Tuesday, December 18, 2007

How You Rate the US Presidents

720 of you voted in my American Election reader survey. Here's how you ranked all the Presidents since World War II...

Franklin D Roosevelt +67
Dwight Eisenhower +59
Harry Truman +53
Ronald Reagan +50
John F Kennedy +40
Bill Clinton + 20
George Bush Snr -4
Lyndon Johnson -19
Gerald Ford -20
Jimmy Carter -40
Richard Nixon -42
George W Bush -48

Well I admit I am quite surprised by those rankings. But that's nothing like the surprises of some of the other conclusions, which I will post tomorrow. This is after all a blog with a 60% conservative readership...


Anonymous said...

FDR, it is true, held the US together in a period of great difficulty, and brought himself into the War that we would have most certainly lost without their support. That aside though, his domestic policies made the depression longer and more severe then it would have been. His public make work schemes where an unmitigated disaster.

Reagan is certainly amongst the best and most decent people to ever become President of the USA.

I defy anyone to watch this clip:

And not come to the conclusion that the USA is a force for good in this world.

John Trenchard said...

its interesting how the top three were presidents decades ago, which says to me that it takes at least a decade or more for a U.S. president's true legacy to be evaluated.

Machiavelli's Understudy said...

I'm truly astounded that people who read this blog could put FDR on such a high pedestal!

Ross said...

"I'm truly astounded that people who read this blog could put FDR on such a high pedestal!"

So am I, by any objective standard he was one of the worst presidents in history. His incompetence turned a the depression into the longest downturn in history and he singularly failed to prepare the USA for the possibility of having to take a role in world affairs. At the outbreak of WW2 the US army was one of the smallest in the world despite the fact that trouble had clearly been brewing for years.

Personally I'd rank those presidents:

{Big Gap}
Bush 1
Bush 2
{Big Gap}

Anonymous said...

FDR died BEFORE the end of WW2

Good, bad or indifferent, how can he be ranked here??

Anonymous said...

All these chaps had positive qualities and did some positive things.

However anyone that has studied any of them in any detail as people. Could not give a single one of them a positive vote.

I did Reagan only because he was to stupid to be a proper bastard.

FDR was the worst of the lot, however much propaganda at the time claimed the opposite. He was a Fascist of the first order. Who conned Hitler into thinking he could win, with the intent of making off with all the spoils of war when Hitler inevitably lost.

Which is in fact what happened. May have been good for America but a f...ing nightmare for the rest of the world.

However good point John T

Anonymous said...

Harry Truman and Ronald Reagan were the top earners of respect, in my book. One a Dem, one a Rep, but both outstanding patriots with steely courage.

FDR does not deserve his elevated position in this poll.

Ross - I would put Truman, although a Dem, at the top of the list. The man had foresight and nerve. President Reagan very, very close on No 2. Of course, circumstances change throughout the decades, but both of these men had the nerve to face down the enemies of civilisation. I believe Mr Reagan would also have had the nerve to use whatever ultimate force it took to defeat the USSR, but we weren't at war with the USSR as we were, in President Truman's time, with the Japanese. Had it come to it, I believe Reagan would have had the same steel.

Ross, I don't understand your placing Clinton so high when he did bloody all about the bombing of the US Marines in Lebanon while they slept. He should have wiped out the people we knew who had done it, but didn't have the nerve. He's a weak man.

Kennedy, I'm so-so. I really don't think he was strong and was a pretty-boy, drawing room socialist puppet of the people who did, actually, know what to do. Nul points.

I can go with your last three and frankly, you could juggle the balls and any of the three could be bottom. My personal favourite as the worst president in the history of the United States is Jimmuh.

It was he and he alone who enabled islamic terrorism to be regarded as a route to success and thus changed how we negotiate the world today. What a thing to live with that he, with the entire force of the US military, failed to rescue the hostages, but Texas businessman H Ross Perot sent in his own helicopters and successfully rescued his own employees.

So, Reagan and Truman head and shoulders above the rest. Carter and Clinton, failures. FDR, too. And LBJ for his devastatingly stupid "Great Society".

Regarding Truman and Reagan, it's a long time since we have seen such giants in Britain.

Anonymous said...

I would also like to make note that Jimmuh Cahduh spent a considerable amount of his time assigning parking places at the White House and also working on schedules for who could use the White House pool and when. This was the President of the United States, and he was assigning parking spaces and scheduling pool use. He would have been a fine employee for any British Labour-held town council.

Gregg said...

It's unsurprising that the man who saved America from the Depression and lead the world in the latter part of WWII should do so well. I don't think anyone sane would disagree with FDR's place as one of the three greatest Presidents in US history (though there will be argument over whether he's first, second or third).

But I'm surprised at how badly LBJ did - whilst his reputation was understandaly wrecked by Vietnam at the time, I thought it had been subsequently rehabilitated by consideration of how instrumental he was to civil rights and the liberal programmes of the 60s.

Anonymous said...

JFK and Clinton should be above Ronald Reagan! Sheesh. At least George Bush is at the bottom of the heap where he should be.


Savonarola said...

Johnson in terms of

legislation passed - esp civil rights


political skills

By a mile. Anyone who does not see this read Robert Caro's biography - the greatest political biography of the last century.

Anonymous said...

I don't see why Iain should be surprised. Being c(C)onservative is nothing like being Republican. Republican philosophy is to the extreme right of British politics. Also most people's opinions of Presidents are formed by their foreign policy. Therefore FDR/Trumen/Eisenhower were always going to be at or near the top. I put Reagan/Ford/Nixon down because of their belief in the Imperial Presidency theory, defying the law and the courts and their inspiration of neo-conservative personalities such as Cheney, Rumsfeld and more.

Anonymous said...

anonymous [12.17 AM] I looked at the youtube clip of Reagan's Brandenburg speech. Truly moving, and right up there with JFK's "Ich bin ein Berliner."

My anger still rises when I remember the Berlin wall and how, for all those years, the left made excuses for a regime which shot men, women and children trying to escape from its clutches.

My brother-in-law was in the Army and remembered the sheer joy of one man who made it across no man's land. He had been in hiding and stank to high heaven, but he was free. Free at last! Free at last! Lord God Almighty, Free at last!

Nick Drew said...

Bush 1 deserves better. The weaknesses were there, for sure, but as befitted a man with actual wartime service his conduct of Gulf War 1 was impressive

(I write with first-hand knowledge)

Paul Linford said...

But for Watergate, Nixon would have been the greatest IMHO.

Johnny Norfolk said...

Its the earlier presedents that get the vote as that was before the BBC started its anti american stance with rebublicans comming in for special treatment.

Ross said...

"Ross, I don't understand your placing Clinton so high when he did bloody all about the bombing of the US Marines in Lebanon while they slept."

Verity, I think that you're thinking of the Doha bombings, the Marines were killed in the 1980s when Reagan was President. With Clinton the end of the Cold War meant that there were few definitive foreign policy issues, so his poor record there doesn't harm him too much and domestically he appointed a very good treasury secretary to run the economy, passed NAFTA and let the Republican congress reform welfare, that is why he is placed so highly on my list.

Giles said...


Why are you surprised that this readership did not agree about LBJ's strong role? Iain was being modest when he said it was only 60% conservative. Civil Rights and those Great Society programmes are probably regarded here as twin evils that have undermined the Nirvana that the Fifties were meant to be have been according to rose-tinted Right-thinking historians. After all, you have here people who honestly think that FDR, taking over in 1933, was more to blame for the depth of the Depression than the incompetent monetary authorities.

I share Iain's surprise at how much this ranking resembles the conventional wisdom. I thought Nixon would rank higher!

Paddy Briggs said...

"This is after all a blog with a 60% conservative readership..."


Do you mean "Conservative" or "conservative"? If the latter I'm not sure how you would define/judge that. I would label myself conservative (on some things) liberal (on others) libertarian (on others) even occasionally anarchist or reactionary... but I have never been a Conservative!

Anonymous said...

Very interesting how your readers voted top spot to a man who took America to war based upon a lie.

Also, very interesting to note that the man voted by the Americans themselves as best, Bill Clinton came nowhere.

Harry Truman incinerated Hiroshima (and all who lived there) and then did it again just to prove how easy it all was.

My only observation to that is that Liam Fox must have been busily voting all day.

In order of absolute seniority and success, the voting should have been rigged as follows:

1.Abraham Lincoln (ignore the time scale).
3.William Jefferson Clinton.

Also rans:
4. FDR
5.Woodrow Wilson
6.Ronald reagan.

The slave owning freemason George Washington, who rescued rich people from a world of poor people (all USA) may be fitted in at your own personal convienience.


Anonymous said...

People loved Reagan he had that special something. He wasn't perfect (who is?) I took the survey and in all fairness to R M Nixon he tried to sort out Vietnam. Jimmy Carter is a hell of a nice bloke and his biography is a great read.

Anonymous said...

Those people on here who think that FDR actively harmed the American economy, and anonymous 12.17, who thinks that "his public make work schemes where [sic] an unmitigated disaster" have fallen for a classic piece of right-wing revisionism, and are out of step with the academic consensus on the period. Yes, the single greatest factor in ending the Depression was probably the war, and yes, not all of the public works schemes were efficient or indeed directly effective in ending the Depression, but nevertheless Roosevelt's domestic policies were on balance a success, and certainly did no harm - unless, that is, you view them from a dogmatic free-market position which sees any state intervention, however beneficial, as intrinsically evil.

Giles and Gregg - might I suggest you read Robert Dallek's excellent biography of LBJ, "Flawed Giant"? The reason for Johnson's low standing, even now, is that whatever legislative success he may have had in the early sixties was cancelled out by the failure of the War on Poverty and the bloody mess in Vietnam. In particular, Gregg, while you might be right about right-wingers' reasons for disliking LBJ, as a liberal I wouldn't get too enthusiastic about either the Civil Rights Act or a lot of the Great Society - they were big legislative successes, but in terms of practical policy impact they were very limited. In fact, some of the biggest 'liberal' successes came, interestingly enough, under Nixon.

Anonymous said...

What, exactly, were people thinking when they put Roosevelt in such a high position? I'd always thought the typical reader of this blog was conservative with mild-moderate libertarian leanings.

Roosevelt was quite the opposite of this. His methods were dictatorial at times; he presided over a simply colossal expansion in Federal power; the New Deal was by and large a failure. While he did some good things too, he was one of the least conservative, most authortarian presidents the US has ever had.

Presumably the reason we Brits rate him so highly was because he brought the US into the War on our side - against the wishes of the isolationists. But his policies, more than anything, spawned the giant that is the Federal government today. Are readers on this side of the Atlantic not aware of this?

Anonymous said...

Ross - Thanks. Actually, I was confused. It was getting late my time when I posted, but I hadn't meant the Marines. You are right. I had meant to reference the beyond outrageous taking of the sovereign territory of the US Embassy. And Jimmy Cahduh wittering on about "the hostage situation", while H Ross Perot went in and got his own employees out of Iran. (Thanks for the correction!) America was paralysed into doing nothing, IIRC, for over a year.

LBJ - Civil right, yes. But outweighed by "the Great Society" which turned millions into lifetime welfare dependents for generations. We can still see the results of LBJ's Great Society.

Gary Elsby - I have never encountered a single American who thought Bill Clinton had run a good presidency.

If you had read a single paragraph about the inhuman cruelty of the Japs in SE Asia and the Pacific, you would understand why they had to be brought to heel stat. Mr Truman had the steel to do it and the entire world has benefitted from the Japanese being forcibly dragged into the 20th Century.

You write: Harry Truman incinerated Hiroshima (and all who lived there) and then did it again just to prove how easy it all was.

He told you that did he? Or is that "fact" a product of a fevered lefty one-worlder imagination? What did you drink for breakfast this morning? A large cup of stupid?

[8:19] Republicanism is not to the extreme right of British Conservatism. It is on the right side of the political spectrum. Please explain your strange delusion. I suspect you are not an American.

[1:21] - Like you, I think Roosevelt was accorded his place because he took the US into the war on our side. The creep of the Federal government essentially began under him.

Yak40 said...

What did Kennedy DO to be so high ?
Of course the media were hysterical over him, all the Camelot BS but in point of fact the 1960 election was most likely stolen and he actually achieved nothing as President except to sleep with mobsters molls.

Ross said...

"Those people on here who think that FDR actively harmed the American economy, and anonymous 12.17, who thinks that "his public make work schemes where [sic] an unmitigated disaster" have fallen for a classic piece of right-wing revisionism"

Nonsense, Roosevelt's policies actively discouraged growth, things like:
- taxes on undistributed profits made it impossible for smaller businesses to expand as they could not build up capital.

-compulsory unionisation which the New Deal encouraged made it more expensive to hire new employees,

- price fixing cartels made it far too expensive for poor people to afford to buy anything

- banking reforms made it harder for businesses to raise money without solving the chronic instability that the banks suffered.

- Channeling government spending away from the poorest states in the South, to the political swing states in the West.

- Trebling taxes.

The man's policies were responsible for the Depression lasting for a whole decade, previous economic downturns were met with minimal intervention and were over after a couple of years.

Anonymous said...


What did kennedy actually do?

He was a Catholic who brought an end to the American Civil War.

He brought freedom to the USA, where Truman didn't.
Black people were still brutalized after the war and up to Kennedy.
(Hence the Pearl Harbour cook who got the silver star for manning a gun, he was refused the CM of H.)

He also took on the Mafia and the FBI.


Anonymous said...

Yak40 writes about Kennedy - he actually achieved nothing as President except to sleep with mobsters molls. That is terribly unfair. He also slept with Marilyn Monroe.

I too am baffled that JFK rates so highly. His wife was ghastly, too, or so thinks Gore Vidal, who, I believe, shared a step father with her at one point.

Hercules said...

How in the hell did JFK get above Nixon??? What a disgrace!

Anonymous said...

Yak40 - Also, don't forget, his father was a mobster, so he knew how to act around those people.

John Trenchard said...

i dare say Iain, if you polled Conservatives during the cold war, i would think that Reagan would have gotten as low as score as Bush has.

i remember Reagan being portrayed over here as a warmonger, and highly dangerous to the "detente" cold war status quo.

its only with the long view of time that we can really appreciate just how great a president he really was.

the jury is out on whether Bush 2's foreign policy will work out in the long run - if it does , he'll be lauded as Reagan is now. if it doesnt, he'll go down into Nixon territory.

Anonymous said...

Verity: Fall for the old chestnut regarding Americans ending the war with the Atom Bomb to 'save lives' if you want to, But...

Dresden and The Bomb(s) were about showing absolute determination to show power to the Russians, who were within an ace of sweeping Europe and Japan with their troops.