By Jeffry Bartash, MarketWatch
Barack Obama clocks in at No. 12 on C-Span’s list of the best and worst American presidents — ahead of recent predecessors Bill Clinton and the two Bushes.
The cable channel’s survey, conducted periodically since 2000, gave Obama high marks for pursuing “equal justice for all” and “moral authority.” He ranked third and seventh in those categories among the nation’s 44 presidents.
The survey also ranked him eighth in “economic management.”
Obama was rated 39th, his lowest mark, in relations with Congress. He was ranked 24th in international relations. Presidents are rated on 10 categories.
Obama was ranked three spots behind Ronald Reagan, who was No. 9.
The C-Span survey is based on the responses of 90 historians, writers and journalists. Although C-Span sought to offer a balance of perspectives, the list of experts does appear to have an ideological tilt.
About half of the respondents lean liberal while about 25% could be viewed as moderate and another 25% as conservative.
The ideological composition may help explain in part why the reputation of Andrew Jackson, the nation’s seventh president, fell to 18th in 2017 from 13th in the prior two C-Span surveys. It was the biggest drop of any president.
Liberals increasingly see Jackson’s presidency (1828-1836) in a lesser light because of his ownership of slaves and treatment of Indians, a view that spurred the Obama administration to announce plans to replace Jackson’s image on the front of the $20 bill with famous abolitionist Harriet Tubman.
The reputation of Obama could also shift dramatically with the passage of time depending on how some of his key accomplishments pan out.
Robert Merry, author of a book on presidential ratings, wrote in a recent blog on the right-leaning website National Interest that Obama’s reputation is probably tied to his landmark health-care law.
“As it appears now, absent some powerful new development in American politics (which never can be ruled out), Obama’s historical standing will rise or fall with Obamacare,” he wrote last month. Merry participated in the C-Span survey.
Another factor that has to be considered: Obama left his party in far worse shape than when he first took office.
Republicans have recaptured both branches of Congress, won two-thirds of governorships and control a record number of state legislatures. They are in a position to undue much of his work.
Aside from Jackson, presidential ratings were little changed. Abraham Lincoln, George Washington and Franklin Roosevelt were once again rated as the three best presidents.
James Buchanan (1856-1860) and Andrew Johnson (1865-1868) were rated the worst.