145 years since Abraham Lincoln was elected president of the United States, admiration for “Honest Abe” still runs as high as ever. Or at least according to a new survey reported on CNN.com.
The rankings of the survey included the views of presidential historians, who overwhelmingly ranked Lincoln at the top of the list among former presidents. The survey, which was announced to the public over the weekend, didn’t hold such great news for our most recent former president, George W. Bush. Bush II finished 36th in the survey out of 42 US presidents.
In fact, the only presidents with a lower ranking than George W. were Warren Harding, Millard Fillmore, Franklin Pierce and James Buchanan. In fact, Buchanan had the dubious “honor” of finishing dead last in the survey (42nd out of 42). Buchanan, of course, was the president who aimlessly ignored the unrest in the 1850s that led to all-out civil war — a national tragedy that Abraham Lincoln had to clean up.
Some presidential scholars can’t help but point out the similarities between Buchanan’s failed presidency and that of George W. Bush, whose administration floundered while the country edged further toward financial meltdown, and unmasked resentment among former close allies.
But the professor in charge of the survey, Douglas Brinkley of Rice University, claims that the poll was non-partisan and focused entirely on the achievements and failures of each former president, not their political persuasion.
A panel of more than 65 historians took part in the survey, and ranked former presidents on qualities of leadership, economic management, international relations and other key factors that make up a successful presidency.
Abraham Lincoln came out on top in nearly all categories questioned. He was seen to embody the core values of the nation, including integrity, persistence and respect for human rights.
Founding Father George Washington also fared well in the poll, ranking second, while Franklin D. Roosevelt, the only president to ever serve three consecutive terms, finished in the number three spot.
Despite the extremely poor rating of George W. Bush, his father George H. W. Bush actually moved up in this year’s ranking, from number 22 number 18. Likewise, William Jefferson Clinton jumped up an astonishing six places in this year’s survey to finish in the number 15 spot.
Lincoln took office at a time of national emergency, when the very foundation of the country seemed to be crumbling. Presidential historians are already suggesting that Barack Obama has taken office at a very similar time. And, like Lincoln, Obama began as an unknown senator from Illinois, and is known a pragmatist, valuing results over ideology. Of course, only time will tell how President Obama will compare to his predecessors, especially Lincoln.