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The Best and Worst American PresidentWho do you believe was the best or the worst...

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jilllessa | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Associate Educator

Posted April 14, 2008 at 10:18 PM via web

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The Best and Worst American President

Who do you believe was the best or the worst American President?

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linda-allen | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

Posted April 15, 2008 at 12:31 AM (Answer #2)

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Best: Abraham Lincoln

Worst: without a doubt, Jimmy Carter. The man has become a joke. 

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jilllessa | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Associate Educator

Posted April 15, 2008 at 9:19 PM (Answer #3)

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I agree with you on Abraham Lincoln because he nearly singlehandedly transformed a Union of States into a Nation as he led the country through Civil War.  However, I disagree with Carter.  No doubt that he was not a strong or effective President, but I feel that James Buchanan was worse.  His inaction in the face of Southern Rebellion bordered on Treason.

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amy-lepore | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted April 16, 2008 at 6:04 AM (Answer #4)

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Not everything Abe Lincoln did was great, either, although I admire him overall.

Ronald Reagan is among the best.

Worst?  Clinton.  He has brought ignominy upon this nation as no other President has before or after. During his second term, the USMC who usually toast the President himself were so ashamed they instead toasted the Office of the President in the hope that someone more honorable would fill the position when Clinton's four years were up.

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linda-allen | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

Posted April 16, 2008 at 6:22 AM (Answer #5)

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Amy, you're braver than I am. I wanted to say Reagan and Clinton, but I just knew I'd get razzed. I thoroughly agree with you.

As for treason, jillessa, Buchanan may have been bad, but I think what Jimmy Carter has done for the past 4 years amounts to treason. It is appalling that a former US president would go on a foreign news network (BBC) and call our current administration a disaster. And now he wants to meet with the leader of Hamas--shortly after several of his own staff members resigned because of his perceived antisemitism!

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enotechris | College Teacher | (Level 2) Senior Educator

Posted April 18, 2008 at 10:29 AM (Answer #6)

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"Best" and "Worst" -- tough to apply absolute qualifiers on subjective issues, or people, whether they be presidents or paupers...that being said, I'd apply "Best" to Thomas Jefferson, as a representative of one of the many riding the crest of the Enlightenment who explored the "Proper function of government" and gave us the philosophical foundation of the United States, and "Worst," without being too shortsighted, to the current executive who has undone so much, with no regard for checks and balances. But time will tell....

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brandih | eNotes Employee

Posted April 18, 2008 at 12:12 PM (Answer #7)

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Carter? Really? He is actually my 8th fave. But it might just be because he was the only president to openly discuss his battle with hemorrhoids.

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jamie-wheeler | College Teacher | eNotes Employee

Posted April 18, 2008 at 12:51 PM (Answer #8)

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Carter? Really? He is actually my 8th fave. But it might just be because he was the only president to openly discuss his battle with hemorrhoids.

And let's not forget the giant attacking swimming rabbit. 

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jeff-hauge | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Associate Educator

Posted April 19, 2008 at 4:30 PM (Answer #9)

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I am shocked that you all are forgetting Jimmy Carter's greatest moment in office. HE was the President that oversaw the greatest jump in efficiency in our country.

The right turn on Red Light was passed under his watchful, droopy eyes. Other than that he was horrible.

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sullymonster | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted April 20, 2008 at 9:30 AM (Answer #10)

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"Best" and "Worst" -- tough to apply absolute qualifiers on subjective issues, or people, whether they be presidents or paupers...that being said, I'd apply "Best" to Thomas Jefferson, as a representative of one of the many riding the crest of the Enlightenment who explored the "Proper function of government" and gave us the philosophical foundation of the United States, and "Worst," without being too shortsighted, to the current executive who has undone so much, with no regard for checks and balances. But time will tell....

  Lets not forget the long-lasting damage of his No Child Left Behind bill.  What a way to tie the hands of educators across the country, burying them under mandates and financial costs that drown any possible positive outcome.  You should see the budget of our school as a result of NCLB - and what wonderful programs have had to be cut.  And we are a passing school!

So I agree he's the worst.

Best..... I'd agree with Lincoln, if only for his incredible speeches!

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kwoo1213 | College Teacher | (Level 2) Educator

Posted April 20, 2008 at 11:45 AM (Answer #11)

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Greatest president, in my humble opinion, was a toss-up between Abraham Lincoln and Ronald Reagan.

Worst president was a toss-up between Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton.  :-o  I'll leave my comments at that. :-)

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pmiranda2857 | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted April 22, 2008 at 2:59 PM (Answer #12)

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I think that George Washington was the greatest president, being first, he had to invent the job at a time of great turmoil and  confusion on how America should shape the identity of her government and officials.

If Washington had not been a man of tremendous integrity, its hard to say what our government would look like.  Of course, Abraham Lincoln is tied for best, because he saved the union, giving his life for the cause. And then I like Ronald Reagan and John Adams, Thomas Jefferson.

I agree that Jimmy Carter was the worst president in my life time, he still thinks he's president!  Every time I go to the gas station I remember in 75/76 the odd/even days when you had to wait on a huge line to buy gas.  He did nothing for us exccept raise the shame level around the world.  Do you remember the hostage crisis?  I teach a Pop Culture class and we just covered the Hostage Crisis. 

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Susan Woodward | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Associate Educator

Posted April 25, 2008 at 10:57 AM (Answer #13)

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Best:  FDR, Lincoln

Worst: Hoover, G.W. Bush

Short and Sweet!  :-)

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a-b | (Level 3) Adjunct Educator

Posted April 25, 2008 at 11:13 AM (Answer #14)

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Best is George Washington as without his incredible leadership and vision, we may not have such a strong republic or such a good line of presidents. 

Worst is tough, surely Jimmy Carter was the least effective president, although he was able to bring the longest-lasting peace treaty in the Middle East (Egypt-Israel) into being.

In contrast, George W. Bush has been very effective and has "gotten things done", but has made so many mistakes, errors in judgement and been such a poor leader and communicator that I think you'd have to place him right on the bottom of the list. While Carter did not react well to the crises he was faced with, the ultimate damage was negligable. GWB has bungled everything he's touched, and has left the nation weaker then when he arrived in office.  

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engtchr5 | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Associate Educator

Posted August 14, 2008 at 6:52 AM (Answer #15)

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I concur with the notion that Reagan was probably our greatest commander-in-chief, but I'm thinking a bit more historically when it comes to worst.

A look over the annals of our national past will show that U.S. Grant was probably the poorest president ever to hold office. He was placed there after the civil war ended, but then stayed without doing a single thing administratively. One might say he was our first "lame duck," but he acted that way his full term. Perhaps his presidency is what discouraged Stormin' Norman Schwarzkopff from running...

 

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timbrady | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator

Posted August 15, 2008 at 1:05 PM (Answer #16)

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Although the question seems to ask for a single person (alright, it does :)), I'd have to say the our first four have to make up a "group" of the best.  It's amazing how we were blessed with great leadership when we most needed it.  Of course Washington is probably the greatest of the group, but Adams held it together after this almost adored leader left office, Jefferson gave us a set of ideals  that persist to this day, and Madison had so much to do with the ratification of the Constitution that he needs to be included as well.  (Somehow I have to include Lincoln, but not in this group).

I have another group for the downside:  all Presidents since 1972 (even including Regan for this take, although I know this won't be popular).  They get the prize for failing to attend to our energy needs after the first oil embargo.  Becoming energy independent should have been their highest priority so that today we wouldn't have to fund those people who wish to destroy us.  Depending on the outcome, I think history will judget them very harshly for this.  (I'd like to rank them within the group, but that doesn't seem fair to the idea :)).

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dbello | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator

Posted August 23, 2008 at 12:38 AM (Answer #17)

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Teddy Roosevelt was a great President, because he understood politics. Yes, he was a President before WWII and the atomic bomb, however without the character of Roosevelt no one would have ever noticed the mission of Teddy Roosevelt. He always called "the shots" as he saw them. He was not without controversey, however he understood (which is severely lacking today) the "idea" that the United States, with all its faults, offers more to the world than any other place on the planet. The worst President, well its a toss up between Harding, Grant and Carter. Harding was just a bad judge of character, hiring his freinds to fill Cabinet positions. That led to the 'Teapot Dome" scandal. Grant's administration was filled with scandal, and Carter was too much of a micro-manager to ever see the "bigger" picture. This sometimes clouded his judgement.

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thelaoshi | High School Teacher | eNotes Newbie

Posted September 24, 2008 at 4:09 PM (Answer #18)

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I agree with calling James Buchanan the worst American president. He sat by and watched as the union disintegrated, where a more decisive leader could have avoided bloodshed.

As for the best, my vote goes to FDR. He revolutionized this country and changed the way we look at the role of government forever.

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dbello | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator

Posted September 24, 2008 at 6:00 PM (Answer #19)

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There have been surveys conducted over the years that "rank" the American Presidents. Historians nationwide were asked, "What makes a great President great"? Their conclusion was that four features unite these "great" Presidents who differ in political affiliation, personal background, and personality. The features include, historical circumstance, idealism, realism, and strength. Historical circumstance is defined as the individual who held office at a crtical time in American history. Idealism suggests that the individual is able to take the side of reform. That they are inspired by a vision of the American future. Realism is the ability to devote oneself to idealistic goals, however is tempered by the grounded sense of what is "workable". Strength simply put is the leader who is able to make decisive decisions, the kind that take a clear stand for the survival or the security of the nation, no matter the opposition. Over the years this survey has had Presidents that have moved up the scale and those who have moved down, however the top three have remained the same since 1948. Their 1st, 2nd, 3rd, slots have changed but it's always the sme three, Lincoln, Washington, and F.D.R.

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted June 17, 2010 at 2:38 PM (Answer #20)

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What about George Bush Junior for worst? He is SOOO unpopular in Britain this side of the pond for so many reasons, but one of the most hilarious is the way his name has become a byword for idiotic faux-pas that reveal deep studipidy. Bushisms are cherished by Brits!

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brettd | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

Posted June 22, 2010 at 10:49 PM (Answer #21)

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Best President, to me, was Franklin Delano Roosevelt in terms  of lasting impact.  Worst is a tie between Richard Nixon (what, did everyone  forget about him?) and George W. Bush.  Yikes, that guy was an utter disaster for US foreign and economic policy.  We'll be cleaning up his messes for years.  The political equivalent of the Gulf Oil Spill.

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Susan Hurn | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted June 23, 2010 at 12:21 AM (Answer #22)

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After reading Truman by David McCullough, I'll cast a vote for Harry. Considering the momentous times during which he came into office, the decisions he had to make, the vision he displayed in saving war-torn nations after WWII, the courage required to integrate the armed forces because "it was the right thing to do," and . . . well the list goes on.

Truman had a core decency that is missing today in most of our leaders. After he left the White House, he didn't walk across the street to become a high-paid lobbyist or an insider who pulled strings behind the curtain. After years in Washington, and after serving as president (!), he had to borrow money from the bank to move back to Independence. I can only imagine what he would have to say about the political greed and corruption that is so rampant now as to threaten what has taken a couple of centuries to create in this country.

As for worst president, it's got to be George W--not because he wasn't a good speaker, but because of his arrogance and sense of entitlement and inept leadership and lack of vision and utter disrespect for the Constitution. If a man can be judged by the friends and associates with whom he identifies and chooses to surround himself, then he failed in that respect, also. 

Most of the damage done to this country by the Bush administration is evident, but some of it is quite subtle. We will be dealing with it for a long, long time, I fear.

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