Historians rank Obama No. 12; how would you vote?

Roosevelt were ranked as the top three USA presidents in history respectively while Barack Obama entered the rankings in the 12th spot, based on a survey of historians released on Friday.

The panel placed the 44th president just below Woodrow Wilson and just above James Monroe.

Lincoln was followed by George Washington, with the two Roosevelts - Franklin and Theodore - in third and fourth place.

Fisking each of these categories would be fun, but suffice to say that had I taken this poll, Obama earns a one (one being the worst) in each of these categories. Dwight Eisenhower, who moved to fifth from eighth in 2009, replaced Harry Truman, who dropped to sixth.

C-SPAN asked historians to rate each president, on a scale of 1-10, on 10 difference leadership attributes: "Public Persuasion", "Crisis Leadership", "Economic Management", "Moral Authority", "International Relations", "Administrative Skills", "Relations with Congress", "Vision/Setting An Agenda", "Pursued Equal Justice for All", and "Performance Within the Context of His Times". On Friday, the television network released the results of its survey of 91 historians, its third following versions in 2000 and 2009.

"That Obama came in at number 12 his first time out is quite impressive", he said in a press release cited by Politico.

The survey asks historians to rank the presidents on a 1-to-10 scale on 10 qualities of leadership: public persuasion, crisis leadership, economic management, moral authority, worldwide relations, administrative skills, relations with Congress, vision/setting an agenda, pursued equal justice for all and performance within the context of his time. "And the survey is surprisingly good news for George W. Bush, who shot up a few notches" to 33.

A team of academic advisors has guided C-SPAN for each of its three surveys: Dr. Douglas Brinkley, Professor of History at Rice University; Dr. Edna Greene Medford, Professor of History, Howard University; and Richard Norton Smith, presidential historian and biographer. Politico reported that Obama rated high in the category of "equal justice for all", but received low marks for his relationship with Congress. Similarly, the bottom three were the same: Franklin Pierce, Andrew Johnson and, in dead last, James Buchanan. Note that they rank even lower than William Henry Harrison, who served for only one month.

Medford said: "Historians prefer to view the past from a distance, and only time will reveal his legacy". In 2000, the scandal-plagued Grant was ranked in the bottom quarter of all presidents.

If the timing of C-Span's surveys remains constant - it has released the results of polls in 2000, 2009 and 2017 - United States politics buffs can look forward to learning historians' hot takes on Donald Trump's presidency in 2020 or 2021.

  • Jon Douglas