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Presidents Ranked by Moral Presidencies


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Here's a rough draft of a ranking of moral presidents. This includes integrity, personal honesty, personal conduct, moral/ethical actions, respectful behavior, using the presidency to do things that are generally seen as aligning with beneficent values, etc.. 

Some presidents were harder to rank than others. For instance, someone might not have much personal integrity, but then their actions might have been very benevolent. Some presidents were personally honest, but then things outside their control weighed them down. Grant is an example of an honest man who had one of the most corrupt administrations. John Adams is another honest man who signed the Alien & Sedition Acts. Harding is an example of a dishonest man who was one of the few presidents during his era to speak out against lynching. Then you have the puritans, like Cleveland and Coolidge, who are max integrity from their ideological perspectives, but their puritan philosophies also led to ruin and death (Texas Seed bill veto and refusing to intervene in the Great MS Flood--the Katrina of the time). You also have Lincoln, who was okay with stretching the Constitution in a national crisis, and you have LBJ who was a hodge-podge of so many extreme goodness and badness that one doesn't know where to place him exactly. 

Basically, this isn't a ranking of just a few notable things to pin their entire integrity on. It's an attempt to weigh their entire moral/ethical being during their presidency. No president is free from blame, but some are more blameworthy than others.

  1. Carter 
  2. T Roosevelt (If this was based exclusively on personal integrity, he'd probably fall a bit)
  3. Garfield (Would be #1 on the list had he served longer to provide more evidence of his apparent goodness)
  4. JQ Adams (The corrupt bargain didn't really happen--it was Jacksonian propaganda. No deal was made or sought)
  5. Washington
  6. Lincoln
  7. Taft
  8. Obama (weighed down by some controversial national sec policies...could be #3 otherwise)
  9. Eisenhower (would be higher if not for likely affair and for playing neutral during McCarthy)
  10. Cleveland
  11. Coolidge
  12. Biden *so far*
  13. Monroe
  14. Hoover
  15. B Harrison
  16. Fillmore
  17. Taylor 
  18. J Adams
  19. GHW Bush
  20. Ford
  21. Jefferson (His activities surrounding the Burr trial, the embargo, and Federalist purging are very controversial)
  22. WH Harrison
  23. Hayes (Very honest, but allowed the Compromise of 1877 to control the best of his nature)
  24. Polk (Very honest outside of controversial manipulative behavior to force Manifest Destiny)
  25. Truman
  26. Reagan
  27. JFK
  28. Bush II 
  29. Clinton 
  30. FDR (Japanese Internment Camps and 3rd and 4th terms bring the great man down)
  31. Grant
  32. Arthur
  33. Madison (Weighed down greatly for propaganda leading to the War of 1812, which could have been avoided)
  34. McKinley
  35. Andrew Johnson (actually honest, but his actions--mostly reactionary decisions against Republicans--are what fails him)
  36. Tyler (A disharmonious version of Cleveland and Coolidge, but also one that completely broke with the party platform that he was elected on, even if it was as VP. Arguably more disharmonious than Trump.)
  37. Wilson
  38. LBJ
  39. Van Buren (This comes mostly from continuing Indian Removal, siding against freedom during Amistad trial, and not really doing anything at all that was beneficent. Lots of corruption.)
  40. Harding
  41. Jackson
  42. Pierce (Ostend Manifesto is one of the more obscure things people forget, but he's weighed down by other overtly pro-slavery designs. Also the only known alcoholic to hold office. Grant was a binge drinker in the past, but not as president)
  43. Nixon
  44. Buchanan (Sort of like Pierce x3. The most pathological part of Buchanan was an insane hatred for Douglas's faction in the Democratic Party. Buchanan focused on Douglas more than he did on alleviating sectional strife. Douglas might have won the presidency in 1860 if not for Buchanan. He, along with Trump, Tyler, and A Johnson are the most disharmonious.)
  45. Trump (I can't really make a case for anyone else falling below him--although Buchanan comes closer. I guess Trump allowing Covid checks might be the one argument for putting Trump up one because I don't think Buchanan would have done that, but then Cleveland and Coolidge wouldn't have either, even if they lived in the 21st century.)
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Adding onto Patine's point a bit, but different is Obama also spied on Merkel and other high ranking German government politicians, and got caught. I don't think he was exactly a #8, should probably be below Biden at least, or they swap places. 

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