Poll of Historians Ranks Obama Close to the Top Among Presidents

That scary sound you hear is dozens of rightie bloggers’ heads, exploding:

George W. Bush was no FDR, but Barack Obama could be.

That’s the verdict of 238 of the nation’s leading presidential scholars, who – for a fifth time – rated Franklin Delano Roosevelt the best president ever in the latest Siena College Research Institute poll.

In office for barely two years, Obama entered the survey in the 15th position – two spots behind Bill Clinton and three spots ahead of Ronald Reagan.

Obama got high marks for intelligence, ability to communicate and imagination, but his score was dragged down by his relative lack of experience and family background.

“Most of the presidents came from elite backgrounds, and he certainly did not,” said professor Douglas Lonnstrom, who crunched the numbers. “He grew up without a father.”

By contrast, Bush’s dad was our 41st president, George H.W. Bush, who came in 22nd in the poll.

And yet, the scholars rated Dubya a dud as a president, ranking him in the bottom five at 39th place.

That’s a steep drop from 23rd place, which is where Bush ranked when he entered the survey after his first year in office.

Bush got docked for saddling Obama with two bloody wars and a recession, and he got low marks for “ability to compromise, foreign policy accomplishments and intelligence,” according to the survey.

Cassy Fiano is baffled — why would anyone past the age of five need to have an imagination, and why is intelligence important?

Cassy, I would try to explain it to you, but I’m not sure I know how to explain why intelligence is important to someone who… doesn’t understand why intelligence is important.

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7 Comments

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7 responses to “Poll of Historians Ranks Obama Close to the Top Among Presidents

  1. Why was Reagan rated so high? He was almost as bad as Bush.

  2. Yeah, good point; I don’t know. A guess would be, maybe because he was a better communicator (too good; he made things up!). He was very popular, so maybe that made him better in their minds. His policies and the consequences of them were as bad as Bush’s, but I do think just on the level of basic intelligence and ability to speak he was better than Bush. He was an actor, after all.

    I also have to say, Ben, that as much as I despised Reagan as president, I don’t think that he did the *lasting* damage to U.S. national security, our reputation in the world, etc., that Bush did. Tax cuts for the wealthy can be reversed much more easily than the long-term effects of a legacy of torture and dismantling the Constitution.

  3. Libs are funny. Cassy posed a reasonable question which you chose to avoid, about why imagination is important in a President. And then followed it up with a perfectly valid point about intelligence: Once you get it defined along a single axis, which is no mean trick by any means, the correlation between superior intellect and quality leadership tends to weaken. The lib response? Drop a one-liner and call ‘er good.

    It must be a relaxing way to do one’s thinking: Every argument is “won” by means of a Bill Maher punchline, and the day’s work is always done before it’s even started. When your survival depends on something that can only be butchered, harvested, assembled, manufactured or designed by someone taking the time to do real thinking, you just rely on a good conservative to bring it to you.

    Regarding Holy Man. We’re going to see some beneficial effects of this alleged intelligence any day now, right? The oil-covered pelicans are wanting to know.

  4. Actually, I did not “avoid” Cassy’s question about imagination — I pointed to it as one of the two qualities Cassy doesn’t think matter in a president, the other one being intelligence.

    I don’t quite understand how singling out those two qualities — imagination and intelligence — indicate that I “avoided” one of them, but whatever.

    I do not agree that Cassy’s remark about the unimportance of imagination in a president was “reasonable.” It’s not as if she said, or suggested, that imagination was LESS important than other qualities. She basically made it clear she thinks it’s a totally unnecessary quality, and ridiculous even to consider as a desirable quality.

    It doesn’t surprise me that she does not value imagination as a quality that can enhance a president’s (or anyone’s) effectiveness as a leader, given that she defines imagination solely as the ability to make things up or invent fairy tales or story book plots. That’s an extremely narrow and limited idea of what imagination is. “Maybe in a kindergartner”? How about in an inventor or a scientist or a novelist — or maybe even in a world leader?

    Imagination is also as it happens an important ingredient in intelligence. It’s not an ironclad rule, but generally speaking, highly intelligent people usually are imaginative people as well.

    I’m probably giving both you and Cassy a much more thoughtful answer than you deserve or could value, but hey that’s me.

  5. Thoughtful? Well it’s an imaginative answer, that’s for sure.

    1 a : of, relating to, or characterized by imagination b : devoid of truth : false
    2 : given to imagining : having a lively imagination
    3 : of or relating to images; especially : showing a command of imagery

    So yeah, based on this it does seem “reasonable” that Cassy would call this into question as a desirable attribute. I think most people would agree with that.

  6. Pingback: Cassy Fiano » Memo For File CXIX

  7. Cylar

    The fact that some of you rate a man who’s looted $1.5 trillion from the US taxpayer (and done little else)….ahead of a man who defeated the USSR (the worst enemy of peace and freedom the world has ever known)….

    …well, that kind of tells me what I need to know. That these scholars are fools, and that some of you are fools for agreeing with them.

    And you know what they say about arguing with a fool, right?

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