Four misunderstood presidents in history

Richard Nixon Presidential Library and MuseumA view of the lobby of the Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum in December 2016. (Photo by Todd DeFeo/The DeFeo Groupe)

(defeo.biz) — As the nation’s 45th president takes office, another president enters the annals of American history.

It is too early to say where President Barack Obama will rank among the country’s presidents, though scholars and pundits will hazard a guess.

Presidents Abraham Lincoln, George Washington and Franklin D. Roosevelt typically top the lists of best presidents. Conversely, Presidents Andrew Johnson, Warren G. Harding and Jimmy Carter often rank among the worst.

There are so many variables that go into making such a list, including the political leanings of those making the list. Plus, a president’s ranking evolves over time as they benefit from historical context.

In the spirit of a new president, here are five of the country’s most misunderstood presidents.

Richard Nixon

Most people know the 37th president as the only president to resign before the completion of his term in office. Yet Nixon is credited with ending the Vietnam War, starting the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and lowering the voting age to 18. In his years after leaving the White House, he authored a number of books and is regarded by many as a foreign affairs scholar.

Benjamin Harrison

Harrison holds a few distinctions, including the only grandson of a president to serve (his grandfather was William Henry Harrison, the ninth president), and he both defeated and lost a presidential election to Grover Cleveland. Harrison defeated Cleveland in the 1888 election and lost to Cleveland four years later. But, few seemingly remember Harrison led a failed attempt to pass civil rights legislation 80 years before the movement of the 1960s, and he signed the Sherman Antitrust Act into law in 1890, a law that continues to have a profound effect on businesses even today.

Ulysses S. Grant

Grant is perhaps best-remembered as a Civil War general. If his presidency enters the conversation, it is usually dismissed as scandal-ridden. However, during his administration, Grant protected black voting rights in the Reconstruction-era South and fought against the Ku Klux Klan.

John F. Kennedy

The 35th president is often ranked as of the best presidents in history. Yet, it is difficult to rate JFK and his presidency considering he was gunned down about 1,000 days after taking office and before he finished his first term. True, he stood up to the Soviet Union during the Cuban Missile Crisis, but it is hard to say definitively how Vietnam might have played out had Kennedy remained in office.

About the Author

Todd DeFeo
Todd DeFeo loves to travel anywhere, anytime, taking pictures and notes. An award-winning reporter, Todd revels in the experience and the fact that every place has a story to tell. He is owner of The DeFeo Groupe and also edits The Travel Trolley and Railfanning.org.