In spite of how historically tantalizing that question is, the bad news is that no one will be able to accurately answer it until forty years from now. Public ratings of a president in the months following his exit from office are usually dismissed as unreliable.
For example, Harry S Truman ranked a low 28 percent approval rating when he turned the presidency over to Dwight Eisenhower in 1953. Today, Truman is considered one of the greatest of U.S. presidents.
The former haberdasher from Missouri was having his third glass of bourbon when news reached him during the closing months of World War II that FDR had died. On the day he took office in 1945, he learned for the first time that the U.S. had developed an atomic bomb. He later dropped two of them on Japan, efficiently and quickly ending the greatest conflict in the history of humankind.
What’s generally accepted as the most reliable source of presidential approval ratings is the Siena College of Research Institute. In its latest polling, Donald Trump emerged as noteworthy: Although for his overall performance he was rated near the bottom (No. 42 of 44 presidents) he was positioned in 10th place for “luck,” and in 25th position as a president who was “willing to take risks.”
As a demonstration of the fallacy of early polling, Joe Biden ranked low on the scale of U.S. Presidents even before he took office. Today, he gets high ratings for his handling of the Coronavirus but low scores for the border crisis with Mexico.
So, who is in the “sub-basement” of the White House and usually evaluated as a Presidential disaster?
Whereas Andrew Johnson was the first President to face impeachment, Trump was impeached twice (a record).
Born into poverty, Johnson labored as a tailor before ascending to the ranks of both governor and later, Senator of Tennessee. Because Lincoln had designated him as his Vice President, Johnson assumed the office of U.S. President a few moments after Lincoln was assassinated in 1865 at the end of the Civil War. In office, Johnson compared himself to Jesus Christ, and feared that Southern states would become “Africanized”—that is, taken over by former slaves. He opposed Emancipation and encouraged efforts to keep blacks as a perpetual underclass.
Traditionally, the official who’s usually cited as the worst U.S. President is James Buchanan, a Pennsylvania lawyer who occupied the White House from 1857 to 1861. During his term, he did nothing to stop seven states from seceding from the Union, legislative acts which led to a disastrous Civil War where millions lost their lives. The South was left in ruins.
Buchanan’s administration was also the most corrupt in U.S. history, as millions of “public dollars” fell into private hands.
He lived in the White House with his intimate friend, William Rufus King, who had served as Vice President during the reign (1853-1857) of Franklin Pierce. Based on homosexual allegations, Congressmen mockingly called the couple, “Miss Nancy and Aunt Fannie,” or else “Mr. Buchanan and his wife.”
“James and Rufus” threw the most lavish parties in the history of the White House, with the President ordering his staff “to keep the liquor flowing.” In 1861, on the dawn of the bloodiest war on U.S. soil in history, he left office.
At least, according to Robert Strauss, author of Worst President Ever, “Buchanan had the good taste not to run again and was a nice guy.
Darwin Porter’s latest biography is Volume One of a two-part overview of one of the most famous couples of the 20th Century: “Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz—They Weren’t Lucy & Ricky Ricardo.” This 530-page book with hundreds of photos is available now from Amazon.com. Volume Two will be available in early October. For more information about Porter’s biographies or how you can meet him at Magnolia House in New York City, go to www.BloodMoonProductions.com or contact DanforthPrince@gmail.com.