Historians and journalists often churn out lists ranking the U.S. presidents. Typically, these rankings do little more than reveal the politics of those compiling the list. If you want objective assessments of the past, we can do better.
First, let’s be honest. Presidents are not responsible for everything that happens in America. Ford beat Ferrari without help from the White House. Presidents shouldn’t be given credit or assigned blame for everything that goes right and wrong.
Further, presidential action is a mélange of domestic and foreign activity. Add up anybody’s four years in the Oval Office, and it’s a bit of a fruit salad.
Ranking NCAA basketball teams make more sense. And while you might not agree with all the bracket assignments, at the end of the day, it’s all decided in a championship face-off game. You really can’t do that with presidents. No one can organize a death match between Franklin Pierce and William Henry Harrison.
While precise rankings might not have much credibility, it’s worth pondering who should be lumped into the top bracket and who can be consigned to the losers circle. After all, there is a credible standard to apply. Presidents who handled existential threats to the nation ought to get top grades. Presidents who dragged us down get bupkis.
First, let’s look at the winners.
#1. George Washington.