Ranking Presidents

There is still one full year left in Obama’s administration.  I’ve heard a lot about how Obama will go down in history as the worst American president. I disagree.

This “worst president in history” stuff  comes from those who listen to television and radio commentators, who make a very good living out of finding fault with Obama on every day of the week.  Conservatives would rank all Republican presidents at the top of the list, and all Democratic presidents at the bottom.  Liberals would do the opposite.

But, let’s face it,   everything that goes wrong in Washington is not the president’s fault. Also, presidents  who sink in popularity polls at least during some part of their term,  are not necessarily ranked poorly by academic scholars.    Case in point is President Truman, whose Gallup approval rating dropped to 27% during the Korean War, yet on balance, is considered one of the best president by  a series of selected scholars or historians:

Wikipedia’s Ranking 

Take a close look at the far right column, with the aggregate ranks, and you will see, some very familiar names as the top ranked presidents-  Lincoln, Roosevelt, Washington, and Jefferson.  And the 5 worst ones are Buchanan, Harding, Pierce, Johnson, and Fillmore. Although, Harrison is ranked as one of the 5 worst presidents, it is clearly unfair as he served only one year before his death.

When there is a truly good or bad president,  then there is a great deal of agreement among historians.   The highest ranked presidents in recent times are Kennedy, Johnson and Reagan.

The top quartile presidents are colored in blue.  The 30 year period from 1933 to 1963, marked a period of only top quartile presidents, Roosevelt, Truman, Eisenhower and Kennedy.   So, were these presidents so successful because of the times and mood of the country, or because they were all individually great leaders?   I believe it was a combination of good judgments and in most part, the backing of congress.

No- Obama will not go down as the worst president, nor the best president in the history of the US.  It is likely that a strong positive to his presidency was he made strong efforts to fulfill his campaign promises.  His inabilities to push his programs forward,  in many areas including global warming and immigration reform, were due to the intransigent conservative  Republican faction in Congress.

Stay tuned,







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