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Experts rank the best U.S. presidents of all time

  • #3. Franklin D. Roosevelt

    - 32nd president (Served from: March 4, 1933–April 12, 1945)
    - Political party: Democratic
    - Overall C-SPAN score: 855
    --- Political persuasion score: 96.8 (#1 out of 43)
    --- Crisis leadership score: 94.1 (#3 out of 43)
    --- Economic management score: 75.7 (#5 out of 43)
    --- Moral authority score: 85.7 (#3 out of 43)
    --- International relations score:  89.7 (#1 out of 43)
    --- Administrative skills score: 79.1 (#3 out of 43)
    --- Congressional relations score: 80.1 (#3 out of 43)
    --- Vision/ability to set an agenda score: 92.7 (#3 out of 43)
    --- Pursued equal justice for all score: 68.8 (#8 out of 43)
    --- Performance within context of the times score: 92.3 (#3 out of 43)

    Over the course of his three terms in office, FDR is most famous for instituting the New Deal to combat the effects of the Depression, and leading the country through WWII—no easy feats by any means. He famously said “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself” as part of his Fireside Chats—radio broadcasts to comfort the public during the Depression. He formed the New Deal Coalition, which was instrumental in reorienting American politics toward democratic tenets and establishing American Liberalism. FDR takes the third slot because of his political persuasion—he reassured the country during its worst economic crisis—and for international relations, as he guided the country through a major war. And he accomplished all of this while combating polio.

     

  • #2. George Washington

    - 1st president (Served from: April 30, 1789–March 4, 1797)
    - Political party: Independent
    - Overall C-SPAN score: 868
    --- Political persuasion score: 91.4 (#4 out of 43)
    --- Crisis leadership score: 94.1 (#2 out of 43)
    --- Economic management score: 84.1 (#1 out of 43)
    --- Moral authority score: 97.6 (#1 out of 43)
    --- International relations score: 87.6 (#2 out of 43)
    --- Administrative skills score: 84.7 (#2 out of 43)
    --- Congressional relations score: 82.8 (#2 out of 43)
    --- Vision/ability to set an agenda score: 93.2 (#2 out of 43)
    --- Pursued equal justice for all score: 54.4 (#13 out of 43)
    --- Performance within context of the times score: 97.7 (#1 out of 43)

    As first president of the U.S., Washington did a stellar job of helping to lay down the foundation of the country. Not only did he serve as commander-in-chief during the Revolutionary War, he established the Cabinet system of governing (although, his Cabinet members had conflicting views), and communicated well with department leaders. But in the midst of all this, Washington had to tackle some problems—some of the states hadn’t yet joined the Union, the French Revolution sparked political turmoil in which Washington became involved, and America’s army was in bad shape.

    Washington’s moral authority, economic management and performance within the context of the times earned him a second-place ranking. He staunchly abided by the laws of the constitution, successfully thwarted the Whiskey Rebellion, and navigated the presidency when the country was in its infancy.

  • #1. Abraham Lincoln

    - 16th president (Served from: March 4, 1861–April 15, 1865)
    - Political party: Republican
    - Overall C-SPAN score: 907
    --- Political persuasion score: 92.4 (#3 out of 43)
    --- Crisis leadership score: 97.8 (#1 out of 43)
    --- Economic management score: 80.9 (#2 out of 43)
    --- Moral authority score: 96.2 (#2 out of 43)
    --- International relations score: 86.4 (#3 out of 43)
    --- Administrative skills score: 85.6 (#1 out of 43)
    --- Congressional relations score: 79.5 (#4 out of 43)
    --- Vision/ability to set an agenda score: 97.6 (#1 out of 43)
    --- Pursued equal justice for all score: 93.1 (#1 out of 43)
    --- Performance within context of the times score: 97.1 (#2 out of 43)

    Abraham Lincoln successfully led the country through the Civil War, and paved the way for the abolition of slavery by issuing the Emancipation Proclamation. He is perhaps most noted for delivering the Gettysburg Address, which begins with the famous lines, “Four score and seven years ago,” in which he declares that all men are created equal. He died at the hands of John Wilkes Booth in 1865, who shot him during a play at Ford’s Theatre in Washington D.C.

    Though Lincoln received high marks in all categories of government, historians put him at #1 because of his crisis leadership. He heralded America through the deadliest war in its history while keeping the Union intact.

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