Archive for Monday, February 16, 2009

Lincoln ranked best president; G.W. Bush comes in at 36th

February 16, 2009


— Just days after the nation honored the 200th anniversary of his birth, 65 historians ranked Abraham Lincoln as the nation’s best president.

Former President George W. Bush, who left office last month, was ranked 36th out of the 42 men who had been chief executive by the end of 2008, according to a survey conducted by the cable channel C-SPAN.

Bush scored lowest in international relations, where he was ranked 41st, and in economic management, where he was ranked 40th. His highest ranking, 24th, was in the category of pursuing equal justice for all. He was ranked 25th in crisis leadership and vision and agenda setting.

In contrast, Lincoln was ranked in the top three in each of the 10 categories evaluated by participants.

Since C-SPAN’s only other ranking of presidents, in 2000, former President Bill Clinton jumped six spots from No. 21 to 15. Other recent presidents moved positions as well: Ronald Reagan advanced from No. 11 to 10, George H.W. Bush rose from No. 20 to 18 and Jimmy Carter fell from No. 22 to 25.

This movement illustrates that presidential reputations are influenced by present-day concerns, said survey adviser and participant Edna Medford.

“Today’s concerns shape our views of the past, be it in the area of foreign policy, managing the economy or human rights,” Medford said in a statement.

After Lincoln, the academics rated George Washington, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Theodore Roosevelt and Harry Truman as the best leaders overall. The same five received top spots in the 2000 survey, although Washington and Franklin D. Roosevelt swapped spots this year.

Rated worst overall were James Buchanan, Andrew Johnson, Franklin Pierce, William Henry Harrison and Warren G. Harding.

The survey was conducted in December and January. Participants ranked each president on a scale of one, “not effective” to 10, “very effective,” on a list of 10 leadership qualities including relations with Congress, public persuasion and moral authority.


Bob_Keeshan 9 years, 4 months ago

Indeed. The far left blogosphere has tremendous influence over Richard Norton Smith.

I hope your irony meter was turned on for that one...

rusty2 9 years, 4 months ago

W is in a special category.

Katharine Harris & his brother JEB helped to steal the election in 2000 from Al Gore.

needs to be remembered as the thievery and liar president. Election 2000 & WMD lies.

salad 9 years, 4 months ago

Let's not forget that "W" allowed the worst terrorist attack in US history. Talk about FAILING to keep us safe. Worst president ever; no question.

Lance Cheney 9 years, 4 months ago

I'm not sure who they polled for this survey, if they were asking people on the street or what, but I think for this thing to be anywhere close to accurate, they would have to poll history and/or politics professors from universities across the country. I don't know, I haven't seen this survey; maybe they did. I'm just saying, I don't know how many Joe Schmoes on the street would be able to tell you if Benjamin Harrison's foreign relations policies were superior to those of Warren Harding's. I know I couldn't.

Lance Cheney 9 years, 4 months ago

However, I don't think there would too much disagreement with George W. Bush being in the bottom 10, though. I'm Republican, and even I agree with that.

Trobs 9 years, 4 months ago

Reagen did get us out of a recession worse then what we currently have, sans stimulus.

So he has that going for him

CLARKKENT 9 years, 4 months ago



badger 9 years, 4 months ago

I don't know that it's all that fair to put William Henry Harrison in the bottom 5 just because he was only President for a few weeks. I think he should be removed from the comparisons, really.

And I'm always surprised to see all the hate for Harding. I mean, sure he was ineffectual, but I've always kind of considered him an average President. Why does he rate the bottom spot so often?

Mike Blur 9 years, 4 months ago

badger, don't you remember Teapot Dome? It's the Iran-Contra of the Harding administration.

Personally, my favorite president is James Knox Polk. He was all business and no BS. Vastly underrated, and almost forgotten. We would be in vastly better shape had JKP been at the helm the last 8 years.

Lance Cheney 9 years, 4 months ago


Thanks for the link. That answered my question.

Shardwurm 9 years, 4 months ago


You did leave out one tiny item about Reagan. He ended the Cold War and lifted the imminent threat of global thermo-nuclear war. Yes...the method he used was to out-spend the Soviets...but our country did recover relatively quickly and the removal of that threat allowed Clinton to slash the military to the bone during the 90s and reduce the deficit.

That reduction in military capability (including national intelligence-gathering) can be directly correlated to why we were caught unaware in 2001.

The Dems talk so highly about Clinton and what he did in the 90s for the economy...and I must agree that the 90s were good times. But he was able to do that because of Reagan...and because of what he did we were weak and caught off-guard in 2001.

But yeah....other than ending the Cold War and enabling Germany to re-unite and kindling prosperity for 15 years after he left office he pretty much sucked.

deskboy04 9 years, 4 months ago

I always like Teddy Roosevelt. He walked softly and carried a big stick.

Trobs 9 years, 4 months ago

Sending a massive amount of money to the federally controlled military doesn't count as a stimulus in my eyes.

sfjayhawk 9 years, 4 months ago

Lincoln and Washington are indeed the greatest. I was a little surprised that Eisenhower was not near the top, and Jefferson did grab a bunch of land for us.

Trobs 9 years, 4 months ago

Lincoln did a lot of bad things. Habeus Corpus being suspended, the federal bank that nearly broke the country and he favored more federal control which lead to the succession of the south.

It's all justified now. The north won.

At the time though, he nearly broke the country.

funkdog1 9 years, 4 months ago

Eleanor Roosevelt was America's best president.

sfjayhawk 9 years, 4 months ago

Actually Trobs, the secessionist movement began prior to Lincoln taking office. And while I do agree that suspending Habeus Corpus was a controversial move, the rest of what he accomplished is overwhelmingly positive. He was, in my opinion, a visionary man who 'belongs to the ages' and only Washington can come close to his greatness.

NoSpin 9 years, 4 months ago

In as much as the survey was for the left leaning viewers, they should at least commend President Bush on crisis management(#25). He handled 911 without wavering- the biggest attack on American soil ever! Most people fail to know history that Hawaii was not a part of the US in 1941 thus that attack did not occur on American soil. He faced many natural catastrophic disasters and took the fall for a local government that was ill-prepared for a Cat 5 hurricane in a city below sea level(physics anyone?). Unfortunately, laissez-faire policy of the '90s would not have worked for President Bush. He was a man with conviction who had to make difficult and timely decisions. Do you think Gore would have been better? Ha!

sfjayhawk 9 years, 4 months ago

No Spin, How did bush do with the Katrina Crisis? How did he handle the economic crisis? Gore certainly couldn't have done any worse.

mom_of_three 9 years, 4 months ago

I would agree with the bottom of the list being Pierce, Buchanan, Johnson. Harrison didn't do anything in his three weeks in office, and not sure about Harding.

badger 9 years, 4 months ago

Agnostick, thanks for posting that link. The data were very interesting.

mike_blur, I don't remember Teapot Dome, as I wasn't born till the latter half of the 20th Century. However, I do remember learning about it, which is what I suppose you meant.

Yeah, it was a scandal. A pretty big scandal, but I look at history and there are any number of underhanded acts and schemes, from illegitimate children to spying on political opponents to kickbacks to fabricated threats to justify invading other countries (Cuba (Maine) or Cuba (Bay of Pigs) or Iraq, take your pick, really), and I look at the fact that poor Warren G. Harding is at the bottom of almost every list of ranked Presidents I see, and I don't know that Teapot Dome really justifies it. Was it just that he really never did do anything of value to offset it?

gogoplata 9 years, 4 months ago

A good president would honor his oath to uphold the constitution. By that definition Lincoln was a horrible president.

Trobs 9 years, 4 months ago

I saw a list a few weeks ago. They ranked the Presidents based on their upholding of the constitution.

Lincoln and FDR were near the bottom. I'm trying to find the link but I can't remember where I saw it.

Trobs 9 years, 4 months ago

Mallard fillmore? isn't he a comic character

Tom McCune 9 years, 4 months ago

That's not really fair to poor Harrison. He was only president for a month and was terminally ill for part of that time. How many things could he have really messed up in that time? GWB, on the other hand, had eight years to lurch from disaster to misunderestimation.

sfjayhawk 9 years, 4 months ago

Interesting article in the NY Times on what the rest of the world thinks about Lincoln

Can you imagine where the rest of the world would rate bush?

mom_of_three 9 years, 4 months ago

Lincoln was upholding the constitution when he told the slave states that he would not touch slavery where it existed. They didn't believe him and they seceded.
Not sure what much else he could have done.

rusty2 9 years, 4 months ago

W goes back to Texas for bong hits!

weeslicket 9 years, 4 months ago

thanks for the link agnostic. that is an excellent web site.

Tom McCune 9 years, 4 months ago

Over the weekend, I was watching one of the Sunday news & commentary shows. One of the commentators is a guy I like. He is a reasonable, moderate conservative. The entire panel of liberals and conservatives was discussing the current lack of cooperation and bipartisanship.

The guy in question talked about some good things the Republicans had done in "the old days." He ended by saying "of course, that was before they became the flat Earth society." And that is what has happened. The reasonable, moderate Republicans have been defeated, or purged, or become Democrats.

The Republican party used to stand for efficient government, balanced budgets, individual liberties, separation of church & state, and avoidance of foreign entanglements. It is now the Flat Earth Society.

jonas_opines 9 years, 4 months ago

Trobs (Anonymous) says…

"I saw a list a few weeks ago. They ranked the Presidents based on their upholding of the constitution.

Lincoln and FDR were near the bottom. I'm trying to find the link but I can't remember where I saw it."

So then, isn't the question whether the flaw is in the Presidents, the public who holds the opinion, or perhaps the document itself? I mean, I know that the Constitution requires our requisite unquestioning faith, kind of like the Bible, but still. . . . it was just written by men. Very intelligent, learned men, of course, but men nonetheless.

JHOK32 9 years, 4 months ago

Time will tell when we add up all the dead bodies ordered to death by the blood on W Bush's hands. How many people all told has he now killed? He killed 3000 of our own fellow Americans by being a completely incompetent President whose 911 deaths were carried out on his watch. Don't tell me what Clinton should or should not have done, BUSH was in the Whitehouse, Bush was over the CIA, FBI, ATF, & all his $Billions of dollar massive defense industrial complex, the largest on earth ever, was brought down by a couple of arabs yielding......ok get ready for this - they woop ass on W's massive military machine with a couple of 99 cent plastic boxcutters. Yes, let that one sink in for awhile & tell me how great a President W was. Then, he invades Iraq cause they got them thar WMD's. Oh, what's that, they don't got them thar WMD's? After we done killed 4000 of our own kids & they ain't got them thar WMD's? Well heck, lets put a big banner on the USS Abraham Lincoln & we can proclaim "Mission Accomplished!" What's that? You mean the mission isn't actually accomplished? You mean our boys are still getting killed & having their arms & legs blown off years after "Mission Accomplished?" Must be a type-o there somewheres. Then we goes down to New Orleans and we tells the world that Brownie is doin a "heckuva job" ("heckuva job" is a Texan word meaning he don't know diddly squat whats goin on). Then W gets on TV to the American people & says the whole country is broke! Whats this? The most powerful, richest country the human race has ever known is broke?!!! How in the world did this happen?!!! So now we gets $350 Billion dollars from congress and GIVES $18 Billion to his millionaire buddies with no strings attached!!! This guy has got Kahunas the size of Beach balls!!!! ....and we're telling him OK!!! So shall we re-cap, or are you getting the message yet? We'll probably have to re-cap about a thousand times for the reds, their kinda slow & probably won't ever get it, But the big wall street CEO's got it, the big oil got it, the big banks got it, the CEO's got $18 Billion dollars of OUR money in THEIR bank! They got it! Exxon-Mobil got it. The largest profits in U.S. history sitting in their bank accounts...they GOT it! The Defense Industry making all those million dollar planes, tanks, helicoptors, nuclear aircraft carriers, nuclear submarines, they all GOT it!!!! This is what happens when we put a snot-nosed rich kid in the Whitehouse to "play." Lets all hope to God we learned our lesson on this nightmare. Long story short - George W. Bush was by far the most incompetent, down right stupidest President we have EVER had!

Frank Smith 9 years, 4 months ago

I suppose it should be mentioned that Dubya was never actually president; Cheney was.

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