Monday, February 16, 2009

Presidential Rankings by C-Span

C-Span has put out another ranking of Presidents by 65 Historians. I always enjoy looking at these and wondering how bad our educational system has become. This list is not that different than other lists. Lincoln is first, which alone is enough to make me sick. Washington did beat out FDR for second, but the list is a joke. George W. Bush is 36 and his father rankings 18th. Hard to believe in either case. What makes it worse is that U. S. Grant is ranked 23rd! Are you kidding me? Buchanan comes in last with Andrew Johnson just in front of him.

The answer to these ridiculous rankings is seen when we look at two factors. The voters and the qualifications.

When I first looked at the list of participants I got a little excited as such historians as H.W. Brands and Edward Crapol participated. But a closer look unveils two major problems. For every early American specialist like Willard Sterne Randall there are at least two Civil War historians like Brooks Simpson (former Wofford Professor!!!) and Debra Goodrich, not to mention Andrew Ferguson and James McPherson. In other words, one can expect a high ranking for the Civil War guys and a downgrading of the Founders of America. The other major problem is the addition of Larry Sabato. C-Span must think he is either the greatest man in America or they think we are all idiots. Sabato is Professor of Politics at the University of Virginia. He is not a historian. And he is extraordinarily biased. I admit that all people are biased, but a guy who writes books entitled The Sixth Year Itch: The Rise and Fall of the George W. Bush Presidency, Divided States of America: The Slash and Burn Politics of the 2004 Presidential Election and also writes a political newsletter, not to mention that he worked for Democratic politicians before becoming a professor is clearly over the line. This list then will be completely slanted by Sabato’s liberal left-wing agenda.

The second problem is the areas in which these presidents are ranked. We see things like Moral Authority, Administrative Skills, Vision, and International Relations, which I guess are legitmate. We see the Performance withint the Context of Their Times, which is kind of weird, but I can let it go. Public Persuasion is easier in modern times, but I will give that one a pass as well. Crisis Leadership is going to benefit those who were in a crisis. This may explain why George H.W. Bush gets so high, but this category does little to help poor Millard Fillmore who did not have a crisis to deal with. Then there are couple of categories that are outright biased. Pursued Equal Justice for All is going to slight every President before the Civil War. Economic Management is going to favor liberals and hurt early American Presidents who thought Economic Management to be unconstitutional. Then of course we have the Relations with Congress category. Andrew Johnson is dead last in this category, but is it bad that he fought the Radical Republicans? Sometimes an adversarial relationship with Congress is a sign of a good President not a bad one. Then of course we can wonder why Fidelity to the Constitution is not one of the categories.

Thus when we see the internal bias in the poll, we can understand why the results are so obviously wrong. We can see why FDR (3rd) is so high because people give him credit (wrongfully I might add) for the economy and for crisis management because of WWII. Kennedy (6th) and LBJ (12th) get artificial bumps for Pursuing Justice for All while Jefferson (7th) and Washington (2nd) take hits on that same category. Both of those men are outside the top ten in that particular category. Bill Clinton (15th) in fact is ranked higher than Washington in the Justice For All Category and in the Economic Management he comes in third. It is hard to take seriously a survey that puts Grant and Clinton two of the most corrupt politicians in the top 25 but consigns the only other President even close to as corrupt, Warren Harding, at 38. Clinton is 37th in the Moral Authority beating out Harding, but Grant manages to remain in the top 25. Can you imagine how high Clinton would be if Moral Authority were not a category?

A truly bizarre list. Worthy of noting and then tossing in the trash can.


News Review said...

I agree with the presidential ranking.. I go for Lincoln.. Thank C-SPAN.. Hope that Obama will be motivated about this presidential ranking.. He must also do well to get a good ranking.. I think no one would want that they be ranked the worst, right?..