"Knowledge will forever govern ignorance"

--James Madison--

"The real division is not between conservatives and revolutionaries, but between authoritarians and libertarians"

--George Orwell--

Presidential Rankings

Another poll of Presidential scholars.  Another subjective ranking of US Presidents.

I don't suppose that I qualify as a "Presidential scholar", but Presidential history is something of a hobby of mine.  For some reason, I am quite drawn to the stories and careers of these 43 men, 42 of whom were white.

The rankings in this particular poll:

1. Franklin D. Roosevelt

2. Theodore Roosevelt

3. Abraham Lincoln

4. George Washington

5. Thomas Jefferson

6. James Madison

7. James Monroe

8. Woodrow Wilson

9. Harry Truman

10. Dwight D. Eisenhower

11. John F. Kennedy

12. James K. Polk

13. William Clinton

14. Andrew Jackson

15. Barack Obama

16. Lyndon B. Johnson

17. John Adams

18. Ronald Reagan

19. John Quincy Adams

20. Grover Cleveland

21. William McKinley

22. George H. W. Bush

23. Martin Van Buren

24. William Howard Taft

25. Chester Arthur

26. Ulysses S. Grant

27. James Garfield

28. Gerald Ford

29. Calvin Coolidge

30. Richard Nixon

31. Rutherford B. Hayes

32. James Carter

33. Zachary Taylor

34. Benjamin Harrison

35. William Henry Harrison

36. Herbert Hoover

37. John Tyler

38. Millard Fillmore

39. George W. Bush

40. Franklin Pierce

41. Warren G. Harding

42. James Buchanan

43. Andrew Johnson

Of course, there are always rankings that really set me off.  Polk was a bully who not only started a war of naked aggression in an attempt to preserve slavery, and impose it on a country that had already outlawed it, but he damn near started a war with England as well.  Andrew Johnson, with steely resolve, very likely prevented round 2 of the Civil War.

Here are my own rankings, which aren't worth more than anyone else's.  But it's kind of a fun exercise.

I also only rank 39 of the 43 men.  I'm excluding the 3 that never served even 2 years (William Henry Harrison, Zachary Taylor--who might have been one of the greats if he had lived longer, and James Garfield).  I also exclude Barack Obama, since he hasn't served for 2 years yet.

1. Theodore Roosevelt
Easily the most progressive Republican President.  The man had balls of steel, and used his natural charisma to stir up popular sentiment to pressure big business friendly Republicans to pass trust-busting legislation, which he pursued with zeal.  His actions in this area likely saved hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of Americans from starvation. 
Bonus points for attempting to get universal health care and an old-age pension passed.  I ding him for cheerleading the Spanish-American War, but he wasn't President at the time.  Besides, there has never been an American president whose policies I agree with 100%.
Had a very cool-looking mustache and glasses.

2. George Washington
An authoritarian, but served at a point in US history that truly demanded that sort of leadership.  I don't agree with the "father of our country" label, though.  He was more like the midwife.

3. Franklin D Roosevelt
He made many missteps, and pursued an aggressive globalist agenda, but he was fairly progressive, and ultimately got good results.  Not an enemy of the banks or of Wall Street, but not an enemy of the working man, either.

4. Lyndon B Johnson
By many measures, LBJ was probably the most liberal American president.  He got legislation passed that Kennedy just kicked around.  Too bad he caught war fever, or I would have put him at the top.

5. Andrew Johnson
Both Johnsons took over from assassinated and well-loved Presidents.  Both inherited very difficult situations.  Andrew Johnson did his best to resist the highly regressive policies of the Congressional majority Radical Republicans, and was impeached for standing up to a clearly unconstitutional law.
Born into desperate poverty, he should properly be considered a true American hero.

6. Abraham Lincoln
Praise or criticism of Lincoln is a minefield either way.  I see him like I see Washington, an authoritarian when an authoritarian was needed.

7. James Monroe
He told Europe to back off, and he meant it.  Strong leadership at a critical juncture.

8. William Clinton
Another minefield, but I believe that history will be relatively kind to him.  He made the best of a very bad situation on the legislative side.

9. Thomas Jefferson
Kind of a weak leader, but pushed very progressive policies, for the most part.  Another truly liberal American president.

10. Woodrow Wilson
If only he had kept us the hell out of WW1...

11. John F Kennedy
I rate him this low because of his lack of follow-through on his lofty rhetoric.  This will probably also be my main criticism of Barack Obama when the time comes to rank him.

12. Ulysses S Grant
Easily the second most liberal Republican President.  Plagued by corruption charges, he nevertheless pursued progressive policies and managed to hold the country together.

13. Gerald Ford
C'mon, give the man a break!

14. Dwight D Eisenhower
I like Ike.  He passed on the chance to turn the Cold War into a hot war.

15. Andrew Jackson
The founder of the Democratic Party was also a genocidal maniac, but hey, nobody's perfect.

16. John Adams
Authoritarian, xenophobic and downright mean.  But an effective President and a damn good lawyer.

17. George HW Bush (Bush 41, Bush Sr)
A more effective administrator than he will ever get credit for.

18. Martin Van Buren
Came into office just as a depression was starting.  Tried, but failed, to get a Congress controlled by his own party to shore up the banking system.  Fought off renewed attempts by Whigs to establish a national religion.

19. Jimmy Carter
A true liberal and a very admirable man.  Does not seem to have had much of a grip on economics, though.

20. James Madison
My political avatar was a brilliant legislator who should never have run for executive office.

21. Ronald Reagan
Along with Adams, belongs in the "evil but effective" category.

22. Grover Cleveland
Anti-labor regressive.  But he did veto a bunch of imperialistic and xenophobic Republican-backed legislation, and had one of the coolest Presidential mustaches (second only to TR's) .

23. William McKinley
Bad policy--Spanish American War.
Good policy--Appointed Charles Emory Postmaster General.

24. Millard Fillmore
The first of two Presidents who became lawyers without a formal education.  The Compromise of 1850 was about the best he and Taylor could have hoped to get out of Congressional Democrats at the time.  Pity that it had to be linked to the Fugitive Slave Act in order to be passed.

25. Benjamin Harrison
The second President named Harrison, he didn't die after a month and a half in office.  He was a Republican, and more regressive than Cleveland (who he defeated in 1888), but at least he was an ineffective idiot.

26. William H Taft
Did his best to undo as many of TR's reforms as possible.
Was a better Supreme Court Justice than he was a President.  Kudos for championing the Judiciary Act of 1925.
Sadly, he was also the last President who wore facial hair.  The next POTUS should definitely have a mustache.  Even if it's Sarah Palin.  I know that she could grow one if she wanted to.

27. John Quincy Adams
Just like Dubya, rode his dad's coattails into the Oval Office.  Unlike Dubya, didn't manage to fool enough people to get re-elected.

28. Franklin Pierce
We're probably lucky that he didn't finish Polk's job and start a war with England over Canada.

29. Warren G Harding
The only "CEO President" never figured out that corruption is slightly less acceptable in politics than it is in business.

30. Richard Nixon
Nixon and Monroe are the only two that I ranked in the same positions as the poll did.

31. Harry Truman
The progressive aggressive imperialist.

32. Rutherford B Hayes
A placeholder at best.

33. Calvin Coolidge
Faced with a monster banking crisis, Coolidge bravely and proudly did nothing.

34. Herbert Hoover
How do you follow an act like Coolidge?  By being decisive, and pushing exactly the wrong policies for the times.

35. James K Polk
See above

36. John Tyler
To call him "ineffective" is to be way too generous.

37. George W Bush ("Dubya", "The Smirking Chimp", "Saint King Dumbfuck", "Commander Bunnypants", "The Commander-In-Chimp", etc)
I don't know what else there is to say that hasn't already been said here a million times.

38. Chester Arthur
The ultimate human rubber stamp.

39. James Buchanan
If only he had come out of the closet, he could at least have earned bonus points for being the only gay President.  Another man who bravely did nothing at all in a time of severe crisis.