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Historians rank Obama as 12th best President ever

Slightly ahead of Clinton and both Bushes, but behind the big guns like Washington and Lincoln

Jon Sharman
Sunday 19 February 2017 21:27 GMT
Historians have decided Obama was the 12th best President ever

Historians have voted Barack Obama the 12th best President in US history.

C-Span surveyed nearly 100 presidential historians who ranked the former leader highly in several categories.

They said Mr Obama performed well on areas including economic management, and also in "pursuing justice for all", in which he ranked third among all presidents.

But he placed only 39th for his relationship with Congress and 24th for international relations.

His predecessor George W Bush ranked 33rd overall, up three places since 2009, while Bill Clinton came in at 15th. Abraham Lincoln took the top spot, followed by George Washington and Franklin Roosevelt. Teddy Roosevelt and Dwight Eisenhower rounded out the top five in the third survey of its kind.

Mr Obama ranked 12th in the "setting an agenda category", 15th for crisis leadership and seventh for moral authority.

Historian Richard Norton Smith, one of the academic advisers for the survey, said: "The golden age of the American presidency, according to this survey, is 1933 to 1969.

"Five presidents from this era each rank in the top 10 which tells you something about the criteria that historians tend to use.

"It reinforces Franklin Roosevelt's claim to be not only the first modern president but the man who, in reinventing the office, also established the criteria by which we judge our leaders."

Dr Edna Green Medford, of Howard University, said: "Although 12th is a respectable overall ranking, one would have thought that former President Obama’s favourable 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, and only time will reveal his legacy."

If the timing of C-Span's surveys remains constant — it has released the results of polls in 2000, 2009 and 2017 — US politics buffs can look forward to learning historians' hot takes on Donald Trump's presidency in 2020 or 2021.

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