My Choices for Worst Presidents in my Lifetime

My Choices for Worst Presidents in my Lifetime

© David Burton 2016

Presidents Obama and Carter

     During my lifetime, there have been some thirteen (13) U.S. presidents. In chronological order, they are:

  1. Franklin D. Roosevelt – 1933 to 1945
  2. Harry S. Truman – 1945 to1953
  3. Dwight D. Eisenhower – 1953 to 1961
  4. John F. Kennedy – 1961 to 1963
  5. Lyndon B. Johnson – 1963 to 1969
  6. Richard M. Nixon – 1969 to 1974
  7. Gerald Ford – 1974 to 1977
  8. Jimmy Carter – 1977 to 1981
  9. Ronald Reagan – 1981 to 1989
  10. George H. W. Bush – 1989 to 1993
  11. Bill Clinton – 1993 to 2001
  12. George W. Bush – 2001 to 2009
  13. Barack Obama – 2009 to 2017
     Number 1 on my list of worst presidents in my lifetime is the present incumbent, Barack Obama. To my mind, his has been a dismal presidency by nearly all meaningful measures of performance. I give him failing grades in diplomacy, national defense and legislative actions. He will likely be remembered as one of the most polarizing figures ever to sit in the White House. He has fostered a “me vs. them”, the “rich vs. the poor”, the “1% vs. the rest”, and a “it’s my way or the highway” atmosphere in Washington and in the rest of the country.

     Obama has arguably created a constitutional storm in his ruling by fiat. Time and again, he has bypassed the legislative branch of our government and attempted to make laws by executive decree. He has unilaterally modified or interpreted Obamacare. He has bypassed Congress by changing and ignoring immigration laws. He has raised the minimum wage for federal contractors without the consent of Congress. He has made unconstitutional recess appointments without Senate approval to fill vacancies on the National Labor Relations Board. The separation of powers concept, as envisioned by the framers of our Constitution, has been clearly ignored on numerous occasions by President Obama. Has any other president flaunted the Constitution to this level?

     President Obama has caused America’s standing in the world to fall to an all-time low. The president’s actions, inactions, indecisions, course reversals, and hesitations have led to world-wide disaster.

     The Obama administration’s Libyan policy and negligence led to the disaster that is occurring there today and even to the deaths of four Americans in Benghazi. The president and his administration compounded their errors there by misrepresenting the nature of the attack, saying that it was the result of a YouTube video when in reality it was terrorism.

     Among the many failed efforts by Obama in the Middle East, we can point to Syria. There, “you may recall, President Obama drew a red line (apparently in invisible ink) should Assad use chemical weapons against the insurrectionists . . . Syria did use chemical weapons and Obama failed to act on his red line. And now, long after Obama declared the importance of taking down the Assad government, Russia is in the country, providing the support that is keeping Assad in power (thereby re-establishing Russian influence in the region and providing the Russian navy with Mediterranean access).
     “. . . Also, ISIS (Obama’s designated jayvee) is heavily engaged in the area. But the most important news would seem to be Russia’s involvement, giving it a more important position on the world stage (as well as directly preventing Obama’s takedown of the Assad regime).” (Ref. 1)

     It is impossible to point to any foreign policy successes during President Obama’s time in office. “Pulling all the troops out of Iraq and failing to secure a status of forces agreement when we had all the leverage (aka: foreign aid) to do so and defying all the recommendations of his top military generals and advisors [Emphasis mine] in this matter turned out to be a horrendous failure. Allowing a vacuum to form and then be filled by ISIS, the most savage Islamist extremists ever known, as Obama deserted Iraq and failed to act after he drew a red line that Syria ignored with impunity is a terrifyingly dangerous failure.” (Ref. 2)

     Obama’s failures in dealing with Iran are glaring and the ultimate results are yet to be felt. Not supporting the protestors during their green movement in Iran in 2009 was one failure. The Iran nuclear deal is a disaster waiting to blow up in our faces and in the faces of our Mid East allies, particularly Israel and Saudi Arabia. This deal gives Iran the money and a license to fund terrorist activities, approval to proceed with research and development of nuclear weapons technology and, at best, delays Iran’s possession of a nuclear weapon. While the agreement supposedly constrained Iran’s ballistic missile program, the fact is that Iran has continued to develop and test ballistic missiles while laughing in our face. In 2016, Obama has arguably allowed Iran to replace the United States as Iraq’s leading ally in the war against ISIS. In Yemen, American policy has allowed Iran to actively support jihadist terrorists in their fight against Yemen’s government and Saudi Arabia.

     President Obama’s very public war against Israel and its democratically elected Prime Minister has been a disaster and fuels Palestinian delusions of driving Israel into the Mediterranean Sea. As a result, the Palestinians continue to refuse to negotiate a peace agreement with Israel under the belief that the U.S. and other countries will force Israel to give in to Palestinian demands.

     Obama’s “reset” policy with Russia and his promise to Vladimir Putin that he would “be more flexible” in U.S. dealings with Russia following Obama’s re-election, certainly backfired on the President. He has stood by while allowing Russia to march into Ukraine and take the Crimea as well as invade Eastern Ukraine. Obama has shown weakness and ineptitude in addressing the issue of Russian arrogance and aggressive behavior.

     Barack Obama has sat idly by as North Korea continues to test nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles. Similarly, except for inept posturing, Obama has done nothing with regards to China’s military buildup, its construction of “islands” in international waters that China now claims are part of its sovereign territory, it’s aggressive actions with respect to American aircraft and ships in the region, or its hacking of America’s computer systems.

     Setting a bad precedent, President Obama negotiated with terrorists and traded five high level Taliban jihadists for one army deserter. He has released Islamic terrorists from their Guantanamo Prison in Cuba, only to have some of them revert to their terrorist activities.

     Barack Obama’s foreign policy has been one of abrupt withdrawal from world politics and the surrender of American leadership. We have meekly given in to our foes and abandoned our friends. Our foes are rejoicing and doing as they please – our allies are confused and no longer trust America to be there when they are threatened. As a result, the world around us has become a much more dangerous place for all. The successes of the Ronald Reagan presidency – the breakup of the Soviet Union, the end of the Cold War, the buildup of American military strength – have now been squandered way. Our successes in defeating the Taliban and al Qaeda in Afghanistan and in eliminating al Qaeda in Iraq have been recklessly wasted. Under Obama’s ill-advised haste to pull out of Afghanistan, the Taliban and al Qaeda have returned and are even threatening to take power in nuclear armed Pakistan. Our hasty retreat from Iraq has led to religious war there, the ascendency of fundamentalist Iran as the major power in the Middle East, and the emergence of the terrorism of ISIS – all on Obama’s watch. During President Obama’s time in office, global terrorism has exploded to unprecedented levels and one may justifiably conclude that this is due in large part to the failure of the American president to quickly and forcefully counter the threat. Remember, it only took President George W. Bush 3 months to defeat the Taliban and al Qaeda in Afghanistan following 9-11 – the result of immediate and decisive action.

     With regard to national defense, our military has now shrunk to pre-Pearl Harbor levels under President Obama. In the early Cold War, defense spending was approximately 9% of gross domestic product. By 2015, under President Obama, it sat at a paltry 3.5%, leading the U.S. down a path to the smallest Army since before World War II, the smallest Navy since World War I, and the smallest Air Force ever. The Army shrank by nearly 100,000 troops. The Army lost 13 combat brigades, and only a third of the remaining brigades are fully ready to meet America’s threats. Also, investments in modernization fell by 25%. The Navy has had to cancel five ship deployments and significantly delay the deployment of a carrier strike group. The Navy is supposed to keep 3 carrier strike groups and amphibious readiness groups prepared to respond to a major crisis within 30 days, but the Navy can only fulfill 1/3 of this mission because of cuts to maintenance and training. Similarly, the Air Force is less than 1/3 of its size 25 years ago. Under President Obama, our military capabilities have declined. His administration has dramatically under-funded our military to the detriment of our security and the erosion of the confidence of our allies that we can effectively come to their aid in time of peril.

     President Obama’s domestic record is no better than his record in foreign affairs. The number of Food Stamp recipients increased by 50% under president Obama. At the same time, President Obama issued an executive order that removed the work requirement from the government’s welfare reform program which had provided the first real progress on poverty. In contrast, under president Reagan his “mix of across-the-board tax cuts, deregulation, and domestic spending restraint helped fuel an economic boom that lasted two decades. Reagan inherited a misery index (the sum of the inflation and unemployment rates) of 19.99%, and when he left office it had dropped to 9.72%. . . . Under Reaganomics, 16 million new jobs were created.” (Ref. 3)

     The Obama government, over eight years, has effectively done nothing to address the illegal immigration issue or to successfully secure our borders. Under the Obama administration, the Transportation Safety Agency (TSA) has repeatedly been found to be ineffective in performing its primary function of securing our airports and other transportation terminals, while at the same time inconveniencing the travelling public with unreasonable delays.

     Government borrowing has skyrocketed and the national debt has nearly doubled under Barack Obama, reaching nearly $18 trillion.

     President Obama gave us a “signature housing initiative that both left and right saw as a spectacular failure. A trillion-dollar stimulus that, even Obama joked, only showed that, ‘shovel-ready was not as ... uh ... shovel-ready as we expected.’ Or maybe Democrats can point to the auto bailout which, contrary to Obama's claims, left taxpayers $16.6 billion in debt. (Ref. 4)

     Under Obama’s watch, the IRS deliberately targeted Tea Party and other conservative groups to hinder them in participating in the political process.

     Obama has worsened race relations in the United States by improperly inserting himself into racial issues in places like Ferguson, Missouri and Cambridge, Massachusetts.

     Under President Obama, economic recovery from the “Great Recession” of 2007-2009 has been the slowest and worst in U.S. history – and that recovery, after 8 years of Obama leadership, is arguably still not complete! In the past ten recessions before this Great Recession, Gross Domestic Product (GDP) returned to levels seen prior to the recession within an average of 4-5 annual quarters. Under President Obama, economic recovery took 16 quarters. GDP growth remains anemic, even today. Historically, an annual GDP growth of 3% or more has characterized a healthy American economy. Under Obama, GDP reached 1.1% in the first quarter of 2013 and then rose to 1.7% in the second quarter. It managed to reach just 2.8% in 2012. “The US economy expanded an annualized 0.5 percent on quarter in the first three months of 2016, lower than a 1.4 percent expansion in the previous period, and below market expectations of 0.7 percent growth, according to the advanced estimate released by the Bureau of Economic Analysis. It is the weakest performance since the first quarter of 2014 when the economy contracted 0.9 . . . GDP Growth Rate in the United States averaged 3.23 percent from 1947 until 2016, reaching an all time high of 16.90 percent in the first quarter of 1950 . . .” (Ref. 5) Barack Obama qualifies for one of the worst, if not the worst, presidents using GDP growth as a yardstick.

     While official unemployment rates have recently returned to less than 5% - pre Great Recession rates – it is claimed that actual unemployment rates are much higher because only people seeking full-time employment are counted. Those who are marginally employed or those who are discouraged about seeking work are not counted as being unemployed. At the same time, median household income in the USA has fallen under Obama.

     During the first Obama term in office, the number of poor in the country increased by 31%, resulting in the level of poverty and the number of people living in poor conditions being the highest for the previous 50 years.

     President Obama will leave office with the U.S. debt at its highest level ever! The president increased spending when he got into office and brought it to record levels. The results of his spending and borrowing are yet to be fully felt. The deficit was already nearly at $1 trillion when he arrived, to which he added the $830 billion stimulus program, plus the $1.7-trillion Obamacare, with the bailouts and the financial reforms to boot.

     “The annual deficit topped $1 trillion for each of Obama's first four years in office, including a record $1.4 trillion in 2009. Deficits have since fallen . . . The government had a shortfall of $483 billion in 2014.” (Ref. 6) Unfortunately, this means that federal debt is still rising to astronmical levels, an economic burden that will fall heavily on future generations of Americans.

     When Barack Obama came into office in 2009, the national debt stood at $11.9 trillion. By the end of fiscal year 2015, that had risen 53% to $18.2 trillion. Over the same period of time, GDP went from $14.4 trillion to $18.1 trillion, a rise of only 26% or about one-half as much as the rise in the national debt. The rise in the ratio of debt to GDP went from 83% to 101%.[7]

     Under President Obama, median household income fell along with personal savings and home ownership. In spite of the promises of Obamacare, healthcare costs have risen. Imposing government controlled healthcare by one party against the will of the people and then spending nearly two billion dollars on a failed website was obviously a failure. While President Obama promised to repair the VA healthcare system, that has proven to be another unkept promise. While veterans were dying awaiting healthcare, VA management received bonuses even though they had created a phony waiting list that deceived Americans into thinking the VA was functional.

     Rules, regulations and red tape have exploded during the Obama years and made doing business more difficult. In His first term in office, the Code of Federal Regulations increased by more than 11,000 pages. That means that businesses have to spend more money on complying with the regulations, at a time when they just don’t have it. Annual compliance in 2012 was estimated at roughly $1.7 trillion per year (all federal regulations) and increasing.

     My choice for second worst president in my lifetime has to be Jimmy Carter.

     In retrospect and in view of Carter’s actions and words since leaving office, many now consider the former U.S. president to be a closet anti-Semite. Historically, his role in Middle East politics during his presidency has, with time, proven to be a failure. “It was Carter who brokered the first in a series of largely ineffective and in the long run incredibly damaging Arab-Israeli peace treaties. Far from pushing peace, such agreements have only strengthened the disdain toward Israel from its Arab neighbors and led to further violence.
     “Carter's claim to fame in the peace process arena was the 1979 Israel-Egypt peace treaty signed at Camp David by Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin. While the alleged peace between Egypt and Israel has held up to this day, increased hostility in Egypt toward Israel and Jews has been the true legacy. At some point, one has to come to the logical conclusion that a peace treaty that inspires hatred is not worth the paper it's printed on.
     “Instead, Carter received a Nobel Peace Prize in 2002 for his efforts in the Middle East, among other locales. Such efforts continue with Carter's apparent fondness for Hamas, the terrorist group turned government, which, he insists, will become a ‘non-violent organization’ despite all indications to the contrary. Before that, it was his cozy relationship with Palestinian dictator Yasser Arafat.” (Ref. 8)

     For whatever reason, Jimmy Carter seemed to have had a fondness for ruthless foreign dictators. “Indeed, it seems there are very few dictators in the world to whose defense Carter has not rallied -- Cuban dictator Fidel Castro, former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, former Yugoslav strongman Marshal Josef Tito, former Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceaucescu, former Philippine dictator Ferdinand Marcos, former Pakistani General Zia ul-Haq, former North Korean dictator Kim Il Sung and now his son Kim Jong Il, to name a few.
     ”Carter's eagerness to appease the former Soviet Union and his opposition to his successor President Ronald Reagan's uncompromising approach (which has been widely credited with helping bring down the ‘evil empire’) also speak to his lack of understanding when it comes to the nature of totalitarian regimes. Then there's Carter's propensity for certifying obviously compromised elections in places such as Venezuela and Haiti.
     “Carter's failed approach to foreign policy has indeed put America in a perilous position in the world. If we look at some of the major challenges facing the United States today, we can thank Jimmy Carter for getting us off on the wrong foot. Whether it's the Middle East, Iran or North Korea, Carter's track record as president is nothing to brag about and his career as ex-president has been even worse.” (Ref. 8)

     President Jimmy “Carter's abandonment of the shah in 1977-78 helped lead to the Islamic revolution . . . , the emboldening of the Soviet Union to invade Afghanistan and the rise of radical Islam worldwide. His botched approach to the Iranian hostage crisis of 1979 inspired Islamic terrorists all over the world, culminating in the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
    - - -
     “Wherever U.S. interests have been imperiled and a temporary ‘peace’ could be bought at the expense of long-term security, Carter has always been on board. [Emphasis mine] The late Democratic Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan summed it up when he said of Carter in 1980, ‘Unable to distinguish between our friends and our enemies, he has essentially adopted our enemies' view of the world.’ " (Ref. 8)

     One could rightly say of Carter that he was blindly naïve, gullible and that he was, by far, way too trusting! He seemed ready and willing to appease any and all dictators. Under his presidency, hundreds of millions of dollars went to North Korea on the promise that they wouldn't build atomic weapons and missiles to deliver them. Unfortunately, once they received the money, they quickly violated that promise.

     Economically, Carter also proved to be a failure. From fiscal 1979 to fiscal 1980, the federal deficit ballooned from $40 billion to $73 billion. At the same time, “with the activist wing of the LibLeft pushing from behind, Carter was guided by an incoherent philosophy which, on the one hand eschewed growth under the guise of conservation of resources and on the other hand promoted interventionist activist government. In 1977, with the money supply growing at the rate of 11 percent per year, Carter’s liberal economic advisers promoted flooding the market with more dollars. The result was spiraling inflation, which grew from 7 percent in 1977 to a whopping 12 percent by 1979.” (Ref. 9)

     “ Looking back at the 1980 election, we are tempted to see it in hindsight as the triumph of conservatism as Reagan swept to power.  . . . {But}, Jimmy Carter lost the election more than Reagan won it. It was the Republican’s question, ‘Are you better off than you were four years ago?’ and his calculation of the misery index (combining unemployment and inflation) that brought Carter down.
     “Carter, himself, was not a leftist in 1980. He had been a moderate as president. His liberalism was still in the future. He was beaten not because he strayed too far left, but because he couldn’t get out of his own way. The American public came to see him in much the same terms that they now use to describe Obama: In over his head, hasn’t a clue, can’t get anything done.” (Ref. 10)

     Under Jimmy Carter, the military shrank, but Ronald Reagan was able to reverse that trend. “His Peace Through Strength philosophy was manifested by his reviving the B-1 bomber that Carter canceled, starting production of the MX missile, and pushing NATO to deploy Pershing missiles in West Germany. He increased defense spending by more than 40%, increased troop levels, and even got much-needed space parts into the pipeline. Those efforts ensured that America remained a military superpower.” (Ref. 3) At least until Barack Obama took office!

     Jimmy Carter left America in worse condition when he left office than when he entered. Barack Obama will undoubtedly leave the same legacy to his successors. America quickly recovered and moved speedily forward under Carter’s successor, Ronald Reagan. Whoever succeeds President Obama will have a much more difficult task to reverse the path that Obama has set. The cost of getting back on track will likely be much more expensive in terms of dollars, sweat and tears and, likely, in terms of American lives and the lives of others throughout the world.

  1. Hillary’s Service as Secretary of State: A Failure of Leadership (and a National Security Disaster), Kenneth Eliasberg, American Thinker, 1 June 2016.
  2. Obamas Failed Presidency, Victoria O'Kane,, 13 October 2014.
  3. Top 10 Reagan Achievements, Human Events, 6 February 2011.
  4. Obama's Failed Presidency, Conn Carroll, Townhall, 28 February 2015.
  5. United States GDP Growth Rate, TRADING ECONMICS, Accessed 18 May 2016.
  6. Federal deficit falling to lowest in Obama presidency, Susan Davis, USA Today,
    26 January 2015.
  7. National Debt by Year: Compared to GDP, and Major Events, Kimberly Amadeo,
    About Money, 21 April 2016.
  8. Jimmy Carter's Legacy of Failure, Cinnamon Stillwell, SFGATE, 12 December 2006.
  9. Deconstructing Democrats: The Failure of Jimmy Carter, J. King, The American Partisan,
    1 March 2002.
  10. Obama's Failed Presidency, Dick Morris, The Hill, 26 June 2012.


  1 July 2016 {Article 255; Govt_66}    
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