According to the latest Presidential History Survey from C-SPAN, former U.S. President Barack Obama was ranked the 12th best president in the nation’s history, with Abraham Lincoln still holding the top position.
For the rankings, more than 90 presidential experts and historians analyzed 44 presidents by granting them a score on various topics where they excelled or failed. These topics included crisis leadership, economic management, setting an agenda, and moral authority.
Obama excelled at the “pursued equal justice for all” category, with a score of 83.2 out of 100. The only two presidential leaders who fared better than him were Abraham Lincoln and Lyndon Johnson. Obama’s worst score was for “relations with Congress” (27.8), which placed him on the bottom of the list after Richard Nixon and William Harrison.
C-SPAN published two other similar surveys in 2000 and 2009, respectively.
As number 12, the former president was worse than Johnson (10th spot) and Woodrow Wilson (11th position), but better than James Monroe and Kames Polk.
In all three surveys, Abraham Lincoln was the nation’s greatest president, with George Washington and Franklin Roosevelt closely trailing behind.
Once again the Big Three are Lincoln, Washington and FDR – as it should be,
said Prof. Douglas Brinkley from Rice University who took part in the survey.
Brinkley noted that Obama’s score was “quite impressive,” while the situation of George W. Bush was “surprisingly good” as the Texan president climbed a few spots. However, some scholars were equally surprised that Obama did not fare better.
Dr. Edna Greene Medford acknowledged that the 12th position was a “respectable” ranking, but the immense popularity of president Trump’s predecessor should have translated into a better score.
Meford was surprised that Obama got the 7th position in moral authority although his administration had no major scandal. She added that historians tend to view the past objectively and we don’t know yet whether Obama’s legacy would stand the test of time.
Still, presidential rankings can change over time. For instance, Bush saw an improvement, Eisenhower climbed three spots to number 5, while Andrew Jackson slipped five positions to number 18 on the list.
So, Obama could easily get in the top 10 when historians will review his legacy as compared to past and current presidents. He needs 18 points to outrank the number 10 – Johnson. It is worth noting that Bill Clinton, Obama, and George W. Bush are the only living presidents to land in the top 20.
Brinkley said in an NBC interview that presidents usually get a big boost when they have no major scandals dogging the White House. So, after a Trump presidency, people might see the Obama presidency in a more favorable perspective.
According to the rankings, James Buchanan is America’s worst president, Franklin Pierce is the second-worst, and Andrew Johnson the third-worst. All three presidents had the same rankings in the previous two surveys. In addition, these three presidents were so bad that they were placed lower than William Henry Harrison, who managed to serve only one month.
You never want to be lower than William Henry Harrison,
said Prof. Brinkely.
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