- - Wednesday, December 15, 2021

This is the second episode in a two-part series, “Let’s Rank the Presidents.” Part one covered the best presidents in U.S. history.

Americans have been lucky to have had some great leaders during crises. Take Abraham Lincoln, to name one.

But our country also has elected men who utterly failed to meet the moment – such as Lincoln’s predecessor, James Buchanan – as well as some who might have succeeded had it not been for unforeseen dilemmas they would badly mismanage.

In this episode of History As It Happens, presidential historians Jeremi Suri of the University of Texas at Austin and Jeffrey Engel of Southern Methodist University name the worst presidents as well as those who fall somewhere in the middle.



Lyndon Johnson, for example, might receive high marks for the landmark Civil (1964) and Voting (1965) Rights Acts, but his prosecution of the Vietnam War failed with disastrous consequences for the country and his re-election hopes.

In its most recent survey, the Siena College Research Institute ranked 44 presidents (excluding Joseph Biden and counting Grover Cleveland once for his non-consecutive terms) across 20 categories in interviews with dozens of historians and political scientists. Andrew Johnson, who succeeded Lincoln and was the first president to be impeached, is ranked last. Donald Trump, the only president to be impeached twice, was ranked 42nd.

Who else belongs near the bottom? Listen to Jeffrey Engel and Jeremi Suri discuss the leaders who have been judged harshly by history by downloading this episode of History As It Happens.

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