Abraham Lincoln, who preserved the Union and ended slavery, is our greatest president while immediate predecessor James Buchanan, who dithered and dallied while war clouds gathered, is the worst of 43 presidents.
Ronald Reagan, who ended the Cold War without firing a shot and restored Americans’ confidence in themselves, ranks ninth while Barack Obama, who presided over the slowest economic recovery since World War II and failed to live up to his own transformational expectations, ranks 12th.
These are some of the headline findings of C-SPAN’s third survey of historians on presidential leadership, released back in 2017. The survey, following one in 2000 and one in 2009, didn’t include Donald Trump, the 44th man to hold the office.
Who make up the Top 10 presidents on the Presidential Historians Survey? They are, in descending order: Lincoln, George Washington, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Theodore Roosevelt, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Harry Truman, Thomas Jefferson, John F. Kennedy, Reagan, and Lyndon B. Johnson.
Obama followed Woodrow Wilson (at 11) but beat contemporaries Bill Clinton (15) and George W. Bush (33). He also bested James Monroe (13) and James Madison (17).
While in general agreement with my fellow historians (I was honored to be among the 91 experts consulted), I take exception in the following instances: