SCHOLARS RANK THE BEST AND WORST U.S. PRESIDENTS
The University of Illinois at Chicago recently gathered a nationwide panel of 75 distinguished scholars to explore the characteristics of what separates the great presidents from the not-so-greats and complete a survey that evaluates presidential leadership, job performance and historical impact.
The survey will be discussed in detail at the two-day symposium, "The Modern Presidency: FDR to Clinton," Oct. 13-14 at the Chicago Illini Union, 828 S. Wolcott Ave. Free and open to the public, the symposium will provide voters with a timely discussion of the limitations and possibilities in modern America.
"This study evaluates the effectiveness of the modern presidents, in a more objective and scholarly approach to analyzing performance in office," said Fred Beuttler, associate UIC historian. "By examining several facets, we hope to provide better and broader criteria for judging past presidents, which hopefully will help the public in this upcoming election."
Scholars were asked to choose the 10 best chief executives and rate 39 presidents on a five-point rating system in five categories -- leadership, foreign policy, domestic policy, character and impact. The overall ranking is based on the total.
"The polls show that many scholars believe that the most effective modern presidents, from FDR to Clinton, were Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry S. Truman and Dwight D. Eisenhower," said Melvin Holli, professor of history at UIC. "However, when these same scholars were asked to name the 10 best overall chief executives, Abraham Lincoln, George Washington and Franklin D. Roosevelt were named."
President Clinton's overall ranking fell in the middle of the nation's presidents. Clinton received high marks for political leadership, but low ratings for character brought down his overall score. "Predictably, many of the scholars polled were rather harsh on Clinton, giving him a ranking in 'character' as one of the worst presidents, surpassed by only Nixon and Harding," said Beuttler. "On the other hand, he was ranked quite high on political leadership and his domestic policy accomplishments."
When asked about the current and past presidents, some scholars surveyed had this to say:
Copyright © 2000 University of Illinois at Chicago