CHARLOTTE, N.C., February 23, 2015 — A recent poll by the Brookings Institution had some interesting findings in its ranking of U.S. presidents.
Brookings pointed out that each year there are numerous surveys with similar considerations, and each poll must be intrepreted within the parameters of its on methodology.
In ranking President Obama, it was important to consider the fact that he still has roughly two years remaining in his presidency. Views of him will likely morph for better and worse until he moves out of the White House. As Brookings sees it, even George W. Bush remains in the early stages of his legacy. The Institution noted that the standings of both Dwight Eisenhower and Bill Clinton have improved over time as their administrations pass out of recent history and recede from the present.
With those considerations in mind, Brookings rated Barack Obama as the 18th best president out of 44. However, while that number may not have 50 shades of gray, it is close.
Traditionally, Lincoln, Washington and Franklin Roosevelt find themselves in the top tier with Jefferson and Theodore Roosevelt close behind.
The bottom tier consistently includes Harding, Buchanan, Pierce and Hoover.
Brookings reports that presidents who had shortened terms typically did not fare as well as their full-term counterparts. That could account for the overall feeling that while John F. Kennedy’s mystique thrives in the popular imagination, he is considered over-rated by presidential “experts.”
Considering Obama’s relatively high ranking, Brookings noted that he is regarded as one of the worst presidents in history by a 3-1 margin. In addition, over 60 percent of those polled believed Obama’s legacy will be graded as either average, below average or poor; the number of those who ranked him as outstanding has dropped to 6 percent, while those ranking him “average or worse” increased to 71 percent.
One noteworthy item was the consensus that Obama is the second most polarizing president in history. First place went to George W. Bush. Of course, those figures may be skewed due to their close proximity to the present and the more intensive media attention presidents get today.
The most difficult dimension of Obama’s performance to measure may be his effectiveness as president. How you see that is likely to depend on whether you approve of his policies.
Those who support the Obama agenda may generally believe he has accomplished a great deal. He came into office with the promise to “fundamentally change” America, and he certainly accomplished much of that task. We might consider him a success even if we dislike the changes, but we are much more likely to consider him a failure.
A recent e-mail that has been circulating the internet explains precisely this idea.
Says Obama in the message:
“I am not ‘incompetent.’ I am destroying American more quickly than anyone thought possible.
“I am not ‘in over my head.’ I am advancing totalitarianism right under your noses.
“I am not ‘stupid.’ The ‘stupid’ are those who fail to see the danger I bring.
“I am not ‘failing.’ I am succeeding at every goal I have set.
“I am embracing your enemies and rejecting your friends. I am acting lawlessly and unconstitutionally. I am ignoring your Constitution. I am disobeying your laws. Your media is abetting me. Your congress is not stopping me. Those sworn to defend your Constitution are not removing me.
“I am ‘fundamentally transforming the United States of America.’”
Those are not the words of the president, nor are they based upon any criteria that would have been incorporated into the Brookings poll. However, they do reflect the deepest anxieties of many Americans.
With the recent stonewalling by Obama of the term “Islamic extremism” to describe global terror, those anxieties reinforce the negatives trotted out by his detractors. That is not an accident. It is a strategy.
There are 391 members of the American Political Science Association’s Presidents & Executive Politics section who participated in the Brookings survey.
It will be interesting to see how Obama rates over the years as history has more time to become “historic.” Obama has certainly been the most “aloof” president in recent memory. His transparency has been considerably less than promised, other than the fact that he is not difficult to “see through” when analyzing his objectives.
While all presidents are dishonest to some degree or another, it appears that Obama has taken the art of prevarication to new levels. In the meantime, “fundamental change” will continue, and I, for one, will not stop wondering how 26 other presidents could have been worse.
Bob Taylor has been traveling the world for more than 30 years as a writer and award winning television producer focusing on international events, people and cultures around the globe. Taylor is founder of The Magellan Travel Club (www.MagellanTravelClub.com)
Read more of What in the World and Bob Taylor at Communities Digital News. Follow Bob on Twitter @MrPeabod