Chicago Sun-Times
The scoop from Washington

C-SPAN 2009 presidential rankings.

| 13 Comments

WASHINGTON--C-SPAN has a new ranking of presidents. Abraham Lincoln is at the top.

TopTen-1.jpg

13 Comments

How can WH Harrison be rated serving only 30 days? Seems GW Bush comes out higher than I would rate him. Guess living through it makes one a bit skewed. He will get worse as times goes on. And deservedly so. Lying about intelligence to start a war, torture, his responsibility for the current economic distress.

These rankings really show a lack of intelligence. How can anyone rate Woodrow Wilson among the Top Ten? He might have lead us through World War I yet he restricted many peoples right and was unsympathetic to women and black rights.

In all honesty, I think Truman was a better president then FDR. I can not deny the fact that FDR was a fantastic president but he failed to get us out of the great depression. It was only when World War II came along that he showed his great leadership. However Truman had extremely low approval ratings but still had the courage to finish World War II and lead us through the Korean War. I doubt any president could drop a nuke on Japan.

George W. Bush has been out of office for a month.... How are you ranking him in the top 3 worst. You obviously lean to the left severely and need to get yourself examined by a doctor.

Buchanan was a much worse president then Bush. He was the reason the civil war dragged out. He basically sat on his hands for six months till Lincoln took office

A bit ridiculous that W. H. Harrison is ranked. He didn't even live a month into office.

- Major flaws in this ranking. I guess its a matter of liberal perspective

I DON'T KNOW ABOUT REAGAN, MR. TRICKLE DOWN
ECONOMICS, HE WRECKED THE COUNTY AS WELL, FOR THE
MIDDLE CLASS, RICH FOLKS LOVE THE GUY, BUT MAIN
STREET SUFFERED GREATLY UNDER MR. REAGAN!

It's so typical of ideologues. If a survey or poll doesn't support their point of view, then it must be bias. I think the C-SPAN survey offers some wonderful insights into the men who have lead our country. Of course, it is easier to evaluate the work of a presidency you've lived through. I've been around since Truman. I think the greatest president we've ever had may be the one we just elected. If he fulfills the promises he made, we could live in a country with a future so bright, we'd have to wear shades.

Peace.

James Monroe was the best President because his policies could be used by the greatest percentage of Presidents with great results. Our country is weakened by a series of presidents redirecting our policies to correct their predecessors' mistakes. This ping-pong game has become terribly ruinous in the last 30 years and prevents any great president from emerging. Monroe was the third president in a row from his party and was able to perfect the policies Jefferson and Madison had to forge from scratch. The era of good feeling was unquestionably the greatest time in our history, the purchase of Florida wonderful, the Missouri Compromise brilliant and the Monroe Doctrine bold and radical. We were at peace and the little economic downslide of 1819 corrected itself without government intervention.

The appalling, tyrannical, racist, self-righteous Woodrow Wilson, who couldn't lead anything is ranked in the top ten? He ruined the country by establishing the Federal Reserve, instituting the Federal Income Tax, getting us involved in a tragic world war in which even Winston Churchill said we had no business being involved, and establishing the failure of a foreign policy that haunts us to this day: that Americans have the God-given right to march into any country in the world, uninvited, and "save it for democracy." He was responsible for increased intolerance against women, blacks, and Mexicans, and was sympathetic to the Ku Klux Klan. For me, Woodrow Wilson is the worst of all the presidents, even worse than his spiritual grandchild George W. Bush. John Tyler and Warren Harding were actually pretty fine presidents if one does factual historical research.

I KNOW THIS IS COMING OUT OF LEFT FIELD, BUT I
OFTEN WONDER WHAT THE COUNTRY WOULD HAVE BEEN LIKE
WITH ROBERT KENNEDY AS PRESIDENT!
HE WAS JUST A VERY KIND MAN, I REMEMBER HIM
SPEAKING IN INDIANA WHEN DR. KING WAS SHOT IN
MEMPHIS, THEN TWO MONTHS LATER, HE WAS TRUELY A
GREAT MAN, HE WILL ALWAYS BE REMEMBERED IN MY
THOUGHTS AND PRAYERS!

As Usual the rankings have a definitive Liberal Bias. Liberals never think their Presidents can never do anything wrong and that Republican Presidents can never do anything right. Guys like Wilson, Kennedy, Johnson, and now Clinton are over-ranked. I am sure that Obama and his supporters will have him ranked near the top when all is said and done also.
I am actually shocked that they have finally put Reagan in the top 10. It is long overdue, but the fact is that he should be higher than 10. Now Bill Clinton at 15 is just a bad joke. No impeached President should ever be in the top 20. Clinton was a failure during the first 2 years of his Presidency and was only successful when the Republicans came into power and he started co-opting their issues (Welfare Reform). That coupled with an economy that came out of recession prior to his taking office coupled with the dot.com boom which increased the economy made him a very lucky boy indeed. However, please note that the recession Bush inherited was a carry over from the Clinton.
JFK is another guy who is way too highly rated. No one doubts he spoke well and inspired people, but sorry you got to do more than that to get in the top 10. To be fair, he was not President long enough to fully know what would have happened if he had lived longer. The fact that his fans have to admit is that he did make mistakes (i.e. Bay of Pigs & Cuban Missile Crises). Now let's look at 2 other Democratic favorites that are rated too high (Wilson & Truman). I think previous comments on this site about Wilson by Mr. Hicks have been made and do not need to be re-iterated. Truman got us into an unpopular War in Korea and had lower approval ratings than Bush when he left office, but of course the Liberals forgive him and Johnson who got us mired in Vietnam. If you are going to attack Bush about Iraq then these two men should be rightfully criticized also.
Finally, let's come to W who the Liberals just love to hate. Funny thing is that in many cases W acted more like a Democrat than a conservative Republican. The only reason his approval ratings were so low is not that over 60 percent of the public hated him like the Liberals think, but because many conservatives were disappointed that he did not always represent the principles they believed in. If he had followed the principles that his supporters believed in then he would never have had such low ratings. The fact is that historians and most left leaning people are just obsessed with hating this guy. Bush ruined the country and the world (give me a break). Do you honestly think that other past Presidents would not have done some of the same things that Bush did under the same circumstances? If you don't think they would of then you are wrong. The fact is that the policies Bush put forward have either been done before or have been looked at by other administrations. How is Guantanamo Bay any worse than the Japanese Internment camps set up by FDR? If Bush had set up camps for all Muslims he would have been rightfully thrown out of office. How is Lincoln suspending Habeas Corpus any different than the Patriot Act? The fact is that Liberals can find very few instances of abuse of the Patriot Act since its creation. I can go on and on about how other Presidents have supposedly abused presidential power. For example: Jackson and the Trail of Tears, Polk and the US Mexican War, the Spanish American War, FDR and the Supreme Court Stacking scheme, etc. Let's be honest now, all Presidents have sought to use the power of the office to push forward their visions for the country.
The blatant hate and gross criticism of Bush are quite unfair. Critics point to things such as lying (not true - even the Democrats believed the intelligence reports) to get us into a War, torture, the handling of the economy, Katrina, etc. Let's deal with these 1) Iraq - No their were no weapons of mass destruction found in Iraq, but the fact also shows that Saddam was a tyrant that was insane, wanted power, and was willing to do anything to gain more power at the expense of his people and those that stood in his way. For years and years we acted like wimps and left this guy twisting in the wind. The fact is that he was a threat to stability in the Middle East in every sense of the word. Too often Liberals think we can coddle tyrants and pacify them. Just look at Hitler’s Germany, Iran, North Korea, Castro’s Cuba, and of course the Cold War. History is filled with failures of appeasement and failed diplomacy. No, we can not take out every tyrant in the world, but history has also taught us that we also can not allow them free reign. The fact is that the world community was weakening and sanctions against Iraq were likely to be removed at some point in the future. Then Saddam would have had free reign to continue his deranged plans for the Middle East. 2) Torture and the Patriot Act - No offense, but the argument that Bush violated the principles of the Constitution and the Geneva Convention are almost laughable. I guarantee you that Bush did no more than what any other past War President has done during times of national crises. If you are going to condemn Bush for protecting the American people by the use of tough interrogation techniques and the Patriot Act then let us also condemn every President because they have all had or supported policies that could be viewed in different ways as violating someone's rights or principles. 3) The Economy - There is no doubt we suffered an economic meltdown in 2008. As President, Bush correctly gets some of the blame. However to say it is his entire fault and that he created it is ridiculous. Yes, he could have handled the past year much better. Despite this it must also be stated that he was a lame duck President with the Democrats in power in the Congress. There is not much any President can do when the cards are stacked against them. If anything his fault was going along with them and not standing by his core values of fiscal responsibility. Also it must be pointed out that for the majority of his term in office Bush had a good economy with a really low unemployment rate. Sorry Liberals the Bush Tax Cuts were a success whether you admit it or not. However, the economy did go down the tubes and yes Bush could have tried harder to stop the things that contributed to the recession (Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, Banks, etc.) which were supported by let's be fair both Democrats and Republicans. 4) Katrina – No offense but the entrenched bureaucracy in the government in Washington, Louisiana, and the city of New Orleans would have made it impossible for any President to deal with the catastrophe that hit the Gulf Coast. Despite this Bush took blame and tried to make changes, but unless you understand the bureaucracy of the government you can not appreciate how hard it is too get anything done. Katrina is a perfect example of what Reagan was talking about when he spoke of the evils of big government. Could Bush have disregarded the rights of the state of Louisiana and sent in troops without their request or went against numerous protocols and laws to get a quicker response? Maybe, but there is also no doubt that if he had it would had the Democrats up in arms about him violating states’ rights, numerous laws, and the Constitution itself. Nobody can or will dispute that Bush made mistakes during his presidency, but to put a 2 term President in the bottom 10 is silly and biased. A fair evaluation would put him in the middle of the pack. Bush's real failure was to think he could work with people who only wanted to lay the blame on him and wanted him to fail from day 1 of his presidency. For every criticism of Bush I can make an equal criticism of almost every other President. The fact is that a fair evaluation of Bush can not be done until after we are all in the grave, if even then. History is truly subjective and evaluation is in every since of the word based on how we individually interpret the principles our country was founded on. What no one can dispute is that Bush did what he thought was right based on the values he believed in.
The fact is that it is easy to hate someone and say they were a failure based on purely partisan reasons, but it is a lot harder to forgive and to look deeper into the men and why they did what they did. I understand the feelings of many towards Bush, because I emotionally feel the very same hate and resentment towards Bill Clinton who I personally felt ruined this country. I admit most of what I have written comes from my own beliefs and the principles I believe in. This is why I think that we all need to take a step back, take a deep breath, and let go of the hate. Our Presidents are human beings who tried their best to do an impossible job to the best of their abilities. They all cared about this nation, its people, its safety, and its betterment. We can reasonably disagree on how they did their job, but we should all agree that they deserve our respect for trying their best. Historians need to do the same. Please step back and reflect before passing judgment on these men who have served our country. Try to understand their feelings, fears, insights, concerns, and reasoning for making the decisions they made and for choosing the paths they chose. I think if you do this fairly, without bias, and with an open heart the decisions on where to rank our Presidents will be more balanced and reasonable to all viewpoints.

I agree very much with what Condor said about the CSPAN rankings. There are two things that I would like to add to his points about George W Bush. The first pertains to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. The solvency issue of these two institutions was brought to the attention of Congress by both President Bush and John McCain and their warnings were ignored. In fact, the Democratic leadership essentially said that all is well and nothing is wrong. All the while the director of these mortgage firms was collecting large bonuses, more than $90M, and cooking the books eventually ending up on the Obama campaign staff. Also, it must be pointed out that these failing government entities managed to come up with enough cash to fund Senator Dodd's, Chairman of the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee, and Barrack Obama's election campaigns. Over a twenty year period, Senator Dodd received the most campaign contributions and Senator Obama the second most and that was over only two years.

Next, lets look at what I consider to be an issue equal to the housing bubble and that is the extreme rise in energy prices over the previous two years. How quickly people forget that when oil is trading at +$145 per barrel, gas +$4.30 per gallon, and diesel at +$5.50 per gallon that this soaked up much of the discretionary income and savings that many families had. When faced with the choice of putting fuel in the gas tank to get to work or operate an eighteen-wheeler, no one can deny that everyone will put the fuel in the tank before they pay their mortgage. If a family is on the edge because their mortgage is too high, then of course you would expect to see an increase in foreclosures. I think that it is very clear that the energy situation provided the catylist that destabilized a precarious house of cards in the housing and banking system made increasingly unstable by Liberal policies that forced banks to lend to people that ordinarily wouldn't have received a loan.

So, lets look at the energy policy of the US or lack of one. And, lets look at who has blocked that energy policy over the past twenty-five to thirty years, the Democrats. I think all sources of energy need to be on the table and utilized by this country. The error that Bush made is allowing Congress to adjourn last year without agreeing on a reasonable energy plan that includes offshore oil, ANWR, nuclear, coal, and renewables. When the country was crippled with high energy costs that jeopardized all aspects of our country's economy and Congress goes on vacation, it is reprehensible. In fact, the only ones left in DC to address the energy issue were the Republicans and the Democrats turned the lights out on them as they were leaving. So, when everyone is busy pointing fingers at how poor a job George W. Bush did as president and how good the Democrats are, just look at who left town last year, including Obama, when the country was hurting the most. Consider how much egg is on the faces of Congressional Democrats, who were in control of Congress the last two years, before you decide how bad a president George W. Bush was.

The rankings seem fairly objective to me; they're based on several categories and scores and are the results of many different historians. The entire world is not a liberal conspiracy against you. Lincoln, the very first REpublican, is the top president in all of the rankings, which some of you seem to be forgetting/ignoring.

On a side note, one poster said that Bush was ranked in the bottom three, where Buchanan needed to be. You might want to look again; Busy is only 36 and Buchanan is the bottom president of them all.

Also - Wilson was influential in the passing of the Nineteenth Amendment, however "unsympathetic" to women he may have been...

William Henry Harrison only served for 30 days and made no major decisions in office. He should not have been ranked at all.

John Fitzgerald Kennedy was given too much benefit of the doubt. He led the country into a spending deficit which carried on to the Johnson Administration. He refused to send air support to the failed BoP invasion and we will never know how he would have handled Vietnam. He needs to be ranked slightly lower.

Lyndon Johnson resulted in unnecessary Vietnam deaths and very very very high inflation and all the good of his administration would've been attributed to Kennedy anyway. He needs to be ranked lower.

George Washington and Thomas Jefferson both owned hundreds of slaves, but they were not knocked down for having low moral integrity as some other presidents have. They need to be ranked lower.

Herbert Hoover was a poor communicator and he started trade wars which worsened the great depression. He truly had no clue of what he was doing. He needs to be ranked lower.

George Walker Bush increased the national deficit by 5 trillion while showing a weak response to both the crippling American economy and Al Qaeda. He needs to be ranked slightly lower.

how can u put reagen so high. the iron curtain would have fallen anyways because of political in fighting, over spending on space race, military, and propaganda, Gorbachev's incompitence, and the sheer fact that the russians and ussr sattelite states were growing sick of an overcontrolling government. also, does nobody remember this little disease called aids that broke out during his tenure, yet he did nothing. he also did nothing to improve the health of children, saying that they got enough vegetables in kethup. now i'm not trashing him because he is republican and i am a democrat, i just hate that people call him so great when in fact he wasn't. also let's not forget the iran-contra affair. he also didn't realize that tax cuts are only a temporary solution, and WILL create problems in the future. let us also not forget the problems of homelessness and women's rights or lack there of at this time. also, if he did such a great job at containing communism back then, why do we have the countries around albania, iran, saudi arabia, iraq, n.korea, etc. reagan was simply at the right place at the right time, and his war was won also because of a good succession of presidents who stayed the course, no matter how much the american public hated them (mostly talking of nixon there). JFK lets not forget also started a war that killed several thousands of americans- the vietnam war. no president is going to be perfect we all realize that, and no decision is going to please everybody, and it isn't an easy job, which is why only 43 people have had it. all in all, the only president who truly failed was buchanan, because he could have fixed a problem had he actually done something. instead he left all his problems to lincoln. but let us also not forget that there were 14 presidents before buchanan who could have done something, as well as the founding fathers and the first congress. also, republicans need to stop claiming lincoln as theirs, that was what, 150 some odd years ago? thanks to FDR, the views of republicans and democrats have changed since then. lincoln actually would be considered more democrat nowadays. also, FDR at least tried to do something unlike hoover during the great depression. even though FDR's new deal is not what actually brought us out the depression, let us not forget that he was the first president to face a depression on this level. and neither truman nor FDR truly won WW2, it was our generals who won. and the only reason truman had the sense to drop the bomb was his advisors urging. he also led us into the cold war because he did not have the same relationship with Stalin as FDR did, granted that was probably Stalin's plan the entire time, so you can't truly blame truman for that. i also want to bring up john adams, who everybody thinks is great, when he actually failed as a president. he was a good revolutionary, but as a president, since he knew he lost his bid for a second term, he fired several high court judges who did not have the same political views which even caused a supreme cour case. i am not fighting for one side or the other, i am just telling it like it is. also, monroe was a good president, making promises he couldn't keep, mostly with the monroe doctrine. the purchase of florida was a given, because spain wasn't using it even though it was theirs, and england was also using it as a base for encouraging indians to attack southern planters. the missouri compromise gives me mixed feelings because yes it did delay a civil war, but he could have solved the problem of slavery right there, and our nation would be even further than it is now with civil rights, and perhaps a black president wouldn't be anything new. and last, the monroe doctrine wasn't even written or thought up by monroe, but by his vice president. and even though it did, it was because none of the european nations simply said up yours. hd they wanted to colonize more, we would not have had the braun to back up our talk, but i do give kutos to him though for having the courage and decisivenessto do so. all in all, we are still a very strong nation, one of the main world super powers, although we are quickly losing our status as THE world power, we still have a lot of pull, although no longer diplomatially or economically, but militarily. i can still say, write, read, go, do, think, practice, believe anything/anywhere so long as it does not infringe on anothers persons rites (no your feelings don't count and nor do i care if i hurt them, you will get over it), and since i still have those rites, all presidents have technically succeeded, just some did it better than others, and others had more challenges than some.

On behalf of the state of Pennsylvania, I would like to apologize for James Buchanan haha.

As an amateur history, I agree with this poll for the most part. The only two gripes I have is that Harrison is on the list (for obvious reasons that have been brought up before on this blog) and the ranking of Truman over JFK. In my opinion, Truman was only ridding off of FDR's great success, remember that the Manhattan Project was already well under way before FDR passed away in office, and the war in European Theater was all but over. As for the Korean War, I believe Truman could have stood up more to MacArthur...hell, he should have just appointed Ridgeway right from the start, Korea might have been a united democracy today had Truman done that.

Kennedy on the other hand, we seem to forget the Cuban Missile Crisis. Their was one right answer to that crisis, and he figured it out.

Leave a comment

Get the Sweet widget

More widgets

Video

Lynn Sweet

Lynn Sweet is a columnist and the Washington Bureau Chief for the Chicago Sun-Times.

Stay in touch

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Lynn Sweet published on February 15, 2009 11:29 AM.

David Axelrod tells NBC's "Meet the Press" host David Gregory about his Washington surprises. Transcript. was the previous entry in this blog.

Obama shoots hoops Sunday at the U. of Chicago. NBA stars critique game with John King on CNN's "State of the Union" is the next entry in this blog.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.