Thursday, December 08, 2005Bush is a pretty awful President, to be sure, but the worst ever? Isn't that going a little far? Could this be another example of academic liberal bias?
No. In fact I've said much the same thing myself.
One of my earliest posts was about how we rate Presidential "greatness." In it I came up with some criteria for presidential success - symbolic importance, domestic legislative success, foreign policy, party leadership, executive competence, democratic credentials. My ranking of the country's worst Presidents is fairly conventional: Grant, Harding, Buchanan, and Johnson. Each of them left the country in a worse state than they found it. And Bush ranks lower than all of them.
Why? Because all of the other bad Presidents are primarily guilty to failing to respond to serious problems - Grant and Harding let corruption flourish, Johnson failed to follow through with Reconstruction, and Buchanan did nothing to avert the Civil War. Their sins were the sins of inactions.
Bush has committed a far greater sin. Instead of doing nothing to solve our problems, he has actively made them all worse. It is as if he is trying to ruin the country. Run down the laundry list - foreign policy blunders, administrative incompetence, reckless fiscal policy, social intolerance, corruption, and just plain demagogy - no President in the history of the country has had such a baneful effect not just on public policy or our standing in the world, but on our democratic institutions.
But take heart! If the Republicans manage to eke out another couple of electoral victories, I'm sure they'll be even to top even themselves. Reagan made me miss Nixon, and Bush made me miss Reagan. I'm confident that the Theocons can make me miss Bush.