Who was the best foreign policy president?
September 20th, 2012
09:10 AM ET

Who was the best foreign policy president?

In less than two weeks, President Barack Obama and Republican nominee Mitt Romney will square off in the first of a series of presidential debates that will include foreign policy. But who should they be drawing their inspiration from? And whose examples should they be avoiding?

Global Public Square asked a group of historians and commentators for their take on the most successful and least successful U.S. presidents, from a foreign policy point of view. Here, we feature their picks of the best, and on Friday, we'll highlight those considered the least successful. (All views expressed here are, of course, the writers' own.) Agree or disagree? Share your thoughts in the comments.

FRANKLIN D. ROOSEVELT

Bruce Jentleson is professor of Public Policy and Political Science at Duke University and the author, among other works, of "American Foreign Policy: The Dynamics of Choice in the 21st Century."

His take: Both for his leadership turning one of our country’s moments of  greatest vulnerability into the triumph of World War II, and for the vision to begin building the postwar peace, Franklin D. Roosevelt deserves the highest ranking. Congressional isolationists had blocked most of FDR’s efforts to start mobilizing the American industrial base and preparing the American people for the war. We would have had our work cut out for us even if the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor hadn’t crippled the Navy. FDR’s fireside chats provided a mix of reassurance and call to action. From only 175,000 troops, enlistments and the draft brought the military to 8.5 million. Government and industry worked together. American families did their share buying war bonds and growing “victory gardens” – including my then-14 year-old Mom who still had her official thank you letter for her Scranton, Pennsylvania plot of lettuce and tomatoes when she died more than 60 years later. And even before the war was over, he began laying the groundwork for a postwar order: the Bretton Woods open international economic system, the United Nations, diplomacy with the Soviet Union to at least try and avoid what later became the Cold War.

More: The current candidates' global challenges

James Lee Ray is director of undergraduate studies at Vanderbilt University.

His take: Franklin Delano Roosevelt is hard choice to avoid as most successful foreign policy president. He faced the greatest, most serious challenges, and he dealt with them successfully.

He managed to make important contributions to the anti-fascist effort even when faced with overwhelming isolationist opposition before 1941. (Lend-Lease, for example.)  Japan attacked in 1941, and then Hitler declared war almost immediately. That declaration made it possible for him to focus on Europe first.  His planning for the attack across the English Channel took a very long time. Meanwhile, the Nazis and Communists were killing each other by the millions. The difficulties faced by the Allies even in 1944 when the cross-channel attack was launched suggest that an earlier attack might have been premature and unsuccessful.

Holding together the Allied coalition was difficult.  Adopting the policy of “unconditional surrender” was probably a key to doing so.  He did put too much faith, at Yalta, in his ability to deal with Stalin after the war. He didn’t count on being dead when the time came. But it is unlikely that any policies would have prevented the Soviet Union from taking over in Eastern Europe, or the Cold War.

Andrew Bacevich is a professor of international relations at Boston University and a retired career officer in the U.S. Army.

His take: The measure of merit: A successful statesman enhances the wealth, power, and influence of the state; the unsuccessful statesmen depletes those assets.

Based on those criteria, Franklin D. Roosevelt ranks as our most successful foreign policy president. Thanks to FDR’s skillful management of World War II, the United States by 1945 had become the richest and strongest country in the world. Americans were the sole beneficiaries of the cataclysm touched off by Hitler’s invasion of Poland in September 1939. By the time the smoke cleared, the ranks of Great Powers had been reduced to two and in every way that counted, the United States enjoyed vast advantages over its only conceivable rival, the Soviet Union.

James M. Lindsay is the senior vice president and director of studies at the Council on Foreign Relations.

His take: In the spirit of the bipartisanship that Americans long for in their foreign policy but typically don’t see, two presidents rate as most successful in foreign policy: Franklin D. Roosevelt and George H.W. Bush. With the destroyer-for-bases-deal, the Lend Lease Act, and other actions, FDR secured critical support for Britain during its darkest hours and against intense isolationist head winds at home. He then led the country to victory in World War II and oversaw the creation of the bedrock international institutions of the modern world: the United Nations, the International Monetary Fund, and the World Bank.

More: Next president faces a dangerous world

GEORGE H.W. BUSH

Thomas Schwartz is professor of history at Vanderbilt University.

His take: Two very different presidents who come to mind almost immediately are Harry Truman and Richard Nixon.  Truman’s presidency laid the basis for the successful policy of containing the Soviet Union and built such important foreign policy institutions as NATO, through which American policy was exercised throughout the Cold War. He presided over the reintegration of Germany and Japan into the American led system of alliances. Truman did fight an unpopular war in Korea and fire a popular general, but his decisions have largely been vindicated by history even though they made him extremely unpopular as he left office. The other president is Richard Nixon, who with the help of Henry Kissinger reversed America’s decades-long estrangement from China and dramatically improved relations with the Soviet Union, playing the two communist giants off against each other. Although Nixon’s policy of ending the war in Vietnam was controversial, it was ultimately approved by the American people, who gave him one of the largest landslides in American history. But the collapse of his presidency over Watergate keeps his presidency from being seen as a success.

But the president I would select as the most successful post-1945 president in foreign policy is George Herbert Walker Bush.  Bush came into the presidency during the tumultuous year of 1989, which saw the collapse of communism in Eastern Europe, and most importantly, the reunification of Germany. Not only did he manage these changes with an intelligence and modesty that facilitated America’s goals, he also worked quietly behind the scenes with his Soviet counterpart Mikhail Gorbachev to minimize any violence and bloodshed. At the same time, Bush engineered an extraordinarily effective international coalition to oust Saddam Hussein from Kuwait. He was a president who both recognized the potential strength of the United States, but also the limits of its power.

James Lee Ray:

His take: George H. W. Bush is surely the most highly qualified foreign policy president in the history of the country. He had been a Congressman, head of the CIA, ambassador to the United Nations, envoy to China and vice president of the United States for eight years by the time he became president.

And that experience seemed to pay off.  He did launch a gratuitous attack on Panama in 1989.  But then he put together the greatest, most powerful coalition ever (compared to its enemy), to push Iraq (and its million man army) out of Kuwait in 1991. He avoided the temptation to go into Baghdad. (Had he not, the hardline Communist coup in the Soviet Union in August of 1991 would have succeeded.)

Bush faced a situation in Germany after the end of the Cold War whose potential for disaster is also still under-appreciated.  The Soviet Union still had 300,000 troops in East Germany. It did not want to see Germany united, and it considered a united Germany as a member of NATO totally out of the question. But President Bush managed to pull that off anyway, without creating a very messy crisis in the middle of Europe, with a desperate Soviet Union in its death throes.

James M. Lindsay:

His take: George H. W. Bush did not enjoy the FDR’s electoral success. But during his one term he successfully handled some of the stiffest foreign policy challenges of the last half century. He helped manage the peaceful collapse of the Soviet Union and pushed for the reunification of Germany against the advice of close U.S. allies. He also liberated Kuwait and resisted calls to send the U.S. military onward to Baghdad. No, the elder Bush never figured out what the “new world order” would look like. But then again, neither have his three successors.

RONALD REAGAN

Danielle Pletka is Vice President of Foreign and Defense Policy Studies at the American Enterprise Institute.

Her take: Measuring the relative success of American presidents in foreign policy is an almost impossible task. Even narrowing the task to the 20th and 21st centuries demands almost ridiculous comparisons. What are the metrics?  Lives lost? Lives saved? American interests served? But which ones?  Many might argue that Franklin Roosevelt was one of our nation’s greatest foreign policy leaders, ushering in the era of American global leadership, ridding the world of a vile dictator. But World War II was also a tale of missed opportunity; of lives lost because the United States would not act.  Can any war that ends with the death of six million Jews be considered a “success”?

Then too, there are contests, many partisan, for the title of worst foreign policy president. Was it Lyndon Johnson, who failed to successfully prosecute the Vietnam War and sacrificed tens of thousands of American lives only to see us leave a few short years later? Was it George W. Bush, scourge of liberals for beginning the Iraq War, a conflict supported by the United States Congress but long and complex in its undertaking? Or Jimmy Carter, for whom ideology was paramount, therefore allowing the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and the Islamist takeover of Iran?

There are no serious answers to the question because American leadership doesn’t lend itself to a neat, nonpartisan dissection of our presidents. Different Americans want different things for our country, and even those Americans aren’t divided into neat partisan lines. There are Republicans and Democrats for retreat; conservatives and liberals for internationalism.

Still, two men vie for the title of best and worst, though each has many competitors. Each governed at a seminal moment, and saw the United States through a crossroads, determining a path that would govern our future for many years.

Ronald Reagan had a vision for America in the world. Importantly, his ambitions for America’s role on the world stage were not shaped by our enemies, but rather shaped by his own view of American exceptionalism.  Reagan hastened the end of the defining battle of the 20th century, the fight between those who believed in freedom and those who embraced communism. True, there were bad choices of allies (Pinochet, Savimbi), but in the aftermath of the Carter era – dominated by a president who believed American power was an embarrassment to be lived down – Reagan knew not only what the United States opposed, but what America supported: freedom in all its iterations.

More: What can history teach the next president?

Honorable mention

JIMMY CARTER

David Ryan is professor of history at University College Cork, Ireland and author of Frustrated Empire: US Foreign Policy from 9/11 to Iraq.

His take: Jimmy Carter reflected in his second State of the Union that it was “sound.”  The troubles of 1979 had yet to compound his presidency. Carter reflected that on his watch, not one American service person had died abroad. He asked his audience, in words that now seem incredibly ironic, what sort of world the early 21st century would be as that generation of kids grew up – would America be at war?  “Our children who will be born this year will come of age in the 21st Century.  What kind of society, what kind of world are we building for them?  Will we ourselves be at peace?  Will our children enjoy a better quality of life? Will a strong and united America still be a force for freedom and prosperity around the world?” Little did he realize that it would witness two presidents trying desperately and ineffectively to withdraw from two theaters of combat with mixed results.

Of course, Carter was weak! Or so the conventional narrative ran. He received constant advice that he had to hit someone, somewhere. Americans were confused about the direction of his foreign policy. Americans had been taken hostage, the Soviets had moved into Afghanistan, the Sandinistas had succeeded in Nicaragua and Carter moved around the White House in indecision: such is the caricature.

Yet Carter realized that the use of force in each of these instances would be counterproductive.  On Iran especially, he confessed to an interviewer that bombing Tehran might make the country feel good, perhaps if timed well, he might have even been re-elected. But in terms of local and specific objectives, he would not have advanced the agenda much. Despite his early rhetoric, his was a more cautious and realistic presidency. After a decade and more of the atrocious use of force, he recognized the limits of U.S. military power and the power of the country’s appeal.  That it did not work is in part due to the domestic discourse that straitjacket presidents in so many ways, limiting their choices, generating expectation, frequently of a pugnacious sort, and most insidiously questioning their “credibility” should they fall short.

THOMAS JEFFERSON

Bruce Jentleson:

His take: Thomas Jefferson gets my second nomination, principally for his deft diplomacy in pulling off the Louisiana Purchase. These 820,000 square miles, encompassing an area that eventually would include all or part of 14 new states and provide the gateway opening the Far West, transformed our small Atlantic Coast country into a vast continental one. Despite blustery urgings from Alexander Hamilton to try to seize these areas militarily, Jefferson got it done through skilled statecraft. He played French-British-Spanish rivalries off one against the other. And when he and his emissary James Monroe saw how much Napoleon needed the money, they savvily shifted from their original plan to buy just the port of New Orleans for $10 million to dealing for all that territory for just $15 million.

None of the above:

Scott Lucas is a professor of American and Canadian Studies at the University of Birmingham, England.

His take: I don’t think there is a best, at least in the post-1945 world, because each of them has been limited by the demands of American power. Franklin D. Roosevelt might have prevailed with a vision of the “international” had he not died in office, but Truman and Eisenhower were both caught up in the confrontation with the Soviet Union – the good of the Marshall Plan has to be set alongside not-so-good U.S. interventions outside Western Europe. Kennedy’s inaugural address is one of the most aggressive speeches ever delivered and partly-implemented, Johnson sank in Vietnam, and Nixon complemented “détente” with a cynical U.S. policy that rampaged through much of the world from Cambodia to East Timor to Chile. Reagan? Overrated – the fortuitous economic exhaustion of the Soviet Union saved him from a less-exalted reputation built on the excesses of U.S. power, such as Iran-Contra and the aftermath of 1980s Afghanistan.

Jimmy Carter could have made a difference, but his well-intentioned attempt to shift U.S. policy to international justice and rights was sabotaged by the Soviets, Congress, and an inability to deal with cases like Iran.

But the one lost chance of “best” that sticks with me is seeing the last overseas speech of Bill Clinton, given in December 2000 in Warwick, England. He spoke in a tired but eloquent voice of the necessity to meet the challenges of climate change and global warming, epidemics and basic health care, and the vast divide in living standards. And I thought, “Great speech. What have you been doing for the last eight years?”

What do you think? Which president set the bar when it comes to U.S. foreign policy? Who would you argue in favor of? Against? Share your thoughts in the comments below.


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soundoff (712 Responses)
  1. jed

    Reagan ?,
    LOL, Ronnie was clueless. Unless you believe the GOP's stance that "greediness is next to godliness".

    September 20, 2012 at 1:45 pm | Reply
  2. V

    Remember this?

    [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FD7BDP3XMG0&w=640&h=390]

    September 20, 2012 at 1:54 pm | Reply
  3. madhuthangavelu

    JFK.....told off the commies, and even made us look good during the bay of pigs incident and fall out.Had he not been assassinated we might have pulled out of Vietnam conflict earlier perhaps and fired his brilliant defense secretary who acknowledged his mistake much later.

    September 20, 2012 at 2:01 pm | Reply
  4. Night Watchman

    You would think this is April 1st.

    September 20, 2012 at 2:07 pm | Reply
  5. blahblah

    1) Nixon
    2) Clinton
    3) Reagan

    September 20, 2012 at 2:12 pm | Reply
    • blahblah

      Yes I agree, Since the 1st Bush was a one-termer hurts his legacy. Carter would make the top 10, as Iran really tarnished him.

      September 20, 2012 at 2:16 pm | Reply
  6. Rozzzzzzy

    Everyone knows it was Richard Nixon, who brought sharpei and pug dogs back from China as gifts to the U.S. people.

    September 20, 2012 at 2:16 pm | Reply
  7. jsokol1626

    Harry Truman- his decision to use atomic weapons to bring WW2 to a quicker end, his Marshall Plan to save millions from starvation and prevent the spread of communism in Europe, his support of Taiwan against the Chinese Communists, commitment to South Korea and his dismissal of MacArthur were his foreign policy highlights. All massive undertakings for a Commander in Chief with a high school education, only 10 years of political experience and less than a year as VP.

    September 20, 2012 at 2:21 pm | Reply
    • blahblah

      Killing innocent men, women, children (and family pets) to save soldiers somehow doesn't seem like the best policy...ever. Foreign policy implies at least a shred of decency and diplomacy.

      September 20, 2012 at 3:16 pm | Reply
  8. Tom in Laurel

    Richard Nixon should be on anyone's short list. Watergate should not be considered in any reasonable persons thoughts on this subject but it often is.

    September 20, 2012 at 2:24 pm | Reply
  9. Oink

    FDR by FAR was the absolutely greatest President ever !! Elected to FOUR consecutive terms in office until he passed away (due to Polio), FDR, by far, had the best foreign policy of any living or deceased (past / present) US President !!!!

    September 20, 2012 at 2:39 pm | Reply
    • blahblah

      Would you feel the same way if it was ever proven that he allowed the Pearl Harbor attack (and subsequent thousands of deaths) to occur to justify our entry into the war?

      September 20, 2012 at 3:19 pm | Reply
  10. eric Hatch (Loveland OH)

    Washington had the right idea: friendly relations with all, entangling alliances with none. Didn't fly though, so I go with Jefferson, who winkled the French out of Louisiana AND had the sense to explore his new purchases. Teddy Roosevelt also did a great job, showing the flag with the White Fleet, intervening in Cuba, and in general making America, hitherto a very down-rated power, far more visible in the British-dominated world of the early 20th century.

    September 20, 2012 at 2:40 pm | Reply
  11. Blah blah the wheel's off your trailer

    Who was the best foreign policy President? That's easy! Before I answer the question, I'll like to post a question of my own. That question is this: how many U.S. Presidents have inherited two wars and an economic crisis? My second question is this: how many U.S. Presidents have had to deal with a divided congress of peers on the opposite side that stated from day one that they wanted the President and the country to fail? My third question is this: how many incoming Presidents have had every policy deliberately blocked with the sole objective of seeing to it that his administration is undermined and sabotaged? Now, in your response to the question, who was the best foreign policy President, without a doubt, President Obama is unarguably the best foreign policy President in U.S. history.

    First and foremost, President Obama has restored our our image, our trust and credibility abroad. And just note, the recent unrest and hostility in the Arab world had nothing to do whatsoever with the foreign policy of this administration. The President has sucessfully ended the illegitimate Iraqi war, putting the Iraqi people back in charge of their own country. He has set Afghanistan on a path to self relience and governing while subsequently setting a deadline for withdrawal. The President has been able to get leaders of the free world on board to stabilize Libya and put it on a path to democratic rule where the people can determine their own destiny. He has successfully brought democracy to a war thorn Sudan and he has rid the world of some of the most dangerous and ruthless terrorists it has ever seen, including Osama Bin Laden. And that is just the tip of the iceburg, all accomplished in under four years despite the obstructionist measures by the GOT. Yes, President Obama is unarguably the best foreign policy President in U.S. history.

    Obama/Biden 2012 by a LANDSLIDE!

    September 20, 2012 at 2:45 pm | Reply
    • blahblah

      How's that Arab Spring working out so far?

      September 20, 2012 at 3:21 pm | Reply
    • Jimmy

      Preident Obama started the TEA party, they wouldn't exist without his left-wing agenda. i.e. President Obama has divided this country more than any President in modern history including G.W.Bush. The Bush haters have been replaced by the Ombama haters, way to go extermist on both sides.

      September 20, 2012 at 3:55 pm | Reply
  12. Dr. Myron Heaton

    In an over-all look at the 20th century and early 21st century there is one very obvious fact about American foreign policy during this time and that is that only one president had a very comprehensive truly global master plan that actually worked. Richard Nixon. Yes, I know that too many over you will stumble over watergate but if you put that aside he and Henry Kissinger are so far the only team to work from a well-thought-out master plan that made sense. Time magazine had Nixon as man of the year twice (and Kissinger was with him on one those years and it was for their mastery of foreign affairs. For those that lived at the time you will remember that when Ford took over after the resignation the whole world was worried about if Kissinger would continue (he did of course) in the job and continue Nixon's policy. Even though Carter tried to move away (to his downfall – stupid) we have basically been working under the Nixon global concepts of foreign policy since then – reagan, Bush, – even Clinton took advice from Nixon many times before he died. We have strayed a little recently and of course are in trouble because of this dumbness. I know it is hard to face but anyone that studies world politics (obviously not the people above) knows that even with all his characters quirks and watergate, Nixon was and to a certain degree still is the global master at this job.

    September 20, 2012 at 2:46 pm | Reply
  13. X

    Reagan: Superb balance of hawkish stance toward "evil empire" and meaningful negotiation with Gorbachev, ending the Cold War on our terms.
    HW Bush: Very effective president, just finished reading a book about his foreign policy-very complicated time to be president; Kuwait liberation was only true example of collective security in action, and done with Bush leadership.
    Nixon: opened China, which was the only brilliant move of his presidency. High marks for that alone, however.
    FDR: Good management of WWII-let a group of highly competent generals run the show and with great effect. Did not establish much of a vision for a post WWII world and really had no business seeking a fourth term given his health-left Truman in an awkward position.
    LBJ: Probably the worst, the Vietnam experience left the nation in a terrible way.
    Carter: Should not be on this list, basically had no foreign policy. Let the US military languish when he could've pressed the Soviets and spent much of his term negotiating with terrorists in Iran. Israel-Egypt is small consolation.
    Truman: Quite a resume: Oversaw end of WWII, created NATO, established state of Israel, Marshall Plan. Really set the stage for the Cold War; difficult to establish whether the animosity between the US and USSR could've been alleviated during his and ike's terms though.

    September 20, 2012 at 2:51 pm | Reply
  14. george kuczer

    Dear God. it is apparent our higher level history "professors" are in most part a waste of money and space.
    FDR either had been duped by his wiser partner in the coallition, or had been a complete idiot, with intelligence level of that of a 12 year old boy.
    Look at what transpired after the world war 2, the tremendous human waste, and trillions of dollars spent on the cold war. without regards to both domestic and international agenda.
    Remember Russia is just a continuation of the Sovet Socialist Republic, and their policy towards the USA did not nor will it change, as an enemy and adversary.
    We have come a full circle since the days of, in my opinion, the worst president of the USA.

    September 20, 2012 at 2:51 pm | Reply
  15. raf1860

    Agree with FDR. What about JFK? (Or does preventing a nuclear disaster not count? And the fact that he was the only president who stood up against the USSR until Reagan?). But the most impactful US foreign policy program created was under Truman with the Marshall Plan. Sending aid to your enemy within a year of their defeat was a visionary and gutsy move and showed a real understanding of global policy. Without this decision the world map would look totally different today. That said there is too much focus on recent history – what about Monroe, Adams?

    September 20, 2012 at 2:51 pm | Reply
  16. GODZILLA1

    FDR certainly number one but James K. Polk and William McKinley close behind.

    September 20, 2012 at 2:52 pm | Reply
    • Blah blah the wheel's off your trailer

      Monroe, Truman, FDR or Reagan, all made a difference and helped to shape the world order. But none of the great Presidents before President Obama ever inherited two war and an economic crisis simultaneously. Furthermore, its difficult to compare Ali and Marciano for example because the challengers or in this case, the challenges each President faced were different. But given what President Obama inherited (the first U.S. President to inherit two wars and an economic crisis) and what he has accomplished in under four years, if you want to compare, President Obama is unarguably the best foreign policy President ever. No ifs and or buts about it!

      Obama/Biden 2012 by a LANDSLIDE!

      September 20, 2012 at 3:16 pm | Reply
  17. TheZel

    Woodrow Wilson, Polk was nothing short of Adolf Hitler.

    September 20, 2012 at 2:56 pm | Reply
    • Austrian

      Wilson was a segregationist, an Anglophile, and the most bitter racist to ever hold the office of President. Self-determination was fine and good when applied to white people, but did Africa, Asia, or the Middle East get to decide their own destiny? If you want a President from this era who really believed in freedom and equality, that would be William McKinley, who truly believed everyone of every race should enjoy the blessings of liberty. The war he fought was one he didn't ask for, unlike Wilson, he let Congress do its job, and respected the separation of powers.

      Polk kept every promise he made (including the one not to seek re-election), and gave everything of himself to the job, living barely more than 3 months after leaving office. He didn't fight any war he didn't have to, and gave the next election to the opposing party by virtue of the Generals (Scott and Taylor, both Whigs) he sent to win the war, who did so as honorably as any victorious army has ever done. We even paid the vanquished Mexico for the territory which was ceded, something no victorious nation has ever done (indeed, normally the winners take money and territory). Polk would have gladly purchased the territory without resorting to war, it was Mexico which commenced hostilities, because they thought their army (which was thrice the size of ours) would win that war.

      September 22, 2012 at 10:13 am | Reply
  18. ct

    FDR ordered the Asian Americans into camps... those wacky liberals

    September 20, 2012 at 2:56 pm | Reply
    • steve

      That was a stain upon our country. I doubt you would have found "conservatives" opposed to the camps. A tragic mistake.

      September 20, 2012 at 2:59 pm | Reply
      • Blah blah the wheel's off your trailer

        No, conservaties just enslaved African-Americans for four hundred years. Then following the Emancipation Proclamation, they made certain to keep us in bondage further by introducing Jim Crow: seperate and unequal! That is the worst stain on our history!

        September 20, 2012 at 3:20 pm |
      • Steve

        In response to BLAH... the republican party was fomed as an break-off from the previous Whig party because they were conservative, and felt that slaves should be free. Southern Democrats, who ardently opposed this view were first to come to blows over their rights to both slave's and states rights. Democrats being the leaders of modern civil rights is a recent thing. Only 150 years of anti-integration under their belts... not a bad record...

        September 20, 2012 at 4:40 pm |
  19. steve

    Carter is indeed one of the greatest statesmen for making human rights a central part of US foreign policy, for the Camp David accords, and for the work of the Carter Center in election monitoring word wide.

    September 20, 2012 at 2:57 pm | Reply
  20. Joksterer

    Henry Truman.

    September 20, 2012 at 2:58 pm | Reply
  21. Joksterer

    Harry Truman? Anyway, the one that dropped the nuke.

    September 20, 2012 at 2:58 pm | Reply
  22. Siggie

    How about Lyndon Johnson for bringing peace and prosperity to Vietnam?

    September 20, 2012 at 3:00 pm | Reply
  23. jim111506

    (1) Carter
    (2) Polk
    (3) Ford
    (4) Johnson (Andrew)
    (5) Obama

    September 20, 2012 at 3:00 pm | Reply
  24. PJ

    Hitler, by far the best.

    September 20, 2012 at 3:00 pm | Reply
  25. Andy NJ

    "...but in the aftermath of the Carter era – dominated by a president who believed American power was an embarrassment to be lived down..."

    Sound familar??

    September 20, 2012 at 3:02 pm | Reply
  26. dreamer96

    The Middle East Hates Americans because of how many millions have been killed by the GOP presidents of the past President Dwight D. Eisenhower over through the Iranian Government and put the Shah into power when the Iranians tried to nationalize the Iranian Oil fields and Oil production... Reagan started the Iran-Iraq war 1980-1988 and that killed over one million on each side...Sold those WMD's to Saddam and then we had to fight two unfunded wars to get them all back... GHWBush killed about as many Iraqi's in the first gulf war.... GWBush Killed about as many in Iraqi's invasion and occupation... GWBush Killed many in Afghanistan too.... If the GOP had not killed so many Arabs and Muslims over oil and just followed Jimmy Carters plan to develop renewable energy we would not care about the middle east oil and they would not hate us....Thanks GOP.... If you look at history and watch "Three Days of the Condor". from 1975..you might think we planned our wars in the middle east decades before.

    FDR and the lend lease plan, and the marshal plan and other to rebuild both our allies and our enemies was what separated the US from other countries in history...FDR was probably the best for that....

    September 20, 2012 at 3:02 pm | Reply
    • jim111506

      Dead sand nigras are funny.

      September 20, 2012 at 3:04 pm | Reply
      • Reasonably

        Dead bigots are funnier.

        September 20, 2012 at 3:10 pm |
      • abacab

        People like you make me weep for humanity.

        September 20, 2012 at 3:59 pm |
      • jim111506

        @abacab. Let's see, I'm a troll and made you weep .... YES!

        September 20, 2012 at 4:11 pm |
  27. skinsrock

    Andrew Jackson .... because he knew the importance of self governing... he removed the Federal reserve central banking... only to have it return in 1913 to begin the destruction of America.

    September 20, 2012 at 3:03 pm | Reply
  28. doc_78

    Jefferson set in place many of the policies that shaped our country for generations to come. He helped to establish the US Navy as a tool for international commerce in putting down the pirates of Tunisia and along the Northern Africa coast. But, to argue two centuries of presidents is an impossible task. Each man dealt with specific problems both domestically and internationally. FDR had to overcome Charles Lindbergh and his isolationism and was only really able to muster support at home for WWII following December 7, 1941. This, in of itself does not make FDR a great international policy president, but only showcases the strain of managing policy/

    September 20, 2012 at 3:06 pm | Reply
  29. Colonel Smith

    My choice Is Ronald Reagan. His policies ended the Cold War. The Cold War was the biggest foreign policy issue in the mid to latter 20th century.

    September 20, 2012 at 3:06 pm | Reply
    • Reasonably

      Capitalism ended the cold war. Reagan happened to be president at the time.

      September 20, 2012 at 3:08 pm | Reply
      • Colonel Smith

        I disagree, Reagan spent 1 billion dollars a day on defense for 8 years, the Russians couldn't keep up.

        September 20, 2012 at 3:11 pm |
      • jim111506

        Obama's a silly nigra.

        September 20, 2012 at 3:13 pm |
    • Dale

      Ronald Reagan was good, but one problem he was passed 9/11, foreign policy is completely different today just about every Muslim country have it in for us.

      September 20, 2012 at 3:12 pm | Reply
      • Rob

        You do know that Osama had no problems with the US until GH Bush set up forces in Saudi to attack Kuait?

        September 20, 2012 at 4:15 pm |
    • spock500

      Boy, Mr. Reagan sure did botch the Beirut, Lebanon Marine barracks bombing. He sent them in poorly armed and fortified and ignored the warnings from his own Defense Secretary to pull them out. 241 marines murdered by a suicide bomber. Tragic and preventable.

      September 20, 2012 at 3:30 pm | Reply
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