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.
Jefferson Davis. He led his country to total defeat.
My Pal Cal is in the top 5.
Since the idiot sockpuppet living in our White House is not Constitutionally qualified to hold the office of president, I can’t even put him on the list. Probably would put Carter, one of our first openly anti-Semitic and anti-American presidents.
and he hasn’t done all his damage yet.
Cal is awesome. :)
Even Bush, with Michael Moore and the entire left-wing news media establishment screeching about Iraq, won more of the popular vote in 2004 than he did in 2000. Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, and even Richard Nixon improved their standing in the popular vote from one election to the next.
In my lifetime, the only incumbent who ever declined in his percentage of the popular vote, while still managing to scrape out a win, was Barack Obama.
Woodrow Wilson who set the country on a path of socialism and central government control.
worst and last president before presidential elections were abolished
They all stunk.
Each President has left office with a bigger federal government than he began with.
Worst president ever...
Is that limited to US presidents?
If not then I’m torn between Obama and Idi Amin Dada for worst president ever.
Sadly in my life I have seen a more terrible presidents then any other generation. Starting with LBJ, then Nixon, then Jimmy, then Bush and then Obama. The worst of the above has to be LBJ after that it’s a tie. I’d put Clinton in there too (Kosovo, China), but Clinton let Newt save his presidency domestically.
Hate to disagree with Medved’s assessments in many places.
Lincoln is overrated and possibly the worst in terms of carnage and tossing out principles of our government.
Certainly FDR is 1 of the worst, as are Wilson and Teddy.
Sometimes the best presidents are those you DON’T hear about, more obscure. They are more likely to have done as little as a hands-off government probably should do.
I prefer to judge them based on the amount of damage they did (or did not do) to the country and their fealty to the idea of limited government. Thus, the worst: Wilson, FDR, Lincoln, Obama, LBJ, TR, Hoover.
In my lifetime it is Carter and Obama. The sad thing is that we re-elected an epic fail. Cleaning up the mess of a bad president takes a long time; for example, we are still cleaning the mess that Carter left.
(every 20th century Democrat - Truman- JFK) + Obama + Jackson
In order, worst to bad:
His voter base doesn't care about jobs! They only want another hand-out!
Obama is the worst POTUS ever...to those who love America!
Buchanan did nothing with the country rushing to Civil War.