Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Hail to the Chief

Anyone else see the new list that came out ranking our presidents? I thought it was pretty interesting. C-SPAN did a survey of 65 historians and professional observers of the presidency and had them rank each president according to 10 leadership attributes. These included public persuasion, crisis leadership, economic managment, moral authority, international relations, administrative skills, relations with Congress, vision and agenda setting, pursuing equal justice for all, and performance within the context of times.

The top ten out of 42 are:

1 - Abraham Lincoln
2 - George Washington
3 - FDR
4 - Teddy Roosevelt
5 - Harry Truman
6 - JFK
7 - Jefferson
8 - Eisenhower
9 - Woodrow Wilson
10 - Reagan

Some other interesting rankings:
15 - Bill Clinton
18- George H. W. Bush
27 - Nixon
36 - George W. Bush
42 (last) - James Buchanan

The ranking shows the results from this year and from one done in 2000. I find it interesting because many of the rankings changed, like George H.W. Bush who went from 20 to 18 and Jimmy Carter who fell from 22 to 25. Clinton changed the most by going from 21 to 15. 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.

I found it interesting that FDR did so well yet he made the Depression last 7 years longer then it would have otherwise (add sarcasm here). And I was surprised Clinton was up so high. I had always heard he was a good president but I guess I really only heard that from Democrats so I only halfway believed them. I guess they were right!

Nixon was higher than I thought he would have been but I guess it just goes to show I really don't know much about his actual presidency other than the scandal. George W. Bush is about where I expected him to be. Not the worst but not anywhere near the best. But, like Edna Medford said, maybe in 10 years he will be thought of differently like all of his supporters think will happen. Stranger things have been known to happen but I won't hold my breath.

For a complete list of the presidential rankings click here.


Lula O said...

It is interesting, especially how they change based on the concerns of the present. What about comparing their present place on the list with the number on the day they left their presidency?

Maybe Bush is right then, in counting on history to judge him differently. Who knows what will happen in the future that may reflect on his presidency.

And Clinton, I'm surprised he was so high as well.

Lula O said...

And another thing, I don't know that much about past president's so I'm wondering what Buchanan did that would rank him last. Anybody know why?

Peter said...

I'll take that one.

Buchanan was AWFUL. Although from Pennsylvania, he strongly sympathized with the South and slaveowners (in fact as Secretary of State in the Pierce administration, he tied to buy Cuba from Spain to make it available to southerners for the expansion of slavery, known as the Ostend Manifesto.)

When the Dredd Scott case came before the Supremes, Buchanan actively lobbied the court to rule for protecting property rights in slaves. Wrong side of the issue of course, and it is REALLY bad form for the prez to actively interfere in Supreme Court deliberations.

he was still president when the first seven southern states seceded, and did NOTHING about it, the ultimate fiddling while Rome burned. Bad, bad, bad.

Lula O said...

I just found this site here -


It compares historical rankings from 1948 until now. Bush II was 18 in 2005. Lincoln and FDR were either 1,2,or 3 over a period of thirteen surveys. Buchanan has never ranked higher than 26 (which at that time was almost the bottom), and Truman has never ranker lower that 9th, which surprised me. I've always thought he was considered quite unpopular.

No wonder Buchanan never married. What a catch he must've been.

Peter said...

There are rumors that there is one MAJOR reason he never married...

Lula O said...

Oooo, sounds interesting. Do tell.

Peter said...

Shall we say the ladies were not the object of his attentions?

Lula O said...

We'll I figured that. Just wondered if they knew who that special someone was, like the Secretary of Defense maybe..

Peter said...

Oh it was someone special all right--William Rufus King, senator and short-lived veep!

Lula O said...

Very interesting. I was going to add, but forgot, it sounds like a version of "As the President's Chair Turns," the musical. ;P

okbushmans said...

I'm not surprised at all by the rankings, and my rankings would have been different, obviously. I'm surprised Carter fell, because I feel like he has improved his image post-Presidency than when he left office. Nixon might be doing better because of Frost/Nixon, Oscar season and all.

And Bush left the country in a big pile of poopy, so of course he is ranked low. I think he managed to piss off both parties royally before exiting, but is still convinced history will be kinder. Time will tell. History is obviously kinder to Nixon, wonder where he would have ranked when he first left office. Intersting!