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No surprises here

February 16, 2009 - Steve Murch
For President’s Day, C-SPAN has ranked the presidents from 1-42 (Grover Cleveland had a split presidency, hence only 42 different presidents even though George W. Bush was number 43). The link on the right will take you to the list.

It should be no surprise — and if it is that’s even more surprising than you being surprised — that Abraham Lincoln was No. 1. George Washington was No. 2, Franklin D. Roosevelt No. 3. Theodore Roosevelt No. 4 and Harry S. Truman No. 5. Rounding out the top 10 were John F. Kennedy, Thomas Jefferson, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Woodrow Wilson and Ronald Reagan.

The rest of the president since the end of the Great Depression are Lyndon Johnson (11), Bill Clinton (15), George H.W. Bush (18), Gerald Ford (22), Jimmy Carter (25), Richard Nixon (27) and George W. Bush (36).

The results are from a survey the cable network did, using historians and professional presidential observers. It’s the second survey, the first being in 2000. The survey used 10 different criteria to rank the presidents — public persuasion, crisis leadership, economic management, moral authority, international relations, administrative skills, relations with Congress, vision/setting an agenda, pursued equal justice for all, and performance within context of times.

The second Bush had his highest ranking (24) in pursuing equal justice for all. His lowest ranking was 41 in international relations.

The top rankings in each category were: Lincoln in crisis leadership, vision/setting an agenda, pursued equal justice for all, and performance within context of time; Washington in economic management, moral authority, international relations and administrative skills; and FDR in public persuasion and relations with Congress.

The bottom six, just behind the latest Bush, were (from bottom up) James Buchanan, Andrew Johnson, Franklin D. Pierce, William Henry Harrison, Warren G. Harding and Millard Fillmore.

It will be interesting to see how George W. Bush is viewed during the next survey (I’ll assume they’ll do it in either four or eight years, depending on the length of Barack Obama’s presidency). The last three presidents, Reagan, George H.W. Bush, and Clinton all moved up in the second survey.

Will history ease up on the 43rd president, or will he stay near the bottom? Only time will tell.


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