Americans say Reagan greatest president

A Gallup poll ahead of President's Day (officially, Washington's Birthday):

Ahead of Presidents Day 2011, Americans are most likely to say Ronald Reagan was the nation's greatest president -- slightly ahead of Abraham Lincoln and Bill Clinton. Reagan, Lincoln, or John F. Kennedy has been at the top of this "greatest president" list each time this question has been asked in eight surveys over the last 12 years.

My admiration for President Reagan is second to none but it is far too early to crown him the best president ever. Better than Washington, who invented the presidency (and the United States for that matter?) Or Lincoln?

This is a beauty contest, of course, and not meaningful in the sense that historians wouldn't take it seriously. (Obama actually got 5% of the vote). But it is a good snapshot of the regard in which Americans hold the Gipper today.

In 50 years, when all is said and done, I have no doubt Reagan will be very close to the top of that list - top 5 maybe, easily the top 10. But Washington has them all beat, now and forever. He was, as his astute biographer Thomas Flemming wrote, the nation's "indispensable man."
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