Tim Blessing-Historian-Standard Speaker-Hazleton PA-15 Apr 1991-p1
Historians rate LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) -Ronald Reagan lacked the intellect for the presidency, but he ranked ahead of nine of his predecessors in the White House, a survey of historians concluded. Of 481 historians asked about the performance of the U.S. presidents, more than 90 percent said Reagan lacked the proper intellect for the job. Sixty-eight percent agreed the Reagan administration had a "significant and negative" impact on the nation's values. The survey results were presented Saturday at the annual conference of the Organization of American Historians. The historians answered 118 questions by researcher Tim Blessing of Pennsylvania State University. Reagan ranked 28th among 37 presidents who were rated, and in the "below-average category" alongside Presidents Fillmore, Pierce and Tyler. Below him, in the "failure category," were Richard Nixon, Andrew Johnson and Ulysses S. Reagan Grant. The historians nominated four presidential "greats": Abraham Lincoln, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and Franklin D. Roosevelt. Ninty-two percent of the respondents said they believe the American people have overestimated Reagan and 89 percent said they believe social welfare programs were underfunded during his two terms. The survey reflected generally favorable opinions of the Reagan administration's han below average dling of relations with the Soviet Union. By a two-to-one, the respon-dents preferred Reagan's tendency to delegate authority as opposed to the intense involvement in day-to-day affairs of his predecessor, Jimmy Carter. "The Reagan record is not utterly beyond redemption," Blessing said while reviewing the findings to the historians' group. The survey did not attempt to rate President Bush or William Henry Harrison and James Garfield, who were in office less than a year. Some members of a panel assembled to discuss the survey criticized its findings and its methods. "I must admit to some deep skepticism about ranking presidents immediately," said Judith Best, a professor of political science at State University of New York at Cortland. "Immediate ranking can be a political vehicle, consciously or unconsciously."