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2327Re: [prezveepsenator] He's The Worst Ever

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    May 20, 2007
      I've been interested about what historians are saying
      about the current presidency, and here are some of the
      thoughts I have gleaned. All are paraphrases but
      accurate to their intent.
      At the two Pulitzer prize-winning Arthur Schlesinger
      Jr. memorial service last month, Schlesinger's
      daughter said the AS Jr. did not consider GW Bush a
      worse president than James Buchanan but added " on a
      good day, " inferring that some days he did.
      Pulitzer Prize candidate HW Brand wrote in the March
      2007 Texas Monthly that in the discussion on whether
      Bush is worse than Buchanan, one would have to say
      that as bad a Buchanan was, his situation was
      inherited, where as Bush' troubles were
      self-inflicted. There are several contributors in the
      article, including Robert Caro and Robert Dallek.
      2004 Buchanan biographer Jean Baker began a talk on
      Cspan in 2004 saying that 'James Buchanan is widely
      considered the worst president in American history..
      at least up until now.' It's my personal guess, that
      her opinion has not improved since this was before
      Katrina, the war going so bad, the NSA spy scandal,
      signing statements, etc.
      I'm not trying to be confrontational and would be
      interested in a sincere discussion on the matter.


      --- Ram Lau <ramlau@...> wrote:

      > He's The Worst Ever
      > By Eric Foner
      > Sunday, December 3, 2006; B01
      > Ever since 1948, when Harvard professor Arthur
      > Schlesinger Sr. asked
      > 55 historians to rank U.S. presidents on a scale
      > from "great" to
      > "failure," such polls have been a favorite pastime
      > for those of us who
      > study the American past.
      > Changes in presidential rankings reflect shifts in
      > how we view
      > history. When the first poll was taken, the
      > Reconstruction era that
      > followed the Civil War was regarded as a time of
      > corruption and
      > misgovernment caused by granting black men the right
      > to vote. As a
      > result, President Andrew Johnson, a fervent white
      > supremacist who
      > opposed efforts to extend basic rights to former
      > slaves, was rated
      > "near great." Today, by contrast, scholars consider
      > Reconstruction a
      > flawed but noble attempt to build an interracial
      > democracy from the
      > ashes of slavery -- and Johnson a flat failure.
      > More often, however, the rankings display a
      > remarkable year-to-year
      > uniformity. Abraham Lincoln, George Washington and
      > Franklin D.
      > Roosevelt always figure in the "great" category.
      > Most presidents are
      > ranked "average" or, to put it less charitably,
      > mediocre. Johnson,
      > Franklin Pierce, James Buchanan, Warren G. Harding,
      > Calvin Coolidge
      > and Richard M. Nixon occupy the bottom rung, and now
      > President Bush is
      > a leading contender to join them. A look at history,
      > as well as Bush's
      > policies, explains why.
      > At a time of national crisis, Pierce and Buchanan,
      > who served in the
      > eight years preceding the Civil War, and Johnson,
      > who followed it,
      > were simply not up to the job. Stubborn,
      > narrow-minded, unwilling to
      > listen to criticism or to consider alternatives to
      > disastrous
      > mistakes, they surrounded themselves with sycophants
      > and shaped their
      > policies to appeal to retrogressive political forces
      > (in that era,
      > pro-slavery and racist ideologues). Even after being
      > repudiated in the
      > midterm elections of 1854, 1858 and 1866,
      > respectively, they ignored
      > major currents of public opinion and clung to flawed
      > policies. Bush's
      > presidency certainly brings theirs to mind.
      > Harding and Coolidge are best remembered for the
      > corruption of their
      > years in office (1921-23 and 1923-29, respectively)
      > and for channeling
      > money and favors to big business. They slashed
      > income and corporate
      > taxes and supported employers' campaigns to
      > eliminate unions. Members
      > of their administrations received kickbacks and
      > bribes from lobbyists
      > and businessmen. "Never before, here or anywhere
      > else," declared the
      > Wall Street Journal, "has a government been so
      > completely fused with
      > business." The Journal could hardly have anticipated
      > the even worse
      > cronyism, corruption and pro-business bias of the
      > Bush administration.
      > Despite some notable accomplishments in domestic and
      > foreign policy,
      > Nixon is mostly associated today with disdain for
      > the Constitution and
      > abuse of presidential power. Obsessed with secrecy
      > and media leaks, he
      > viewed every critic as a threat to national security
      > and illegally
      > spied on U.S. citizens. Nixon considered himself
      > above the law.
      > Bush has taken this disdain for law even further. He
      > has sought to
      > strip people accused of crimes of rights that date
      > as far back as the
      > Magna Carta in Anglo-American jurisprudence: trial
      > by impartial jury,
      > access to lawyers and knowledge of evidence against
      > them. In dozens of
      > statements when signing legislation, he has asserted
      > the right to
      > ignore the parts of laws with which he disagrees.
      > His administration
      > has adopted policies regarding the treatment of
      > prisoners of war that
      > have disgraced the nation and alienated virtually
      > the entire world.
      > Usually, during wartime, the Supreme Court has
      > refrained from passing
      > judgment on presidential actions related to national
      > defense. The
      > court's unprecedented rebukes of Bush's policies on
      > detainees indicate
      > how far the administration has strayed from the rule
      > of law.
      > One other president bears comparison to Bush: James
      > K. Polk. Some
      > historians admire him, in part because he made their
      > job easier by
      > keeping a detailed diary during his administration,
      > which spanned the
      > years of the Mexican-American War. But Polk should
      > be remembered
      > primarily for launching that unprovoked attack on
      > Mexico and seizing
      > one-third of its territory for the United States.
      > Lincoln, then a member of Congress from Illinois,
      > condemned Polk for
      > misleading Congress and the public about the cause
      > of the war -- an
      > alleged Mexican incursion into the United States.
      > Accepting the
      > president's right to attack another country
      > "whenever he shall deem it
      > necessary," Lincoln observed, would make it
      > impossible to "fix any
      > limit" to his power to make war. Today, one wishes
      > that the country
      > had heeded Lincoln's warning.
      > Historians are loath to predict the future. It is
      > impossible to say
      > with certainty how Bush will be ranked in, say,
      > 2050. But somehow, in
      > his first six years in office he has managed to
      > combine the lapses of
      > leadership, misguided policies and abuse of power of
      > his failed
      > predecessors. I think there is no alternative but to
      > rank him as the
      > worst president in U.S. history.
      > efoner@...
      > Eric Foner is DeWitt Clinton professor
      > of history at Columbia University.
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