The recent survey rating post-World War II presidents is based largely on the short memory of the public.

By R. James Towe  james@sollicitus.us

Lyndon Baines Johnson (1963-1969) Johnson generally avoids worst president status because of his efforts to advance John F. Kennedy's civil rights legislation, foremost with the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Unfortunately, Johnson was responsible for one of the darkest periods in American history with the escalation of the Vietnam conflict where over 50,000 Americans would eventually die in a 'police' effort run by President Johnson, not his generals. During this period, millions of people in Southeast Asia were killed or displaced. 

To add to his disingenuous reputation, Johnson manufactured a North Vietnamese attack on American destroyers in the Gulf of Tonkin, off the coast of Vietnam, to justify plans escalating American military involvement. Johnson was so unpopular that he decided against seeking re-election in 1968.

Richard Nixon (CC)
Richard Milhous Nixon (1969-1974) Nixon's foreign and domestic policies were, in many regards, responsible and prudent. It was his eccentric personality and paranoia that made this president a dangerous and unpredictable entity. Attempting to use government agencies to destroy political enemies and disregard for the rule of law before and during the Watergate investigation led to his downfall. Had Nixon not resigned, he would have become the first president to be removed from office.

Jimmy Carter (CC)
James Earl Carter, Jr. (1977-1981) Jimmy Carter found himself in difficult economic circumstances with high unemployment, inflation and stifling interest rates. His economic team was dumbfounded and the Administration appeared overwhelmed on all fronts. Foreign policy blunders contributed mightily to the 1979 Islamic revolution in Iran while Soviet backed communist insurgencies spread throughout Central America and the Caribbean. Coupled with the failures of Vietnam fresh in the public's memory, there was a general feeling during the Carter years that America's greatness was lost.

Barack Obama (CC)
Barack Hussein Obama (2009-Current) Were it not for Carter's incompetence in the face of the Cold War and Soviet aggression, Obama would secure third place. An administration showing general confusion and a reactive approach to domestic and foreign policy, the President's position on this list is likely to become less favorable as several scandals plaguing the White House play out. Executive culpability is likely in one or more of the Administration's current conundrums.

Dishonorable Mention: George Walker Bush (2001-2009)


Ronald Reagan (CC)
Ronald Wilson Reagan (1981-1989) In 1980, the nation's psyche had not recovered from the assassination of JFK, the unrest of the 1960s and the devastation of Vietnam. Adding to America's woes was a president in Jimmy Carter mired in foreign policy failures and increasing economic distress. Reagan offered the country hope with a positive message of economic expansion through tax cuts and incentives coupled with restoring American military might.

During Reagan's eight years in office, 20 million jobs were created, inflation dropped from 13.5 % in 1980 to 4.1% in 1988, and the net worth of middle-class families grew by 27%. 

Ronald Reagan's military expansion drove the already struggling Soviet economy into ruin. Within five years of Reagan's departure from the White House, the once mighty Soviet Union collapsed and the hammer and sickle was lowered from the Kremlin for the last time. 

Honorable Mention: John Fitzgerald Kennedy (1961-1963)