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2328Re: He's The Worst Ever

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  • Ram Lau
    May 20, 2007
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      Back in 2004 I used to say that GWB would rank at the bottom WITH his
      great-great-great-grandfather Franklin Pierce (D-NH), but after
      Katrina I concluded that he beats Pierce and Harding by at least a levee.

      Make no mistake that Harding was really bad. But he only served two
      years and then died gracefully, so it wasn't nearly as catastrophic as
      how we are having it.


      --- In prezveepsenator@yahoogroups.com, THOMAS JOHNSON <AVRCRDNG@...>
      wrote:
      >
      > 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.
      >
      > Tom
      >
      >
      > --- Ram Lau <ramlau@...> wrote:
      >
      > >
      >
      http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/12/01/AR2006120101509.html
      > > 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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