Pop Culture

Ranking of US Presidents: Lamest to Coolest

By Hanson O’Haver | September 5, 2016 | SOURCE: VICE

In January, a new president will be inaugurated, and Barack Obama will step down, ending one of the most remarkable runs in American history: For eight years, the US had a cool president.

Now, by "cool," I don't necessarily mean "good"—a big part of growing up is learning to tell the difference. Sometimes good people are cool, like Jesus Christ. Sometimes, though, good people are uncool, like most of the dads in old sitcoms. Most confusingly, bad people are sometimes cool, like most characters in Mafia movies.

So without saying anything about Barack Obama's policies, we should be able to say that he is, in fact, cool, the kind of guy who can be a relaxed and natural guest on a late-night show and who kills flies with his bare hands. In fact, he was attacked by a Karl Rove–backed group for being too cool before the 2012 election. That's how cool he is.

But was Obama the coolest president? Who was the least cool president? Who was the 27th coolest president? To answer these questions and more, I made a very scientific list. These rankings don't necessarily reflect their policies or the horrible, racist things they may have done—these are just about coolness, and coolness doesn't care about right and wrong.


10. William McKinley, 1897–1901

Getting murdered by an anarchist is definitely cool.

9. Bill Clinton, 1993–2001

I know. But on the other hand:

8. Gerald Ford, 1974–1977

Bumbling into the presidency after replacing first VP Spiro Agnew and then Nixon, Ford isn't traditionally regarded as "cool"; Chevy Chase's Saturday Night Live impression of him as a klutz remains basically the only thing we remember him for. But Ford wastotally relaxed about that joke. And, uh, young Gerald Ford could kinda get it?

7. Lyndon B Johnson, 1963–1969

LBJ was fond on pulling his dick out in front of people and asking "Have you ever seen anything as big as this?" Vietnam was an unequivocal disaster, but it's arguably nottotally his fault and "Hey hey/ LBJ/ How many kids did you kill today?" is easily one of the greatest chants ever. Johnson would never be mistaken for a nice man or even a decent one, but his legendary ability to intimidate others makes him the Tony Soprano of this list.

6. Franklin D. Roosevelt, 1933–1945

Forget the New Deal and World War II for a second—FDR made cigarette holders stylish long before Audrey Hepburn and Hunter S Thompson.

5. Jimmy Carter, 1977–1981

Jimmy Carter, a peanut farmer and devout Christian, gets a lot of cool points for making his famous "hey guys this shit kinda sucks" speech, aka the "malaise" speech, a pretty bold move. Mainly, he's this high up because his daughter Amy added the Sex Pistols and Ramones to the White House record collection.

4. Calvin Coolidge, 1923–1929

Look, Great Depression great shshmession, you can't argue with a name like that.

3. Abraham Lincoln, 1861–1865

Abraham Lincoln freed the slaves, was tall and depressed (glamorizing depression is not cool but let's not deny that, historically, depression and coolness have gone hand in hand), and his first vice president was named Hannibal. His line, "As a nation of free men, we will live forever or die by suicide," is the most badass thing anyone's ever written about America and a hell of an intro for a rock song.

2. John F Kennedy, 1961–1963

JFK's coolness is undeniable. He was young, hot, promiscuous, maybe an amphetamine addict, wore hip sunglasses, died tragically, and the head of a family of liberal heroes/terrible fuckups. He would be number one on this list except for...

1. Barack Obama, 2009–2016

Of course, Barack Obama is the coolest president. It's not even close. Obviously being the first black president is cool, but there's so much beyond that. He spent his formative years in Hawaii, the coolest state. He hung out with a group of pot smokers called the Choom Gang and did "maybe a little blow." (Wink, wink.) Look at his Summer 2016 Nighttime playlist: This is a guy who doesn't just have sex, he fucks. Check out this picture of him dressed in athleisure and standing in front of a sign that just says "69." Compare him to this video of our next president awkwardly dancing on Ellen. You can (and should) be upset about with the NSA and the failure to close Guantánamo and drone strikes and lots of other things, but come on: He's a cool guy.

See #11-#43 here.