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The WORST Presidents. Oval Office Misfits 44 Presidents – the worst 10 were?. The BEST Presidents?. What makes a great President? Charisma Accomplishments in office Keeps the country and issues in focus Communication skills Selflesness / sacrifice. Then what makes a president “bad”?.

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the worst presidents

The WORST Presidents

Oval Office Misfits

44 Presidents – the worst 10 were?

the best presidents
The BEST Presidents?
  • What makes a great President?
  • Charisma
  • Accomplishments in office
  • Keeps the country and issues in focus
  • Communication skills
  • Selflesness / sacrifice
then what makes a president bad
Then what makes a president “bad”?
  • What qualities or lack of them?
    • Favoritism
    • Paranoia / Racism
    • Selfishness
    • Greed
    • Lack of vision / plan for the country
historic note of caution
  • SOMETIMES, we look back after a president has finished his term and years later, realize – “Hey, he wasn’t that bad of a prez!”
    • Harry Truman 1945 – 1952.
      • 23% approval when he left the White House.
      • Today he tends to be in the top 33% of presidents.
the list the top 10 of the bottom dwellers
THE LIST: The Top 10 of the Bottom Dwellers
  • #1: James Buchanan (1857 – 1861)
    • Might have stopped the Civil War from happening.
      • Personally didn’t like slavery – but didn’t feel he had the power to stop it.
      • Didn’t stop the secession talk of the states.
buchanan s blunder
Buchanan’s Blunder
  • 700,000 dead because he failed to act.
james buchanan
James Buchanan
  • Felt that history would treat him favorably for having performed his “constitutional duty.”
    • It didn’t.
      • ** Only bachelor president!
2 warren g harding
#2: Warren G. Harding
  • President 1921-1923
  • “Unrestrained womanizer noted for his affability, good looks and implacable desire to please. If Warren had born a female – he would’ve been a whore.”
    • Warren G. Harding’s father
warren g harding
Warren G. Harding
  • “I am not fit for this office and should never have been here.”
  • “A great speech in search of a message.”
warren g harding10
Warren G. Harding
  • Busied himself with poker, golf, drinking and his mistresses while cronies plundered the US government.
  • Teapot Dome Scandal
murdered or natural causes
Murdered or Natural Causes?
  • On Harding from his former attorney general:
    • “Harding was a modern Abraham Lincoln whose name and fame will grow with time.”
      • It hasn’t
3 andrew johnson 1865 1869
#3 Andrew Johnson (1865-1869)
  • Turned a blind eye to southerners who tried to undo what the Civil War had accomplished.
andrew johnson
Andrew Johnson
  • The ONLY southern Democrat senator who had not joined the Confederacy.
  • Lincoln thought a southerner on his re-election ticket would maybe be an olive branch to the South.
andrew johnson14
Andrew Johnson
  • Was VP for only a month before becoming President.
  • Had been a Republican for only 3 weeks.
andrew johnson15
Andrew Johnson
  • Tried to stop Republican efforts to give African Americans civil rights.
    • Vetoed Freedman’s Bureau to help newly emancipated slaves.
andrew johnson16
Andrew Johnson
  • Ignored Republican Party and had “Welcome Home” parties for Southern Democrats returning after the Civil War.
  • First President to be impeached.
    • But survived his trial by 1 vote.
4 franklin pierce 1853 1857
#4 Franklin Pierce (1853 – 1857)
  • 14th President who was a Democrat from the North, but believed in Southern principles.
    • Allowed slavery to spread into new territories if it added to the country.
      • Kansas-Nebraska Act
franklin pierce
Franklin Pierce
  • Tried to annex Cuba!
    • As a slave state.
    • Okayed the takeover of Nicaragua by a proslavery adventurer, William Walker.
franklin pierce19
Franklin Pierce
  • In his defense: Personal tragedies may have kept him from being a strong president!
    • Naw. He was just a bad president.
franklin pierce20
Franklin Pierce
  • At the end of his term, when asked what a President should do after leaving office, he sighed:
  • "There's nothing left... but to get drunk"
5 millard fillmore 1850 1853
#5: Millard Fillmore (1850 – 1853)
  • Another president that chose compromise over doing something about slavery and state rights over federalism.
millard fillmore
Millard Fillmore
  • Helped create federal law that required fugitive slaves to be returned to their masters.
millard fillmore23
Millard Fillmore
  • “His misfortune was to see slavery as a political and not a moral question.”
    • Teddy Roosevelt on Millard Fillmore.
    • “MISFORTUNE”????
6 john tyler 1841 1845
#6: John Tyler (1841-1845)
  • First VP to become President (Harrison died after 30 days in office).
  • Joined the Whig Party to be VP.
  • Opposed EVERYTHING the Whigs stood for.
john tyler
John Tyler
  • Anti-Federalist and Pro-States Rights.
  • Joined the Confederacy when Civil War broke out in 1861.
john tyler26
John Tyler
  • His ENTIRE cabinet resigned because he didn’t follow Whig policies.
    • DESPISED by the Whig Party
  • Attempts to impeach him failed.
john tyler s two accomplishments
John Tyler’s TWO accomplishments
  • Established principle that VPs who succeed to the top office has no less authority than an elected president.
john tyler28
John Tyler
  • 2nd Achievement?
    • Married a woman 30 years younger than himself while president.
      • Most descendents – 15 kids that lived to adulthood.
7 ulysses s grant 1869 1877
#7: Ulysses S. Grant (1869 – 1877)
  • “My failures have been errors of judgment, not intent.”
  • Widespread graft and corruption of members of his government.
u s grant
U.S. Grant
  • Did try to do some good – but it didn’t last beyond his presidency.
    • Tried to quash the KKK.
    • Promoted Civil Rights Act for African Americans.
    • Tried to work for the good of the American Indians by creating reservations.
ulysses s grant
Ulysses S. Grant
  • Wrote one of the best memoirs of an ex-president.
    • Died 10 days after completing it.
8 william harrison 1841
#8: William Harrison (1841)
  • President for 30 days.
  • Longest Inauguration speech.
  • Nothing was done.
    • Maybe should’ve checked out his VP better than he did.
      • John Tyler.



Herbert Hoover

Richard Nixon

herbert hoover 1929 1933
Herbert Hoover (1929 – 1933)
  • Smart and a good technocrat BUT
  • A BAD communicator
    • Came across as uncaring and mean-spirited.
herbert hoover
Herbert Hoover
  • Greatest political blunder – didn’t rise to the greatest challenge of his time – THE GREAT DEPRESSION.
    • Too late or too little in relief, creating jobs and tariff policies that made matters worse.
richard nixon 1969 1974
Richard Nixon (1969 – 1974)
  • “Nixon’s failings were the stuff of dark tragedy: uneven judgment and a deeply suspicious character combined with great political gifts and considerable vision.”
    • Carl Bernstein
richard nixon
Richard Nixon
  • “Only Nixon could go to China.”
    • Opened up Communist China
    • Created most important arms-limitation agreement with the Soviet Union.
    • Got the US out of Vietnam
richard nixon38
Richard Nixon
    • Nixon was never content to “beat” an opponent. They were an “enemy” that had to be “destroyed.”
richard nixon39
Richard Nixon
  • Watergate
  • Nixon obstructed the investigation of a petty crime.
richard nixon40
Richard Nixon
  • First president who has resigned from office.
  • Most certainly would’ve been impeached and put in prison.
10 zachary taylor 1849 1850
#10: Zachary Taylor (1849 – 1850)
  • Maybe not such a “bad” president as a “forgettable” one?
  • Ignorant to the point of innocence?
zachary taylor
Zachary Taylor
  • A successful general in the Mexican American War – a war hero was an easy pick for the Whig Party.
  • A slave owner that opposed expansion of slavery into the territories.
zachary taylor43
Zachary Taylor
  • Also did not favor the secession talk.
  • If he had lived – he might have not hesitated to take on the would-be seceders.
    • His record for fighting might have made them think twice.
remember two things
  • Time, politics and historians tend to “rethink” presidential rankings.
  • In presidential assessments, it is a bias toward activism –
    • UNLESS it is seen as misplaced.
some differences based on politics
Some differences – based on politics
  • Forrest McDonald – U of Alabama historian thinks the list is off.
professor mcdonald s conservative list
Professor McDonald’s Conservative List
  • Worst President?
  • LBJ
  • Lyndon Baynes Johnson (1963-1968)
  • “Pushed government beyond the limits of what it can do.”
    • Federalism forcing Civil Rights on Southern states.
professor mcdonald s list
Professor McDonald’s List
  • #2: Woodrow Wilson (1913 – 1920).
  • “Equated democracy with peacefulness, leading to WWII.”
jackson lears prof at rutgers opinions
Jackson Lears, Prof. At Rutgers Opinions
  • Worst President?
  • #1 James Buchanan
  • #2 Richard Nixon
professor lears
Professor Lears
  • #3 Ronald Reagan
    • Wrong decisions that increased the national debt and international situations – like later 9-11.

#5: John F. Kennedy

Put the world “under the shadow of nuclear war.”

interesting idea
Interesting Idea
  • Are presidents the shapers of history – or are they more the “playthings” of historical conditions?
    • Joseph Ellis, Mount Holyoke Historian
  • What lessons can we learn about the “worst” of presidents?
what do you think
What do you think?
  • How will history judge George W. Bush?