Herbert Hoover, the 31st president, and Richard Nixon, the 37th, share the ninth spot for entirely different kinds of failings. And both had offsetting qualities and achievements that keep them off the 10-worst list of some major rankings.
Hoover, elected on the eve of the Great Depression, came to the office with the skills of a consummate technocrat and manager. The Iowa native and Stanford-educated engineer ran massive relief operations in Europe both during and after World War I. He was commerce secretary under Harding and Calvin Coolidge.
Once the Depression set in, he lowered taxes and started public works projects to create jobs, but he steadfastly resisted outright relief.
Hoover's rigid adherence to conservative principles may not have been his greatest problem. A poor communicator, he came across as mean-spirited and uncaring. The homeless dubbed their make-shift shanty towns Hoovervilles.
Perhaps his single greatest policy blunder was supporting and signing into law a a tariff act that fueled international trade wars and made the Depression even worse. But style points alone would have cost him the election against FDR.
For all his good qualities, it is fair to say that Hoover failed to rise to the greatest challenge of his time.