You're not going to believe where historians ranked Obama in presidents survey
C-SPAN conducted a survey of 91 presidential historians to determine the ranking of the nation's 44 chief executives. It's the third such survey conducted by the public affairs network, the previous two being taken in 2000 and 2009.
The top three presidents have been unchanged over that time: Lincoln, Washington, and Franklin Roosevelt. Included in the survey for the first time was President Barack Obama.
Historians ranked him 12th best.
The poll ranks each US president on various issues, including "crisis leadership", "moral authority", "international relations" and "pursuing equal justice for all".
Obama scored particularly high on the "equal justice" scale, coming in third behind only Abraham Lincoln (1861-1865) and Lyndon Johnson (1963-1969).
But Obama ranked fifth from the bottom on "relations with Congress", and got a middling 24th best score on "international relations", the survey showed
Historian Douglas Brinkley of Rice University said that Obama's presidency, despite its weak points, may age well and notch an even higher ranking as time passes.
"There tends to be kind of an upward mobility, particularly if you are a president who had no major scandals," he said, noting that presidents are also often judged in comparison to their immediate predecessors and successors.
"If the Trump presidency is problematic, people may judge Obama even higher yet."
For the third time in a row, Abraham Lincoln ranked as the nation's best presidential leader, according to the panel. George Washington, the first US President (1789-1797), came in second, and Franklin D. Roosevelt (1933-1945) rounded out the podium at third.
Others in the top ten are: Theodore Roosevelt (1901-1909), Dwight Eisenhower (1953-1961), Harry Truman (1945-1953), Thomas Jefferson (1801-1809), John F. Kennedy (1961-1963), Ronald Reagan (1981-1989) and Lyndon Johnson.
George W. Bush's dismal ranking of 36rd [sic] in the 2009 survey has improved slightly with time. He is now ranked as the nation's 33rd best presidential leader.
Andrew Jackson (1829-1837), whose populist movement has been compared by some historians to Donald Trump's unconventional political rise, dropped several pegs in the latest survey, falling from the 13th slot in 2000 and 2009 to 18th.
Is this a ranking of the "best" presidents or the "most effective"? For instance, no one doubts that FDR's presidency was among the most consequential in history. But Roosevelt's economic policies never did result in America getting out from under the Depression. It took Pearl Harbor and world war for the American economy to finally recover. As for the rest, Roosevelt's policies grossly undermined the founding principles of American constitutional democracy – ostensibly to combat social upheaval caused by the Depression. It didn't work, making FDR one of the least "effective" presidents as far as the economy is concerned.
But Roosevelt also organized the country to fight a total war against Germany and Japan – no small feat, considering the challenges he faced. He could also be considered one of the best politicians ever to serve as president. Winning election four times speaks for itself.
Bottom line: He doesn't belong in the top five, but perhaps the top 15.
Lincoln over Washington? Close call, but without Washington, there wouldn't have been a Lincoln. Washington defined the presidency as an office with limited powers and guided the young republic through some severe crises at home and abroad.
Reagan is about where he should be; 9th is a good ranking, considering his nearly crisis-free tenure. Most presidents are defined by the difficulties they have to overcome while in office. Reagan met the challenge of a terrible economic crisis as well as changing the dynamic of the Cold War. Those feats alone should rank him in the top ten.
Now we come to Barack Obama, who presided over the worst economic recovery in history, the precipitous decline of American power and influence around the world, and the worse race relations since the 1960s.
So, of course, the historians rank him 12th.
His signature legislation – Obamacare and the financial regulation bill – are both going to become unrecognizable as Republicans alter them drastically over the next few months. How can anyone who calls himself a historian give such a high ranking to a president whose major achievements in office will largely be gone within a matter of a few months of him leaving office?
Obviously, there's some Obama worship at work with this ridiculous ranking. And while I wouldn't put President Obama last or even in the bottom 10, he doesn't rank much better than George W. Bush in my mind. Douglas Brinkley's observation that Obama didn't have any major scandals is a ludicrous statement. The only reason they weren't "major" scandals was because of a willing and compliant media running interference for him.
The bottom of the barrel as far as presidents go were mostly from a time in history when the presidency was won by inferior men – the period between Andrew Jackson and Abraham Lincoln. With a couple of exceptions, the presidents in the 1840s and '50s were compromise candidates, nominated after dozens of ballots at the Democratic convention. President Buchanan well deserves his worst president ranking, having become paralyzed into inaction as one after another, the Southern states seceded from the union.
Barack Obama was a disaster as president, and his high ranking by historians will, despite their bias, fall over the years.