- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 1, 2010

Franklin D. Roosevelt again topped the Siena College survey of the best U.S. presidents, but the man sitting in the White House fewer than 18 months has cracked the Top 15.

While the New Deal icon still enchants, and even bested the faces on Mount Rushmore, President Obama ranks 15th among the 44 U.S. presidents - ahead of, among others, Ronald Reagan.

For the fifth time in the five editions of the Siena College Research Institute Survey of U.S. Presidents, Roosevelt tops the list of best U.S. presidents, the school said Thursday.

Theodore Roosevelt, Abraham Lincoln, George Washington and Thomas Jefferson - the four faces of Mount Rushmore - finished behind the president who led America through World War II and the Great Depression, according to 238 historians, presidential scholars and political scientists who participated.

“In nearly 30 years, the same five presidents have occupied the first five places, with only a slight shuffling,” said Douglas Lonnstrom, a professor of statistics at Siena College and co-founder of the study.

The 2010 survey included Mr. Obama and gave him a surprisingly strong showing - in the top third of the pack and ahead of the 18th-ranked Reagan. And Mr. Obama wasn’t even tops among living Democrats - that honor went to 13th-ranked Bill Clinton, one of only two presidents ever to be impeached.

The other was the nation’s 17th president - Andrew Johnson - who finished last in the survey.

But it was Mr. Obama’s placement above Reagan that immediately prompted criticism and/or derision from conservatives and Reagan devotees.

Melissa Giller, director of the Reagan Foundation, which runs the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum in Simi Valley, Calif., downplayed the results’ importance, saying, “We see a lot of presidential polls and find they can be very subjective.”

None of the Siena surveys have ever placed Reagan in the Top 10.

One recent poll “ranked President Reagan No. 1, and another ranked him No. 2,” she said. “So he’s still very popular, very top of the mind … he helped end the Cold War and bring pride back to America.”

Grover Norquist, chairman of the Reagan Legacy Project, was much more critical, ridiculing the judgment of “a bunch of so-called historians,” and saying that while “putting him below Bill Clinton makes sense. Putting him above Ronald Reagan does not.”

He called the result “kind of silly” and “so much driven by people’s prejudices.”

While Mr. Norquist was critical of the current president’s policies and noted his declining popularity, he said Mr. Obama simply should not have been included in the survey at all.

“You can say ‘it’s too early to judge,’ ” he said. “That would be defensible.”

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