There are essentially two criteria by which a president should be judged: how they respond to crises, and how long the positive changes they make last, or the negative ones take to undo.
Washington, Lincoln and FDR have to be considered the three greatest, in some order.
Now to compare our unfortunate president against these titans of history may be a bit unfair, so let's take a gander at the bottom of the barrel. Grant and Harding were incompetent; not themselves corrupt, they were totally unfit for office and were ruthlessly swindled by their closest advisers. Fortunately, corruption is quickly remedied by regime change, and their failings were short-lived. Andrew Johnson, on the other hand, seriously botched Reconstruction, but by the end of his career he was so enfeebled by the Radical Republicans that his impact was negligible. Often pre-Civil War presidents such as Fillmore, Pierce and Buchannan are censured by historians for their failures to avert the Civil War, but in my opinion it was sixty-three years in the making and all but unavoidable. Nixon failed to get out of
The worst president, until our own, was Rutherford B. Hayes (also, incidentally, a serious contender for the worst presidential name, but the two are probably not related). Hayes was never elected president; only a massively obvious vote fraud put him in front of the Democratic (read Southern) candidate, and to avoid a showdown he struck the most insidious deal in American history. In return for Samuel J. Tilden conceding the election, Hayes agreed to dismantle reconstruction and remove all Union troops from the South, only 12 years after the end of the Civil War. While Reconstruction was flawed, it was making progress; many Southern states have had the only black senators or governors in their history during the post-Civil War period. Through this act and his later tolerance of the Jim Crow laws, Hayes set the stage for ninety years of segregation.
And now, George W. Bush. Bush faced a major crisis early in his presidency, September 11th
What is worse, however, is how thoroughly he has eroded the capacity of the