Siena College has released its annual poll of a bevy of eggheads as to who were the best and worst presidents in US history. Of course, I know better and am going to point out some of the goofs these esteemed scholars made.(Pictured, FDR and Buhannan.)
First, let's look at the categories. The first is background (family, experience). According to the Eggheads, a man like Adams (either one) scores higher (being from an elite family) than, say, Obama (who was raised by a single parent) or Lincoln (who, OMG, had to work for a living). Another dubious category is called Luck. They also included categories for Executive and Judicial Appointments. Finally, they asked them how they would rank the guys straight up and included this total. So, according to this category the top 5 were Lincoln (who finished 3rd), FDR (1st), Washington (4th), T.R. (2nd), and Jefferson (5th). My question is, if you have this category, why do you need the others?
Ok, now lets go category-by -category. Family background shows us that the most privileged of Presidents were Jefferson, JQ Adams, Madison, Adams #1, and FDR, while the poor turds at the bottom of the family bowl were Harding, Andy Johnson, Chet Arthur, Filmore, and Benjamin Harrison. Outside of the fact that Johnson, Harding, and Filmore are in most of the bottom 5 because they just sucked, I have to say that having been to Harrison's home and museum, I fail to see the logic here.
They gave reluctant kudos in party leadership to Reagan (5th) and LBJ (3rd), Communication to Reagan (again, 5th), and LBJ on ability to suck-up in congress (1st). Outside of the usuals, Jimmy Carter picked up a 5th from bottom in party leadership and handling congress, and GW Bush makes one of his 12 bottom 5's in Communicating. Clinton made #3 in handling the economy ( because "it's the economy, stupid" is catchier than "whip inflation now"). Not so surprisingly, Carter and GW Bush both took bottom 5's here. However, I think Hoover's dead last in this category is misinformed. He was just the guy in the chair when the house of cards collapsed. Perhaps in reference to this inequity, he also got a dead-last in Luck. Amusingly, this is the one case you can make for WH Harrison getting any ranking (seeings as he didn't even get the chair warm before he died) and HE comes in second-last. Who were the luckiest Presidents? Washington, TR, Reagan(?), Andy Jackson, and FDR. OK, now Reagan got shot at by one guy who hit him; Jackson got shot at by hundreds of Indians and they all missed. But Ron is luckier. Go figure.
I'm skipping the appointments for two reasons. WH Harrison doesn't live long enough to appoint anyone, and still manages to beat out at least 5 people on each category (OK, I can see where Grant (4th worst), GW Bush (3rd worst), and Harding (dead last) beat him out, but, c'mon...) Also, of course Washington got #1- look at who he had to pick from compared to these days.
Integrity was an easy call on the good side- Lincoln, Washington, the Adams family, and Madison. I'm sure it galled them that they couldn't find a spot for Nixon at the bottom of this list, but they made up for it by putting him dead last on Intelligence. Read any of the man's books and you'll agree that they totally discredited themselves here. Ditto for Hoover at 4th.
Overall ability was well done with Lincoln, FDR, TR, Washington and Jefferson; GW Bush at 4th from the bottom is a bit of a stretch (but not much of one). Woodrow Wilson got his one top 5 in Imagination ( a good pick) and Harding got dead last- I guess banging your mistress in the Oval Office broom closet would rank him higher on risk taking than imagination or intelligence).
As nice as they were to LBJ on other categories ( top 5s in Party Leadership, Handling Congress, Court Appts., and Domestic Accomplishments) I was shocked to see him take the booby prize in Executive Ability (where Obama should be keeping him company soon). They actually ranked WH Harrison here. On what, extrapolated data?
Anyway, they came out, as I said before, with FDR, TR, Lincoln, Washington, and Jefferson at the top, Andy Johnson, Buchanan, Harding, Pierce, and GW Bush at the bottom. I've always thought Johnson got a slightly bad rap here; I think Buchanan was far and away the worst. I'll have to see if I can find the list I made when they did this last year and post it someday.