EDITORIAL: Scholars rank Obama among worst presidents
He's smart, articulate and by all appearances a loyal husband and father. Yet, President Barack Obama may rank among history's worst presidents.
That's not our opinion. Rather, it is the finding of a survey by the Brookings Institution - a liberal-centrist organization ranked by the University of Pennsylvania as "the most influential think tank in the world."
In advance of Presidents Day, Brookings sponsored a survey of presidential scholars who belong to the American Political Science Association. As Brookings explained, scholars who view Obama among "the worst American presidents outnumber those who view him as one of the best by nearly a 3-1 margin." The survey found "nearly twice as many respondents view Obama as overrated than do those who consider him underrated."
Long before this survey, Gazette editorials criticized President Obama as "The Great Divider." We did so because he came on the scene with the promise of unifying Americans from all races, religions and socioeconomic backgrounds. Politics aside, we initially expected him to reach across the aisle and show Americans how to get things done by working together. But he quickly began pitting the poor against the rich, Democrats against Republicans, liberals against conservatives. Class envy became his modus operandi. He governed with rigid loyalty to left-of-center ideology and the Democratic Party. He celebrated passing health care reform without a single Republican vote.
It appears some of the country's top presidential scholars concur with our concerns about the president's divisive leadership style. In an article explaining the survey, Brookings reported the social scientists rated Obama poorly mostly because they find him "polarizing."
"One area where there is significant expert consensus about the president, however, concerns how polarizing he is viewed as being - only George W. Bush was viewed as more a more polarizing president."
Presidents were scored by the scientists on a scale of 0-100. Topping the list, as the best president in history, was Abraham Lincoln with a score of 95. George Washington came in second with a score in the low 90s. Bill Clinton finished eighth, with a score just under 70, and Ronald Reagan finished 11th with a score in the high 60s. President Obama scored just below George H.W. Bush with a score in the high 50s.
Asked which president should be added to Mount Rushmore, two-thirds of the scholars chose Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Dwight Eisenhower and Reagan tied for second place. President Obama tied James Madison in seventh place for getting a place on the mountain.
"Scholars seem to hold Barack Obama in high regard personally, but view his skills and performance as mediocre to poor," the Brookings summary explained. "Few think of Obama as an excellent president, while many more rate his presidency quite low, with the bulk of experts appearing to give him a passing grade but not one that would get him on the Dean's list."
Unable to seek re-election, legacy is Obama's greatest political liability. The Dean's list can still be attained. We hope President Obama spends the next two years trying to shed his reputation as divisive and polarizing. He has the intellect and oratorical skills to unify this country, making it that indivisible nation - a place of justice for all - described in the Pledge of Allegiance.