Worst President In History?
Bush's most dangerous legacy is the erosion of America's vaunted traditions of civil rights and liberties.
A reputed historian, representing a profession that is usually very circumspect about making sweeping judgments, recently speculated that President George W Bush could go down as the worst president in U.S. history.
Sean Wilentz, a professor of history at Princeton University, wrote that great presidents, “Presented with arduous, at times seemingly impossible circumstances, they rallied the nation, governed brilliantly and left the republic more secure than when they entered office.”
By contrast, “Calamitous presidents, faced with enormous difficulties — James Buchanan, Andrew Johnson, Herbert Hoover and now Bush — have divided the nation, governed erratically and left the nation worse off.”
Current public opinion, which is notoriously fickle, seems to reflect Wilentz’s view. Bush’s favorability ratings have been hovering around 30 percent. According to Gallup Poll, which has measured presidential job approval ratings since the 1940s, only four presidents, Richard Nixon, Harry Truman, Jimmy Carter and the first George Bush, have ranked lower and none recovered.
During his 1980 presidential bid, Ronald Reagan posed a dramatic question that resonated with the electorate and crucified then Pres. Carter. “Are you better off than you were four years ago?” A recent poll found that a resounding two-thirds of the American public believes the country is worse off than when Bush assumed office. Some 70 percent think it is on the wrong track; more than half consider Bush dishonest and untrustworthy.
Gross ineptitude, reckless politicking even with national security, nepotism, cronyism and sleazy corruption are at the root of Bush’s failed presidency. The administration politicized national security after 9/11 by stoking fear for the sole objective of mobilizing public opinion. Shallow and incompetent political cronies, hucksters, personal friends and business associates were rewarded with plush appointments and contracts by the Bush administration.
Disastrous as Bush’s incompetence and nepotism have been and the terrible price the country has paid as a result in precious resources and lives in the politicized war on terror and the misadventure in Iraq, Bush’s most dangerous legacy is the erosion of America’s vaunted traditions of civil rights and liberties, which served as a beacon around the world.
The first decade of the 21st century will go down in ignominy with the Red Scare of the McCarthy era, the Alien & Sedition Acts of 1798 and the persecution of dissenters in World War I and World War II. The Bush administration has used terrorism in this decade, much as McCarthy used communism.
In the name of the war against terrorism, the Bush administration has engaged in unconstitutional and criminal abuses, including kidnapping people, torturing suspects or rendering them to other countries for torture, holding prisoners without trial and sometimes without even access to attorneys and family in Guantanamo Bay and other secret gulags, and warrantless tapping of emails and telephones of U.S. citizens.
These egregious abuses have been made possible because the Republican majority in the Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives failed in its constitutional oversight responsibilities. With two-and-a-half years still remaining of the Bush term, the prospect that we are living under an incompetent and unchecked president in such perilous times ought to be sobering.
Fortunately, the American public will get an opportunity later this year for some damage control during the midterm Congressional elections. We hope that they will restore some semblance of checks and balances on a reckless, inept and constitutionally unrestrained chief executive by electing Democratic majorities in both houses so that proper investigations can be undertaken and constitutional speed breakers installed until the long Bush nightmare comes to a welcome end in 2008.