Obama trumps Reagan, academics say in survey
“Real, grown-up historians know that you can’t tell how successful a president has been after just 18 months of his term. The smart historians know that presidential terms last for four years and some for eight years. The ones who got high SAT scores know that,” he said.
The White House declined to comment on the survey, with a spokesman saying they’ll leave those sorts of evaluations to historians.
A similar controversy came up after Mr. Obama was awarded the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize with his nomination coming less than two weeks after taking office.
The White House said at the time it was surprised by that award. And in his acceptance speech in Norway, Mr. Obama acknowledged “considerable controversy” over the award based on his being “at the beginning, and not the end, of my labors on the world stage,” and said that compared to some of the other laureates, “my accomplishments are slight.”
Since 1982, the Loudonville, N.Y., college periodically has asked historians and other scholars to rank American presidents on 20 categories. These include “personal attributes” such as imagination, integrity, intelligence and willingness to take risks; “ability,” such as leadership and communication; and “accomplishments,” such as economic, foreign policy and working with Congress.
Mr. Obama ranked highly on imagination (sixth place), communication ability (seventh place) and intelligence (eighth place), and ended up ranked overall as the 15th-best president.
Tom Kelly, an American history professor emeritus at Siena and co-founder of the survey, attributed the stability of the results at the top to the fact that “it takes about 25 to 50 years” for a U.S. president to “settle in” to his place in history.
For instance, when Harry S. Truman and Dwight D. Eisenhower left office, they were both considered unsuccessful, he said. But as events unfolded and more research was conducted into their administrations, both Truman and Eisenhower entered the “top 10” rankings.
The Siena survey, he added, is sent to some 2,200 college department heads, who then pass it to those who are best qualified to assess presidents. The survey is quite detailed and takes several hours to fill out, Mr. Kelly added.
As for Mount Rushmore, it seems unlikely that a new face will be added anytime soon.
In 1999, there was talk among some Republicans to add Reagan to the iconic landmark, but critics said there was no room for a fifth face, and any new construction would endanger the fragile structure.
“Ronald Reagan defeated the Soviet Union without a war; Ronald Reagan turned the economy around; Ronald Reagan ended double-digit inflation … he laid the groundwork for 20 years of prosperity,” he said. “And the defeat of the Soviet Union is not an accomplishment that could be reversed.”
Theres also no indication the public would join the scholars in naming FDR as the most deserving addition to Mount Rushmore.
A November 2009 online poll taken by “60 Minutes” and Vanity Fair magazine asked which of seven presidents should be added to Mount Rushmore.
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