37. Richard Nixon
If one is an Ivy League-educated liberal living in New York, it is almost a moot point to come out as a Nixon-hater. However, when I was in the 4th grade, when I was still a 4th grade-educated 8 year-old living in his parents' house (and living by his parents' politics), I did one of the most terrible things I've ever done, and it involved Richard Nixon. We were learning about the chief exports of Ohio or something when a note from the principal's office came to the room and Miss Hopkins stopped class to let us know, "Boys and girls, former President Richard Nixon is dead." And what did I do? I got out of my seat, stood on my chair, and in full-on, Marv Albert fashion, gave as big a fist-pump as I could and screamed, "YESSSSSSSSS!" Yeah. I'm not proud. In fact, I'm pretty mortified. Someday, I'll meet that dude's ghost and he'll look me dead in the eyes and say, "I opened China, you ungrateful little fucker!" Anyway, my views on Nixon have softened since then, first because I really liked the movie Dick, but mostly because Laksh is always sticking up for him. She does this goofy, barely-identifiable impression of him saying, "You won't have Nixon to kick around anymore," and you can't help but feel bad for the guy. (Of course, he said that before he was elected president, but... still.)
38. Gerald Ford
Here's what I have to say about Gerry Ford. 1) TWO people tried to assassinate him. BOTH people failed. BOTH were women. If you wanna be a dick about it, insert semi-sexist joke here. Bonus points for referencing Congress' failure to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment. 2) Remember Dana Carvey's amazing Tom Brokaw impression? He did that one sketch where they were recording potential future news stories in the event that a story might break while Brokaw was on vacation or otherwise indisposed and for some reason, all of the future stories were about the death of Gerald Ford? "Gerald Ford dead today, he was eaten by a pack of wild boars?" "Gerald Ford dead today, sources said he was delicious?" "Gerald Ford dead today, and I'm gay!" Anyone?
39. Jimmy Carter
Oh, Jimmy Carter... you not-so-good-in-office-oh-so-good-out-of-office kind of guy. If there were sabermetricians for presidents (and I would be not all that surprised if there already are), they would totally keep stats on this sort of thing. In-Office-Quality-to-Post-Office-Quality, it'd be called, or the IOQ-POQ ratio. Whenever middle school kids would have barely-structured debates on which president was better, Jefferson or Lincoln, they'd immediately bust out the IOQ-POQ numbers. (Spoiler alert: Jefferson wins that one in a wash. Way to not get shot during Our Mutual Friend, TJ.) Also, peanuts? We can talk about that, right? It's kinda weird that a guy can win the Nobel Peace Prize and all people think when they hear his name is peanuts. (To be fair, any time I think of Kissinger, I don't think about the Nobel either, but I do think about how much I don't like Kissinger.)
40. Ronald Reagan
You would think that I would have something interesting to say about the guy who was president when I was born. Well, if you're planning on making any bets, don't count on making book, son. For a good portion of the Reagan-is-president-and-I-am-alive time period (if I ever become a historian, I will have to get way better at naming eras), I was living in West Germany. So, while he was warring on drugs and ignoring the AIDS crisis and communicating greatly about the Challenger disaster, I was toddling off to kinderschule. When he implored Gorbachev to "tear down this Wall", I was there, on the other side of the wall. I guess I feel about Ronald Reagan the way some folks about parents who, for one reason or another, ran off into the sunset before they ever got to know them. I've heard a lot of talk--some good, some bad--and I guess he's partially responsible for "the way things are"... ultimately, though, I kinda just want to sit down with the guy, have some coffee, and say what's up.
Every once in a while, I feel like I might have a tiny shred of sympathy for George Herbert Walker Bush. This usually happens when I am talking politics with my mom. Then she uses words like "CIA spook" and "straight out of the State Department machine" and I shut up for a while. That being said, I like the song "Television Mix (It's the Right Thing to Do)" in which the mash-up artist Steinski samples GHWB giving a speech about the invasion of Iraq. Imagine phrases like "I am certain our cause is just" and "Regrettably, we now believe that only force can make him leave" being interspliced with snippets of Howard Beale (Network) and Bill Cosby (Cosby). Also, while we're at it GHWB sounds like some sort of ridiculous date-rape drug. That's neither an endorsement nor a censure of our 41st president, I am simply pointing out the naked facts.
42. Bill Clinton
Ah, the president of my formative years. (By the way, let it be known that after writing that sentence, I stared at the screen for five minutes, ran upstairs because a scene of Gossip Girl was apparently taking place on our street, ran back down, stared some more, ran back up to see why they were talking about hockey on Gossip Girl, ran back down, started writing this ridiculously rambling sentence, and abruptly stopped it.) First off, let it be known that all that how-can-they-make-W.-while-W.-is-in-office fervor is a prez late and an outcry short. Primary Colors/Wag the Dog, ladies? Yeah. You're welcome. H'okay, it wasn't explicit, but it was like, pretty explicit. Wow. The combination of that last incredibly banal sentence and the fact that I've said more about Gossip Girl than I have about Bill Clinton means I'm going to have to cut this off before I say anything I'll regret. Hey, remember Socks the Cat? And I've done it...
43. George W. Bush
I gotta be honest. I know it's cool to hate on W. But I'm looking at this list of all these great men and frankly, say what you will about his policies and their affect on America, but George W. Bush certainly presided over my best years. Check it. During Bush's presidency, I learned to drive, I did the whole high school thing, I went to college, I figured out what I was good at, I learned to miss Buffalo from a safe distance (AKA, New York City), I wrote some plays, I looked at some brains, I saw The Departed, I discovered mash-ups, I got a sweet apartment in Hell's Kitchen, I swam in the Central Park reservoir at 2 AM, I co-founded this list blog... not to mention, um, during Bush's presidency, a black man was elected President of the United States. That's right, Barack Obama, there's no way you can say that nothing good happened while Bush was in office.