tv Washington Journal Historians Discuss C-SPA Ns Survey on Presidential... CSPAN February 20, 2017 4:03pm-5:26pm EST
people. >> watch "the communicators" tonight at 8:00 eastern on c-span2. >> they discussed the possibility of new sanctions on iran. with the nuclear deal in place, what are the u.s. options? center host a discussion live tomorrow at noon here on c-span. also at noon, another forum on the iran nuclear agreement that donald trump has described as the worst deal ever negotiated. from the heritage foundation, live at noon eastern on c-span2. host: c-span has released our third survey of presidential leadership looking at 10 different qualities of leadership and ranking the presidents. the 43 men that served as president of the united states
from george washington for now barack obama. we are pleased to be joined this morning by our three academic advisors to the project. , from the west coast, doug brinkley with rice university, richard norton smith from grand rapids, michigan, and here in theington it is edna -- chair of the history department at howard university. to all three of you, thank you for joining us. start first and lay the groundwork for this. this is a survey we did in 2000 -- 2009 after the george b bush presidency and now after the barack obama presidency, characters -- of leadership.
here are and we will start at the top, but top 10 in those categories. 91 responded to the survey. lincoln,e was abraham george washington is second, franklin wrote -- roosevelt third, the dwight eisenhower is fifth, harry truman six, thomas jefferson seven, john kennedy at number eight, ronald reagan at nine and it tends is lyndon johnson. all of you have been with our projects since the beginning. we will go to the west coast and ask what is different with this one? what is consistent is that abraham lincoln seems to be everybody's number one, this happens year after year. through d roosevelt is
an teddy roosevelt forth. those seem to be the big titans of american presidents. this year i was struck by the rise of dwight eisenhower, how he has come up that quickly in recent years. the reason for his rise seem to new scholarship that has opened up and we have a lot of new books on him. onget to see how hands eisenhower was during his two terms. he did get us out of the korean war and oversaw a time of prosperity economically. liberals of that left long ,dmire him for his industrial military and science complex, his famous or well address warning the nation of perils -- we lobby groups and contractors to start dominating washington political culture.
--as struck by eisenhower's that he is above harry truman. i thought it was noticeable and also in the top 10, how john kennedy and ronald reagan remained at law by not just the american people that also scholars. a lot of more recent presidents are up there in the top 10, which is heartening to see. smith, yourd norton thoughts, what do you see different in this third survey by c-span? when he left office in 1961 the first poll of scholars ranked him number 22 alongside chester arthur. papers wereter, his opened and we began to see and eisenhower, the famous hidden
hand leadership theory of ike emerged from him. events, whatent seemed boring in the 1950's, peace and prosperity compared to the 60's and subsequent decades. that said, i would take a little different tact and emphasize what hasn't changed. this stability. if you step back and look at , if you lookurveys at the top 10, although there has been some movement, only one name has fallen out of the top 10 and that is woodrow wilson. only one name has risen into the top 10 and that is ronald reagan. we pointed out this is the
first survey with president barack obama. your thoughts on what has changed and what do we see president fall in the survey? been that much change. some providence -- presidents have moved up a couple of places and some have moved down a few places. i was struck by andrew jackson's decline. fivent down by four or notches if i am not mistaken. i'm not quite certain why that is. it may be that we are connecting him more closely now with issues involving native americans and because native americans are so -- the issues are so present at the moment. of obama's arrival on the scene he finishes at number 12 which is very respectable for the first time out, and also
considering he just finished his presidency. his story and are still trying to evaluate what his legacy is going to be. that he did not finish in the top 10. i sat down and made a list of all of the things that he had accomplished. if you look at the list, there is tremendous accomplishment over the eight year. i want to remind our callers and viewers that we are opening up our phone lines and .e would love to hear from you your thoughts on presidential leadership.
make sure you go online to c-span.org, all of this is right there so you can see the results. send us a tweet as well. richard norton smith, you have talked about the golden age of the american presidency. you talked about roosevelt, truman, eisenhower, lyndon johnson and john kennedy. harry truman fell out of the top 10 for the first time. why do think that age is still very important to historians and others who write about the presidency? know there is a next argument whether historians are left of center. it is more complicated. i think there is a consensus within the scholarly community that the presidency in the 20th century was reinvented here and maybe beginning with theodore roosevelt.
that had been essentially administrative, became one of advocacy, often moral advocacy. as our economy grew exponentially, of the role of the president for better or worse, it is for better or worse transform. by the newasized deal, world war ii. think of the crises that fdr, truman the cold war, eisenhower, kennedy dealing with civil rights revolution, lyndon johnson. it is interesting that those five presidents should all be 10 by ourthe top historians. i am not sure it is anything to do with left or right so much as the notion of the president as the national agenda center if you will.
lincoln said that the times archive high with difficulty and must rise with the occasion. that in a nutshell it seems to me is how the 20th century presidency came to be redefined. i think it explains why those presidents in particular rank as high as they do. president it help a that the farther they get away from being time in office, the more they increase in the ratings? we have just on three surveys here, but how do do the president's fair? >> a little bit, there is some upward revision the goes on. we hammer away at sitting presidents and we beat them up all the time. when we leave office we built them a presidential library and make their memoirs their number one seller.
you tend to get a bit of a rise. i notice, for example, on this current survey, george w. bush, who is rank quite low, but he did rise a couple of notches of in the previous poll. no clear reason why, unless people are comparing him to donald trump. i do think there is a chance for barack obama coming on strong at number 12 to perhaps four or eight years from now we may find him in the top five. he will be writing a major memoir which always helps. what comes after will matter your we might be pining for the obama days if trumps presidency turns disastrous. categories said president did the best in was pursuing justice for all, one of
the 10 categories. he is number three in that. that is a category led by abraham lincoln, a number of democratic presidents as well in there. there?e the qualities that is something that is defined by abraham lincoln. thatare the qualities historians look for? >> the way i do find it is someone who is inclusive, someone who is recognizing that all americans should share in the american dream, and certainly lincoln comes in at number one because it is during his administration that slavery begins to be storied and then with the 13th amendment, that passed at the same time. with obama, certainly he gets -- , because of the lgbt
community. he also gets points because he gave big help to the dreamers, most people who were brought here as children and essentially are americans, trying to make sure they were supported. make a difference. there are some presidents that giventhe past, have not as much as attention to in that regard as we should, but now we are beginning to recognize all that they did do. that is a very important category. host: a quick comment from each of you, how do you see in an academic sense is a case survey it is incredibly useful. i teach presidential history at rice university. my students love the idea of where presidents are ranked, it gives us a starting point to how
american culture thinks about them and looks at them. day in recent years becomes a day off with nothing to do. every time these polls come out in starts a little bit of a national debate, the fact that andrew jackson was taken off the front of the $20 bill last year. the fact that donald trump jacksonian philosophy and steve bannon and trump have moved -- andrew jackson's portrait into the white house. does that have something to do with the decline in andrew jackson's reputation. scholars are making an rippingmp vote by jackson down a few notches. we don't know the answers to all of that. it makes for interesting and by memorizing all these presidents. william henry harrison was only present one month and then he died of pneumonia.
you don't want to be ranked down below william henry harrison. with perhaps james the veryloopholes at end for in action on the eve of the civil war. how about you on some of those present -- presidential politics? how do you see this as being used? all, when i was talking about stability, it works both ends of the latter. -- latter. there is very little change. a lot of it has to do with the nature of the presidency and the crisis that individual presidents have fought. it is interesting that the greatest american president,
abraham lincoln, is bracketed by the least successful american -- buchanan cannon and andrew johnson. presidents don't activer arab league -- in crisis's. lincoln, on the other hand, rose memorably with the occasion, and redefined a wartime president and executive leadership generally. one caution, anytime you do a survey like this you have to keep in mind the fact that we bent over backwards three times now through the range of devised,that we have the president and different --
is different now. one-size-fits-all. having said that, i think doug is right. anything that gets people talking and debating about greatness in the presidential office or is opposite is useful. host: we don't want to ignore the bottom 10 either, you wrote this into the conversation. james buchanan, franklin pierce, warren harding, william henry harrison, millard fillmore. hugh herbert huber -- hoover. it is a great venue -- avenue for debate. the categories that were used
in 2000 that we came to . we chose to keep them that way for this third a survey, but i wouldt that my students probably question why we came up with those particular categories . they certainly would debate the results. that is what makes this so fascinating. all americans will be looking at this differently. based onoing to judge your political perspective, based on her background. that is all right. host: we have calls waiting for the three academic historians and advisers. fort lauderdale, on the independent line. good morning. morning to you and the historians. i was a major in history and glad to see the show that is on today. the question that i have has to
do with harry truman moving beyond -- behind the dwight eisenhower. i think eisenhower basically continued some of the policies of truman. it was written that the creation -- the cold war against the soviet union, i would tend to think that treatment should still outrank eisenhower who by and large carried out some of the ideas that they had. wanted ar dulles stronger policy against the soviet union, but essentially they continued the containment policy. if you look at john lewis gaddis in his book some people could
argue that it was really george kamman that formulated the policy and maybe they shouldn't get that much credit. host: that golden era of presidents, richard norton smith, why don't you take that question. that should keep in mind there is only a few points when we add all of this up. frankly it could have been flipped the other way around. one thing they have in common, i talked about how eisenhower had risen dramatically in the estimation of academics. harry truman can't even more dramatic rise in popular esteem -- harry truman had even more dramatic rise in popular esteem. war was not a 16 -- a success. theears went by and in
1970's, vietnam and watergate combined to encourage others to look again at truman, who all of a sudden -- it is not that we had new information, but we had a new way of seeing the existing information. dealn seemed like the real . there was something authentic about. truman, which has stood him in good stead in this day and age when so much of our public life seems so contrived. connecticut, good morning on the democrat line. thank you for taking my call. i would like to comment on ronald reagan. as a person who has made a career as a scientist, i was disappointed with his decision to not go forward with the metric system. i think in part that has contributed to a lot of
scientific illiteracy in the u.s.. i was disappointed with ronald reagan overall. thank you for taking my call. host: doug brinkley would july to take that? disappointed with reagan over the metric myself. ranked ase why reagan high as he is. he has become a leader of conservatives around the country . our national airport is named after him. the cold war was a defining part of american history, and reagan seems to have come out better than any other president, talking about the historic negotiations with mikael gorbachev, he is meetings in the. of the -- wreck of thatcher had family
sleep said ronald reagan won the cold war without firing a single shot. there is hyperbole attached to that, there were crisis is with grenada and others. ronald reagan is seen as a great piece president -- peace president. roosevelt is right number four. number four. all theeagan talked time about the evil empire for much of his presidency. we are afraid he would be belligerent and get us into a war, and in the end, he made the world a more peaceful place. i am glad to see that reagan has been able to hang in there as one of our top 10 presidents. host: we have had comments about andrew jackson, and you focus
some of your research on the 19th century prisons, the civil war and reconstruction. thisw jackson felt in latest survey. doug brinkley has talked a little bit about that. in general, other than lincoln, they don't do well in the survey. guest: that's true. they are challenged by a great number of issues. jackson, you have political and social reform. person certainly is the that we normally think of in terms of political reform during this. in terms of the spread of democracy for the so-called common man. the other social reformers are not jacksonian democrats at all, they are whigs. that's what jackson faced at
this. he had very negative things. the other presidents as well. they are dealing with sectionalism and not happen -- handling it very well. you had someone like peers and fillmore and buchanan, especially. with buchanan just allowing the civil war to occur, nor -- allowing north carolina to secede from the union and then other states alling suit. and other states following suit. and not doing anything about it. california on a republican line, can, welcome. caller: thank you for taking my call. the two greatest democratic presidents in my judgment were , and the two
greatest republican presidents were richard nixon and ronald reagan. i would also like to say that abraham lincoln deserves all the credit in the world for preserving our union and preventing us from -- in terms of the slavery question he said clearly in his debate with --phen douglas, just because the emancipation proclamation he -- apply toa pride slaves in the southern territories where he had no authority to enforce it. the emancipation proclamation, his comments about lincoln and that we will get on the lbj comment. guest: much of what he says
about lincoln is true. intervened and he recognized that he had to do something to preserve the union. enslavedt after the property of southerners who had seceded from the union and were involved in the war. rememberhat we need to about lincoln is, whatever he --ht have thought in 1858 is his attitude change. some argue out of necessity because of the war. it is a combination of necessity but also i think there is the human element as well. i think he understood in issuing the emancipation proclamation what it meant, it wasn't just about getting these black men to serve in the union, but it was also about making sure that this stain on american democracy gets
removed. out in thepoint survey in the category of performance within the context 97.1s time abraham lincoln , that is among the highest in the survey. what about lbj, the caller talked about lbj, although he is number 10 overall he is number one in relations with congress. doug, we will start with you. how important do you think that is going forward? issues withama had congress both republican and democrat. guest: lbj deserves to be number one. he has an astounding legislative record that he amassed. the great society is something we are still trying to catch up with. the idea that he had a filibuster proof senate, and was able to put all sorts of legislation through with crown
jewels like medicaid and medicare, clean air and river programspublic welfare , national endowment of the arts. it is astounding all that lyndon johnson was able to do with congress. he would have been seen as one of the greats if he had not at the vietnam war, which is the great albatross around his presidency. it means that lbj could probably only stay around number 10 or so . vietnam many people feel, was a mistake and they blame it on lyndon johnson. recent years we celebrate ling -- lyndon johnson more for the -- the votingt rights act. this has become story broke american history. -- storybook american history. host: writing about president
, joining us from grand rapids, michigan, are you sorry to see that he has fallen a bit in the survey? a couple of things may account for it. survey was that much , the president passed away the beginning of 2007. if you recall, there was a considerable national reaction not only to the news but a kind of a reassessment that took place at that time, favorable by , thearge, of ford challenges he confronted, and his efforts to try to bring the country together in the wake of the watergate scandal. we are decades beyond that and there is a perception in the
academic community, that nothing much happened during the ford presidency, between the next apartment and ronald reagan's challenge to an incumbent president in 1976. others one reason i and are writing books about gerald ford to take a fresh look and to call into question that assumption host: tell us a bit about how we do this survey? 10st: we chose the categories that we thought were the most important to use and terms of affecting presidential leadership. in each category was worth 100 points. to 10, 1 them from one
being the least effective and 10 the most effective. the total score could come to 1000 points. host: how many historians and biographers did we reach out to? over 150, i were believe and 91 respondent, which is a good return on our efforts. of the datae all and information on our website at c-span.org. you can see the methodology they are and you can see who participated in the survey, the .istorians and others let's get back to the calls. onrey, england, listening the bbc parliament channel. good morning, john. caller: thank you for taking my call.
that is in a vacuum. this should be translated for the culture. host: a little tough to hear that. do you have any reaction to his call? on to james in sierra vista, callow -- arizona. you are on. caller: excuse me. medford, and mr. smith is that correct? ok. i believe that ronald reagan was probably one of the top 10 presidents of the entire country because of what he did. i live 30 miles from the border,
notthat is road miles, straight-line distance. i can walk into hours to the mexican-american border. in the last 8-10 , i have been seeing things out here that are going crazy. that don't live out here do not see what we see. i believe that in my honest opinion that barack obama -- president obama has done nothing to take care of this problem. in anare major issues
area i live in. the crime rates are soaring, but drugs are pouring through the border. i live in a town of 60,000 people and i am starting to see murder rates climb in the city to a point that there is thatbody is out here people are starting to pack weapons. barack obama is 12 in the survey but in the area of moral authority in the top 10 number, number seven in that. just some of his concerns, also how you see this category of moral authority, what that means in terms of when you do the survey yourself. to me what it meant was someone who had personal integrity, whose administration
was free of scandal and we note case for this one that just ended. in terms of immigration issue, i agree with you, it is a serious problem for the country. it is a problem of long standing. it didn't just happen yesterday. it has been with us with -- for a long-long time. our challenge is to come up with an immigration policy that is humane. to see mother separated from their american-born children and the sent back to mexico. even if they were here illegally. i understand the concerns about america -- there will be crime even without immigrants. host: do you think that the core -- current issues and popular culture have a way of swaying
the results of the survey that has been completed? happen,hings can often john f. kennedy continues to be ranked quite high. some scholars are surprised that he is always high with such a short presidency. moonshot,d -- but the they have become a symbol of can-do-ism, people are wanting to go back to that america where we could do big things. i think it helps john f. kennedy , the fact that his assassination in dallas is so studied and debated and analyzed and filled with conspiracy theories just keeps kennedy and the news all the time. in general, i think the last few years when this poll was taking place we had a lot of 50th anniversaries, the cuban missile
crisis, 50 years of selma and lyndon johnson. sometimes an anniversary can help put a presidency into a refocus and help with their legacy. woodrow wilson should be dropping coming up. i am surprised he has hung in there as strong as he asked. people wanted to take statues of them down due to his racism, change the name at the woodrow wilson school at princeton. he is getting battered but he hangs in there. host: new york we hear from jerry, good morning. caller: thank you for taking my call. going back to metric versus english system, i can speak some more for this gentleman who called from england. work atyears old and i until i was 71 as an engineer in
the international oil and gas business. this woman who called and said that she did not like ronald reagan because he did not follow through the metrics, she's a little wrong in her fax. several in the metric.0's to go strong it was inspired by england and the former -- with their former british empire, and which included canada and australia and india, all their former. the law was passed that we were going hard metric so we could do moonshot. we got smart really fast within a couple of years somehow the changed to rule was
is is soon sure purpose, go metric. if you are making a moonshot and you are in the space industry, if you want to sell cars in japan that are all metric, by all means go metric. by making it a rule as this gentleman was saying, they went hard major by law -- we are asking about a presidential leadership survey. we are joined by the academic act advisers. this is from michael asking about president johnson, saying that johnson was not ready for the strong political personalities that lincoln had in his administration. i'm not sure if you suck but andrew johnson or lyndon baines thompson. the strength of the cabinet and how each of you with see if the strong cabinet
was an influence in a strong presidency. guest: it's a big deal. i think one of the keys to leadership is putting the right people around you and we looked at ronald reagan's foreign-policy. a are talking about what great job james baker did and what a great job george schultz did during that. of time. there is no eisenhower warned policy -- eisenhower foreign-policy bump in the polls. allen dulles has been able to come up with a cold war strategy using the cia and -- i and covert ways and pushing things on the home front like the eisenhower interstate highway system. the point being that it is not just the president as an isolated person we are ranking, we are looking at the whole administration and how they did. one of the cree -- key criterion
that you surround yourself with great people. in my mind, franklin roosevelt did that with -- more than anybody. frances perkins and this group of new dealers that he surrounded himself with. it was a dream team to get america through the depression. during world war ii it wasn't just about the cabinet but fdr had to pick amro king and douglas macarthur and the george marshall and general patton to lead us through those dark days. a good leader picks great people. host: it must be tough to pick people that are not just yes men but also will give you a good argument back. that must be a hard thing for a president to do. it is an may be, but acid test. --ry president needs
whatever their ideology and background-they all find themselves in a bubble, they are surrounded by single fans. under the circumstances, in times of crisis, they need candidlyo will speak and critically. johnson, when we returned to him for a moment. count but character counts. andrew johnson is at the bottom of the presidential latter -- ladder for a number of reasons. mostly, unlike lincoln whose greatness is measured by his capacity to outgrow the racist , forre that produced him
example, his relationship with frederick douglass and the work that douglas did in recruiting soldiers, african-american soldiers for the union army. lawyer saw like a good that he was, he is our evidence that the notion of black inferiority was in fact totally disproved by their performance on the battlefield. andrew johnson never could rise in his moral imagination to that level. all you need to know about andrew johnson's presidency is he talked about restoration, not reconstruction. he did not grasp that the war had fundamentally transformed the nation. grow, if youuldn't will, to the challenge of the need -- new circumstances, he is where he is. it took a hundred years for another southern president named
, embracing the cause of civil rights. thet: we can go back to very first president and look at what he does in terms of cabinet development. in a lot of ways, washington was a reluctant president. he did not feel that he was quite a quick to do the job -- quite equipped to do the job. in a lot of ways he invented the presidency by the actions that he took. what he did was, he was able to surround himself with people who were prepared to assist him. he was successful in many respects, not just because of his leadership, and he was able to select the right people. host: next on the independent line on richfield, indiana on the independent line. caller: thank you for allowing
me to come in on the show -- comment on the show. reagan, he got credit for a lot of things that ,e did, but at the same time jimmy carter was my favorite president simply because i served under him when i was in the service. when you were in the service under jimmy carter, there was no war. when i got out and i went to skill -- school on the g.i. bill i know that he was the energy president. reagan came in and he cut the program which was a very good program for minorities who wants to go to school. back in california when they had free education, he cut that.
when it came to releasing the hostages, the bicentennial whyident, i don't know jimmy carter's name is not in their that it should be. that why don't you think president carter does better in the survey? guest: i am a great admirer of president carter. carter has the burden of not winning -- not getting reelected . two-term presidents tend to fare better than single. carterslaughtered jimmy in 1980. you had a republican revolution that came in and it seemed to be a repudiation of carter-ism, the prolonged iran crisis, long gasoline lines. -- looking at carter
in the coming decades and take him a little more seriously, some of the things he did he did not get the credit he deserved it it is carter who is the first president to recognize the people's republic of china, not nixon. first jimmy carter's sitting president to go to africa as a sitting president when he went to nigeria. he did nine -- denounced apartheid. incredible environmental lawyer, his alaska conservation .ands act saved more land some days when the planet is shrinking and the national resources are dwindling, the fact that we have this outdoor wonderland in he also created fema and the departments of education and
energy. in the end, he said the democratic party is an albatross around his neck. the ted kennedy liberals, he didn't want anything to do with nor the more moderate democrats. he was an island unto himself and had a lot of accomplishments like the panama canal treaty in the camp david accords that history will honor. he never created the rf of winning a second term and creating something known as a carter democrat. it's hard to find someone who defines themselves solely with jimmy carter. host: we've got another half hour or so talking about our third presidential survey. it was just released this week we are joined by our our academic advisors. you can join us to on the phone
and on twitter. dohard norton smith, you your president and patriots tour from time to time. what is your most commonly asked question? guest: people want to know who is your favorite president. that is understandable. i tell them it's whatever side of the bed i got on this morning. who is the most consequential resident? i find them all interesting. about personality and the events and interactions. find calvin coolidge fascinating. -- make may not sense sense ideologically, why approach the subject ideologically. i will put an eight quick plug. we are doing to this year.
we are going to the home of the bushes. we have four days in nova scotia. this is the hundred 50th anniversary of canadian confederation. that is some of the most beautiful and historic territory on earth. in september, anyone who is an anglophile or a fan of the prime minister, we are doing a churchill tour in england. we are going to the birthplace, the country home, the church where he was married, the church where he is. , buckingham palace and windsor canceled. if you want more information, i suspect that is on the screen right now in terms of presidents
and patriots. there is also a phone number you can call. question,the favorite when you're freshman history students come in it, how good is their knowledge of american presidents? guest: not good at all. we used to complain the teacher spent too much time studying the great men and not enough time studying the people that they helped reverend. -- government. we may have gone too far to the other side. i think they have an overview of these residents. there is no real detail. host: have you worked your own structure to change that? guest: it's very difficult to balance it, but you have to. you have to understand the leaders and the people they are leading. when you have one semester to cover u.s. history from colonial
21877, it's not very easy. host: let's hear from jane. thanks for waiting. caller: thank you for c-span. i wish you broadcast in the evening. we really need shows like this. we will re-air this program several times and our programming on www.c-span.org. caller: my husband and i are amateur presidential historians. to 50 different sites all over the country. i think a study of the presidents would give us better information when we go over the current presidents. which resident was most right for his time? which president was so timely and we so desperately needed him that he becomes great?
i would nominate truman. host: let's start with doug brinkley. guest: truman is a great win. i would go with franklin roosevelt. when the great depression came america, he was able to come in with the civilian conservation corps to plant 3 billion trees and start repairing the land of america that had been abused by the big agriculture. i think we were lucky to have fdr when we did. , i am a big admirer of mr. monroe. when he was president, we called it the era of good feeling. after the war of 1812 we needed to heal as a country. monroe came in and was exceedingly popular for two terms.
he studied the united states at a crucial time. underappreciated one. he was the perfect president for his moment after the war of 1812. host: richard norton smith? guest: i think it's tough to beat the first president, the president who defined the office and the republican experiment atop which it stood. office.on took by the standards of his time, he was an elderly man. by modern standards he would've been almost 80 years old. he complained that his hearing was going. he was very sensitive about his lack of formal education. said no sound on earth compared with george washington's wearing a blue streak.
he tried to control his temper. statues in the city park, he was a very human -- at a veryvery vulnerable time of his life. more remarkable that he single-handedly gave legitimacy to this experiment. said it wasn't the constitution that held the republic together, it was the character of george washington important. most his restraint, he became president because the delegates in philadelphia reluctantly agreed to this new form of government, this centralized form of government because the most likely president had already spurned the offer of a crown.
at the end of his two terms in office, washington work -- walked away from supreme power. he put restrictions on executive authority and that's something that we live with today. lincoln wins hand down. , if notor his patients for his determination, if not for his love and understanding of the constitution, we would not be the nation we are today. he was dealing with sectionalism and the slavery issue that leads to a civil war. he could've simply done nothing and let the south secede. he decided the constitution was a valid document that had to be protected. he went to war.
i think any other person in that position might not have been successful. host: i'm just following up on jimmy carter. we have a tweet. carter is one of the most decent man who has ever held office despite his failings. let's hear from jackson, new jersey. caller: hello. before abouting obama having a scandal free eight years what do we consider a scandal? that may be a good starting off point. which presidents were most affected eye scandal? guest: there were so many of them. certainly harding. it's not always a personal scandal that the president is
directly involved in. be a major incident involving a cabinet member as well. there are issues with the grant and a stray should. there are issues with the harding administration. in terms of the obama administration, unless i'm overlooking something, i don't call a major scandal the tarnished that time in office. host: who'd you think handled the scandals well? guest: one of the things that constantly comes up when i am asked about presidential polls, would nixon have been one of the great presidents without watergate? you just can't dissect watergate out of nixon's presidency. it's part of it. want to imagine presidents if they didn't have their darkest moments or their biggest scandal. bill clinton is another one.
what would he be ranked if he didn't have the lewinsky scandal? we can't parse those out. next and is always going to be ranked very low. anti-somatic. and there is very little opportunity for him to rise. there was a breakthrough with china. bill clinton, we live in a soundbite culture where john f. kennedy said ask not what your country can do for you, what can you do for your country? said i did not have sex with that woman. it hurts them. cut out the somehow scandals, they would look better. ones who have been able to navigate the scandals quite well is ulysses s grant.
he is rising in public estimation. there is a great biography of him. ron churn out is about to come out with a big grant biography. his memoirs of the civil war are still popular. if i were a betting man and wanted to bet on a president whose reputation is rising and will rise more in the next two years it would be grant. host: i can't wait to see the next survey and see if that is the case. i would agree with him with grant. have newause we amounts of information. we have chosen to emphasize different aspects. as the lastn president for 100 years who was willing to commit federal troops to protect the rights of newly freed slaves in the south. it was an act of great political
courage that was not emulated his successors. post-1960's, just as we rediscovered andrew jackson as a resident who took on the bank of the united states, he upheld slavery and in some quarters it's believed was responsible for a genocide against native americans. it's the topics on the table. i would say calvin coolidge dealt brilliantly and is very underestimated in how he handled the aftermath. office as the scandals were breaking. he could have been overwhelmed by them. skillfully maneuvered. he got rid of harding's corrupt
attorney general. he appointed bipartisan investigators which took some of the partisans thing out of this. he threaded the needle. int: let's hear from and north carolina. caller: i have a question and comment. i am starting to think that president obama should be in the top 10. has there ever been another presidency other than president obama where the leader of the opposite party said at the beginning that they would do everything they can to see that given a, not even hearing to the supreme court nominee? has that ever happened before? host: let's start with edna medford. thatr: not to the extent it occurred with president obama.
always encountered stiff opposition from the opposing party's leadership. what happens with this administration however is unprecedented. we know that lincoln suffered his slings and arrows. different and i don't think you can remove race from this. i know we like to skirt around it. we are not comfortable talking about it. it's there. it is the elephant in the room. it's something we have to deal with and to be honest about. think a previous president have -- has seen that adversarial roadblock that senator mcconnell proposed at the beginning of the obama
presidency? go ahead. guest: i was going to say to the contrary, there a reason why we talk about it. we elect someone, even amidst controversial circumstances. go back and look at the poll numbers. in the first weeks and months of the bush presidency, think back 1961 and the disaster of the bay of pigs. his numbers one up to over 80% approval. traditionally in the country, there has been a rallying around a new president, if only out of hope that he will succeed. i think that is something that has been sacrificed as part of an increasingly bitter
scorched-earth partisanship which has afflicted our public life over the last generation or so. host: your thoughts? i was going to mention abraham lincoln and winning in 1860 and not even being on the ballot in seven southern states and having to get to washington dc surrounded by people that despised him and wanted him dead. body double toa be snuck into the nation's capital. nothing is as bad as it was in that time when lincoln was elected. at this point, it's unprecedented in modern times meaning in the 20th or 21st century to have the opposition party treat a president with such disrespect as republicans did to barack obama. mitch mcconnell was truthful about it read republicans
refused to even be in a photo op with barack obama. they thought it would play bad back home. jerseyhristie of new during the sandy storm when he had his arm around obama and it was political suicide. it became toxic for him to be seen with obama. i think you see payback. democrats are not allowed to be seen in a photo with donald trump. we are in a very ugly time of american history where bipartisan reaching out across the aisle and trying to help a president is seeming to be antiquated and it's been derailed. the top 10ok at presidents with relations to congress. barack obama came in 39th. let's go to lake placid,
florida. good morning. caller: good morning. it's a hard decision. i am thinking reagan. if jfk would have served out his term, he would have been there. the one we have with 30 days is on the list. i think lincoln is overrated. the first thing, the civil war. 600,000 americans died in the civil war. if you took all the americans , from thekilled revolutionary war until today, it would not add up to 600,000.
they call it a civil war. they say it was slavery. it wasn't slavery at the beginning. the reason it was secession was the north was slapping taxes on the south because the south started turning kotten overseas. the north with their industry wanted the produce of the south. they started slapping taxes on them and the south said you are not doing it to these other industries. they started secession. all, i would of encourage you to take a look at the ordinances of secession that were passed iv seating states. many of them are listing slavery why theys the reason are leaving the union. they talk about slavery as
central to their economy and to their way of life. that theseagree other issues may have been there on the periphery. the real issue is about the expansion of slavery and the belief on the part of the future confederate states that abraham lincoln is coming in and he is going to destroy their economic that isal institution most important to their hearts. tot: week say good morning paul. go ahead. caller: i have an outsider's perspective on top presidents. lincoln,n, ethically definitely franklin d roosevelt did there are others who were very good.
truman, onesevelt, or two others. i know warren harding always comes out on this side of the pond is being one of the worst. that is just an outsider's perspective on it. host: we will look at the international relations category. franklin delano roosevelt is at the top of the list. george washington, abraham lincoln, james monroe which we mentioned earlier. george h.w. bush, ronald reagan, richard nixon. any response to our caller from the u.k.? guest: just on the international front, there is richard nixon making himself in that list as he was good at geopolitical thinking and the breakthrough with china in 1972 was a giant
accomplishment. that, ather hand of disastrous war in southeast asia . it does a lot of damage to his relations. it's interesting to see lincoln is able to make that list. the big three constantly, lincoln, franklin roosevelt. i would add theodore roosevelt. numbermost ironed in at four. he built the big navy. he did the panama canal. he named the white house the white house. he saved 234 million americans of wild america. he is the great conservation resident and a reformer.
large as lincoln and fdr in my mind as the fourth wheel of the big four of the true mount rushmore of american presidents. host: this is from charles. i hope this is rhetorical. what is so terrible about william henry harrison? he was sick most of the time. guest: there's nothing terrible. he is inconsequential. personally, i don't know how you can pass judgment on someone who is president for 31 days. it's tough enough with james garfield who was there for six months and much of that flat of his back after an assassination attempt. some side ofed independence from henry clay and the congressional leadership. we will never know how that
would have developed. enoughmply not presidency in my opinion to judge. host: we have a couple more minutes on our presidential survey. good morning. caller: thanks for taking my call. i guess sadly for me this presidential historian survey reaffirms my belief that all of these surveys are generally left-leaning and i believe exemplifies that is president obama has been viewed as number 12 on the list after a month after he left office. lbj for example number 10. categories, your you have relations with congress did president obama came in and said we won and you loss.
any effort tor cross the aisle as far as i am concerned. he lost the house and then the senate. the democratic party across the country on the state and local level was decimated. president obama was given the lie of the year by political fact to say that if you want to keep your doctor you will be able to keep your doctorate host: you put a lot out there. guest: i think barack obama came in about right. firstection of the african-american president is gigantic in american history. the informal care act is a monumental piece of legislation.
we will have to see how it fares. he killed osama bin laden which started the drone policy in the middle east. he got two people into the supreme court. he became a great champion of climate change. he got us out of the great recession. our country was in deep economic doldrums and through stimulus packages and perseverance was able to get our economy in pretty good shape. i think he's always going to look well in history. coming in at 12 seems right. host: just looking at some of the recent presidents, george h w bush dropped a bit in the presidential survey. ronald reagan rising slightly up president george w. bush from 36 to 33. caller: we need to remember that
residents don't accomplish very much alone. if there is not support from congress, it's very difficult to get things done. administrationan with the opposition saying we're going to prevent you from moving forward, it doesn't matter if it's in the best interest of the country, we are going to stop you. that does not bode well for what we should be doing as americans. to blame one man or woman for as thatg as successful president had hoped is not understanding how our system works. host: we go first to edit in maryland. good morning. lookr: one of the things i covertook at the
activities. one was ronald reagan and the iran-contra and the crack epidemic. basically, -- host: i'm going to have to let you go. you are breaking up a bit. caller: good morning. i am 55 and jimmy carter was my favorite. number two. was my i got an invitation to jimmy carter's inaugural ball when i was 15. in texas there are only three people that got one. i got a handwritten postcard like him -- by him.
statesman. he didn't just become president and then go off and do his own thing. -- heame a speakman became a statesman. host: we wrap up with brinkley joining us from california. jimmy carter to go on after the white house to plan a nobel peace prize. parachutingavorite for peace out of places like haiti and bosnia, and in north korea. ,rograms on guinea worm disease synonymous with habitat for humanity. you could go on and on. he is a global humanitarian. when he passes, it will be seen as a child loss. extraordinary american life. my overall take on the survey is that it has been a lot of fun to
work with. the bestcholars to our in the business. they were willing to work with c-span and i on making this happen. i hope everybody enjoys looking at the breakdowns and categories. maybe go out there and read a book. pick up a book on the president you may be curious about. i isn't james madison ranked higher where you would think he would be? lots of questions you can ask .nd find your own you can think about president's day and our nation's glorious past. guest: we talked earlier about
the relative stability of the top 10. i actually sat down and looked. eight out of the 10 presidents have memorials built to them in the nation's capital. dwight nights, eisenhower, if the subject of an ongoing debate over what kind of memorial. so in fact, there is a surprising confluence, it a consensus about great presidents. not only among academics but among the academics as well. host: we finish up with edna bedford. is generation interprets history according to its own interest and circumstances. survey, and ixt hope that c-span continues this for as long as there is a c-span, that i think we will find evidence that