Historians loving ranking presidents by their performance. You’ve seen the lists. There are the Greats (Messrs. Washington, Lincoln, et al). There are the Near Greats, and the Average or Mediocre ones. Scholars have a field day pigeonholing a particular president in this category or that.
Then there is the bottom of the barrel. The washouts. The Failures. There’s little arguing over the Worst of the Worst. Grant, Harding, and my personal pick for All-Time Worst President, James Buchanan. (When it comes to being lousy at the job, you can’t beat standing by helplessly as your country splits in two and slides into civil war.)
Another name always makes the Failure list. And maybe he deserves to be there. But after you’ve heard the story of the secret pain that haunted him during his time in the White House, you’ll probably look at him in a new light and, at the very least, pity him. Continue reading