It’s Presidents’ Day!

And what better way for President Trump to celebrate a national emergency than unwinding for a three-day weekend at Mar-a-Lago playing golf!

Courtesy Dan Piraro,

How does President Trump rank among his predecessors? Okay, we all know he wouldn’t make the top ten… twenty… or even thirty, but where does he align?

Wikipedia compiled several lists from historians to public opinion polls. “The rankings,” they say, “focus on the presidential achievements, leadership qualities, failures and faults.”

In 2000, The Wall Street Journal and The Federalist Society “asked a panel of two historians, two law professors and two political scientists to select a group of prominent scholars to be surveyed in an effort to reflect the range of scholarly opinion, [of the 39 presidents, at the time],” writes James Lindgren and Steven G. Calabresi.

There ranking followed a progression from “Great” to “Failure.”

Great: 1. George Washington; 2. Abraham Lincoln; 3. Franklin Roosevelt.

Near Great: 4. Thomas Jefferson; 5. Theodore Roosevelt; 6. Andrew Jackson; 7. Harry Truman; 8. Ronald Reagan; 9. Dwight Eisenhower; 10. James Polk; 11. Woodrow Wilson.

Above Average: 12. Grover Cleveland; 13. John Adams; 14. William McKinley; 15. James Madison; 16. James Monroe; 17. Lyndon Johnson; 18. John Kennedy.

Average: 19. William Taft; 20. John Quincy Adams; 21. George Bush; 22. Rutherford Hayes; 23. Martin Van Buren; 24. William Clinton; 25. Calvin Coolidge; 26. Chester Arthur.

Below Average: 27. Benjamin Harrison; 28. Gerald Ford; 29. Herbert Hoover; 30. Jimmy Carter; 31. Zachary Taylor; 32. Ulysses Grant; 33. Richard Nixon; 34. John Tyler; 35. Millard Fillmore.

Failure: 36. Andrew Johnson; 37. Franklin Pierce; 38. Warren Harding; 39. James Buchanan.

(William Harrison and James Garfield, whose terms were very brief, are not ranked.)

In 2007, Rasmussen conducted a public opinion poll. Their “favorability” ranks the top three as Washington, Lincoln and Jefferson. However, the public seems to be giving Buchanan a boost by removing him from the cellar and moving him up, eighth from the bottom.

C-SPAN‘s, (Cable-Satellite Public Affairs Network), Survey of Presidential Leadership in 2017 utilizes rankings from an assembly of presidential historians and biographers. Their criteria focused on 10 individual leadership characteristics: public persuasion; crisis leadership; economic management; moral authority; international relations; administrative skills; relations with Congress; vision/setting an agenda; pursed equal justice for all; and performance with context of the times.

Not surprisingly, the top three were Lincoln, Washington and Franklin Roosevelt, all of whom faced extraordinary tests of character and courage during their times in office.

The bottom three: Franklin Pearce, Andrew Johnson and James Buchanan. The last for his incompetent leadership in the lead-up to the Civil War.

Quinnipiac University is the most recent public opinion poll (Mar. 2018) ranking presidents best to worst since the end of World War II.

“American voters,” Quinnipiac says, “give Trump a negative 38 – 56 percent approval rating. There are wide gender and racial gaps. Men approve 44 percent, with 49 percent disapproving. Women disapprove 62 – 33 percent. White voters are divided 47 – 48 percent. Disapproval is 86 – 7 percent among black voters and 68 – 24 percent among Hispanic voters.

“President Donald Trump’s best card, perhaps his only card, remains the economy where he is close to break-even. He’s tanking on foreign policy and he draws even more fire on his handling of Russian President Vladimir Putin,” said Tim Malloy, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Poll.

“In 73 years, 13 men have governed from behind the Resolute Desk in the Oval Office and none of them have done so with less admiration from the American people. …

“Among all voters, 36 percent say the Russian interference changed the outcome of the election, while 28 percent say the Russian government tried but failed to change the outcome. Special Counsel Robert Mueller is conducting a fair investigation into possible links between the Russian government and the Trump campaign, voters say 58 – 28 percent.

“This is a legitimate investigation, 53 percent of voters say, as 42 percent say it is a political witch-hunt.”

Do these polls have any significance?

In a 2011 article, former White House counsel for Richard Nixon, John Dean, writes, “Ranking presidential greatness is a parlor game for presidential scholars. Who else can distinguish the relative greatness of any outside their memory? …

“These rankings do make one interesting point,” Dean says. “One man has been consistently found to be ‘great’ for each century in our nation’s history: George Washington for the 18th, Abraham Lincoln for the 19th, and Franklin Roosevelt for the 20th.

“The constancy of this judgment over almost a half century is very striking, given the diversity of criteria, and the uniqueness of each judging panel. It unquestionably shows that these three figures have established our norms for presidential greatness: They set the standard to which the wise and honest can repair.”

1 comment… add one
  • Gary Lange February 19, 2019, 2:44 pm

    Your overview line says it: “President Trump to celebrate a national emergency than unwinding for a three-day weekend at Mar-a-Lago playing golf!”

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