Lincoln tops, Clinton moves up, Bush trails in presidential survey

February 17th, 2009 - 12:27 pm ICT by IANS  

Barack ObamaWashington, Feb 17 (IANS) US President Barack Obama’s role model Abraham Lincoln has finished first in a ranking by historians of the 43 former White House occupants with the last one, George W. Bush, finishing 36th.

Bush narrowly edged out the likes of historical also-rans Millard Fillmore, Warren Harding and Franklin Pierce, according to the survey for C-SPAN. James Buchanan - the man who watched helplessly as the US lurched toward civil war in the 1850s - finished last.

The survey’s participants ranked Bush 41st on international relations and 40th on economic management - ahead of only Herbert Hoover.

“As much as is possible, we created a poll that was non-partisan, judicious and fair-minded,” said Rice University professor Douglas Brinkley, who helped organise the survey of 65 historians for the cable television network.

Lincoln finished first in the network’s last survey in 2000 as well. The participants were asked to rank each president on 10 qualities of leadership ranging from public persuasion and economic management to international relations and moral authority.

Founding father George Washington finished second in the new survey, followed by Franklin D. Roosevelt, Theodore Roosevelt and Harry Truman, in that order.

Bill Clinton registered the greatest gain among recent presidents, jumping from 21st to 15th in the survey. Ronald Reagan edged forward from 11th to 10th overall, while George H.W. Bush moved up from 20th to 18th.

The prize for the greatest jump in approval from historians over the last nine years, however, went to a president who has often sat near the bottom of such rankings: Ulysses S. Grant. The Civil War general jumped 10 notches, from 33rd to 23rd.

“Bill Clinton and Ulysses S. Grant aren’t often mentioned in the same sentence - until now,” historian Richard Norton Smith said. “Participants in the latest (survey) have boosted each man significantly higher than in the original survey conducted in 2000.

“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.”

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