Thomas Lucente: C-SPAN’s ranking of presidents fails again

By Thomas J. Lucente Jr. - [email protected]


See past columns by Thomas J. Lucente Jr. at

Here we go again.

For the third time C-SPAN has decided to publish a ludicrous ranking of U.S. presidents and I am forced to donate my weekly 700 words to the destruction of the same.

The list was compiled from a survey of 91 “historians,” who were asked to rank the 43 presidents in 10 categories.

I will destroy the list in this single paragraph. The remaining 642 words will simply be window dressing. The only evidence you need to prove that this list says more about the leftist nature of the academy than it does about actual presidential accomplishments is that Barack Obama was ranked the 12th best president in U.S. history.


As the kids on the internet say these days: LOL!

It is extremely difficult to take any list — or any person for that matter — seriously that lists Obama as 12th out of 43.

That puts Obama above the likes of Andrew Jackson, John Adams, Grover Cleveland, James Madison.

Obama should have been sitting squarely in the bottom quartile, where the so-called historians placed George W. Bush.

Seriously, a simple comparison between Bush and Obama demonstrates unequivocally that wherever you wish to place Obama, it has to be below Bush.

Economically, Obama was certainly one of the worst presidents ever. His economic growth rate was significantly worse than Bush’s and even worse than Jimmy Carter’s. Obama’s spending and borrowing was not only irresponsible but downright criminal. He stole vast amounts of wealth from a whole generation of Americans, maybe more.

But, alas, it is easy to see how the list was compiled.

When you ask a bunch of left-wing academics who they think were the greatest presidents, of course they are going to choose those who expanded government and reduced liberty.

These historians believe a president who does not act with the force of the federal government to solve some perceived problem is not doing his job.

Case in point: Abraham Lincoln ranked first. While unsurprising, it is still disappointing. U.S. historians have always been enamored of the widow maker. That is what happens with 150 years of indoctrination in government schools. It’s hard to fathom that a man who wiped out 2 percent of the American population should be considered the greatest president ever.

Behind Lincoln, we have George Washington, Franklin Roosevelt, Theodore Roosevelt, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Harry S. Truman, Thomas Jefferson, John F. Kennedy, Ronald Reagan and Lyndon Johnson.

One would expect that a poll of ordinary Americans would find so many 20th century presidents in the top 10 given that a large percentage of Americans would be hard-pressed to name three 19th century presidents, but you would expect historians to be a little more knowledgeable. The only 20th century president who should have made the top 10 list was Reagan and perhaps Calvin Coolidge.

Others who should have been in or near the top quartile include (in no particular order) Grover Cleveland, James Madison, John Tyler, Martin Van Buren, Rutherford B. Hayes, and Zachary Taylor.

Rating James Buchanan last for the third time was also baffling.

Buchanan’s character was unimpeachable. He would purchase slaves in Washington and free them in Pennsylvania. He was so concerned about even the appearance of conflict of interest that he declined all offers of free transportation passes.

Buchanan was clear on the idea of states’ rights and was naturally suspicious of efforts to expand federal control over the states. After the Southern states seceded from the Union, Buchanan understood that the federal government lacked the constitutional authority to force any state to remain in the Union.

Another problem with the poll was Thomas Jefferson’s placement. I was dumbfounded to find Jefferson ranked seventh — below Truman, Eisenhower and both Roosevelts. Rating Jefferson below those big-government statists is a slap in the face to the American concept of limited government.

Another mystery was placing John F. Kennedy as eighth best. Kennedy is most overrated president in history.

Finally, that Bill Clinton, the only elected president to be impeached, was ranked 15th simply boggles the mind.

Americans should ignore this blatantly leftist list and chalk the whole thing up as another wasted academic exercise.

By Thomas J. Lucente Jr.

[email protected]


See past columns by Thomas J. Lucente Jr. at

Thomas J. Lucente Jr. is an attorney with the Hearn Law Office in Wapakoneta (419-738-8171) and night editor of The Lima News. Reach him by telephone at 567-242-0398, by email at [email protected], or on Twitter @ThomasLucente.

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