Ranking the Presidents

The Gallup poll below is being touted as a “ranking” of modern presidents, and it puts John F. Kennedy at the top. (I guess Eisenhower doesn’t count as “modern.”) This is obviously crazy, but when I clicked the link I discovered that it wasn’t really a ranking of who was the best president, it was a ranking of retrospective job approval ratings:

That’s not quite so crazy. It’s probably still wrong, but not crazy. Kennedy did some popular things, handled the White House with style, and was assassinated before his administration had time to become widely loathed, which it likely would have been had he stayed in office for a full eight years. He never really had a chance to outlast his honeymoon, and LBJ ended up taking the hit for Vietnam and 60s unrest more generally.

In any case, the innate good sense of the American public is shown by George W. Bush’s low ranking. I just hope that as time goes by, people remember what a bad president he was. He’s not a president who deserves to benefit from the rosiness of faded memories.

WE DON'T KNOW

What's going to happen next as the headlines grow crazier and more disconcerting by the day. But we do know the job of an independent, unrelenting press is more important than ever—and the ongoing commitment of MoJo readers to fight for a democracy where facts matter and all can participate is absolutely vital.

If you feel the urgency deep in your bones like we do, please consider signing up as a monthly donor during our fall pledge drive to support Mother Jones' fair and fearless reporting for the long haul (or make a one-time gift if that works better for you). The headlines may fade, but the need to investigate the powerful never will.