America's Top 10 Presidents


'The Worst President in All of American History'

by Maureen Farrell

In recent weeks, former presidents Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter have been vilified for criticizing a sitting president. And veteran reporter Helen Thomas has been targeted by the Republican National Committee, whose members were instructed to "call her out" for deeming G. W. Bush "the worst president in all of American history." But if former presidents can't speak out and 82-year-old icons are intimidated, who will champion the America we love? William J. Ridings and Stuart B. McIver offer a solution.

Authors of "RATING THE PRESIDENTS: A Ranking of U.S. Leaders, From the Great and Honorable to the Dishonest and Corrupt," they polled hundreds of academics and historians throughout the U.S. and Europe and rated presidents in terms of leadership, political skill, appointments, accomplishments and crisis management and character and integrity.

As is the case with any such list, it's open for nitpicking, but even so, delving into the lives and words of our nation's finest connects us to America's beacons. And though reminders of our noble birth and traditional values underscore how far we've fallen, these sentiments remain in the hearts of patriots everywhere.

Here, then, is a sampling of ideals set forth by our best and brightest, in contrast to those we presently endure:


#1 - America's Top-Ranked President, Abraham Lincoln

"I am a firm believer in the people. If given the truth, they can be depended upon to meet any national crisis. The great point is to bring them the real facts."

--Abraham Lincoln

Last fall, Congressman Jim McDermott shocked American pundits by suggesting President Bush would mislead the American people in order to drag them into war. Since then, the Guardian's Simon Tisdall called Bush "America's great misleader," CIA officials accused the president of using "cooked information" to falsify Iraq's threat, and U.N. inspectors said the administration's weapons of mass destruction evidence amounts to "garbage after garbage after garbage." Bush has been caught lying about everything from Iraq's nuclear capabilities and Al Qeada links to blue chip economists' phantom reports. And as the rationale for war has morphed from "weapons of mass destruction" to "regime change" to "disarmament," to "Iraqi liberation," a recent Gallup poll shows that 58% of Americans believe Bush would conceal evidence or lie to win public support for his war. Honest Abe, he's not.

#2 - America's 2nd Greatest President, Franklin Delano Roosevelt

"The only thing we have to fear is fear itself."


Remember when we learned that the president had received warnings of possible terrorist attacks prior to Sept. 11 -- and headlines screamed, "Bush Knew"? Or when Colleen Rowley gained fame explaining ways FBI officials thwarted agents' attempts to investigate suspected terrorists? Though those events were monumentally noteworthy, they were overshadowed by terror alerts that this administration, and the complaint media, interrupted coverage to issue. Even the latest elevation of the country's terror alert, which was based partly on fabrications, was, according to one White House source, "a political decision as much as anything else." This also falls under the presidential rating category of "dishonest and corrupt."

#3 - America's 3rd Greatest President, George Washington

"The nation which indulges towards another a habitual hatred, or an habitual fondness, is in some degree a slave. It is a slave to its animosity or to its affection, either of which is sufficient to lead it astray from its duty and its interest."

-- George Washington

From the "Axis of Evil" to President Bush's description of Kim Jong Ill as a "pygmy" to Donald Rumsfeld's dismissal of "old Europe," bellicose bullying and habitual hatred have become standard diplomatic fare. When Richard Perle, of the Pentagon's Defense Advisory Board, suggests that Germany's Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder should step down and says France is no longer an ally, it's easy to see why the world is developing a habitual hatred towards us. On the other hand, examples of habitual fondness include our $15 billion friendship with Turkey and a relationship with Israel that's caused Robert Fiskian reactions in mainstream America. When Israel's Haaretz newspaper reported that Undersecretary of State John Bolton promised Ariel Sharon the U.S would "deal with threats" from Syria and Iran, Chris Matthews protested. "Sharon, the right wing prime minister of Israel has now issued a list of other countries we're supposed to attack and liberate," he said. "Iran, then Libya and Syria after that. Doesn't it take a certain kind of guts to tell the Americans who we're supposed to attack next? That takes a lot of nerve."Why isn't this administration leveling with the American people about its pre-election, pre-packaged war plan to re-map the Middle East?

#4 - America's 4th Greatest President, Thomas Jefferson

"I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just; that his justice cannot sleep forever. . . the Almighty has no attribute that can take side with us in such a contest."

- Thomas Jefferson

Though Jefferson was addressing slavery in this passage, his concerns extend to our impending war as well. And whether one calls it karma or blowback, America's spiritual leaders understand "God's justice," too. The Bishop of the Episcopalian Church in America, Frank Griswold, for example, wisely notes how "the voices that are being raised up now are equivalent to the prophets of old," while the U.S. National Council of Churches is running ads warning that this war "violates God's law." The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops also issued a statement disproving of any war without "clear and adequate evidence of an imminent attack of a grave nature" and the Vatican has issued similar condemnations. Though proponents of military action cite the liberation of the Iraqi people as a moral justification for war, the Pentagon's murderous "Shock and Awe" plan and Iraqi's ardent distrust of American occupation significantly weaken their argument. Moreover, if America's motivation is liberation, why does it look as if the Kurds, once again, are being sold down the river?

#5 - America's 5th Greatest President, Theodore Roosevelt

"No Man is justified in doing evil on the grounds of expedience."

-- Theodore Roosevelt"

It is not reassuring to be told we are going to war because [Bush] 'has already seen this movie' and is bored by it." - Molly Ivins

#6 - America's 6th Greatest President, Woodrow Wilson

"The history of liberty is a history of the limitations of governmental power, not the increase of it."

- Woodrow Wilson.

Though the PATRIOT Act was initially deemed the biggest government power grab in recent history, the Homeland Security Act was criticized by lawmakers for expanding "the federal police state" and "culture of secrecy" even further. Recently leaked draft legislation, the "Domestic Security Act of 2003," indicates that the Justice Department is proposing ways to strip Americans of their citizenship, considering secret arrests for the first time in U.S. history, and trimming judicial oversight while increasing the government's power. The latest warning concerning "anti-American extremists" makes an interesting semantic leap, too. By focusing on "extremists" instead of "terrorists," everyone is now suspect -- making citizens more likely to welcome a loss of liberty in exchange for security.

# 7 - America's 7th Greatest President, Harry S. Truman

"When even one American - who has done nothing wrong -- is forced by fear to shut his mind and close his mouth, then all of Americans are in peril."

-- Harry S. Truman

Would Harry give Ari Fleischer hell for saying that Americans "need to watch what they say, watch what they do?"

#8 - America's 8th Greatest President, Andrew Jackson

"It is to be regretted that the rich and powerful too often bend the acts of government to their selfish purposes."

- Andrew Jackson

During George H. W. Bush's presidency, G.W.'s Harken Energy, which had no international oil experience, trounced Amaco and Chevron to land an exclusive contract with the government of Bahrain. Neil and Marvin Bush struck up sweet post-Gulf War deals and Junior's insider trading charges were kindly swept aside. Today, Poppy Bush and former Secretary of State James Baker benefit "from acts of government" through the Carlyle Group.While serving as Secretary of Defense, Dick Cheney vilified Saddam as "Hitler revisited," but later conducted $73 million worth of business with him as CEO of Halliburton. Halliburton currently has contracts for building Gitmo cells and military bases and is certain to benefit from the projected $2 billion cost of rebuilding Iraq's oil infrastructure. And now that the GAO has dropped its law suit, we the people will never find out the role Enron played in dictating policy. Because with 300 rollbacks in the Freedom of Information Act, we can only speculate on which way the government bends.

#9 - America's 9th Greatest President, Dwight D. Eisenhower


"Every gun that is made, every warship that is launched, every rocket fired signifies in the final sense a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and not clothed"

-- Dwight D. Eisenhower


Rep. Dennis Kucinich illustrated Eisenhower's point brilliantly during a recent Crossfire appearance. Saying that the unnecessary bombing and occupation of Iraq would "cost this economy $1 trillion," he added, "We have money to blow up bridges over the Tigress and Euphrates and we don't have money to build bridges in our major cities. We have money to destroy the health of the Iraqi people and we don't have enough money to repair the health of our own people in this country."


#10 - America's 10th Greatest President, James Madison

"The truth is that all men having power ought to be mistrusted."

- James Madison


# (Last --'the Worst President in All of American History')

Compilation of Bush quotes (courtesy of

"You don't get everything you want. A dictatorship would be a lot easier."

Describing what it's like to be governor of Texas. (Governing Magazine 7/98)
-- From Paul Begala's "Is Our Children Learning?"

"If this were a dictatorship, it would be a heck of a lot easier, just so long as I'm the dictator."

(, December 18, 2000)

"A dictatorship would be a heck of a lot easier, there's no question about it."

(Business Week, July 30, 2001)





February 26, 2003