Who were the worst American presidents? While it takes a rare combination of qualities such as strength of character, high principles, veracity, good judgment, and political skills to be considered the best of presidents, it takes a combination of persistent lying; failure to exercise good judgment; scandals; policies that weaken the country and hurt the economy; favoritism and cronyism; tax policy that enriches the elite while harming others; attacks on public institutions such as education, the arts, the environment, and a free and open media; and a general dereliction of duties, to be considered among the worst. The presidents listed below all shared some or more of those traits.
6. Richard Nixon
Nixon’s failings were the stuff of dark tragedy: uneven judgment and a deeply suspicious character verging on delusional, combined with great political gifts and considerable vision. Nixon’s drama, which concluded with his resignation=n under a cloud of wrongdoing, was for obstructing the investigation of a petty crime committed by some of his own campaign operatives—an attempt to burglarize the Democratic National Headquarters. Nixon’s name and reputation will forever be linked with one word: Watergate.
5. Herbert Hoover
Like George W. Bush, Hoover’s bad policies led to the worst economic depression in America’s history. Hoover’s rigid adherence to conservative principles caused millions to lose their homes. The homeless dubbed their make-shift shanty towns Hoovervilles.
Perhaps his single greatest policy blunder was supporting and signing into law a a tariff act that fueled international trade wars and made the Depression even worse.
4. James Buchanan
Buchanan rejected slavery as an indefensible evil but, like the majority of his party, refused to challenge the constitutionally established order.
Even before he became president, he supported the various compromises that made it possible for slavery to spread into the western territories acquired by the Louisiana Purchase and the Mexican War.
In his inaugural address, the 15th president tacitly encouraged the Supreme Court’s forthcoming Dred Scott decision, which ruled that Congress had no power to keep slavery out of the territories.
More damaging to his name, though, was his weak acquiescence before the secessionist tide—an unwillingness to challenge those states that declared their intention to withdraw from the Union after Lincoln’s election. Sitting on his hands as the situation spiraled out of control, Buchanan believed that the Constitution gave him no power to act against would-be seceders. He was wrong, and this led America into the Civil War.
Number 3: George W. Bush
George W. Bush’s tenure as commander in chief began with one of the closest presidential elections in U.S. history. After a tense election night, it became apparent that the race between Bush and then-Vice President Al Gore would be decided by Florida’s electoral votes.
Bush appeared to have won by the skin of his teeth, but a series of recounts uncovered a voting debacle in which the fate of the election appeared to rest on the interpretation of a “hanging chad.”
That is, until the Supreme Court halted a subsequent recount and granted Bush the seat in the Oval Office, even though won the popular vote. The controversial election set the tone for a presidency in which Bush could not seem to catch a break.
No president expects to preside over an attack on American soil, much less during his first year in office. The devastating events of Sept. 11, 2001, forever changed the course of American history, and Bush found himself at the helm during some of the country’s most sobering hours.
Bush’s response was to attack Iraq by fabricating evidence and stories that the country harbored “weapons of mass destruction.” This lie will go down in history as costing thousands of American lives and trillions of dollars.
Bush policies also created the worst economy since the Great Depression, and led to millions of Americans losing their jobs and homes.
Why is Bush considered worse than Hoover, who committed many of the same mistakes? Because Bush had the advantage of history on his side. He could have, and should have, learned from history’s mistakes.
2. Warring Harding
With striking similarities to the current president, once in the White House, the 29th president busied himself with golf, poker, and his mistress, while appointees and cronies plundered the U.S. government in a variety of creative ways. His secretary of the interior allowed oilmen, for a modest under-the-table sum, to tap into government oil reserves.
Harding followed a predominantly pro-business, conservative Republican agenda. Taxes were reduced, particularly for corporations and wealthy individuals; high protective tariffs were enacted; and immigration was limited.
He surrounded himself with individuals who were later accused of misconduct, and he died surrounded by scandals that tarnished his name forever.
1. Donald Trump
With less than a year into his presidency, Donald Trump has already set the bar for telling lies, putting the worst possible people into positions of power on his cabinet and elsewhere, and creating policies that enrich the wealthy and corporations at the expense of the middle class and poor. He is attacking public education, our national parks, the environment, and immigrants, while opening supporting child molesters and white supremacist groups. Almost every day, his policies and “Twitter” wars with those he considers enemies, prove that he is utterly unfit for the presidency. His frequent trips to his own golf course resorts contradict his implicit campaign promise: “I’m going to be working for you. I’m not going to have time to go play golf.” His possible collusion with Russian operatives likely helped him win the electoral vote, and it is worth noting that he lost the popular vote by over 2 million. He has threatened a major network (NBC) with revoking their license to operate because he doesn’t like the coverage they air on his administration. and he regularly states that any news he doesn’t like is “Fake news.” And he admitted to sexually abusing women. Lest we not forget:
“I’m automatically attracted to beautiful (women) — I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything…. Grab ’em by the pussy. You can do anything.”
– Donald Trump, President of the United States
In whole, these actions are criminal, and at the least should be considered an impeachable dereliction of duties.