Special Report

Historians Rank Every President

Source: Hulton Archive / Getty Images

26. Calvin Coolidge
> Years served: 1923-1929
> Best performing category: Moral authority (59.1)
> Worst performing category: Pursued equal justice for all (39.5)
> Party affiliation: Republican

Vermont-born Calvin Coolidge assumed the role of 30th president after he replaced President Warren G. Harding who had died in office. Unfortunately for Coolidge, his elevation to the high office coincided with scandals coming to light about the Harding administration. Coolidge addressed the trouble head on and restored the American people’s confidence in the presidency. In line with the Republican Party’s reputation, Coolidge upheld a pro-business agenda, including slashing income and estate taxes.

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27. James Carter
> Years served: 1977-1981
> Best performing category: Pursued equal justice for all (75.1)
> Worst performing category: Crisis leadership (40.0)
> Party affiliation: Democratic

Jimmy Carter burst onto the national scene while still governor of Georgia as a symbol of the new South. Often dismissed as “just a peanut farmer,” Carter was a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy and a submarine officer, who left the Navy to run his family’s vast agricultural holdings when his father died. Carter’s years in the Oval Office were plagued by his inability to get legislation passed, even though his own party, Democrats, controlled both houses. His achievements, however, were mostly in foreign affairs, where he adopted strong human rights’ stances and secured the Camp David Accords, which ended the long-term state of war between Egypt and Israel.

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28. Richard M. Nixon
> Years served: 1969-1974
> Best performing category: International relations (72.3)
> Worst performing category: Moral authority (23.0)
> Party affiliation: Republican

The name Richard Nixon likely brings to mind Watergate, the scandal that brought down his presidency. Nixon, once a congressman from California and Dwight D. Eisenhower’s vice president, resigned as the 37th president in 1974 to avoid impeachment as his administration was crumbling. Still, Nixon had succeeded in promoting progressive domestic policies, such as affirmative action, and he is known for “opening” the People’s Republic of China to the West. The talks were capped by Nixon’s visit to China in 1972.

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29. James A. Garfield
> Years served: 200 days in 1881
> Best performing category: Moral authority (58.1)
> Worst performing category: International relations (43.4)
> Party affiliation: Republican

James A. Garfield, the 20th president who was born in Ohio, was known for having one of the shortest tenures in the Oval Office. After only four months on the job, Garfield was shot by an assassin on his way to a family vacation in New England. He died several months later due to complications from the wound. Among the programs Garfield championed was education for African Americans as a path to prosperity.

Source: Wikimedia Commons

30. Benjamin Harrison
> Years served: 1889-1893
> Best performing category: International relations (51.0)
> Worst performing category: Crisis leadership (42.5)
> Party affiliation: Republican

Among President Benjamin Harrison’s accomplishments were signing into law the Sherman Antitrust Act — the first legislation passed by Congress to limit special interests from inhibiting trade. Harrison was a moderate Republican from Ohio who lost the popular vote but won the electoral college. His administration stood out for foreign policy. His secretary of state helped establish what eventually became the Pan American Union, which promoted the sharing of cultural and economic ideas among countries in the Americas.