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Historians just ranked ‘Presidential Leadership’: Any guesses where Obama landed?

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C-SPAN historians have decided that former President Barack Obama is America’s 12th-best president.

Obama came in right behind Woodrow Wilson and in front of James Monroe in the network’s third Historians Survey of Presidential Leadership, released Friday.

Abraham Lincoln retained the top position where he voted number one in C-SPAN’s first two surveys, released in 2000 and 2009. George Washington, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Theodore Roosevelt retained their top five positions and were joined by Dwight Eisenhower for the first time in the top five.

A panel of 91 presidential historians ranked the 43 former presidents, according to a  press release, on a scale of one-to-10 on 10 different “qualities of presidential leadership,” including “moral authority,” “crisis leadership,” “economic management,” “vision/setting an agenda,” and whether they “pursued equal justice for all.”

Obama beat former President George W. Bush who ranked number 33 and he passed fellow Democratic President Bill Clinton who came in at number 15. But Obama fell short of reaching Republican Party icon, former President Ronald Reagan who settled in at number 9.

“Once again the Big Three are Lincoln, Washington and FDR – as it should be. That Obama came in at number 12 his first time out is quite impressive. And the survey is surprisingly good news for George W. Bush, who shot up a few notches,” presidential historian Douglas Brinkley of Rice University in Houston said.

C-SPAN noted that Obama’s leadership category ratings ranged from number 3 for “pursued equal justice for all,” to number 39 for “relations with Congress.”

Also of note was the biggest “loser” of the survey, Andrew Jackson, who dropped five places since 2009, from 13th to 18th.

Howard University historian, and part of C-SPAN’s advisory team, Edna Greene Medford thought Obama’s ranking should have been higher overall, even noting that his “moral” standing was too low.

“Obama’s favorable rating when he left office would have translated into a higher ranking in this presidential survey. I am especially surprised that he was ranked at 7th in moral authority (despite heading a scandal-free administration); 19th in administrative skills; and 8th in economic management (despite having helped to save the auto industry and significantly reducing unemployment),” she said.

“But, of course, historians prefer to view the past from a distance, and only time will reveal his legacy.”

Reaction to the survey results on social media was mixed, with some believing Obama’s score will continue to rise while others wondered about the liberal academics who were surveyed and their political amnesia.

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Frieda Powers


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