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.


Next entry »
« Previous entry
soundoff (712 Responses)
  1. ohioan

    I followed closely the political events of the 70's on, and I have to say that Ronald Reagan is second only to George W Bush as the worst president in my lifetime as it pertains to foreign policy and domestic policy. Reagan was the great communicator without a clue and Bush was a puppet on a string. The neocons pulled the strings during both administrations.

    September 20, 2012 at 3:28 pm | Reply
    • Rob

      Pssst, Comedy and SNL skits are not real........

      September 20, 2012 at 3:58 pm | Reply
  2. Don Shank

    Thank God for Thomas Jefferson, first of all for his assuring each of us a voice in government, and second, for his embargo policy with deplomacy in dealing with other nations. Ronald Reagan is my next choice of a statesman worthy of ten times his hire.

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

    Oh come on, Carter? This is a joke. The perception (and reality) of his weakness was extremely dangerous. All it would have taken is some idiot offing a few of the hostages and you'd have US troops in Iran, Soviet troops in Afghanistan, and World War III just waiting for another stupid move.

    No Nixon? You have to give Tricky Dick credit for his strong suite.

    Probably Ike goes to the top of the list.

    September 20, 2012 at 3:29 pm | Reply
  4. John

    Ronald Reagan should not be in even the top 30. He set up Osama Ben Ladin in Afghanistan to chase out the Russians and laid the seed for 9-11-2001. He crowed about "bring down this wall", but had little to do with causing it. The CIA had said years before that Russia's economy was not sustainable. He almost tripled the national debt with large tax cut for real estate investors which led to a bubble in real estate and the S&L crisis. He ignored laws and bought guns from Iran to sell to the Contras in South America and back hauled cocaine to the US to pay for it all.

    September 20, 2012 at 3:29 pm | Reply
  5. db

    With out a doubt it was Truman. After he dropped the bomb, nobody but nobody messed with the USA.

    September 20, 2012 at 3:29 pm | Reply
    • jim111506

      That's right. We should drop one every now and again to keep the rest of the world honest.

      September 20, 2012 at 3:31 pm | Reply
  6. Political Science Nerd

    Nixon?

    September 20, 2012 at 3:31 pm | Reply
  7. Are U Serious

    Did I read this correctly? Who should Obama and Romney try to draw inspiration from?" Isn't Oidiot already Commander In Chief? If we are asking this question after four years I would assume his policies are a failure? Because if his policies were successful wouldn't those interested in running for the highest office of the U.S. be drawing inspiration from him. I can't get over that you liberals do not see this?

    BTW – White House Press Secretary states "it was self-evident' that the attacks in Libya are terrorist attacks, REALLY??? Wow, it only took you guys over a week to figure that out? And, let's see Fast & Furious? Why isn't CNN reporting those headlines? Because it brings to life that Oidiot is a failure on all fronts. One last point, job numbers are still horrible.

    September 20, 2012 at 3:32 pm | Reply
  8. PC

    Obama is himself the best foreign policy president. We will all acknowledge that 20 years from now. If Obama were white, we might even have an inkling of that fact already.

    September 20, 2012 at 3:32 pm | Reply
    • Charles Baltimore

      HAHA this is probably the most hilarious comment I have read today. Yeah, Obama will be right up there with GW Bush for best foriegn policy presidents... PFFF! (Obama despite his campaign promises and talk has been a double down on bad GW Bush policy)

      September 20, 2012 at 3:36 pm | Reply
      • Baadman

        Just like Americans, people in the Muslim world were suckered by fine speech-making; we, and they, are disappointed in the follow-through. For Arabs, the let-down has been grave, partly because the build-up was out of proportion. Americans have suffered a similar disillusionment – on jobs, on education, on our finances – and on foreign policy. Now, President Obama’s failure to keep his promises – both at home and abroad – should cost him his job.

        September 20, 2012 at 4:21 pm |
    • Rob

      You know its pretty sad. I am white and don't even think about the color of Obama's skin unless someone brings it up. Usually saying how he is mistreated or not respected because he is black. What a joke.

      September 20, 2012 at 3:55 pm | Reply
    • Concerned American

      Seriously? You just discredited your entire argument! If he were white. . . Please. Obama and Hillary have both done great things on foreign policy and they've both avoided bad situations. They've done the best they could with what they were given. Osama bin Laden is dead, we are not sending troops to Syria. World relations (At least within their power) have improved. The situation in Iran could be better, however, this is a concern for the World government, not solely the U.S. Government. U.S Politics are one thing, World Politics are a whole different ball game. And from the sound of things, Hillary Clinton doesn't want to continue as Secretary of state.

      September 20, 2012 at 3:56 pm | Reply
  9. Big_D

    Nixon was good with China. Eisenhower was the best. Carter had to deal with the GOP dealing arms to Iran, that treason must have been hard to deal with.

    September 20, 2012 at 3:32 pm | Reply
    • Charles Baltimore

      Eisenhower was pretty cool

      September 20, 2012 at 3:38 pm | Reply
  10. blake

    Carter. Are you kidding me?

    September 20, 2012 at 3:32 pm | Reply
  11. Charles Baltimore

    Jefferson takes it. FDR was a bit of a tool bag all things considered. Carter should not even make the list. Reagan created too much deffense debt, but when I travel around central europe people seem to like him (even if I didn't care for him all too much).

    September 20, 2012 at 3:33 pm | Reply
  12. Quid Malmborg in Plano TX

    I'd say more mention of James Monroe (Monroe Doctrine), Theodore Roosevelt (made the US a superpower), and Harry Truman (filled FDR's shoes, brought the US from WW2 into post-war recovery).

    September 20, 2012 at 3:33 pm | Reply
  13. John Fields

    I would like to offer several opinions:
    Washington and Eisenhower should be high on the list
    – Washington set the paradigm or pattern for the presidency, including foriegn policy
    – Eisenhower because he got us throught the riskiest years without a nuclear war or attack. everyone else seemed ready to use nukes for everything, but he held the line.
    I would also opine that Jimmy Carter along with Buchanan is the very worst and should be impeached retroactively.

    September 20, 2012 at 3:33 pm | Reply
  14. magnet622

    How could Ronald Reagan be named as one of the best? Didn't he sell weapons to our sworn enemy Iran, just a few years after they held our citizens hostage for nearly two years? The same weapons and weapons technology that Iran is threatening the US and Isreal with today? Didn't he carry out secret wars in South America so he could control the drug shipments coming into the US, while also waging the so called "war on drugs" against his own countrymen?

    September 20, 2012 at 3:33 pm | Reply
    • Conservative

      Didn't Obama's administration give guns to the mexican drug cartel?

      YES THEY DID.

      September 20, 2012 at 3:41 pm | Reply
  15. Big_D

    I still don't understand how we let Reagan and Bush pardon their own criminals from Iran Contra. I guess Casey was killed to protect the guilty.

    September 20, 2012 at 3:34 pm | Reply
  16. Baptist_Deacon

    Reagan was the best foreign policy president. It was because of him, eastern Europe is now free of Socialist Totalitarianism. He challenged the Soviets to keep up with our military build up, and it bankrupted them. Socialism is EXPENSIVE!

    September 20, 2012 at 3:34 pm | Reply
  17. Ralph N

    The best foreign policy president will be Mitt Romney.

    September 20, 2012 at 3:35 pm | Reply
  18. Ray in Tampa

    No doubt. A domestic disaster but foreign policy genuis... Richard Nixon. He got the Strategic Arms Talks started with the USSR...diffused the situation in Berlin...opened up relations with China.

    We went from the real possibility of living to see the next morning to actually feeling secure in our beds. The issues today are so minor compared to the inasanity of the dark days of the Cold War.

    September 20, 2012 at 3:35 pm | Reply
  19. Q

    REAGAN?!!! HAHAHAHAAHAAHAAHAHAHAAHAHAH

    September 20, 2012 at 3:39 pm | Reply
  20. Steve G

    FDR certainly was an enormous figure with regards to his accomplishments but the fact that he turned his back on the Jews will forever be an unforgivable act in my book. JFK and his handling of the Cuban Missle Crisis ranks as the #1 foreign policy decision for me.

    September 20, 2012 at 3:39 pm | Reply
    • John R. Grace

      Can you explain more of your thoughts on JFK? I wrote a paper on the Cuban Missile Crisis in college and in many ways Kennedy's administration provoked the Cuban crisis. The Soviets were fearful of US nuclear missiles existing in Turkey at the time and had requested their removal. JFK had ordered their removal but people in his admin 'slow-balled' their removal in hopes of keeping them and the Soviets retaliated by attempting to put missiles in Cuba.

      September 20, 2012 at 4:18 pm | Reply
  21. Christopher Walken

    Ben Franklin was the best president. He even invented electricity, and the cowbell.

    GO RON PAUL 2016!!!

    September 20, 2012 at 3:41 pm | Reply
    • lbpaulina

      These are the statements that make me think about the lack of culture.
      Benjamin Franklin invented the electricity? Ha, ha, ha, ha.
      I forgive you just if you are six years old, but I thank you because you made me laugh.

      September 20, 2012 at 3:50 pm | Reply
  22. d43744f

    "Who should Obama and Romney draw inspiration from when it comes to foreign policy and the White House? "

    Obama should be looking for 'another inspiration'? Many insane people are in the world. There's no shortage of folks who feel bad about themselves. And then disown it by making others feel bad. When these folks get a position of power, it creates suffering for many. A GOB reaction of "go in and get 'em! We are America" didn't work well in Iraq. Obama and Clinton are acting more patiently. Perhaps wise, when dealing with potentially insane foreign leaders.

    September 20, 2012 at 3:42 pm | Reply
    • Rob

      Seriously? Clinton was warned about Osama before Bush took office. That's for handling that so well.

      September 20, 2012 at 3:49 pm | Reply
      • d43744f

        Warned?

        September 20, 2012 at 3:50 pm |
    • d43744f

      I did mean Hilary Clinton.

      September 20, 2012 at 3:59 pm | Reply
  23. Conservative

    This just in, Obama has had gold plated knee pads made for the whole crew at CNN.

    September 20, 2012 at 3:43 pm | Reply
  24. lbpaulina

    With all the respect for Prof. Bruce Jentleson, I think that his vision of "best foreign policy" is just a little triumphalist and doesn't fully and correctly interprets what foreign policy means. Saying that "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" he doesn't depict a great man of state, he seems to depict a ravenous shark. Overall in the moment he shortly summarizes the situation of Europe during the WWII: this war made 40/50 million civilians dead (including diseases and famine) plus 25 million military dead.
    We are talking here about 70 million people who died. I'm not counting here the Holocaust and the Soviet Victims in the aftermath (see Stalin) estimated around 27 million. I think that prof and journalist could have been, at least, more precise. Respect? Why, does it still exist? By the way,foreign policy should mean a policy that is able to cenvey peace.
    Therefore I would leave the Bush's saga aside.

    September 20, 2012 at 3:43 pm | Reply
  25. Truth will prevail

    CNN why is this article more important than our; DISASTROUS ECONOMY, RISING DEBT, GAS PRICES, INFLATION, UNEMPLOYMENT....I have come to the conclusion that you could careless about AMERICA...our people and our current MESS....you are in bed with the OBAMA administration and you will do everything to elect him at the COST of our GREAT NATION!!!!

    September 20, 2012 at 3:43 pm | Reply
    • Rob

      do you have a red bull IV in you?

      September 20, 2012 at 3:47 pm | Reply
  26. jim111506

    Johnson and Nixon were great because they killed a bunch of qooks.

    September 20, 2012 at 3:44 pm | Reply
  27. pop

    What happen to TRICKY DICK. RICHARD NIXON?

    Why wasn't he on the List?

    September 20, 2012 at 3:44 pm | Reply
  28. Rob

    Nice Scott Lucas. We don't give any of your British leaders much credit either.
    FDR
    Jefferson
    GH Bush
    Regean
    In that order.

    September 20, 2012 at 3:46 pm | Reply
  29. scieng1

    Roosevelt ended a world war that his lack of good policy intially made bigger and longer. Reagan prevented a world war that would have destroyed most of mankind. Jefferson promoted freedom, and the opportunity for free people to grow into a larger nation. My vote would go to Reagan first, then Jefferson. Obama, Johnson, and Carter are about tied for worst.

    September 20, 2012 at 3:46 pm | Reply
  30. Paul Willson

    Lumping Jefferson in with modern POTUS's is skewing the who was best list. Jefferson was POTUS in a very different era. My list; FDR for a lot of reasons mentioned
    GHW Bush for his service both as POTUS but include time as ambassador to PRC,head of CIA
    R.Reagan helped end the cold war
    J Carter well a failed POTUS because of external events , Iran hostage crisis

    September 20, 2012 at 3:46 pm | Reply
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12

Post a comment


 

CNN welcomes a lively and courteous discussion as long as you follow the Rules of Conduct set forth in our Terms of Service. Comments are not pre-screened before they post. You agree that anything you post may be used, along with your name and profile picture, in accordance with our Privacy Policy and the license you have granted pursuant to our Terms of Service.

Next entry »
« Previous entry