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.


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


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.


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


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.


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 (718 Responses)
  1. James

    It seems that JFK should be on the list. After all, he did resolve the Cuban missle crisis, avoiding global nuclear war. It also seems that Reagan should be disqualified from the list since he took us to the brink of global nuclear war.

    September 20, 2012 at 4:43 pm | Reply
    • redsled

      check again.there is a little about the cuban missle crisis thats not popular to report.

      September 20, 2012 at 4:45 pm | Reply
    • deep blue

      Kennedy had the Bay of Pigs problem. It could be argued that the Cuban Missile Crisis was handled well, but I think the Bay of Pigs disaster disqualifies him.

      September 20, 2012 at 4:46 pm | Reply
      • Gator08

        I agree Kennedy could of done a little better than he did with Cuban missile crisis but Eisenhower had set up the invasion. while he was still president. Just like a security measures to kill Osama Bin Laden were put in place before Obama . Eventhoug, Obama deserves some credit for killing Bin Laden and Bush should have completed the job. He knew dame well he was in Packistan.

        September 20, 2012 at 5:11 pm |
  2. redsled

    ronny raygun on this msm list?they must have forgotten how much they hated him when he was potus.he's too old,he'll accidently hit the button.he's just an actor.he'll start wwIII with the soviets.on and on.

    September 20, 2012 at 4:43 pm | Reply
  3. deep blue

    I love how much interest this thread is getting. The Reagan "tough talk" worshipers and W. Bush bashers are a bit unimaginative and/or delusional, but most of the comments are surprisingly informative and intriguing.

    September 20, 2012 at 4:44 pm | Reply
  4. jimcolyer

    Obama has more in common with Curious George than he does with past presidents.

    September 20, 2012 at 4:44 pm | Reply
    • jim111506

      That's raaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaacist!

      September 20, 2012 at 4:48 pm | Reply
  5. jim111506

    Who's going to be stuck with the bill to remove "that nigra odor" from the White House when Obongo is voted out of office? That's right: all of us. Democrats should be forced to pay for it.

    September 20, 2012 at 4:45 pm | Reply
    • Jeff Cox

      There's no reason to post anything this vile except to show what a low class person you are. Congrats.

      September 20, 2012 at 4:51 pm | Reply
      • Timothy

        Agree, this is a friendly debate to discuss the question and not to throw out racial terms because of our own disgust with our own government

        September 20, 2012 at 5:03 pm |
    • jim111506

      I see: You're just determined to ignore "that nigra odor," huh, Jeff? You should help pay for the fumigation!

      September 20, 2012 at 4:54 pm | Reply
    • Reilleyfam

      Big black karma will find you.

      September 20, 2012 at 4:57 pm | Reply
      • jim111506

        "Big black Karma"? Like some primitive nigra curse? I'm not worried. Blacks ARE worried, however. They know we're going to take their handouts away from them come November. And eventually, as the United States demographic changes, nigras will once again take their rightful places in the fields, doing the only sort of work for which they're qualified.

        September 20, 2012 at 5:08 pm |
  6. stained 101

    Food stamp Republicans will vote Romey the elitist into office...and he wil bring us more war....enjoy the future best fpreign policy prez...like your boy BOOOSH

    September 20, 2012 at 4:45 pm | Reply
  7. Siara Delyn

    So.... Benjamin Franklin was never president....:

    September 20, 2012 at 4:46 pm | Reply
  8. Jason

    It amazes me every time people try and say Ronald Reagan beat the Soviet Union. The SU was systemically flawed and on it's way to collapse. They spent all their money propping up a military industrial complex and suppressing their peoples economic mobility. When the price of oil collapsed in the mid 80's they lost their primary revenue stream and had nothing to fall back on, thus collapse. Reagan didn't do anything except make some very inspiring speeches at just the right time. He was not bad but he was no hero. G.H.B.W. I can definitely see on this list. Pragmatic, very intelligent, a good practical leader. He doesn't get nearly enough credit from conservatives today as he should.

    September 20, 2012 at 4:47 pm | Reply
    • Siara Delyn

      EXACTLY. He just hopped up on a wall that was already crumbling and took an advantage of a photo shoot. The great man in that situation was Gorbachev

      September 20, 2012 at 4:50 pm | Reply
    • Siara Delyn

      And think about the Iran-Contra mess. It's going to be fun to watch Ronald Reagan return to human status now the the Age of the Raging Republican is over.

      September 20, 2012 at 4:51 pm | Reply
    • krehator

      The same guy that pushed trickle down and killed the middle class.

      The same guy that ran the iran contra deals.

      The same guy that negotiated with terrorists to free the hostages.

      September 20, 2012 at 5:20 pm | Reply
      • beynn


        September 24, 2012 at 1:30 pm |
  9. Jack

    Can't agree with Carter. Better on the list would be Wilson, Monroe, Polk, Nixon.

    September 20, 2012 at 4:48 pm | Reply
    • deep blue

      Polk intentionally sparked a war with Mexico. To me, that should disqualify him. I would need to look more into antebellum history to consider Monroe. All I know about his foreign policy is the Monroe doctrine. I agree with Nixon and maybe Wilson.

      September 20, 2012 at 4:51 pm | Reply
      • huh?

        But Polk did peacefully negotiate the border with British North America when members of his party were calling for war. That decision ultimately led to the single largest and most peaceful trade relationship in the history of the world. That's not hyperbole, that's a fact – the trade relationship between the USA and Canada is the largest and most peaceful in human history. Polk has to get some credit for setting that up.

        September 20, 2012 at 5:05 pm |
      • wade

        Polk did not spark the Mexican war. Hostilities with Mexico began after we annexed Texas at the end of John Tyler's administration, not to mention going back to Andrew Jackson and the Alamo. Yes the war began once Polk was President, but by the time he came into office there was no way for him to simply go back and undo what Tyler had started.

        September 20, 2012 at 5:35 pm |
  10. curtasea

    Thomas Jefferson, the same guy who killed millions of Native Americans??
    I hope you were joking as the Trail of Tears is no way to do foreign affairs...
    (Natives weren't citizens until the 1930's therefore it was a foreign relations policy)

    September 20, 2012 at 4:48 pm | Reply
    • jim111506

      It was necessary to cull the brown horde in order to make room for the superior White people.

      September 20, 2012 at 4:51 pm | Reply
    • wade

      Thomas Jefferson was not responsible for the trail of tears. The Indian Removal Act occurred in 1837 which was the first year of Andrew Jackson's administration, and it was his signature legislation. Read your history.

      September 20, 2012 at 5:56 pm | Reply
  11. Reilleyfam


    September 20, 2012 at 4:49 pm | Reply
    • stained 101

      i vote Dick as our best foregin policy prez...cause my Dick...woukd lead us clowns to world peace

      September 20, 2012 at 4:55 pm | Reply
  12. Jeff Cox

    Quite honestly, I'm surprised that Nixon wasn't on the short list. The guy was the first President to visit China and paved the way for ongoing communications between the US and both China and Russia.

    Say what you want about his domestic "issues" ... he was brilliant when it came to foreign policy.

    My opinion.

    September 20, 2012 at 4:50 pm | Reply
  13. mad rocket scientist

    Without Carter there would have no Reagan. Carter got the Soviet Union to agree to treaties they thought would never be enforced. Reagan took those agreements and made the Soviet Union abide by them and hastened the down fall of the empire. So, to think of one, we must think of the other locked forever in history.

    September 20, 2012 at 4:50 pm | Reply
    • Jason

      Very good point.

      September 20, 2012 at 5:04 pm | Reply
  14. 4pease

    BUSH?? How soon we forget his Neville Chamberlain moment, when he sent the deputy embassador to Iraq to meet with Sadam, with the Iraqui troops massed along the Kuwait border. "It is an Arab affair" he told them. The NEXT DAY Iraq invaded Kuwait, and we paid with American lives for his mistake.

    September 20, 2012 at 4:51 pm | Reply
    • Jason

      Nothing could have stopped Iraq's invasion. Saddam was convinced the Kuwaities were stealing his oil by horizontal drilling across the border.

      September 20, 2012 at 5:06 pm | Reply
  15. Stan

    Ronald Reagan left Lebanon with his tale tucked between his legs like a little b.i.t.c.h

    September 20, 2012 at 4:51 pm | Reply
  16. Dan C

    Nixon: Just by inviting the Chinese to play some ping pong, he turned the cold war from a one front war to an un-winnable two front war for the Soviet Union. That was the decisive moment in the battle that ultimately lead to the collapse of the Soviet Union, and Nixon did not have to fire a shot. If that's not crafty statesmanship and an efficient use of resources than I don't know what is.

    September 20, 2012 at 4:51 pm | Reply
  17. Red Pison

    Bill Clinton. The world still respects/fears him.

    September 20, 2012 at 4:52 pm | Reply
  18. hesea

    Obama will be oin the list for the weakest on foriegn policy, apoligizing all over the world for the US hasn't seem to work. Even after the Terrorist attack in Libya, the White House wouldn't call it a terriost attack until it was obvious to us all but the White house. Can't use the word "Terrorist"

    September 20, 2012 at 4:55 pm | Reply
    • Jeff Cox

      Thanks for adding so little to the thread.

      September 20, 2012 at 5:00 pm | Reply
    • Randy

      You know, we can all see that there's no one sitting in that chair you're arguing with.

      September 20, 2012 at 5:03 pm | Reply
  19. Diarci

    How about Lincoln? He managed to keep England and France from recognizing the Conferderacy and giving aid to it when, for three full years it was not at all certain that the Union could win.

    September 20, 2012 at 4:55 pm | Reply
    • Randy

      Indeed. This whole article is ridiculous. They get some character from a right wing propaganda outfit to write a piece about how great Ronald Reagan was and don't even mention Abraham Lincoln. The entire nation hung on a thread and Lincoln was dealing with even less support in Washington than Obama receives from the saboteur GOP. He somehow managed to hold the whole thing together and keep Europe out of it. Even the Emancipation Proclamation was, to a degree, a work of foreign policy.

      September 20, 2012 at 5:02 pm | Reply
      • Siara Delyn

        I noticed that too. I wonder if the Myth of Reagan is going to go back to reality now that the political mood of the country is shifting. If you were an adult during Reagan's presidency and you look at the things the right say about him you just go ".....What????"

        September 20, 2012 at 5:07 pm |
    • Jason

      Yet another good point. What a disaster that would have been if Europe formally recognized the confederacy. I think Lincoln may have to be disqualified just because, well, its Lincoln. 😉

      September 20, 2012 at 5:10 pm | Reply
    • jfkman

      I was thinking this too. Keeping France, England, and Russia out of the insurrection was a coup. A professional diplomatic corp contrasted the amateurish buffoons sent by J. Davis...

      September 20, 2012 at 11:00 pm | Reply
      • TenaciousP

        Think you mean Britain Act of union 1707

        September 22, 2012 at 6:38 am |
  20. palintwit

    1969 brought us Woodstock. 2013 will bring us Baggerstock, a gathering of the faithful. The baggers, birthers, John Birchers, Palinistas, and every other concievable republican miscreant and evangelical loser. But first they must find a suitable trailer park to hold the event.

    September 20, 2012 at 4:56 pm | Reply
    • daveinla

      Ahhhhh Woodstack. That gathering of smelly brats in NY state where they took drugs and whined about the future. Dirt bags.

      September 20, 2012 at 5:06 pm | Reply
  21. stained 101

    I vote for Dick...My Dick would lead us to world peace!!!!...in other words Romney....aka...Israeli Balz sucking Dick

    September 20, 2012 at 4:59 pm | Reply
  22. LibSub

    An AEI rep picked the GOP lord and savior Ronald Reaganl, go figure.

    September 20, 2012 at 4:59 pm | Reply
  23. POD

    Teddy Roosevelt or Andrew Jackson.....two of the best EVER!

    September 20, 2012 at 5:00 pm | Reply
  24. Brad76

    Even the Soviets liked Reagan, I'd say he did a great job.

    September 20, 2012 at 5:02 pm | Reply
  25. daveinla

    What about James Knox Polk? Backed the British down in NW territory over "54-40 or fight" and won Mexican American War. Gained huge tracts of land that became our western United States.

    September 20, 2012 at 5:03 pm | Reply
    • huh?

      I don't know if I'd say he "backed the British down." He did peacefully negotiate a settlement with them – British North America came out well in that agreement as well, with Polk's party demanding all of what is now called British Columbia. That decision led not only too the US stretching from coast to coast, but would ultimately aid the solidification and confederation of Canada, which in turn would create the single largest and most peaceful trade relationship in world history. That negotiation is one of the best foreign policy calls ever made by a president, and has had likely the longest lasting positive impact on the US. We couldn't ask for a better neighbour than Canada and the Oregon treaty is the main reason that relationship exists.

      September 20, 2012 at 5:30 pm | Reply
  26. CAL USA

    Perhaps a hundred years from now, historians will put Jimmy Carter in his proper place. It's impossible to do so today, as we can see from all the incredibly stupid opinions being expressed here. They can't dismiss the Camp David Accord, which have kept the peace between two countries that had been at each others throats for decades. Carter ws a visionary, who saw the need for a comprehensive national energy strategy and began to put one in place. Too bad we allowed Reagan to dismantle much of it because "the private sector will set our energy policy". Exxon sure has done that, and we are paying for it. I have a questionfor those who would deride Carter on this. How would you like to be paying $4 a gallon for gas and getting the gas mileage of the typical American car before he imposed CAFE rules? By the way, he told us that Reagan's taxcuts and increased Defense spending would blow a hole in the deficit and increase the national debt. Was he right? The Gipper inherited a debt of $651B and left us with $4T. Judge for yourself.

    September 20, 2012 at 5:05 pm | Reply
    • daveinla

      Nixon would rank above Carter.

      September 20, 2012 at 5:07 pm | Reply
  27. palusko996769

    Was there any American president that was not be involved in a war or some armed conflict, somewhere in the world?

    September 20, 2012 at 5:06 pm | Reply
  28. Siara Delyn

    Actually, Nixon was very good. Too bad he kind of shot his reputation.

    September 20, 2012 at 5:10 pm | Reply
  29. Aristocles

    Much as Carter was inept at home and during the Iranian Hostage Crisis, he did manage to achieve a previously unthinkable peace between Egypt and Israel, all but guaranteeing the survival and future prosperity of the Jewish state, and a peaceful return of the Sinai Peninsula to Egypt.

    September 20, 2012 at 5:10 pm | Reply
  30. Andrew

    Theodore Roosevelt is the clear number one. Without even a mention of him in this article makes me refuse to entertain the veracity of any argument that lies within it.

    September 20, 2012 at 5:10 pm | Reply
    • jim111506

      If Franklin (crippled monkey) Roosevelt were here next to me, I'd kick him out of his chair and urinate on his face.

      September 20, 2012 at 5:15 pm | Reply
    • POD

      You are Correct....."Speak softly but carry a Big Stick"

      September 20, 2012 at 5:17 pm | Reply
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