Sunday, December 03, 2006

Ranking Bush

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Earlier today, I mentioned that Eric Foner ranks Bush the worst president ever, while Douglas Brinkley considers him the new Hoover, another "case study on how not to be president". Well, there's more. Michael Lind, David Greenberg, and Vincent Cannato have also contributed to the Post's "What Will History Say?" series.

Lind ranks Bush the fifth worst president, behind Buchanan, Johnson, Nixon, and Madison.

Greenberg argues that Bush isn't as bad as Nixon. (Not yet.) And it may be "premature" to "consign him to the bottom tier of presidents".

Cannato suggests that these "worst president ever" considerations are "too often ideology masquerading as history". Perhaps, in some cases, but how can Cannato claim that "tax cuts, the No Child Left Behind Act, [and] the prescription drug plan" have been "domestic policy successes"? The first is unabashed plutocracy, irresponsibility and injustice at a time of endless war, soaring budget deficits, and economic insecurity; the second is all rhetoric, a hollow shell of a program; and the third is massive, industry-friendly bureaucracy. There's nothing wrong with "humility," nor with letting "years pass" before passing judgment, but I doubt that Bush will leave "a mixed record". The record we have now suggests far worse.

Whether Bush is the worst or the second worst or the fifth worst, he has been a terrible president. Historians are writing about him already, but I suspect that his presidency will only seem worse with time.

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  • There are several questions one must ask in assessing a President. Some are technical and some are ideological. Some have to do with substance and some have to do with style. Some have to do with recovery from disaster, others have do with evading disaster, still others have to do with setting up a disastrous course or derailing success and causing disaster. Still other measures have to do with character; whether a leader is forthright with the nation and whether he inpires a nation to be better, or whether he makes us sadder and meaner people. In considering Dubya against these metrics it is hard to think of cases in which he has been anything but destructive. Some imagine it is incompetence. Other hear echoes of Nordquist's "Kill the beast."

    While I admit that I am nether a student of Presidential history nor am I a disinterested non-partisan, it seems to me that one has to argue that Bush inherited every benefit a President could hope for. He managed two major pieces of legislation which are seriously, perhaps fatally flawed. Then he set about to destroy or undermine every institution in the government, tempting financial, environmental, and political disasters. Iraq is a $2trillion dollar disaster, but if history accurately reflects Dubya's legacy that will be pretty far down the list of his monumental failures.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 12:42 AM  

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