Market Mad House

In individuals, insanity is rare; but in groups, parties, nations and epochs, it is the rule. Friedrich Nietzsche

Historical Insanity

The Personalities of the Presidents

We all know that the personalities of the presidents shape American history. Thus to understand US history we need to understand the presidents’ personalities.

Obviously, psychoanalyzing dead presidents is impossible. However, there are some tools we can use to classify our nation’’ chief executives’ personalities.

One such tool is  Thomas Erikson’s DiSC test which dividends people by four basic personality types. Erikson’s DiSC method is popular in Sweden and elsewhere because it is easy to understand. If you want a deeper explanation of Erikson’s methodology see his book Surrounded by Idiots: The Four Types of Human Behavior and How to Effectively Communicate with Each in Business (and in Life).

The Four Personality Types

Erikson identifies four personality types that he classifies by color. Those types are:

  • Red: dominant, driven, solution focused
  • Blue: analytic, meticulous
  • ·Green: patient, considerate, nice
  • Yellow: extroverted, creative, verbal

Erikson’s beliefs are controversial. Licensed psychologist and psychotherapist Dan Katz labels the Four Types “pseudoscience.”

Personally, I think Erikson’s methodology is too simplistic to explain anything as complex as human behavior. Conversely, I think the Four Types could be a good starting point for the evaluation of individuals.

Accordingly, I will try to classify America’s presidents by the Four Types.

What Color is Your President?

After reading Surrounded by Idiots, the history buff in me started classifying America’s presidents by the Four Types. Here are my findings.

Red Presidents

Andrew Jackson (D-Tennessee)

Lyndon B. Johnson (D-Texas)

Harry S. Truman (D-Missouri)

James K. Polk (D-Tennessee)

Richard M. Nixon (R-California)

John Adams (F-Massachusetts)

John Quincy Adams (I-Massachusetts)

Andrew Johnson (D-Tennessee)

Zachary Taylor (W-Louisiana)

The red presidents like to move fast and break things. The red presidents make decisions and stick to them.

Green Presidents

Gerald R. Ford (R-Michigan)

Jimmy Carter (D-Georgia)

Warren G. Harding (R-Ohio)

Rutherford B. Hayes (R-Ohio)

Joe Biden (D-Delaware)

James Buchanan (D-Pennsylvania)

George W. Bush (R-Texas)

Grover Cleveland (D-New York)

The green presidents are nice guys everybody likes but they often get no respect. Many people consider them pushovers.

Blue Presidents

Thomas Jefferson (R-Virginia)

Herbert Hoover (R-California)

James Madison (R-Virginia)

Barack Obama (D-Illinois)

William Howard Taft (R-Ohio)

The blue presidents are the intellectuals who would rather study than solve problems.

Yellow Presidents

Franklin D. Roosevelt (D-New York)

Bill Clinton (D-Arkansas)

Mixed Presidents

Notably, there are many people who are mixtures of personality types. For instance Yellow-Blue or Red-Yellow. Predictably some presidents appear to be mixtures of personalities.

I classify George Washington and Dwight D. Eisenhower (R-Kansas) as Red-Blue mixtures. To explain, Ike and Washington were forceful leaders with analytical minds. Both men thought long and hard and carefully analyzed data before making a decision.

Interestingly, Washington appears to have changed his personality type. As a young man Washington was a Red, a forceful and aggressive military commander. However, humiliating defeats in the Seven Years War convinced Washington to change his ways. The Father of our country changed his personality because of a painful lesson. Washington saw many of the men under his command killed in a French ambush he charged into.

Washington became thoughtful, careful and analytical, in other words; a Blue. It was those traits that helped Washington win the Revolutionary War and find success as America’s first president.

Other mixed presidents include Ulysses S. Grant (R-Illinois) who was a fascinating mix of Red and Green. Grant seems to be a rarity, however.

The Most Effective Presidents

The most effective presidents appear to be the Red-Blue and Blue-Yellow mixtures.

For example, I classify Abraham Lincoln (R-Illinois) and Ronald Reagan (R-California) as blue-yellow mixtures. To explain, Reagan and Lincoln were storytellers and performers. Yet both men were well-read and analytical. Interestingly, John F. Kennedy (D-Massachusetts) also falls into the Yellow-Blue category.

On the other hand, Red-Yellow presidents can be spectacular failures. I classify Donald J. Trump (R-Florida) as Red-Yellow. Fortunately, Red-Yellow individuals appear to be rare, Trump is the only one I can think of. Trump is a forceful leader and a showman. Trump can put can put on a good show but he never thinks about his actions and never plans.

A more fascinating type is Red-Yellow-Blue. I can only identify one president as falling into this category: Theodore Roosevelt (R-New York). To explain, TR was an intellectual who was a forceful leader and a showman.

Finally, there are some presidents whose personalities I cannot read. One of them is Woodrow Wilson (D-Virginia). On the surface, Wilson appears to be an intellectual. Yet, history shows Wilson made rash decisions, such as entering World War I, while conducting no analysis.

In particular, Wilson failed to ask the obvious question “can we trust the British and French leaders,” before joining their alliance. It shocked Wilson when the British and French leaders betrayed him. Yet a short reading of British or French newspapers would have shown Wilson that his allies were untrustworthy.

An intriguing possibility is that Wilson was a Red who knew how to pass as Blue. To explain, Wilson succeeded in academia by acting like an intellectual. Before entering politics Wilson was a spectacularly unsuccessful president of Princeton University.

An intriguing possibility is that Wilson was a Red who knew how to pass as Blue. To explain, Wilson succeeded in academia by acting like an intellectual. Before entering politics Wilson was a spectacularly unsuccessful president of Princeton University.

Other presidents I have a hard time reading include Calvin Coolidge (R-Massachusetts) and George H. W. Bush (R-Texas). Finally, many of the 19th Century presidents such as Millard Fillmore (W-New York) and Benjamin Harrison (R-Indiana) are too obscure to read.

Which Presidents are the most effective?

So which presidents are the most effective? My read is that the Red-Blue and Yellow-Blue are the most effective presidents. Washington, for example, built the country, and Lincoln won the Civil War.

Green presidents are usually failures. I classify Buchanan as America’s worst president, for instance. Red presidents have a mixed record, I consider Polk our most successful president, yet Andrew Johnson and John Quincy Adams were spectacular failures.

One problem is that Reds do not change their minds or consider other points of view. LBJ for example, refused to reconsider his catastrophic war in Vietnam. Similarly, Andrew Johnson could not understand why people were angry at his efforts to rehabilitate Southerners after the Civil War.

Blue presidents have a poor record. I rank Madison and Hoover as two of America’s worst presidents. Moreover, Obama’s record is not impressive. A problem with Blues is that they a have hard time making decisions and taking risks.

A Blue will study a problem to death and avoid simple but obvious solutions. As Obama did with Obamacare and Hoover did with the Great Depression. IE Obama could not bring himself to fight for single-payer healthcare, while Hoover could not endorse direct federal aid to Depression victims.

In the final analysis, the question what color is your president could be a valid one. Unfortunately, the Four Types could be far too shallow to help us understand future leaders’ personalities.