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Dems Dominate New List of Worst 20th Century Foreign Policy Presidents

According to a survey of historians, experts and practitioners by Michael Cohen, 4 of the 5 worst foreign policy presidents of the 20th century were Democrats: Truman, Wilson, Carter and LBJ.  (Nixon was the sole Republican to make the Bottom 5; George W. Bush served in the 21st century and, luckily for him, wasn’t eligible.)

Only 2 Dems made the top 5 list:  FDR at number 1 (winning that WW2 thing was a big plus) and JFK at number 5 (ranked, apparently, more because he “grew” than because of much that he actually did).  The other three top presidents were, in ascending order, Reagan, George H. W. Bush, and Dwight Eisenhower.

Biggest surprises: low marks for Truman and Nixon.  Most satisfying downgrade: Woodrow Wilson.

Promise: a Mead list of best and worst presidents will be forthcoming.  In the meantime, go look at the Cohen list at The Atlantic and argue it out.

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  • WigWag

    I guess Cohen’s idea of history is anything that’s happened in the last hundred years (Wilson was inaugarated in 1913). Other than Wilson everyone else on Cohen’s lists (both good and bad) served during or after World War II.

    Hopefully when Professor Mead provides us with his lists he will keep in mind that the United States has actually had 44 Presidents stretching back to 1789.

  • Jim.

    Shouldn’t Eisenhower get more credit for WWII than FDR?

    Just a thought.

    It’s good to see GHWB getting his due these days. I miss that level of competence in the GOP.

  • Mark Stolzoff

    WigWag – What part of 20th century do you find confusing?

  • JoshA

    This list is literally bizarro-land. How the [heck] do Nixon and Truman wind up on the worst list while JFK makes the best?

    The guy who finished WW II and founded NATO is one of the worst FP Presidents, while the guy who lurched from crisis to crisis and committed America to Vietnam is one of the best?

    Jim, I’d assume that it means FP accomplishments as President. Although looking at the list, who knows?

  • Kris

    My dear WigWag, since there are intermittently enforced civility standards on this blog, I will not write just what I think about your comment. Instead, I will merely quote the title and first paragraph of the linked article, and let everyone come to the obvious conclusion about you.

    “The Best and Worst Foreign Policy Presidents of the Past Century
    Who were the best and worst presidents in American history? It’s the sort of barstool conversation bandied about amateur historian and policy nerds like myself on a semi-regular basis. But as this question has come up in recent weeks around the blogosphere it got me thinking about a slightly more discrete question – who are the best and worst foreign policy presidents of the last 100 years.”

  • Kris

    “Promise: a Mead list of best and worst presidents will be forthcoming. In the meantime, go look at the Cohen list at The Atlantic and argue it out.”

    I most certainly will hold you to your promise; that’s the least you can do after causing me to waste my time on the Cohen piece. There are those who claim that poor grammar is a reflection of poor thought processes; such people would use the Cohen piece as an example.

  • Kris

    WigWag: “The United States has actually had 44 Presidents stretching back to 1789.”

    No it hasn’t. (Hint: #22, #24.) If one must be supercilious, it is best to double-check one’s assertions.

  • Reinaldo Luis Andujar

    Truman? Under Truman NATO was created, the Marshall Plan saved Europe, the military adventurism of MacArthur was stifled, the containment of the Soviet Union was executed.
    Nixon? Nixon normalized relations with China and exited us out of the Vietnamese Quagmire.
    Kennedy? Does the Bay of Pigs sound familiar? entry into Viet Nam? What controlled substance were these historians abusing?

  • JKP

    “President Nixon probably had a more practical approach to the two superpowers, China and the Soviet Union, than any other president since World War II … I think, with the exception of his inexcusable continuation of the war in Vietnam, Nixon really will get high marks in history.” -George McGovern

  • Joseph R. Breslin

    Roosevelt and Truman should rank number one since they both were pushing for the UN. Truman also did not follow Col. Eddy’s advice when he asked him for his thoughts on backing a new nation for Israel. Eddy’s advice was it will cause decades of trouble for America. Truman replied I have more voters in NY than I have Palestine, of course he was up for re election then. To me this was a betrayal of his oath of office.

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