Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Worst president ever

(You really ought to re-read the title of this post using the Comic Guy voice from The Simpsons to get the full effect.)

Alana gave me the URL to a Rolling Stone article written by historian Sean Wilentz. The article does a good job of suggesting that President Bush is the worst president in the history of the United States. (Okay, the title is "Worst President in History", but wasn't Saddam Hussein a "president"? And what about "President-for-Life" Idi Amin of Uganda? Bush isn't as bad as those guys. We'll assume that the Rolling Stone editors just wanted to keep the title short.)

Here is the URL:

You may want to print it; I don't know how long it will stay on the site.

Oh, and the article has a link to an article about Bush from 1999 titled "All Hat and No Cattle". As they say, you were warned. That article has a shorter URL and is found here:

I was reminded of the "Worst President" article while watching The Daily Show last night. The guest was former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. She described an almost surreal meeting between her and several other former Secretaries of State with President Bush not too long ago. You'd think that the president would like to hear what these esteemed people had to say. Well... not really. It was basically a press release for Bush administration policies. He listened to what the former Secretaries had to say (most of it negative) and dismissed it. This isn't surprising, given that the president was warned by Colin Powell that the troop levels in post-war Iraq weren't high enough, and he dismissed that, too.

There is some obvious liberal bias in the article, but I don't think there's any error where the facts are concerned.

I personally don't think Bush is the worst president ever. You'd have to go pretty darned far to hit the depths of James Buchanan. Buchanan was president during the Panic of 1857, which brought on a depression that wasn't quelled until after the Civil War. He angered Northerners when the Tariff act of 1857 was passed (which hurt the northeast during the depression started that same year). He alienated members of his own party by pushing for an unpopular constitution for Kansas as it was trying for statehood (the people of Kansas rejected the constitution, even though it meant delaying entry into the Union). As tensions between North and South rose to the boiling point, Buchanan did nothing to solve the deepening crisis (and did a fair bit to worsen it). In the end his own party decided he wasn't re-electable. After Lincoln won the 1860 election and Southern states seceded one after another, the lame duck Buchanan didn't lift a finger to remedy the situation. He left the crisis for Lincoln to solve, even though Lincoln had no constitutional authority until after his inauguration and would have only limited power until the first session of Congress. For several months Buchanan did nothing while secession turned to civil war.

Buchanan is my vote for worst U.S. president ever. So far the only civil war Bush is likely to start is in Iraq. He's definitely, in my opinion, in the bottom quarter of U.S. presidential rankings. At least when James Polk (not exactly a widely regarded figure himself, whose image was helped largely by him dying soon after leaving office) started a war on false pretenses the U.S. got California and the southwest out of the deal.

As an aside, the Discovery Channel ran a "greatest American" show last year, a copy of a program that had already run in Britain and Canada (Canada's show was, itself, a copy of the British original). Bush was in the top 25 of "greatest Americans". This was before his poll numbers took a nose dive. The number one American was Ronald Reagan. Apparently Americans forgot that Reagan's poll numbers were no great shakes when he left the White House, and Reagan had the distinction of having the most corrupt administration in U.S. history (by counting the number of indictments and resignations due to scandals).

So, hey, there's time for Bush to reform his image... though it might take dying in office to do it, preferably by throwing himself on a terrorist bomb, to save a bunch of school children, who were present for a speech where he apologized for his handling of the whole global warming thing. Stranger things have happened... like, uh, George W. Bush being elected president to two consecutive terms.


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