Sunday, April 23, 2006
Rolling Stone: The Worst President in History?
GOI: I read a fascinating article yesterday on the idea that Bush is the worst President in History in a Rolling Stone magazine article by Sean Wilentz.
Special thanks to Tom for providing me with the picture.
I am a little late on this one but the article was too interesting to not do a post on it. It's a bit long but worth the read.
Now, though, George W. Bush is in serious contention for the title of worst ever. In 2004, an informal survey of 415 historians conducted by the non-partisan History News Network found that eighty-one percent considered the Bush [GWB] administration a "failure."
GOI: Count this historian as number 416 please.
In fact, roughly one in ten of those who called Bush [GWB] a success was being facetious, rating him only as the best President since Bill Clinton-a category where Bush is the only candidate.
The lopsided decision of historians should give everyone pause. Contrary to popular stereotype, historians are generally a cautious bunch. We assess the past from widely divergent points of viewand are deeply concerned about being viewed as fair and accurate by our colleagues. When we make historical judgements, we are acting not as voters or even pundits, but as scholars who must evaluate all the evidence, good, bador indifferent. Seperate surveys, conducted by those perceived as conservatives as well as liberals, show remarkable unanimity about who the best and worst presidents have been.
Twelve percent of the historians polled-nearly as many as those who rated Bush as a success-flatly called Bush the worst president in American history. And these figures were gathered before the debacles over Hurrican Katrina, Bush's role in the Valerie Plame leak affair and the deterioration of the situation in Iraq. Were the historians polled today, that figured would certainly be higher.
Even worse for the president, the general public, having once given Bush the highest approval ratings ever recorded, now appears to be coming around to the dismal view held by historians.
(When the columnist Richard Reeves publicized the historians' poll last year and suggested it might have merit, he drew thousands of abusive replies that called him an idiot and that praised Bush as, in one writers words, "a Christian who actually acts on his deeply held beliefs.") Yet the ranks of the true believers have thinned dramatically. [...] Since the commencement of reliable polling in the 1940s, only one twiced-elected president has seen his ratings fall as low as Bush's in his second term: Richard Nixon, during the months preceeding his resignation in 1974.
More then half the country now considers Bush dishonest and untrustworthy, and a decisive plurality consider him less trustworthy then his predecessor, Bill Clinton-a figure still attacked by conservative zealots as "Slick Willie."
On September 10th, 2001, he [GWB] held among the lowest ratings of any modern president for that point in a first term. The attacks the following day transformed Bush's achieve greatness. Some of the early signs were encouraging . Bush's simple, unflinching, eloquence and his quick toppling of the Taliban government in Afghanistan rallied the nation. Yet even then, Bush wasted his chance by quickly choosing partisanship over leadership.
No other president-Lincoln in the Civil War, FDR in World War II , John F. Kennedy at critical moments of the Cold War-faced with such a monumental set of military and political circumstances failed to embrace the opposing political party to help wage a truly national struggle. But Bush shut out and even demonized the Democrats.
All the while, Bush and the most powerful figures in the administration, Vice President Dick Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, where planting the seeds for the crises to come by diverting the struggle against Al-Qaeda toward an all-out effort to topple their pre-existing target, Saddam Hussein. In a deliberate political decision, the administration stampeded the Congress and a traumatized citizenry into the Iraq invasion on the basis of what has now been demostrated to be tendentious and perhaps fabricated evidence of an imminent Iraqi threat to to American security, one that the White House suggested included a nuclear weapon. Instead of emphasizing any political, diplomatic or humanitarian aspects of a war on Iraq-an appeal that would have sounded "too sensitive" as Cheney once sneered - the administration built a "Bush doctrine" of unprovoked, preventative warfare, based on speculative threats and embracing principles previously abjured by every previous generation of U.S. foreign policy makers, even at the height of the Cold War. The president did so with premises founded, in the case of Iraq, on wishful thinking. [...] He did so while dismissing intelligence that an American invasion could spark a long and bloody civil war among Iraq's fierce religious and ethnic rivals, reports that have since been proved true. And he did so after repeated warnings by military officials such as Gen. Eric Shinseki that pacifying Iraq would require hundreds of thousands of American troops - accurate estimates that Paul Wolfowitz and other Bush policy gurus ridiculed as "wildly off mark."
When William F. Buckley, the man whom many credit as the founder of the modern conservative movement, writes categorically, as he did in February, that "one can't doubt that the American objective in Iraq has failed," then something terrible happened. Even as a brash young iconoclast, Buckley always took the long view. The Bush White House seems incapable of doing so, except insofar as a tiny trusted circle around the president constantly reassures him that he is a messianic liberator and profound freedom fighter, on par with FDR and Lincoln, and that history will vindicate his every act and utterance.
The heart of Bush's domestic policy has turned out to be nothing more then a series of massively regressive tax cuts - a return, with a vengeance, to the discredited Reagan-era supply-side faith that Bush's father once ridiculed as "voodoo economics." [...] While wiping out the solid Clinton-era federal surplus and raising federal deficits to staggering record levels, Bush's tax policies have necessitated hikes in federal fees, state and local taxes, and co-payment charges to needy veterans and families who rely on Medicaid, along with cuts in loan programs to small business and college students, and in a wide range of state services. The lion's share of of benefits from the tax cuts has gone to the very richest Americans, while new business investment has increased at a historically sluggish rate since the peak of the last business cycle five years ago. [...] Real wages for middle-income Americans have been dropping since the end of 2003: Last year, on average, nominal wages grew by only 2.4 percent, a meager gain that was completely erased by an average inflation rate of 3.4 percent.
The monster deficits, caused by increased federal spending combined with the reduction of revenue resulting from the tax cuts, have placed Bush's administration in a historic class of its own with respect to government borrowing. According to the Treasury Department, the forty-two presidents who held office between 1789 and 2000 borrowed a combined total of $1.01 trillion from foreign governments and financial institutions. But between 2001 and 2005 alone, the Bush White House borrowed $1.05 trillion, more then all of the previous presidents combined. Having inherited the largest federal surplus in American history in 2001, he has turned it into the largest deficit ever - with an even higher deficit, $423 billion, forcast for fiscal year $2006. Yet Bush - sounding sound much like (another failed president) Herbert Hoover in 1930 predicting that "prosperity is just around the corner" - insists that he will cut federal deficits in half by 2009, and that the best way to guarantee this would be to make permanent his tax cuts, which helped cause the deficit in the first place!
Previous presidents have regularly invoked [...] but no president before Bush has allowed the press to disclose, through a close friend, his startling belief that he was ordained by God to lead the country (GOI: If that is indeed the case that he was ordained by God to lead this country then God is one sick, twisted bastard!)
The Bush White House's indifference to domestic problems and science alike culminated in the catastrophic responses to Hurricane Katrina. Scientists had long warned that global warming was intensifying hurricanes, but Bush ignored them - much as he and his administration sloughed off warnings from the director of the National Hurricane Center before Katrina hit.
Karl Rove has sometimes likened Bush to the imposing, no-nonsense President Andrew Jackson. Yet Jackson took measures to prevent those he called "the rich and powerful" from bending "the acts of government to their selfish purposes." Jackson also gained eternal renown by saving New Orleans from British invasion against terrible odds. [...] If anyone sings about George W. Bush and New Orleans, it will be a blues number."
History may ultimately hold Bush in the greatest contempt for expanding the powers of the presidency beyond the limits laid down by the U.S. Constitution.
[...] Bush doesn't seem to be concerned about his place in history. "History. We won't know," he told the journalist Bob Woodward in 2003. "We'll all be dead."
Another President once explained that the judgements of history cannot be defied or dismissed, even by a president. "Fellow citizens, we cannot escape history," said Abraham Lincoln. "We of this Congress and this administration, will be remembered in spite of ourselves. No personal significance, or insignificance, can spare one or another of us. The fiery trial through which we pass, will light us down, in honor or dishonor to the latest generation."
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