C-SPAN historians decide Obama is the 12th-best president in American history

C-SPAN historians decide Obama is the 12th-best president in American history
Brendan SmialowskiAFP/Getty Images

A panel of 91 historians and executive branch experts at C-SPAN have decided that former President Barack Obama is the 12th-best president in American history.

In the list of 43 former commanders-in-chief, Obama is wedged right under former President Woodrow Wilson, a Democrat, and right above former President James Monroe, who was a member of the Democratic-Republican Party founded by former Presidents Thomas Jefferson and James Madison.

Former President Abraham Lincoln has earned the No. 1 spot since 2000, when C-SPAN conducted its first Historians Survey of Presidential Leadership.

According to a network press release, the experts who participated in the survey were asked to rank the former presidents on a scale of one-to-10 on 10 different “qualities of presidential leadership,” which included “moral authority,” “crisis leadership,” “economic management” and “relations with Congress,” among other things.

“Once again the Big Three are Lincoln, Washington and FDR — as it should be,” presidential historian Douglas Brinkley of Rice University in Houston said, adding, “That Obama came in at No. 12 his first time out is quite impressive.”

But not everyone on the panel felt that way about the most recent ex-president. Howard University historian Edna Greene Medford, who participated in the survey, thought Obama deserved a higher ranking on the list.

“Although 12th is a respectable overall ranking,” she said, “one would have thought that former President Obama’s favorable rating when he left office would have translated into a higher ranking in this presidential survey.”

“But, of course, historians prefer to view the past from a distance,” she admitted, “and only time will reveal his legacy.”

When he left the White House on Jan. 20, Obama’s approval rating was slightly above 57 percent, according to the RealClearPolitics polling averages.

While Obama greatly outranks former President George W. Bush (No. 33) and surpasses fellow Democratic President Bill Clinton (No. 15), he was unable to best former President Ronald Reagan (No. 9), a darling of the Republican Party.

It is worth noting, given President Donald Trump’s affinity for former President Andrew Jackson, whose portrait hangs next to the Resolute desk in the Oval Office, that the 19th century populist has plunged five places since 2009, from 13th to 18th.

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