Brian Birdnow

On July 1st, just in time for the Independence Day holiday, the Siena Research Institute released their findings of an extensive survey of historians, political scientists, and barristers concerning the “rankings” of the American Presidents. (In the interest of full disclosure your Townhall columnist participated in the survey.) The survey participants were asked to assign numerical rankings to each of the forty-three Presidents in twenty specific categories, and to offer a final numerical evaluation of each of the chief executives. The institute then sifted all of the data and came up with the final rankings. The general public might greet such news with a shrug and ask “Why”? Admittedly, these rankings mean little in the concrete sense and will surely not change many minds. Each of the living ex-Presidents, however, acutely aware of their images and legacy, would prefer a higher ranking in a survey of this sort than a lower ranking. Primarily these rankings serve as fodder for the chattering classes and also supply the raw material for many delightful arguments.

Before we take a look at the rankings themselves, we need to establish a few basic precepts. It is a well-established fact that most academic historians and political scientists flock toward the left wing and are generally not reluctant to admit to being liberals. In fact, one portside historian, who shall remain nameless, has developed a lucrative side job by traveling the country and leading seminars entitled, “Is George W. Bush the Worst President in American History? This same historian emerged in 1998 as the leader of an informal cabal called the “Historians Against Impeachment” arguing, of course, that President Clinton’s misdeeds warranted no more than a scolding from the Congress. In all fairness, however, this particular historian has given Ronald Reagan a generally positive hearing in his latest work. All things considered, though, these survey rankings say more about the biases of the participants and the liberal slant of academia than they say about the Presidents they are ranking.

Glenn Beck

The Siena Research Survey’s Top Five Presidents are:

1. Franklin Delano Roosevelt

2. Theodore Roosevelt

3. Abraham Lincoln

4. George Washington

5. Thomas Jefferson


Brian Birdnow

Brian E. Birdnow is a historian and teaches at a university in the St. Louis area.