Thursday, January 22, 2009

44 Presidents?

This video is very popular these days. The title is "44 US Presidents from George Washington to Barack Obama." There's only one small problem .... there are only 43 different Presidents shown in the video. Can you spot the "missing" President?

How many can you name without watching the video? Please indicate whether you are American or a "foreigner."

Do Americans agree on who the best President was, and on who was the worst President? It seems to me that there are several excellent choices in each category.


  1. Grover Cleveland: I forget the exact dates, but his terms were not consecutive.

    US Citizen, though some might dispute that because I reject the existence of a deity. :-)

  2. I am an American (with New Zealand citizenship too)...I will do the best I can to list the Presidents(I started the video, but stopped after George Washington)...

    I may omit one or two

    George Washington
    John Adams
    Thomas Jefferson
    James Madison
    James Monroe
    John Quincy Adams
    Andrew Jackson
    Martin Van Buren
    William Henry Harrison
    John Tyler
    James K Polk
    Zachary Taylor
    Millard Fillmore
    James? Pierce
    Abraham Lincoln
    Andrew Johnson
    Ulysses Grant
    James Garfield
    Hayes and Arthur (order?)
    Grover Cleveland
    Benjamin Harrison
    Cleveland again
    William McKinley
    Theodore Roosevelt
    Howard Taft
    Woodrow Wilson
    Warren G Harding
    Calvin Coolidge
    Herbert Hoover
    Franklin D Roosevelt
    Harry Truman
    Dwight D Eisenhower
    John F Kennedy
    Lyndon B Johnson
    Richard Nixon
    Gerald Ford
    Jimmy Carter
    Ronald Reagan
    George H W Bush
    William Jefferson Clinton
    George W Bush
    Barrack Obama

  3. If not Grover Cleveland, does it have to do with the Civil War, and Jefferson Davis?

    Foreigner (Scottish)

  4. Ollie's right. Grover Cleveland is counted as two presidents because he served two unconsecutive terms, 1885-1889 and 1893-1897 (I had to look up the dates).

    Do Americans agree on who the best President was, and on who was the worst President?

    No, though Washington and Lincoln are usually high on most peoples' list of best, with Jefferson close behind. My personal opinion: Washington's actual presidency was undistinguished but there was a very real chance that he could have made himself a king or dictator or, at least, president-for-life. His presidency was great more for the way he took leave of it. Jefferson's was most notable for what he did that went against his principles, namely the Louisiana Purchase, which he did without Congressional approval but which, at very modest cost, almost doubled the size of the country. Lincoln had greatness thrust upon him but, against all expectations of his day, rose to the occasion and beyond. My choice for greatest.

    The worst list is more expansive: Harding (corrupt and stupid); Buchanan (whose maneuverings exacerbated the tensions leading up to the Civil War); Nixon (for political corruption and abuse of power); George W. Bush (for everything); John Adams and/or John Quincy Adams (ineffectiveness) ...

    I'm leaning toward Dubya, but only time will tell.

  5. I (not American) got only 29, as I missed most of the procession of nonentities they had in the 19th century (as well as Madison and Coolidge -- less excusable). I got Cleveland as the one counted twice (without watching the video first).

    For best president I'd put it between Thomas Jefferson and Franklin Roosevelt. For worst, George W. Bush and Warren Harding, probably in that order. Of course, when we can look on the first decade of the 21st cenury with detachment we may feel differently, but I doubt it.

  6. Which is why, as Language Log pointed out, Obama was wrong when he described himself as the 44th American to take the oath.

  7. There is no question, James Earl Carter was the worst president in American History, although George W. Bush is giving him a run for his money.

  8. Lincoln was the best by far. GWB the worst. Woodrow wilson wasn't so hot either.

  9. I live near some Millard Fillmore historical sites. I have noticed some site improvements in the last couple of years. I suspect the caretakers are cheered by the prospect that never again will Fillmore be considered a candidate for worst president ever.

  10. George W. Bush was the best President the US has ever had and the reasons are many.

    For example, Americans admire loyalty and taking care of one's own, and George W. Bush was a grand exemplification of those high ideals.

    All by itself, his undying loyalty to the oil industry is enough to bring a tear to your eye, but, if I can be allowed but a smidgeon of indulgence, how deeply moving was his commendable loyalty to his friend who, insanely seeking his own fifteen minutes of fame, crassly hurled himself into the line of fire of the Vice President's shotgun blast. I'm sure you would all get just as choked up as I am, if I brought up George W. Bush's constancy and loyalty to, the once FEMA Director, Michael Brown. Just thinking about that paragon of virtue that is George W. Bush gives me goose bumps. George W. Bush's loyalty is unwavering.

    And, in regard to taking care of one's own, one word ... Halliburton ... says it all. Yes, I'm talking about that very same Halliburton which barely had two nickels to rub together before the George W. Bush Presidency(sniff, sniff, please forgive me if I get a bit weepy), but which, now, after a bit of Presidential mollycoddling and doting on, has the power, has the strength to build environmentally-friendly fences to protect us from the hordes of illegal aliens; manage the top-notch care of our tens of thousands injured veterans(many permanently injured, mind you); feed our troops on only the best hamburgers that eight-dollars can buy; and, rebuild New Orleans into a shining beacon of hope. Forgive me for speaking from the heart, but this one company alone - not even mentioning the several others - serves as the perfect model for the towering success that was George W. Bush's Presidency.

    Beyond his loyalty, beyond his taking care of his own, President George W. Bush will be remembered for his all-encompassing love for his fellow man. For George W. Bush his concern, caring, and compassion know no bounds. Bush love is real love. At one point, Bush's big heart recognized that his friend, Michael Brown needed a career boost, and Bush love put his Presidential power to work in making him Director of FEMA. Make no mistake; that's love, real heartfelt love.

    Think, too, of Harriet Miers and how that Bush heart, that Bush love, selflessly worked to guarantee her a job for life on the US Supreme Court. He didn't have to do that. There were many other candidates having superlative qualifications, but George W. Bush was powerless to fight that love, that heart, that profound sensitivity to the needs of one of his fellow sufferers of the human condition and his own need to ameliorate that suffering. It's rare, indeed, that any person exhibits that kind of love, and rarer still by a President. That's love. That's loyalty. That's great strength of character.

    Don't get me wrong, George W. Bush love is not a sappy, sentimental, schmaltzy kind of love. No, not at all. It's tough love. Tough as nails kinda love that says tough times demand tough decisions. We saw that cool collected tough love during Katrina. To note, as the media incessantly chronicled the slightly less than optimal conditions in the Superdome, George W. Bush did not offer up some kneejerk response like the immediate military airlifts of food and water called for by reactionaries. No, like every other great leader before him, he elected to thoughtfully allocate scarce resources to those even more inconvenienced by the storm. But, to be sure, those thousands of people at the Superdome who had their bus schedules, shopping and television interrupted by Katrina, were at the forefront of his thoughts and prayers as he siezed the opportunity to teach the tough love object lesson of just how good even the poorest of people have it in the US. Men of great character build character in others, and George W. Bush is just such a man.

    In George W. Bush there is so much to admire that I say he is the greatest President the US has ever had.

    Being that I dislike negativity, I'll leave it to others to determine the worst US President ever.

  11. I'm not American, but I can usually score in the high 30s on this game. However, I invariably forget both Harrisons. Did either of them achieve anything notable?

  12. 18. (Neither American nor a foreigner: I'm British.)

  13. U.S. citizen.

    I got 39 right--forgot van Buren, Tyler, Polk, Hayes, and Arthur.

    Cleveland, is, as pointed out, in the list twice as he was elected for two non-consecutive terms.

    As to best: Jefferson, Lincoln.

    As to the worst: Harding,

    Also, there are only 42 people elected to be U.S. President. Quick, now, who drops off the list of elected presidents?

    Bill Chaney

  14. I got 39 right--forgot van Buren, Tyler, Polk, Hayes, and Arthur.

    Thanks to They Might Be Giants, it's easier to remember James K. Polk.

  15. I'm not American (but French) and I could think of 23, more than half the total. All the recent ones came to my mind, except, of course, poor Gerald Ford, but I knew him, so I could add 1 to the total.

    Best president: my favourite ones are Thomas Jefferson, Franklin Roosevelt, and I also like Carter, mostly because of what he does now actually. I like Kennedy as much as everybody but this Bay of Pigs things still bothers me.

    As for the worst ones, the choice is mostly between such imperialists and warmongers as Theodore Roosevelt, Monroe and George W. Bush. But perhaps the crown goes to Ronald Reagan. The combination of twisted economics (inverted Robin Hood principle: take from the poor, give to the rich), support to nutbag religion and creationism, support to the Latin American deathsquads, invasion of poor tiny Grenada, not forgetting the Irangate (there's no way he could have not known about it)... is (thankfully) rather rare.

  16. Thanks to They Might Be Giants, it's easier to remember James K. Polk.

    And thanks to Jonathan Coulton, it's easier to remember all of them! Well, almost all now.

    Personally I'm a bit dismayed at how easy it is for people, myself included, to rank corruption and imperialism over an actual honest-to-goodness genocide on (what it made) our own soil.

  17. John Hanson.

    But that's a long time ago.

    And I'm an American, from Wisconsin

  18. My favorites are definitely Lincoln and FDR although the order occasionally switches. I do think that the first Adams deserves honorable mention, less because of his actual presidency and more because of the way he handled losing the election of 1800 (instead of staying on to 'save' the country from his hated opponent he gave up and went home.)
    As for worst presidents, Buchanan (for being dangerously incompetent when the country was in need of real leadership.) Kennedy (the way he handled the Cuban missile crisis would have resulted in thermonuclear war if it hadn't been for some soviet political hack by the name of Arkhipov.) Dishonorable mention goes to McKinley for helping to create the modern $$ centric campaign.
    (BTW I am American, although I currently reside in China.)