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  • Originally published 06/21/2013

    Julian Zelizer: George W. Bush's Legacy is on the Mend

    Julian Zelizer is a professor of history and public affairs at Princeton University. He is the author of "Jimmy Carter" and "Governing America." (CNN) -- Former President George W. Bush is enjoying another bounce in the post-presidential polls. First, the opening of his presidential library produced a spate of positive coverage about his time in office. Now, Gallup has released a survey showing that for the first time since 2005, more people approve than disapprove of Bush.This kind of shift in public opinion is likely to continue, with more upswings as well as downturns ahead. This is the nature of presidential legacies. They are a bit like what Mark Twain once said about the weather in New England: if you don't like it, just wait a second and it will change.Presidential reputations are never fixed in stone.

  • Originally published 04/26/2013

    Historians Still Despise George W. Bush

    Image via Shutterstock.Former president George W. Bush has had his best week in years. His public approval ratings have hit a seven-year high, publications around the country have published articles reassessing his legacy, and he was warmly joined by all of the living former presidents at the dedication of his new presidential library at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas.

  • Originally published 04/25/2013

    Jonathan Bernstein: History Will Not Be Kind to George W. Bush

    Jonathan Bernstein is a columnist for the Washington Post.George W. Bush is not remembered with any enthusiasm currently. That’s not likely to change.Whatever way it’s measured, he’s not doing too well. Gallup has his retrospective approval at 47 percent; that’s third-lowest in the polling era, better than only Richard Nixon and Lyndon Johnson (Harry Enten has more on placing post-presidential approval in context). As far as historians and other students of the presidency, it’s even worse; Bush falls in the bottom quarter of the ratings surveys in which he’s been included.

  • Originally published 04/23/2013

    Julian Zelizer: History's Jury is Still Out on George W. Bush

    Julian Zelizer is a professor of history and public affairs at Princeton University. He is the author of "Jimmy Carter" and "Governing America."(CNN) -- On Thursday, President Obama and former presidents Jimmy Carter, George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton are due to attend the grand opening of President George W. Bush's presidential library and archive in Dallas, Texas.The opening of the library offers an opportunity to think again about the legacy of the Bush presidency. As Obama and the former presidents look around the museum, they will see many exhibits that symbolize how the jury is still out on most of the major issues. Events in the coming years will play a huge role in how history is likely to remember Bush's White House.There are four big questions about his presidency.1. How effective and how just were Bush's counterterrorism policies? Bush came into office much more concerned about domestic issues like education and taxation, but after the 9/11 terror attacks, he invested a great deal of his power in the counterterrorism program.

  • Originally published 01/23/2013

    Nate Silver: Contemplating Obama’s Place in History, Statistically

    Nate Silver blogs at the NYT's 538.With President Obama’s second term under way, we have begun to see more reflections on how he might come to be regarded historically.As common sense might dictate — and as the statistics will also reveal — it is far too soon to conclude very much about this. Second-term presidents may be derided as lame ducks, but it is often in the second term when reputations are won or lost.Still, we can say this much: Mr. Obama ran for and won a second term, something only about half of the men to serve as president have done (the tally is 20 or 21 out of 43, depending on how you count Grover Cleveland). We can also note, however, that Mr. Obama’s re-election margin was relatively narrow. Do these simple facts provide any insight at all into how he might be regarded 20, 50 or 100 years from now?In fact, winning a second term is something of a prerequisite for presidential greatness, at least as historians have evaluated the question. It is also no guarantee of it, as the case of Richard M. Nixon might attest. But the eight presidents who are currently regarded most favorably by historians were all two-termers (or four-termers, in Franklin D. Roosevelt’s case)....

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