, like other unsuccessful presidents, came across as gloomy, self-righteous sufferers. Hoover's secretary of State said that a meeting with him was "like sitting in a bath of ink." Carter staked his presidency on a notoriously sour televised address that became known as "The Malaise Speech," warning the appalled public of a "crisis of the American spirit."
None of our least successful presidents displayed the self-deprecatory humor of Lincoln or the sunny dispositions that powered the Roosevelts (Theodore and Franklin) and Ronald Reagan. A visitor described the Pierce White House as a "cold and cheerless place," noting the isolation of the invalid first lady, in deep mourning for three dead sons.
When Buchanan welcomed successor Lincoln, he plaintively declared: "My dear, sir, if you are as happy on entering the White House as I on leaving, you are a very happy man indeed."
The result of the depressing and erratic leadership of our six most conspicuous presidential failures is that all managed to estrange a once-admiring electorate within the space of a single term. Tyler,Pierce, Andrew Johnson and Buchanan all earned rejection by their own party, failed to win their own party's nominations, entering retirement as discredited figures. Hoover and Carter appeared on national tickets and campaigned vigorously but got wiped out in historic landslides, with each incumbent carrying a mere six states.
Democrats, who denounce George W. Bush as the worst president ever, along with Republicans who apply the same ugly title to Barack Obama, can't explain away the inconvenient fact that both of our most recent incumbents won re-election with 51% of the vote. Regardless of controversies blighting Bush's second term, or setbacks that might afflict Obama's, their legislative and electoral successes place them in a different category from the White House worst.
This baleful history should warn the current occupant and all successors against visibly disregarding commitments while encouraging voters to steer clear of presidential candidates with dour, inflexible temperaments. By selecting aspirants with clear, consistent agendas and cheerful, persuasive personalities, we'll face fewer shattered presidencies that leave reviled incumbents and a disillusioned electorate.
BTW, what Buchanan said on leaving is pretty much what Washington said, the greatest.
So, in my opinion who were the worst presidents according to their inaugural addresses?
In that order.
OTOH President Bush got 11,580,500 more votes in 2004 then he did in the 2000 election.
He is my choice too, and yeah just wait until he has done all the damage. Maybe the idiots will wake up then. Unfortunately it will be to late by then :(
Sorry using that basis I would have to agree with the OlLine Rebel in post 13 that Lincoln would be the worst by far. On his watch over 600,000 US citizens died in a very destructive civil war and a major portion of the countries economy was laid waste to.
Then you must factor in that he also used war to force the seceded states to remain or rejoin the union. Before the Civil War it was a generally accepted fact that any state could leave the union at will. This is pretty much an abrogation of the notion of limited federal government.
To be sure I am not saying that the presidents on your list are not bad but by your standard I would put Lincoln at the top.
There was a competition for worst President? Who knew?
Actually that was settled long ago, with the rise of “progressive” thought in political affairs, most notably with Woodrow Wilson and his intellectual heir, FDR.
LBJ, Carter, and now Bronco Bama have raised the stakes repeatedly, having bid up the price of entry based on the degree by which each has dipped into the resources of the US Treasury and ended up raising the national debt along the way (and no, Bush does not escape culpability, but he did show at least some concern for preservation of what was uniquely America).
The more liberal, the worse the President turns out to be. And Bronco Bama has raised the bar in ways no sane person could have predicted.
But Carter tried, oh, Lord knows, how he tried.
Jimmy, you have simply been outpaced.
Eventually, Obama leads this list. He's the only President of the USA who actively hated the country and its inhabitants.
Carter, for his sheer incompetency.
LBJ, who actively, if unintentionally, did more widespread and long-term damage to the country than any other president before Obama. His War on Poverty and War in Viet Nam are (were) utter disasters for the American culture.
Hoover, whose administration helped create the Great Depression, just as the Obama administration helped creat the Great Recession. Both insisted upon exactly the wrong medicine -- government intervention, in the form of more spending and more taxes.
I'm reluctant to include FDR on this list, since his record is actually mixed -- good and bad. His social and domestic policies were failures, as he simply expanded on Hoover's idea. Moreover, he enabled massive penetration of the federal apparatus by Communism. But he gets substantial offsetting credit for winning WW II.
Wilson, the misguided intellectual -- who made a hash out of the Allied victory in WW I.
Obama 4th Best President Ever!
1 - Ronald Reagan and 9 others tied for first
2 - 15 former presidents tied for second
3 - 18 others tied for third
4 - Obama came in fourth.
My own personal list for WORST US Presidents(in order of “Worstness”)
1. Andrew Jackson
1. (tie) Obama
2. Martin van Buran
3. Woodrow Wilson
4. James Buchanan
5. “Teddy” Roosevelt
8. Herbert Hoover
9. Abraham Lincoln
10. “Jimmy” Carter
1) Valerie Jarrett
2) Zbigniew Brzezinski
3) Hillary Clinton
4) Hank Paulson
5) Henry Kissinger
Oh...you were talking about the worst figureheads! :)
Washington, Lincoln and Reagan stand at the top. The first had a major role in establishing our republic and the other two preserved it in perilous times.
I’ll cast another vote for the devious, traitorous, piece of diseased dog droppings Woodrow Wilson. There’s quite a few in the mix for 2nd place. It’s not out of the realms of posibility for BOzo to take a shot at his title, he’s got 3 yrs left and has shown a lot of potential.
Everyone seems to forget one of the worst...Andrew Jackson, who told the supreme court to enforce their own decision that the Cherokee could not be removed from their homes, he wouldn’t...and neither did his successor, Van Buren, who oversaw the removal.
My list is:
1. Woodrow Wilson: He gave us the progressive income tax and that has led to the class warfare we see today.
2. Obama: Obamacare! If we could have beat him and then repealed it, I would have him lower on the list. However, we didn’t and it won’t be and now there will be a complete loss of freedom for our progeny.
3. FDR: Brought us Social Security, therefore normalizing collectivism and shifting the American psyche.
4. Nixon: Thanks to him we have the “war on drugs,” the EPA and a host of other unconstitutional “departments.”
I concur with your list, in that order.
Your list is almost exactly what I had in mind. Glad you dropped Lincoln on there somewhere. My Great-Great Grandfather’s brother was Secretary of the convention of the original Republic of Texas and kept a copy of the original Constitution written in his own hand his whole life and his son fought with the Confederacy, arguing in a letter kept to this day :”Is man made for government or is government made for man?”
LBJ was awful, Jackson & Wilson too. We have had more rotten ones than good ones.
No one, not even Davis, expected Lincoln to turn out to be such a savage killer of fellow Americans.
Yeah, he really miscalculated, didn’t he?
“and he hasnt done all his damage yet”
He hasn’t even gotten started yet.
I would liked to be able to go back and get the messages I posted about 4-5 years ago in which I predicted what the 0 would do to this country. For doing so, I was excoriated and called every name in the book.
If I can get my posts from 09, tell me how.
Democrats have perfected stealing elections to a fine art.