Presidential Leadership Survey


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So C-Span asked a bunch of historians to rank all 42 of our former presidents, and the results can be found here.

The top ten:

1. Abraham Lincoln
2. George Washington
3. Franklin D. Roosevelt
4. Theodore Roosevelt
5. Harry S. Truman
6. John F. Kennedy
7. Thomas Jefferson
8. Dwight D. Eisenhower
9. Woodrow Wilson
10. Ronald Reagan

And our most recent president:

36. George W. Bush

Agree? Disagree? Have some favorites of your own?


Registered Member
I find it difficult to rank Presidents, as all of them had to master different tasks and often, those who are remembered as especially successful just had the "luck" to be confronted with an important task, while some others may have been brilliant, yet nobody remembers them, because nothing important happened during their presidency.

For example, who would remember Lincoln without the Civil War, or FDR without depression and WW2? Even if they had done a good job?

Also, memory fades with time. I see most of the Presidents on that list are from the 20th century, except for the icons Lincoln, Washington and Jefferson. I suspect many people, even those interested and moderately versed in history, don't even remember most of the pre-20th-century Presidents. So maybe due to this, 20th century Presidents have a bonus (because I'm sure there must have been a few fine in the 19th century as well).

On the other side, I think it's hard finding objective criteria to judge a President, except for how they reacted in difficult situations.

I guess Lincoln and FDR did many things right, considering the hard situations they had to deal with. So I think they deserve a top spot.

I don't understand, though, why JFK is ranked so high and Carter ranked so low in general public opinion. Objectively, I think JFK was not a good President during the short time he was in office, he almost started WW3. And Carter was by far not as bad as you might think, hostage crisis aside -- sure, he wasn't very outstanding either, but at least he didn't fuck up and did not face very important situations.


For a Free Scotland
I certainly didn't like that Reagan was 15 places above Carter. Carter actually has fiscal discipline, The things he accomplished in foreign policy weren't inevitable, and the economic and international problems he faced were mostly by chance or a result of his predecessors.

I assume Reagan's going to go down in subsequent surveys. There's still a very rosy (and not very critical, compared to Carter) view of him, which I assume will lessen as his bigger fans pass away.