Top 10 Most Badass U.S. Presidents

Dirty Lincoln

Today at the Rooktopia Top 10, we handle the Top 10 Most Badass U.S. Presidents. In developing this list, I ignored the most recent presidents, from Nixon onward. I don’t want to turn this list into a political snitfest.

Which American Presidents could whoop your ass and leave you crying home to mama?

  • #10 – Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Think that a man in a wheelchair is a pushover? Tell that to FDR. He managed the two of the greatest crises in American history — the Great Depression and World War II — with temperment, charm, and luck. He could also be a manipulative, devious bastard, but that’s a trait of all great badasses, eh?
  • #9 – James K. Polk. He doesn’t get much recognition nowadays because of his self-imposed one term presidency. Still, he made the most of it. He grabbed half of Mexico in the Mexican-American War. (Man, are you complaining the Iraq War is illegal? Check into the ridiculous claims Polk was throwing around some time.) He swindled the British into acquiring the Oregon Territory. Those nerves of steel got us Texas, California, and Washington, which may or may not be a good thing, depending on your point of view.
  • #8 – John F. Kennedy. PT 109 sinks. Commander Kennedy clenches the strap of a wounded crewman’s lifejacket and tows him to safety with his teeth. He and the surviving crew end up on Cross Island, befriend natives, and send messages for help via coconut shell. Kickass.
  • #7 – Dwight D. Eisenhower. As impressive as Kennedy’s WWII performance was, Eisenhower pit the allied forces against the forces of Hitler … and won.
  • #6 – Ulysses S. Grant. Unconditional Surrender said it best himself: “It seems that man’s destiny in this world is quite as much a mystery as it is likely to be in the next. I never thought of acquiring rank in the profession I was educated for; yet it came with two grades higher prefixed to the rank of General officer for me. I certainly never had either ambition or taste for political life; yet I was twice President of the United States. If anyone … suggested the idea of my becoming an author … I was not sure whether they were making sport of me or not. I have now written a book which is in the hands of the manufacturers.” Well said, man. Well said.
  • #5 – John Quincy Adams. He was the author of the Monroe Doctrine (and didn’t get credit for it). As a congressman, he tried his damnedest to abolish slavery, getting a gag rule repealed and defending the slaves on the Amistad. And as a President, he loved to skinny-dip in the Potomac. What’s not to like about this guy?
  • #4 – George Washington. You know that famous painting where Washington crossed the Delaware and captured 1,000 Hessian mercenaries? Badass. That part where he and the combined American/French forces trapped Cornwallis in Yorktown? Badass. The part where he took the oath of office and showed America what a real president is supposed to look like? Badass to the extreme.
  • #3 – Abraham Lincoln. You don’t have to punch a man in the gut just to be a badass. Sometimes you just got to start with nothing and claw your way to the top. Honest Abe was born to two uneducated farmers in a log cabin, back when log cabins weren’t luxury retreats. He pretty much taught himself everything, reading every book he could get his hands on. He overcame every failure in his political career to become one of the most respected presidents in American history.

    And if that weren’t enough to secure his spot in the Top Three most badass presidents, he was also handy with an axe and a talented wrestler. So don’t let that rail-thin frame fool ya. The guy could probably put you in a headlock like you wouldn’t believe.

  • #2 – Theodore Roosevelt. The mere mention of his name, and you think, “Bully!” Why was this his favorite catchphrase? I don’t know; maybe he liked giving swirlies to the nerds of his time. Anyhoo, any discussion of Badass Presidents is not complete without T.R. The man was a man who took life by both hands and gleefully chorfed it down. He was a boxer, he lived in the Badlands, and he headed up the Rough Riders. He was the first president to fly an airplane. He hunted big game in Africa. He braved the jungles of South America, eventually contracting malaria. When he died of coronary embolism, Vice President Thomas Marshall said, “Death had to take Roosevelt sleeping, for if he had been awake, there would have been a fight.”

    Pardon me, Veep, but F*** that noise! T.R. should’ve died with machine guns in both hands, both ablazin’, while fighting a pack of deadly velociraptors. Dying in your sleep? That ain’t the T.R. way!

    Trivia: Roosevelt hated being called “Teddy.” Thus, the name “teddy bears” are a dishonorable affront to this great man.

  • #1 – Andrew Jackson.


    This guy would also head the list of biggest jackasses in US history. Yet, after he left office, it seemed like every Presidential candidate — including Tyler and Polk — wanted to be like Ol’ Hickory. Why is that? There are two incidents that cement Andy as the most Badass President Of All Time.

    1. The first, from

      Jackson’s hot temper involved him in a number of feuds and duels. Many of them were caused by remarks made about his marriage. The duel with Charles Dickinson in 1806 stands out as an example of Jackson’s characteristic refusal even to acknowledge the possibility of defeat. Jackson let his opponent fire first, because Dickinson was a faster and better shot. Allowing himself time to take deliberate aim, Jackson planned to kill his man with a single bullet, even “if he had shot me through the brain.” Thus, Jackson took a bullet in the chest and, without flinching, calmly killed his man.

      You read that right: A-Jackz let a man shoot him first, right in the chest, then killed him afterwards. Hard-effin’-core.

    2. But now you’re saying to yourself: “Dammit all, El Santo, any military guy would be able to take a nice chest shot. Surely that rotten old apple couldn’t possibly keep it up when he was old and President of the United States” This brings up incident number two, brought to you by the Smithsonian’s Natural Museum of American History:

      On January 30, 1835, President Andrew Jackson attended a congressional funeral in the Capitol building. As he exited, Richard Lawrence, an unemployed house painter, pointed a pistol at Jackson and fired. The percussion cap exploded, but the bullet did not discharge. The enraged Jackson raised his cane to throttle his attacker, who fired again. The second weapon also misfired and the sixty-seven-year-old president escaped unharmed.

      So, let’s see: Andrew Jackson becomes target of the first ever assassination attempt. Nowadays, Secret Service agents would whisk the Prez away. But that’s not the Andrew Jackson way. A-Jackz, an old man in his late 60’s, went after his assailant with his cane.

      (Richard Lawrence, the would-be assassin, got off on an insanity plea. But you gotta suspect the real reason he got off lightly was because everyone in Washington, at some point, must’ve contemplated putting a bullet through Andrew Jackson. But no one had the guts to face Andy’s Mighty Pimp Cane.)

      So how was A-Jackz able to pull this off? Was he made of hickory, like his nickname implies? Was it plain old American toughness? Probably. But I like to think that Andrew Jackson may have been a cyborg from the far future, sent back in time to abolish the National Bank. Be afraid.


22 thoughts on “Top 10 Most Badass U.S. Presidents

  1. So bizarre. I started brainstorming a “top 10 President McBadass” list about a month ago after looking through the T.R. cases at the AMNH in New York.

    I think T.R. gets the number 1 slot… Did you miss the anecdote where he takes a bullet to the shoulder and gives a campaign speech a couple hours later? Makes Jackson’s cane incident look vanilla.

    As far as sheer badassitude is concerned, Hamilton’s sadly missing from your list. Big bravado ass kicking during the Revolution. Constantly pissed off every guy in the room by stealing the ladies’ attention and intellectually belittling them. Finally gets kacked in a duel by one of said guys.

    1. Hamilton would have been a perfect addition to the list… if Hamilton had been president. He only became Secretary of the Treasury.

  2. To be honest, it was a close call between TR and Jackson. They are #1 and #2 after all. And I was going to include that incident, except that I was running out of space for the TR accolades.

    The defining moment: Jackson was an old man, so for him to be an old guy and still go after his own assassin was pretty badass. T.R. was still hale and healthy up until he come down with malaria in 1918.

    And while Hamilton was indeed a genuine badass, he was never President. So he can’t be on a Top 10 Most Badass Presidents list. Most Badass Secretaries of the Treasury, though… he’s definitely topping that list.

  3. cracked did a top 5 of this 5.Jackson 4.Kennedy 3.Quincy Adams 2.Washington 1.TR. another guy made his own list as a response:1.Washington 2.TR 3.Jackson 4.Lincoln 5.JQA and another response gave 1.Washington 2.Jackson 3.TR 4.LBJ 5.Truman.

  4. It takes quite a guy to make TR Number 2 on a list, but here’s how: When TR rode up San Juan Hill to help Cuba get its (temporary, as it turned out) independence from Spain, he had left the U.S. from Florida. Jackson took Florida from Spain. In fact, he effectively conquered 3 States and brought them into the Union: Florida, Alabama and Mississippi. San Juan Hill was more or less a fair fight that TR won; Jackson was outnumbered 3 to 1 at New Orleans in 1815, and won with casualties 7 to 1 in his favor. And he was no kid: He was 48, while TR was an in-his-prime 39. And in both the Nullification Crisis of 1820 and while President, he vowed that, if necessary, he would go down to South Carolina (his home State, mind you) and personally lead an army that would teach John C. Calhoun and the “states’ rights” crowd a lesson. Even in his 60s, I wouldn’t have put it past him.

    How about this: The boy TR conquered asthma while living in his wealthy parents’ home… The boy Jackson conquered smallpox while living in a British POW camp during the Revolution. TR had everything and made more of it than any of us ever will; Jackson had nothing and made himself fabulously wealth (by the standards of the time) AND the guy who “can lick any SOB in the house.” He was a bastard to the Indians, though. He was America’s Oliver Cromwell, as general and chief executive, except unlike Cromwell he never made himself a real dictator/king without a crown.

    FDR, Truman and LBJ each said at some point that Jackson was their favorite President ever.

  5. Also think Jackson’s badassery will keep him on the $20 bill too. Strangely there have been very few complaints. Also Cherokee country was huge. And being openly infiltrated by settlers. So Jackson got stuck with a dilemma. But probably thirsted for the land too. And gladly is still off the hook.

  6. Jackson was also so vulgar, his parrot was ejected from his funeral.
    Then T.R. was giving a speech once, he got shot halfway through. He didn’t leave to seek help until his speech was finished.

  7. You guys do realize that Andrew Jackson was responsible for the Indian Removal Act, which evicted all of the civilized tribes, nearly eradicated a people, and destroyed a culture, right? Just remember that when you think of your “badass” president, who gave smallpox laden blankets to those on the Trail of Tears and sent men, women, and children out to die in the cold and live a life of imprisonment on reservations. (By the way, the Indians evicted in the East were no threat. The real problem was the Comanches and Kiowas in the West. But, nooooooo, he had to punish those who stood up for his lifestyle and left the Comanches and Kiowas to rape and pillage.) Just be sure to remember that. “Badass” Pffft. More like “Murderer”.

    1. Yeah.. that’s part of why he’s the most badass. Most modern badass’s can also be considered ‘murderers’

    2. That’s open for debate. Jackson inherited Indian removal. Revised modern history states that the issue came up because of a cheap imitation of a gold rush in Georgia. The real reason, was left over bad blood from the Revolutionary War. The bulk of the Indians sided with the British, and some, like the Seneca, went on an all out killing spree of women and children ………….. families the rebels had left at home. That wasn’t taken very kindly, and George Washington took a time out from the war, to do a scorched earth on the Seneca.

      Jackson was actually a fence sitter on the issue, until the chief of a Cherokee war village (they had both war and peace villages) was heard to say that time was nigh for the Cherokee to make war on the settlers. Jackson had more than mere respect for the fighting prowess of Cherokee Warriors. He had fought both with, and against them through the years. He gave the 2500 Cherokees he had with him full credit for the victory at New Orleans. When that chief said that, it got his attention, and solidified his position. I realize that modern liberals love to lay all of the blame for the Trail of Tears at Jackson’s feet, but such is hardly fair. He was under heavy pressure to follow through, and he was busy with his two favorite issues at the time. Destroying the United States Bank, and avenging Rachel’s death, which he blamed on his opponents in the campaign. He made mistakes where he should have known better, but more blame belongs to people still holding a grudge from the Revolutionary War. I’m half Cherokee, and I’m telling you this. The Cherokee should have been working harder on preventing their civil war at the time, because it really wound up hurting them.

      You can’t pay too much attention to modern history books. Current historians have decided that a lot of our history doesn’t make sense, so they have simply changed it. They forgot about context though, and context is everything to history. These people look through 21st century filters, but things were very different back then.

  8. Teddy is definitely up there. Even while president, his preferred morning exercise was bare knuckle boxing. Kennedy was rejected for military service because of back problems but he got his embassador daddy to pull strings and get him on a PT boat. That was in the Solomon islands when our wooden PT’s were fighting Jap cruisers and battleships! Bush and Quayle, take note!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s