My ranking of Presidents

This is based on accomplishments and problems from memory, although some of the 19th Century ones (mostly tied for #15) had to be reminded of from a list…

List and more comments after the break.

Even with the names, my memory is pretty much “Uh, WTF did this guy do” so anything below that tie should be regarded as a “bad president” with the top 14 being the “good ones” and (at least on the net — quite a few from LBJ down also did some horrible things) and while 26 on down were the “bad” ones, even GW Bush did a few good things (I’m not sure I can say that about either Wilson or Buchanan.)

A few also end up in the positions they do not because of their own actions but because of conditions they were associated with; Hayes is there because of the corruption of his election and the end of reconstruction, not his own Presidency, and most of Clinton’s ranking is as a result of being in the right place at the right time and simply not screwing up anything (except his sex life) for 8 years.

I have already started second guessing some of these (for one, should Clinton be lower given the eventual effects of his deregulation of the banks) but I’m going to leave this as is.


1 Lincoln (tie)
2 Washington (tied for 1st)
3 FDR (tie)
4 LBJ
5 Theodore Roosevelt
6 Jefferson
7 Eisenhower
8 Clinton
9 Monroe
10 Madison
11 Truman
12 Kennedy
13 Reagan
14 McKinley
15 Van Buren (tie)
15 WH Harrison (tie)
15 Tyler (tie)
15 Polk (tie)
15 Taylor (tie)
15 Garfield (tie)
15 Arthur (tie)
15 Cleveland (tie)
15 B. Harrison (tie)
15 GHW Bush (tie)
15 Ford (tie)
26 Jackson
27 Adams
28 Coolidge
29 JQ Adams
30 Taft
31 Grant
32 Carter
33 Pierce (tie)
33 Fillmore (tie)
35 Hoover
36 Harding
37 Andrew Johnson
38 Nixon
39 GW Bush
40 Hayes
41 Buchanan
42 Wilson

Another way to look at this is:

1-7: Great presidents

8-14: Good presidents

Tie for 15: OK or forgetable presidents

26-32: Poor presidents

33-40: Outright bad presidents.

41-42: Two disasters who were each irredeemably responsible for the death of millions.

This inspired by a thread on Flyertalk suggesting that Obama may end up as one of the top 10 presidents ever. I’m inclined to doubt it, but from my own inclination looking at the list,

At some point I’ll include my rant about why Wilson is probably the 4th worst person in 20th Century history (behind the three big WW2-era butchers, but as their enabler — however unwittingly — ahead of everyone else), and the worst President we’ve had or are likely to ever have.