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Presidential Rankings – Just What Are They Ranking?

July 10, 2010

The other night I was looking at the Siena College all time Presidential ratings.  I have to say that I found myself disappointed.  Not disappointed in the results as much because I know that most scholars are very liberal.  But disappointed because these scholars teach the children and young adults of this country and are leading them astray from what actually has made this country great.

Siena used 20 different categories including Leadership, Foreign Accomplishment, Domestic Accomplishments, Luck, and Intelligence, and then rated the presidents from one to forty three in each category.  Since everyone has heard the jokes about GW Bush’s intelligence, we knew that any liberal scholar would take that bait and rate him low there.  OK, whatever.  But when you look at categories such as Executive Ability, Court Appointments, and handling of the US Economy and compare their ratings of Obama (16, 13, and 17) or versus Bush (39, 41, and 42) or even Reagan (20, 31, and 21), I think any reasonable and unbiased observer would find these rating disingenuous at best.  Most people gave Bush high marks for his executive ability and I would take the judicial acumen and Constitutional knowledge of John Roberts or Sam Alito over Sonya Sotomayor or Elena Kagan any time.  Unemployment for most of the Bush years stayed under 6% and for a number of years, hovered around 4.5%.  That rate climbed sharply a little over a year after the Democrats took control of the Congress.  Also, economic growth was very high for a large portion of his two terms and rates were rather low.

Reagan took over what really was the worst economy since the Great Depression after Carter oversaw double digit inflation and 20% inflation.  Not to mention every other problem Carter (and to be fair, Nixon and Johnson created many of those problems – Carter just exacerbated their awful economic policies) left behind.  In addition, Reagan fixed his inherited unemployment problem within two years or so (albeit with it climbing for about a year after enacting his policies).  The reason they were fixed was that Reagan had enacted economic, pro business policies like deregulation and tax cuts which allowed the private sector to grow.  In contrast, nearly two years into the Obama presidency, he has enacted anti-business policies that will cause businesses to stop hiring – a drilling moratorium in the Gulf, health care ‘reform’ that will cost business significantly more than health care did prior, the threat of higher business taxes, and heavy regulation of private businesses while allow partial government entities like Fannie Mae to remain lightly regulated.  Most economists do not expect the economy to grow at all, and many predict a double dip recession.  Obama has made the problem much worse, but is ranked 17th for handling the economy.  I’m just wondering if any of those scholars got good research grants in the last year and improved their own economics…

As for the rest of the presidential ratings, I probably know more than most about presidential history – heck, I can name them in order (without looking) which makes me more knowledgeable than 95% of Americans (not because I’m smarter, just because I’m more interested. I don’t know much about quantum physics or NASCAR because I’m not interested in them), but I certainly don’t know everything about their presidencies.  Not even close.  But it is just so obvious that there are many more ridiculous results of the poll, such as rating Teddy or Franklin Roosevelt above George Washington or the racist and free speech repressing Woodrow Wilson above just about anybody, let alone number eight, that seem to be very simply policy driven.  And that policy driven bias is driven by policies that take away freedoms, plain and simple.  I would be curious to see presidential ratings from a Constitution based perspective, since the President’s main duty is to enforce the laws (that would be the Constitution) of the United States.

I, for one, am betting that Presidents like the Roosevelts and the Wilsons and yes, even the Obamas would fall down that chart just a little.

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