Lincoln Tops Among U.S. Historians
Abraham Lincoln ranks first in leadership skills among the 42 former White House occupants, according a C-SPAN survey of 65 presidential historians released on the eve of the Presidents Day holiday.
It’s a repeat performance for the 16th U.S. president, who also took the top spot in the first ”Historians Presidential Survey” by the cable television network in 2000.
At No. 36, George W. Bush ranks near the bottom of the 2009 survey .
Bush left office after two terms with one of the lowest approval ratings of any president in modern times — under 30 percent. In a series of exit interviews, he said history will take a kinder view of his legacy but only “after some time has passed.”
Bush may be on to something.
Bill Clinton ranked 21 in the 2000 survey. He’s up six spots the new ranking at 15. Ulysses S. Grant also got a significant boost in ranking in 2009.
“All of which goes to show two things: the fluidity with which presidential reputations are judged, and the difficulty of assessing any president who has only just recently left office,” said Richard Norton Smith, Scholar in Residence at George Mason University.
Smith is one of four academics who guided both the 2000 and 2009 surveys. The historians were asked to rate the former leaders in 10 categories ranging from “public persuasion” to “performance within the context of his times.”
James Buchanan, who preceeded Lincoln, is at the bottom of the list. He was president when the United States began splittig apart over the issue of slavery. His White House biography says: “Buchanan grasped inadequately the political realities of the time. ”
And he’s the only president who never married.