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ETpro's avatar

Where would you rate Ronald Reagan among US Presidents?

Asked by ETpro (34436points) July 25th, 2012

There is no question where current Republican politicians place him. They apparently view him just below God, as the opening portion of this video clearly shows. But given the facts the video details, where should he be placed among America’s presidents?

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26 Answers

ucme's avatar

I think the “fat little dutchman” did good, made me laugh on numerous occasions.

Response moderated
josie's avatar

Give me rating standard and I’ll do my best.
I have not lived through all that many Presidents but I bet people could come up with all sorts of great things to say about many, and shitty things to say about most, and both to say about all of them. The only thing I really know about Ronald Reagan is that he sort of made the final raise at the Cold War “poker table”, and the Soviets didn’t have enough money and dropped out. I know for my father, who was a literal and figurative Cold Warrior, it was a big deal. But the presence of a revisionist video or book or whatever doesn’t prove much one way or the other in my opinion. Since TV got so heavily involved in national politics, it’s hard to tell specifically what motivates people to give mass messages praising or condemning public figures. But it is certainly some agenda or another and usually not worth a shit one way or the other.

wundayatta's avatar

The beginning of the disastrous period of time in the US. The time when we stopped caring about being in it all together, and started to let the rich have whatever they wanted without having any sense of responsibility at all.

Jaxk's avatar

Boy,the far left lunatics are working overtime on that video. They compare Reagan against Clinton, what a farce. Reagan took a dead economy and turned it into boom times. Clinton took boom times and turned it into the recession of 2000. They compare Truman to Reagan. Truman started the cold war and Reagan ended it. It difficult to believe you can use both those guys in the same sentence without laughing.

A hack job by little minds. Disgusting at best and dishonest by any measurement. Is that really the best they can muster to try and defame one of our best presidents.

PurpleClouds's avatar

@Jaxk pretty much nailed this one.

wundayatta's avatar

If you think Reagan ended the cold war, then you have less than zero knowledge of what was going on inside the Soviet Union prior to and during his presidency. The cold war would have ended if we had had a potato for president. And we would have seen such a huge run-up in the deficit, either.

flutherother's avatar

He was a nice enough guy but not very impressive as President. I don’t rate him very highly.

filmfann's avatar

He was a friendly, likable guy. He was a good speaker. He could inspire people.
He also allowed evil elements into his administration, and corruption was terrible.
He increased the debt substantially, violated the constitution and many American laws, and increased taxes many times.
He should have been impeached, and would have had we not just gone through the whole Nixon mess.

Best to worst, the last 13 presidents.

1: Franklin Roosevelt
2: Harry Truman
3: Bill Clinton
4: John Kennedy
5: Barrack Obama
6: D.D. Eisenhower
7:George H. W. Bush
8: Lyndon Johnson
9: Richard Nixon
10: Jimmy Carter
11: Gerald Ford
12: Ronald Reagan
13: George W. Bush

ETpro's avatar

Well, I expected some divergence of opinion on this one, and boy did I ever get it. Judging a man’s legacy is always complex, because no person is really a digital character. They aren’t the handy 1/0 perfection our current political discourse seems to always ascribe. Nobody rises to the presidency without having certain positive traits, and most seem to need some level of narcissism and pride to get there as well.

@ucme Yes, Dutch was good for a laugh. His stint in acting paid off for him when he turned to politics. I thought POTUS was his most convincing role.

@moderated This was in social. What did you post?!?

@josie Sounds like a man who doesn’t know and doesn’t care to research whether the speaker’s claims are true of false. It is possible to determine, since they are objective and not subjective assertions. I did the homework, and he’s telling the truth on his statements of fact. Now whether that equates to the ratings he comes up with, that’s entirely subjective. There, he is definitely pursuing a political agenda. As to the fall of the Soviet Union, it was already dead. I give Reagan credit for his part. But Lech Walesa put his life on the line to topple the Soviets. Pope John Paul was a huge part of the Soviet demise. So was Boris Yeltsin, at great risk to himself. Reagan could have probably gotten credit for the demise of the Societ Block without tripling our national debt to do it.

@Jaxk Let’s try some actual history instead of the Faux “News” propaganda. Reagan took an economy in recession and after 3½ years was about as far along as Obama is now in getting it back into recovery. The difference is that wasn’t the Great Recession, it was just a bump along the road brought on by the Arab Oil Embargo, which resolved itself no thanks to magical Reagan powers. Reagan did manage to boost employment in his 8 years, but he did it by massive deficit spending, tripling the national debt. And he lagged far behind Bill Clinton in job creation.

Clinton inherited a recession similar in scope to the one Reagan inherited. He managed to create more jobs in 8 years than any other president in US history. And instead of tripling the debt like Reagan did, he balanced the budget and began actually paying the debt down. But of course, George W. Bush came along and corrected that error of ways. How Un-Republican to actually decrease the debt instead of deliberately driving it up to move money to your corporate bosses while railing against it in public. You must have really hated Clinton.

@PurpleClouds Nailed it to his foot.

@wundayatta Thank you.

@bkcunningham Overstated, but Reagan’s “Tear down this wall statement probably accelerated the fall of the Soviet Union by a bit.

@flutherother Thanks. Pretty much how I view it.

@filmfann My only quibble would be with Kennedy. I’m not sure what he would or wouldn’t have accomplished had he served out two terms.

tedd's avatar

@Jaxk Seriously? You rail against far left lunatics in the video and then proceed to spew out a freakishly one sided and perverted argument against Democratic presidents? Do you even listen to yourself talk? Clinton and Reagan inherited recessions. Reagan’s was undeniably worse, but to say either of them did poorly on the economy is just stupid. They were two of the most successful economic presidents in the history of our nation. And for the “recession” that Clinton apparently left us in 2000, all I seem to remember from the campaign was talk of how to spend all the money he had saved. And Truman started the cold war?????? Are you high? It didn’t matter who the president was at that point, the cold war was coming. The only way around it was if we had just turned it into a hot war at the end of WW2 and attacked Russia. Truman oversaw the immediate post war era of the most devastating war in our planets history, and he laid the ground work for the US’s dominance in the 50’s and emergence as a super power. Not to mention the major moves he made ordering the nuclear attacks on Japan and standing up to a near coup by MacArthur over the Korean war. Credit is obviously due to Reagan for being there during the wind down, but he didn’t really do anything other than continue the policies of the previous presidents on the USSR. He just happened to be the guy in charge when communism failed (or more to the point, his replacement, Bush 1 was in charge).

And if you’d like to mention Truman and Reagan in the same sentence, they’re the only two presidents to oversee a month in which the nation added over 1 million jobs to the economy.

Seriously your partisanship is terrifying to me. This nation is built on using our differences as a strength. You however seem hell bent on dehumanizing the left and making them out to be some kind of evil force. In the end you just sound like a blowhard, the same type you claim to fight against.

tedd's avatar

As far as the OP. Reagan is obviously a pretty popular president. I am admittedly a left leaning person, so I’m going to try to not be biased on this. Reagan has a list of credits to him. He oversaw the ending of the cold war, including making the “Tear down this wall” speech, which I believe was kind of the “point” at which you really knew we were going to win the cold war. His job creation was pretty darn good, as well as his overall economic impact. I disagree with his methods of “dismantling big government” but to be honest he didn’t really do that much of it in his term. His #1 big negative to me is what he did to the national debt. For all the talk about him being the icon today of shrinking the debt, the man is responsible for almost half of our current debt. Up until recently he had added more to the debt than Bush 2 and Obama combined, and that’s while facing a less severe economic crisis than either of them. Essentially, he wanted to cut taxes on the rich… and we can sit and argue about the intelligence of such a move until we’re blue in the face, but the fact of the matter is… he never cut spending to match his new income. No president since has had the balls to either increase the taxes, cut spending, or do both. For setting that precedent, he loses a lot of weight with me.

Still I would assume he probably falls into a top 10 presidents list. For the sake of ignoring all the presidents I know little to nothing about (not to mention including the obvious list toppers like Washington and Lincoln, without including their less astute contemporaries that I know nothing about)... I’ll limit my list to the last century or so.

#1) FDR
#2) Wilson
#3) Teddy Roosevelt
#4) Clinton
#5) Reagan
#6) Johnson
#7) Truman/Eisenhower
#8) Kennedy

As for the worst I would leave Bush 2 off for now, just to be fair to the fact he recently left office. Harding and Coolidge would land a tie for my worst spot.

Jaxk's avatar


My response was to the video posted. Every President has had good and bad points to their presidency. I always find it interesting that when a Republican has good things happen it is merely coincidental while Democrats get credit. I fully admit that I don’t give much credit to FDR. I was taught in school that he was one of our greatest presidents and I had no reason to disbelieve what I was taught. It was not until much later in life that I started actually looking at his presidency and came to the conclusion he was one of, if not the, worst of all presidents. He presided over the longest period of economic devastation in our history. He created more debt and deficit than Reagan, Bush, and Obama combined. His oil embargo of Japan virtually assured the retaliation, which occurred on Dec. 7, 1941. He Incarcerated tens of thousands of American Japanese through executive order. He tried to modify the Supreme Court to ram through unconstitutional legislation. Hell, the list goes on a long ways. But in his favor, he was popular. I guess that’s all it takes.

You want to credit Truman and Eisenhower for the growth of the late 40s and 50s. Hell the world was destroyed and we were the only country able to rebuild it. Our GDP was fully half of the worlds GP during the 50s. If anyone gets credit for that it would be Hitler and Tojo since they’re the ones that destroyed it.

And finally, Clinton. Frankly I liked him. He didn’t however, create the Internet boom. He was merely the guy in office when it occurred. I do give him credit for not screwing it up and for curtailing the spending that allowed us to eliminate the deficit. I have no bone to pick with Clinton.

tedd's avatar

@Jaxk One of the worst ever???? He inherited the economic devastation that he endured for the majority of his first two terms in office. Notice I said majority, because the Depression was ending before WW2 began. He ran up the deficit you speak of building weapons and paying soldiers during WW2! His pre-war debt was below 40% of GDP, literally lower than it’s been in any year since. His oil embargo of Japan was in retaliation for them declaring war on half of Asia and making aggressive postures against US interests in the Pacific. If it happened today, Republicans would be calling for at least that much of a move against Japan. Easy example, look at Iran.

I’ll give you the imprisoning Japanese civilians and trying to expand the Supreme court (though I reject outright that he was trying to slam through unconstitutional legislation).

The man steered us through the great depression, and the largest war in our planets history… and we emerged from that war and his leadership as the strongest nation on the planet, with a foundation that would make us the best nation for decades after…. That is why he’s so popular and frequently voted amongst the top 3 presidents by historians.

Whilst I would recognize that Truman, Ike, and Clinton did benefit from factors beyond their control… I did not merely cite them their ranks based on economic performance… and the economic benefits they enjoyed were not the only thing that carried them to unprecedented economic success. The internet boom as you put it, was not responsible for Clinton having presided over the creation of more jobs than Bush 1, Bush 2, Obama, and Reagan combined. If anything it cost jobs for the economy, as many brick and mortar locations and staff were no longer needed (see Circuit City/Best Buy/Borders effect).

Jaxk's avatar


Just a note here. Your argument about the Circuit City/Best Buy/Borders effect, didn’t happen until the late 2000s. Bush had to deal with that downsizing not Clinton. If the truth be told, we are still dealing with the problems from the Internet boom. CEO salaries escalated beyond belief during that period and is the primary reason for all the complaints about CEO salaries today. The 90s created a lot of millionaires (and subsequent tax revenue) and it was all on the back of the Internet.

tedd's avatar

@Jaxk Oh you’re right, they were just the most ready examples available. But that downsizing began during the latter half of the 90’s… and besides, it was just a side example. The core point was the internet boom wasn’t the source of all the jobs that Clinton had.

AngryWhiteMale's avatar

Every president we’ve had has been flawed in one way or another, so even if I were to compile a list as @tedd and @filmfann did, it’d be hard to say where they ranked. For example, LBJ’s foreign policy was not good, for obvious reasons, so he’d be low on that list; but his domestic policy puts him near the top of post-WWII presidents in my opinion.

Reagan was personable, but as president I’d put him near the bottom, both on a post-WWII list and on an overall list.

Paradox25's avatar

I was only a young kid not old enough to vote when he was in office, but from what I’ve read about him, from both sides of the political fence, I’ll give this. Unemployment was very high when he took office, and inflation was a large problem as well during his first term thanks in part to the energy crisis of the late seventies. Reagan did help to turn the economy around, and many of his policies were supported by a Democratic Congress.

Many Reagan critics speculate that his policies paved the way to where we are today, but this trend was already in place prior to him being elected. Also, Democrats continued Reagan’s economic policies as well. I will fault Reagan on lowering the tax rates of the wealthiest to their all time low, and fault him for preaching the choir relating to lowering the federal deficit, when his policies, along with his tax breaks for the wealthy, helped to actually increase the deficit. Also, the Reagan tax cuts did not apply to the not so wealthy, and many middle class people actually watched their own tax brackets either increase, or not change.

I do not give Reagan much credit for the the collapse of totalitarianism in the USSR (the USSR was not a communist nation but an aristocracy with a socialist economic system), since that collapse was due to internal reasons, and it was inevitible. Well, now to rate him. He was very charasmatic, and he portrayed the stereotypical John Wayne macho image, and I think those are the real reasons the those on the conservative masculist right tend to worship him to near godlike status.

I’ll give Reagan a 9 for presentation/leadership, I would give him a 5 relating to the economy, a 5 relating to his foreign policy, a 2 relating to workers rights/union issues, and a 3 relating to social issues. Using a median rating here based on those issues above I would give him about a 5 overall from a 1 to 10 scale. To me Reagan was not a horrible president, but he wasn’t a great one either, so I’ll just say that he was a fair, or average president.

ETpro's avatar

@Paradox25 Regardless of which side you got it from, a great deal of what you believe is Republican propaganda and is not remotely connected to real facts.

It’s not true that all presidents prior to Reagan ran deficits. They all basically presided over a balanced budget, all (Republican and Democrat alike) paying down the WWII debt as a percent of GDP. Until Reagan came along.

Unemployment and GDP level were about equal “when Reagan and Clinton took office”: . Reagan drastically cut taxes and massively increased the size and spending of the federal government. It’s little wonder he got people back to work. But he also tripled the national debt, which all presidents (regardless of party) sine WWII had been paying down.

Reagan’s policies launched us on the current course of a shrinking middle class and fantastic amounts of wealth accumulating at the top. If moving toward being a banana republic is what you think is best for the USA, then the Republican platform is for you, because that’s where it leads.

Paradox25's avatar

Reagan drastically cut taxes and massively increased the size and spending of the federal government. It’s little wonder he got people back to work. But he also tripled the national debt, I had already mentioned this in my post. I had also never denied that Reagan increased the debt that other presidents had been paying down, since I didn’t actually mention this in my post.

I’ve also never denied that Reagan’s policies likely influenced our current situation where the wealthy got wealthier while the rest of us had our wealth, well, trickle down. I’d just merely stated that he did continue some of the policies that were already in effect, and with the help of a Democratic Congress. What, are you mad that I’d given him a 5 instead of a 1?

I wasn’t a fan of Reagan regardless and I would had never voted for him anyways (if I could of that is). Also, much of what I’d said in my former post here I don’t think would had been from Republican think tanks, since my post mostly ditched him. I also rated him on other issues too, not just the economy.

ETpro's avatar

@Paradox25 Here’s what you wrote that I took exception to:

“Many Reagan critics speculate that his policies paved the way to where we are today, but this trend was already in place prior to him being elected.”

No, it was not. Up till Reagan instituted trickle down, all economic sectors were growing together.

“Also, Democrats continued Reagan’s economic policies as well.”

No, they did not. Clinton Raised Taxes on the rich instead of cutting them, invested in infrastructure and growth, and balanced the budget. Instead of tripling the debt, he left office with the largest budget surplus in US history. And the US created more jobs (22.5 million) under his policies than in any other 8 year period in all of US history.

Paradox25's avatar

I’m not sure if it’s fair to blame Reagan for many of the economic turmoil we’re seeing today. Look at how long ago that he was last in office. H.W and W Bush made everything much worse, by continueing/resorting to Reaganomics again. There was a recession when W came into office, but I think he made everything much worse by cutting unemployment extension benefits at a time where people were losing their jobs in record numbers. The tax stimulus that most people received did not go into pumping up the economy, but went towards paying off debt collectors. The housing crisis which caused a good deal of these problems is a two way blame here (partisanwise) as well.

Essentially though I’m agreeing with you, Reagan was way overrated, due to his macho cowboy image most likely. I find it sad that we seem to support candidates based on all of the wrong things such as charisma and presentation. Dennis Kucinich I think would make a great president, but he lacks the above traits I’d mentioned, and he lacks media support. I don’t agree with Democrats on everything, but I like Obama much better than most of the Republicans. Even as a young kid during Reagan’s years I did’t buy his act, when most others around me did. I would never had voted for him. I remember Reagan’s re-election campaign though, and how most in my school supported him, getting into arguments with me, lol.

ETpro's avatar

@Paradox25 I certainly don’t blame Reagan for today’s grief. I don’t think he had a clue where the changes he so skillfully sold would lead. He was a well-paid ad man for a group of billionaires and international corporate moguls who knew they would profit handsomely if they could find the right front-man to push their aide-to-the-richest agenda. He did his pitch-man job masterfully. He probably even believed the obvious nonsense he preached. But he set the USA on the course for its present decline.

Ron_C's avatar

To me, Reagan was complete scum. Prior to his gaining the nomination, I was very active in the Republican party and even held a minor office in my county. I watched the race then the convention. The convention is what finally turned me, it was a racist, right wing snow job.
I would have registered as an independent but in my part of the world, that would mean there was nobody to vote for in the primaries.

Since Reagan, the party has taken a steep turn to, what I believe, is fascism.

Reagan was the start of the decline, G.W. Bush put the finishing touches on what has become the fall of the American Empire.

ETpro's avatar

@Ron_C Reagan and Bush were just pitch men well paid by the real powers. The men behind the curtain are the plutocrats like the Koch Brothers, the Waltons, Murdoch, the Vulture Capitalists, etc. You better believe it’s fascism they want. Fascism is the merger of corporate power with government power, using the power and force of government and its military to keep the plutocrats in perpetual power and wealth.

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