A recent survey by presidential scholars that ranked President Donald Trump as the worst president ever in history shows the flaws of such ratings, although there might not be a solution as to how to make them fairer, Marquette University associate professor of political science Julia Azari wrote in a column for FiveThirtyEight on Monday.
The most obvious criticism is the easiest to address, that it is unfair to compare one year of an administration to others that completed at least one term in office, Azari stated.
Another straightforward critique is that for the current president, as well as recent occupants of the Oval Office, no one has the perspective of time to evaluate the lasting impact of any administration.
In addition, the problem of partisanship among scholars is discussed in an analysis by Joseph Uscinski and Arthur Simon in 2010, which found that expert rankings of Democratic presidents are consistently higher, and those of Republicans lower, than the views of the general public.
But Azari argues that, even for presidents from a longer-ago era and even taking into account the possible political bias of the experts, it is extremely difficult to come up with an impartial and fair way to evaluate the performance of the chief executive.
What makes presidential comparisons much more complicated is that "presidents don’t face the same circumstances upon entering the White House," Azari wrote. "James Buchanan gets low marks, because his presidency led up to the onset of the Civil War, and Herbert Hoover tends to get hammered for his handling of the Great Depression."
While stating that previous presidents contributed to these problems, Azaria wrote it is "difficult to structure rankings in ways that acknowledge all the work — often across party lines — that goes into a true governing crisis. The easier route is to blame the president who inherits the mess."
Another problem is that scholars are often sympathetic towards leaders of the past for attitudes and actions that would be considered abhorrent now, such as the obvious example of the Founding Fathers owning slaves.
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