2328Re: He's The Worst Ever
- May 20, 2007Back 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 email@example.com, THOMAS JOHNSON <AVRCRDNG@...>
> 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.
- << Previous post in topic Next post in topic >>