Lincoln tops C-SPAN presidents – George W. not in bottom 5 yet!

February 16, 2009

(ChattahBox) — C-SPAN today released the results of its second Historians Survey of Presidential Leadership, timed for Presidents Day 2009, in which a cross-section of 65 presidential historians ranked the 42 former occupants of the White House on ten attributes of leadership.

As in C-SPAN’s first such survey, released in 2000, Abraham Lincoln on his 200th birthday received top billing among the historians. George Washington placed second, while spots three through five were held by Franklin D. Roosevelt, Theodore Roosevelt, and Harry Truman, in that order.George W. Bush ranked 36th overall out of the 42 men who have served as President of the US. While even Hoover fares higher, Bush’s “legacy” bests only those of Fillmore, Harding, Harrison, Pierce, Johnson and Buchanan. The presidency of James Buchanan, the only American bachelor president and, the 15th president, from Pennsylvania, is consistently rated as the worst ever for his failure to avert the Civil War.

Meanwhile–Clinton, Kennedy and Reagan remain in the top 20. Among other recent Presidents, Bill Clinton who was ranked 21 in the 2000 survey, advanced six spots in 2009 to an overall ranking of 15; Ronald Reagan moved from 11 to 10; George H.W. Bush went from 20 to 18, and Jimmy Carter’s ranking declined from 22 to 25.

The roster of historians participating in the ranking — which was conducted in December and January and released to coincide with the Presidents Day holiday — included Douglas Brinkley, Richard Norton Smith, Robert Dallek, Edna Medford, Stephen Hess and Lou Cannon.

“As much as possible, we created a poll that was non-partisan, judicious and fair-minded,” Brinkley said, “and it’s fitting that for the 200th birthday of Abraham Lincoln that he remains at the top of these presidential rankings.”

Presidents were ranked for such considerations as public persuasion, moral authority, relations with Congress, crisis leadership and international relations.

The bottom five overall were Warren Harding, William Henry Harrison, Franklin Pierce, Andrew Johnson and James Buchanan.

Full rankings for each of the 42 presidents are available at:


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