Clinton ranked Last in morality

Reed Irvine and Cliff Kincaid

March 6, 2000

In a major embarrassment for President Bill Clinton, a C-SPAN survey of historians about America’s greatest presidents puts him dead last -- number 41 -- in terms of moral authority. As the New York Times put it, Clinton came in "one rung below former President Richard M. Nixon, who resigned in disgrace."

The results were publicized on February 21st, President’s Day, but some media were not eager to highlight Clinton’s humiliation. Al Kamen of the Washington Post emphasized Clinton’s overall ranking -- 21st. He called it "Clinton’s 20/20: 20 Better, 20 Worse." On moral authority, Kamen said Clinton’s pitiful performance was for "obvious reasons" -- a reference to the scandal of his lying about having sex with a young White House intern.

White House spokesman Joe Lockhart said, "I suspect that that’s more a reaction to reading the tabloids than a fair reading of history." That could have been a suggestion that Clinton, compared to other presidents, such as Thomas Jefferson, will eventually end up higher in the moral authority rankings. Jefferson, who came in 7th overall, has been the target of sustained innuendo and insinuation that he had sex with one of his slaves. It is a campaign that was timed to coincide with Clinton’s impeachment.

But Jefferson came in 8th in the "moral authority" category. This suggests that the 58 historians who answered the C-SPAN survey, and who came from across the political spectrum, do not regard the sex charges against Jefferson as having much validity. The evidence continues to show that it was probably Jefferson’s younger brother who had sex with the slave Sally Hemings. Thomas Jefferson’s favorable rankings indicate that the smear campaign against our third president has largely failed.

Trying to find some hope for Clinton in these findings, Kamen of the Post said that "...Clinton might hope for improvement with time. With the exception of Ronald Reagan, who ranked 11th, the last six presidents all seemed to fare much worse than the group’s five immediate predecessors: Clinton, Bush, Carter, Gerald R. Ford, and Richard Nixon, are ranked roughly in the middle. But Franklin Roosevelt, Harry S. Truman, Dwight D. Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson all hit the top ten." But Reagan’s a big exception. His ranking as number 11 overall is even more remarkable considering the sustained assault he came under from the liberal media. On the other hand, the liberal media have done their best to excuse or ignore the many scandals of the Clinton presidency. Nevertheless, Clinton still ends up as 21st overall and 41st on moral authority.

The passing of time may affect the standing of several presidents, but not in the way that Kamen suggested. FDR came in 2nd overall and 1st in terms of international relations, an obvious reference to his management of World War II. But the evidence is coming out that shows that the FDR administration was thoroughly penetrated by communist agents who assisted Soviet dictator Joe Stalin and betrayed China to the communists. Years from now we may find that the Clinton Administration was penetrated in the same way.

Original article