Rating the Presidents—By One of their Own

by Michael P. Riccards

It is a favorite pallor game for Americans to rate or rank their presidents; it is also a preoccupation of presidential scholars and over the decades they have pretty much reached a consensus on at least the great or so called near great presidents. The pantheon includes: Abraham Lincoln, Franklin D. Roosevelt, George Washington, and then often Thomas Jefferson, Woodrow Wilson, and Theodore Roosevelt or Harry S Truman. It is rare though that presidents rank their own, although John F. Kennedy is supposed to have looked at one list and remarked that one had to either die in office or lead the country to war to be on the top. Some presidents have risen up in recent times though, especially Harry Truman and Dwight Eisenhower. Some have taken a beating such as Wilson, and others are being looked at with a more critical eye such as Kennedy himself. Still others such as James K. Polk and Richard Nixon have not had a really fair appraisal for a variety of very different reasons.

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