By Dave Andrusko
Monday was President’s Day and this story obviously should have run that day. Forgive me for being late. But I’m confident you will find the results of a survey of several hundred members of the American Political Science Association on the topic of presidential greatness and President Obama’s current place in history to be fascinating.
The survey was conducted by the Brookings Institution which summarized President Obama’s standing today with scholars (which has changed some over time) but also implicitly contrasted it with the public’s view (which has changed dramatically).
First, a summary conclusion (one of several we’ll look at) about what the scholars had to say:
First, President Obama ranks 18th overall, but beneath the surface of the aggregate figures lurks evidence of significant ambivalence. For example, those who view Obama as one of the worst American presidents outnumber those who view him as one of the best by nearly a 3-1 margin. Similarly, nearly twice as many respondents view Obama as over-rated than do those who consider him under-rated.
“Ambivalence”? That’s hardly the description of those numbers most of US non-scholarly types would choose.
Obama does not perform well on more specific dimensions of presidential greatness, often viewed as average or worse. For example, he is the midpoint in terms of both personal integrity and military skill (e.g., 10th of 19 in both categories), but falls to 11th when it comes to diplomatic skill and 13th with respect to legislative skill.
But the very next sentence captures what will be, I suspect, the enduring paradox of a failed presidency:
Even so, when asked which president should be added as the fifth face of Mt Rushmore, Obama ties with James Madison as the 7th most popular choice.
Mt. Rushmore? With George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, and Theodore Roosevelt?!
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One other quote, courtesy of the Brookings Institute (which is no enemy of President Obama, by the way):
[S]cholars seem to hold Barack Obama in high regard personally, but view his skills and performance as mediocre to poor. Few think of Obama as an excellent president, while many more rate his presidency quite low, with the bulk of experts appearing to give him a passing grade but not one that would get him on the Dean’s list.
Maybe a much better way of putting it would be to say the President merits a “Gentleman’s C.”
As noted at the beginning, according to the Brookings Institute, scholars were more enamored of Mr. Obama as a president in the early years of his presidency, but their declining opinion pales in comparison to Mr. Obama’s fall from grace with the public.
Last July NRL News Today wrote about how in a Quinnipiac University Poll of public opinion, President Obama found himself described as the worst President since World War II! Thirty-three percent found Obama the worst, compared to 35% who tapped Ronald Reagan as the best President in that same time span.
Yet after his job approval rating bottomed out at 38% last September, Mr. Obama’s job approval numbers have now risen to 47% approval as compared to 48% disapproval.
When you figure that one out, do let me know.