While George W. Bush departed office with historically low popularity ratings and an economy in full retreat, not everyone considers him the worst President to have ever occupied the office. C-SPAN assembled a panel of 65 historians or professional observers of Presidents, who rated the Presidents in ten different areas and came up with composite scores for each one. Read C-SPAN's news release HERE; media stories published by CNN and the Deseret News.
And to little surprise, they rated Abraham Lincoln as the best President in American history, with George Washington a close second. However, George W. Bush came off better than many expected, finishing 36th. Bush's detailed profile can be found HERE.
His stronger points included Crisis Leadership, Vision/Setting An Agenda, and Pursued Equal Justice For All, reflecting the skills demonstrated after the 9-11 attacks, although this may have been dampened somewhat by the protracted conflict in Iraq. His weaker points, as expected, were Economic Management and International Relations. He trusted the corporations way too freely, and his ham-handed execution of foreign policy needlessly turned many nations against us. In particular, he mishandled Russia. Overall, their assessment of Bush appears to be fair, although the passage of time may improve the assessment.
And in some cases, the passage of time resulted in some dramatic improvements. Since the last survey in 2000, Ulysses S. Grant dramatically jumped from #33 to #23, while Bill Clinton more modestly jumped from #21 to #15. In contrast, Rutherford B. Hayes declined from #26 to #33. C-SPAN's discussion on Washington Journal recorded on YouTube and embedded below (56 minutes):
Here's the overall list of Presidents, with their composite scores and ratings (click on the President's name to view the individual profile). I also provide my assessment on the rating:
(1). Abraham Lincoln: 902. Agreed.
(2). George Washington: 854. Agreed.
(3). Franklin D. Roosevelt: 837. Overrated.
(4). Theodore Roosevelt: 781. Agreed.
(5). Harry S. Truman: 708. Agreed.
(6). John F. Kennedy: 701. Overrated.
(7). Thomas Jefferson: 698. Agreed.
(8). Dwight D. Eisenhower: 689. Agreed.
(9). Woodrow Wilson: 683. Overrated.
(10). Ronald Reagan: 671. Underrated.
(11). Lyndon B. Johnson: 641. Grossly Overrated.
(12). James K. Polk: 606. Overrated.
(13). Andrew Jackson:606. Underrated.
(14). James Monroe: 605. Agreed.
(15). Bill Clinton: 605. Grossly Overrated.
(16). William McKinley: 599. Overrated.
(17). John Adams: 545. Agreed.
(18). George H. W. Bush: 542. Overrated.
(19). John Quincy Adams: 542. Agreed.
(20). James Madison: 535. Agreed.
(21). Grover Cleveland: 523. Agreed.
(22). Gerald R. Ford: 509. Agreed.
(23). Ulysses S. Grant: 490. Overrated.
(24). William Howard Taft: 485. Agreed.
(25). Jimmy Carter: 474. Overrated.
(26). Calvin Coolidge: 469. Agreed.
(27). Richard M. Nixon: 450. Underrated.
(28). James A. Garfield: 445. Overrated.
(29). Zachary Taylor: 443. Overrated.
(30). Benjamin Harrison: 442. Agreed.
(31). Martin Van Buren: 435. Agreed.
(32). Chester A. Arthur: 420. Agreed.
(33). Rutherford B. Hayes: 409. Underrated.
(34). Herbert Hoover: 389. Agreed.
(35). John Tyler: 372. Agreed.
(36). George W. Bush: 362. Agreed.
(37). Millard Fillmore: 351. Agreed.
(38). Warren G. Harding: 327. Agreed.
(39). William Henry Harrison: 324. Agreed.
(40). Franklin D. Pierce: 287. Agreed.
(41): Andrew Johnson: 258. Underrated.
(42): James Buchanan: 227. Agreed.
The History News Network also agrees that Kennedy was overrated, but they have a higher opinion of LBJ than I do. LBJ's Great Society didn't work, and he bogused us into Vietnam with the phony Gulf of Tonkin Incident. Their assessment of the Clinton Presidency is interesting and thought-provoking.
In the final analysis, history will be kinder to George W. Bush than we are, but he will most likely remain among the bottom third of U.S. Presidents.