His name alone is enough to make some cringe. George W Bush elicits some of the strongest negative reactions of any president in my lifetime, which, granted, has not been that long. My father is a die-hard Democrat and I haven’t seen him get so red-faced angry since the Reagan years. The Rolling Stone declared Bush the worst president back in 2006. In a History News Network poll 61% of historians ranks Dubya in last place. There is even an entire website dedicated to promoting the “fact” that George W Bush is the worst president ever.
Is this a far assessment of poor ol Dub? According to Thomas Fleming it isn’t. There have been many greats (not that Bush necessarily belongs with them either) who have made some huge missteps.
from Wall Street Journal
Is Mr. Bush worse than John Adams? When a shooting war at sea started between the United States and revolutionary France in 1798, Honest John wrote a letter to George Washington, offering to resign so that George could resume the job. How’s that for presidential leadership? Meanwhile, Adams had kept Washington’s cabinet officers on the job, although he loathed them. He finally fired them in a fit of hysteria, which made them wonder if he had lost his mind.
Is Mr. Bush worse than Thomas Jefferson in his second term? Rather than build a decent navy to deal with the British — who had a habit of boarding American ships on the high seas and forcing kidnapped sailors into semislavery — Jefferson declared an embargo on all trade with England and the rest of Europe. The American economy came to a horrific standstill; smuggling became New England’s chief industry. Someone described the embargo as “cutting a man’s throat to cure a nosebleed.” Nonplussed, Jefferson quit, telling only James Madison, his secretary of state, who was de facto acting president for the last year of Tom’s term.
James Madison, who officially succeeded Jefferson in 1808, made presidential passivity into an art form. “Little Jemmy,” as they called him in New England, watched while 4,500 British troops disembarked from their ships, marched to Washington, D.C., and burned the White House, the Capitol and almost everything else worth torching. You can’t do much worse as a war leader than that performance.
Woodrow Wilson? When World War I exploded, Irish-Americans objected to his pro-British tilt. Wilson responded that ethnics like these loudmouthed micks were “pouring poison into the veins of our national life,” alienating the largest voting bloc in the Democratic Party. Meanwhile, as a Southern-born pol to his wingtips, he segregated almost all employees of the federal government.
Next, Wilson talked Congress into declaring war on Germany on the assumption that we would not have to send a single soldier to France. Before the war ended, we had 2,000,000 troops overseas, and in three months of fighting lost 144,000 men.
Elected by seven million votes thanks to the electorate’s loathing for Wilson, Warren G. Harding confessed to reporters that he was not up to the job. He told one newsman that he wanted to make the U.S. tariff higher than the Rocky Mountains to help Europe’s industries recover from World War I. The appalled reporter realized the president had one of the biggest issues of the era exactly backward.
Harding had a concealed box at the Gayety Burlesque Theater where he spent many afternoons and nights. In the leftover hours he concentrated on poker and trysts with a blonde named Nan Britton — reputedly in a closet off the Oval Office — while his appointees looted the federal government.
Is Mr. Bush worse than Roosevelt in his second term? Re-elected by a massive majority, FDR wanted to pack the Supreme Court with Democrats. Congress, dominated by members of his own party, wasted a year wrangling over the bill and ultimately rejected it. Meanwhile, FDR’s intemperate remarks about greedy businessmen wrecked confidence and triggered a semireplay of the Great Depression in 1937. The Republicans made massive gains in the 1938 midterm elections. FDR was rescued from an exit even more humiliating than Jefferson’s by World War II, which he used as an excuse to run for a third term.
Worse than Jimmy Carter, the self- proclaimed Washington “outsider” who presided over the most horrendous stagflation in our history? As his poll numbers sank, Mr. Carter had the temerity to lecture citizens on their “crisis of spirit.” His approval rating had plummeted to 22% when Ronald Reagan defeated him. Let us skip Bill Clinton. He and Bush are too contiguous; proximity makes comparisons inevitably rancorous.
Jefferson also pursued the idiotic policy of employing unseaworthy gunboats to defend our shores. John Adams much debated Alien and Sedition Acts could be seen as worse than the Patriot Act. Of course we shouldn’t forget the 100,000 plus American citizens of Japanese, German, and Italian descent interned in camps by order of FDR during WWII. Let us not forget Woodrow Wilson’s blatantly racist presidency. The KKK did march in his inaugural parade.
Of course all of these presidents I’ve mentioned are generally considered some of the most successful. What about the bottom of the pack? Franklin Pierce and James Buchanan should be recognized for their limp administrations. Both presidents attempted to placate the slave south, Pierce with the Kansas-Nebraska Act and Buchanan with his doughfaced actions made war between the states unavoidable.
In my opinion, one of the most ineffective presidents has to be Andrew Johnson. He eeks out ahead, or behind, Grant who failed to act during the Panic of 1873 and who’s administration was racked with scandals. The hard line with the ex-Confederacy, maybe a bit too harsh, taken by Lincoln was reversed by Johnson. Johnson pardoned former plantation owners and returned their lands. This led to the effective continuation of slavery in share cropping. Johnson’s refusal to negotiate a more moderate settlement with Radical Republicans gutted the Reconstruction of its teeth. Johnson’s stubbornness put race relations in a pit they would not begin to climb out of until the 1960s. Jim Crow laws, disfranchisement of legal voters, horrible numbers of lynchings, the rise of the Klu Klux Klan, and other crimes happened because of Andrew Johnson’s atrocious management.
George W Bush’s actions are hard to compare with things some past presidents have done. I’m not saying history will vindicate Bush, but we should really look at all the facts before we label him the worst. Bush was mediocre at best and at worst the best of the inferior presidents.