238 presidential scholars: Bush worst president of modern era, fifth worst in US history

By John Byrne
Thursday, July 1, 2010 16:56 EDT
google plus icon
  • Print Friendly and PDF
  • Email this page

It’s one thing for a coterie of liberals at a late-night Washington soirée to say that George W. Bush was the worst president in their lifetimes.

It’s another thing when the same is said by the nation’s 238 leading presidential scholars, who have been polled annually for the last 28 years.

President Bush ranked worst among modern presidents — and the fifth worst in history, according to the poll by the Siena Research Institute. Ranking first? President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who led the country from 1933 until his death in 1945.

President Roosevelt served four terms, the longest of any president in history. US presidents became limited to two terms after US states ratified the 22nd Amendment to the US constitution in 1951.

President Barack Obama, who hasn’t yet served a full term, rated 15th.

Notes Think Progress:

Since 1982, the Siena Research Institute has polled presidential scholars on whom they view to be best and worst presidents in American history, based on a variety of issues from “integrity” to economic stewardship. This year’s poll of 238 scholars found that President Franklin Roosevelt was once again ranked on top, joined by Presidents Lincoln, Jefferson, Washington, and Teddy Roosevelt to complete the top five. However, President George W. Bush did not fare well since the last poll was conducted in 2002. He dropped 16 places to 39th, making him the worst president since Warren Harding died in office in 1923, and one of the bottom five of all time, according to the experts:

“Today, just one year after leaving office, the former president has found himself in the bottom five at 39th rated especially poorly in handling the economy, communication, ability to compromise, foreign policy accomplishments and intelligence. Rounding out the bottom five are four presidents that have held that dubious distinction each time the survey has been conducted: Andrew Johnson, James Buchanan, Warren G. Harding, and Franklin Pierce.”

Bush was rated second from the bottom on “intelligence,” “foreign policy accomplishments,” and “handling of U.S. economy.” This despite promises from Bush supporters that “history will be very kind” to the former president, as his Attorney General John Ashcroft put it. Bush’s father’s legacy “held constant” in this year’s poll, with George H.W. Bush coming in at 22nd. President Reagan “dropped two places from 16th overall in 2002 to 18th today.” President Obama was ranked 15th.

You can read the full PDF of the survey here.

By commenting, you agree to our terms of service
and to abide by our commenting policy.
  • http://www.google.com/profiles/fodderMail86 foddermail86

    Give me a social liberal and a fiscal conservative! Basically a moderate libertarian. Unfortunately Bush had those reversed. The present administration is unique. I think the parallels to FDR are very telling. Few people realize this, but the politics of fascism were a real movement in the 1920′s and 30′s. FDR was the first American leader to embrace economic fascism… “Government restrictions henceforth must be accepted not to hamper individualism but to protect it.” Entrepreneurship must be destroyed to preserve economic individualism? Everyone gave him a pass because of the cataclysmic events of his administration, and I don’t entirely disagree… What’s Obama’s excuse?

    Anyway, Siena Research must really like those policies. Note that FDR’s National Recovery Administration was eventually ruled completely unconstitutional. At the time, he was a savior of the people, yet he was actually taking their liberty in the name of stability and prolonging the depression. He also threw over 100,000 Japanese Americans into internment camps. I kind of get it. The same fear that “justified” water boarding, but it was genocide people… It’s also racist, but you know…

    The man was an emperor in all but title, and his Politburo has been the most successful marketing organization in the history of the free world. Of course one could argue that it was so successful partially because we were less free. There were three television networks and people were generally quite a bit more naïve. For those who have not experienced it, it is difficult to explain the cult of personality the man was. He was literally the father to the nation. He controlled the media and had “fireside chats” with the whole country. He established a personal relationship with millions, and they adored him. If you can find someone alive from that era, talking to them about FDR is a lot like talking to a cultist. …and it all started with economic fascism very similar to what Obama is doing now. Where can I get some Kool-Aid? I’m parched!

  • http://www.google.com/profiles/fodderMail86 foddermail86

    I kind of agree Michael, but I don’t think people are simply looking “down their noses”. They don’t like the “illegal” part of illegal immigration, and all of the problems that exist because these people live outside, or more specifically beneath the system. America needs people come here legally as our equals; not our slaves. Sure if someone is a criminal in their own country, we don’t want them, but if they are honest and want to come here to create something better, they are exactly what we desperately need.

    The problem here is that the very people who profess support for immigrants, who don’t want to control immigration or control the border are actually the problem. They have fostered this culture of exploitation; contemporary American slavery. It is inexcusable. Ironically, those who want to build a wall are doing more of the right thing, though many may want to do so for all of the wrong reasons. What is needed is immigration reform. The path here for documented citizens should be open, and they would eventually melt, while improving America in the process. At one time, the most prevalent language in the US was German. People melt over time, because it makes sense. …Of course we should stop promoting resistance to “melting” by putting everything in Spanish, French, Yiddish or whatever, but that is another issue. We don’t need this place to turn into another EU…