The Corner

Clinton’s Non-Rebound

USA Today columnist DeWayne Wickham is ecstatic about a recent poll: “Some two years after he left office hounded by right-wing detractors and stained by his affair with Monica Lewinsky, Bill Clinton now ranks as this nation’s third best chief executive, according to a recent CNN/USA TODAY/Gallup Poll. Only Abraham Lincoln (chosen by 15%) and John F. Kennedy (13%) finished ahead of Clinton (11%) in the April poll, which asked Americans who was ‘the greatest’ president. George W. Bush managed to tie Clinton for third place. Ronald Reagan, a conservative icon, garnered 10% of the vote, followed by Franklin Roosevelt, George Washington, Harry Truman and Jimmy Carter. Bush’s father, the 41st president, was chosen by just 2% of the respondents, tying with Theodore Roosevelt and Thomas Jefferson. These results have to cause a lot of gnashing of teeth among those who tried to make Clinton’s private missteps the legacy of his public service. . . . All of this makes me giddy. . . . This has to make conservatives squirm.”

I suppose if the poll has brought some happiness to Mr. Wickham’s life, it should not be begrudged him. But really, aren’t these sorts of polls the least informative around? Every year there are news reports about who the “most admired” people in America, or the world, are; you only need to win the admiration of 13 percent of the public to win the contest. If the percentage of Americans who hold a favorable view of Clinton or his presidency were up, that would suggest a real shift in public opinion. This poll, on the other hand, looks useless.

Ramesh Ponnuru is a senior editor for National Review, a columnist for Bloomberg Opinion, a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and a senior fellow at the National Review Institute.

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