This morning we learn that C-SPAN has surveyed historians to again come up with a President’s Day ranking of commanders-in-chief.
Fittingly, for this Abe-a-licious year, the 16th president comes in at #1, with Honest Abe Lincoln retaining his top slot.
He’s followed by George Washington, FDR, Teddy Roosevelt, and Harry S Truman in the top five slots. JFK, Thomas Jefferson, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Woodrow Wilson, and Ronald Reagan finish out the Top Ten.
Second worst — Lincoln’s successor, Andrew Johnson.
Third worst – Franklin Pierce. Fourth worst – William Henry Harrison. Fifth worst – Warren G. Harding. Sixth worst – Millard Fillmore.
And there he is, George W. Bush, ranked as 7th worst. (8th worst is John Tyler.)
Reagan, Clinton and George H.W. Bush have all advanced in rankings since the last time C-SPAN did this survey, in 2000. Bill Clinton back then was ranked 21st; he’s now 15th. Reagan went from 11 to 10. Bush Sr. went from 20 to 18.
Jimmy Carter, interestingly went down — from 22 to 25.
"Bill Clinton and Ulysses S. Grant aren’t often mentioned in the same sentence – until now," said historian Richard Norton Smith. "Participants in the latest C-SPAN survey of presidential historians 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."
This all gives me an excuse to show this video of the late great Peter Jennings asking Bill Clinton about the rankings — in particular about Clinton ranking 41st on "moral authority," behind Richard Nixon. Compelling video.
Happy President’s Day.
We miss you, Peter.