DCAT did it so I thought I'd take a stab. Although I have a different take. I generally think that we have been pretty lucky with our presidents. Certainly, most of our presidents have been decent and broad minded. I suppose I penalize presidents for bad decisions more than other scholars. I am sure few people would agree with my Wilson ranking, for instance. On the other hand, Taft has been proven right so many times since his presidency that I had to put him in the top ten.
Made representative government possible
Saved representative government
Franklin D. Roosevelt
World War II
Dwight D. Eisenhower
Just about a perfect peacetime president
Created the modern presidency; really an amazing presidency taken altogether
Lyndon B. Johnson
Civil Rights Act and Voting Rights Act; nothing else matters (not even Vietnam)
Turned America around
Wisdom, judgment, decency
William Howard Taft
Predicted many of the problems that have come with making politics more democratic
Hard to rank him this low, since he is my favorite president, but he was a little nuts
Just an all-around good administration
Oh if only we could get Coolidge back for one more term!
I don't like him, but you can't get around his significance.
James K. Polk
Effective, but I wouldn't want to see his likes again.
Harry S. Truman
He has probably dropped more in my estimation than anyone else. The more I've studied him, the more I've wondered how much he had to do with the good things that happened. Also, we seem to forget just how many blunders he committed while in office.
George H. W. Bush
I'd vote for a GHWB type every four years and never regret it.
John Quincy Adams
Ditto what I said about GHWB
Just too hard to pin down; I wonder what he really thought; seemed to have good instincts but I can never figure out where he's coming from.
George W. Bush
If he'd managed to control spending, his administration would have been a success.
John F. Kennedy
Wasn't around long enough and made some huge mistakes
Ulysses S. Grant
I'd rank him higher but later presidents weren't able to follow through with his policies; not his fault, of course, but it takes away from his significance
Gerald R. Ford
Who doesn't love Ford? I wish he'd been a little steadier on economic matters though.
Rutherford B. Hayes
Another President I love.
Warren G. Harding
Underrated. Decent guy. A healer. Good handling of the economy.
Conservatives love him way, way too much. He wasn't that great. A lot of his reform and cutting was targeted at his political opponents.
Martin Van Buren
Feel sorry for him. Had to deal with all of the problems created by Jackson. Kind of like GHWB, or GWB (to a lesser extent).
Chester A. Arthur
Better than anyone expected.
James A. Garfield
Underrated also. I could have moved him up. Suffers from the fact that nobody knows much about him. Too bad.
I can't stand him. Bad decisions. Bad intentions.
Richard M. Nixon
Didn't leave the office better than he found it. Can't decide if it was his fault.
Both solid second-raters
Didn't do much plus impeachment
If he'd done nothing, the crash would have just caused a long recession.
...and then there are these guys:
William Henry Harrison
Franklin D. Pierce