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Opening Arguments

The worst? Better hope not

I think Morton Kondracke is right:

Democrats, liberal historians and even a majority of U.S. voters already consider George W. Bush a “failed” or “poor” president — in fact, perhaps, “the worst president in American history.”

Only a thin line of loyal Republicans, led by Bush's departing top political aide, Karl Rove, thinks Bush will be vindicated in the end, both historically and politically.

Which is it? I think the jury is still out — and ought to be — because Bush's place in history will depend on the outcome of the Iraq War, Bush's signature undertaking.

Kondracke mentions two other presidents who were reviled because of the wars on their watch who have been rehabilitated by history's judgment -- Lincoln and Truman. The war in Iraq has defined Bush's presidency, and that is really the only thing history will remember him for. And we do not know how that will turn out yet, whether making it a part of the overall war on terror was a strategically brilliant move or a spectacular blunder. We can't start figuring that out yet for many reasons -- one of them being that much will depend on who the next president is and what choices he or she makes.

If Bush does turn out to be the "worst president in history," it will mean that the war in Iraq was a disaster of epic proportions. Do some people really hope for that? Those caught up in the transitory delights of Bush Derangement Syndrome should really think a little further ahead.


tim zank
Thu, 08/16/2007 - 9:09am

Those suffering from BDS are unable to look forward or backward. History has no bearing on their emotional fog, and the fog is what blinds any clear vision of the future. As much as Dems like to think they are big thinkers, they have an uncanny INABILITY to look at anything other than present tense dissatisfaction.

The old "forest for the trees" analogy is most appropriate.

A J Bogle
Fri, 08/17/2007 - 5:10am

What a pile there Zank.

History has been kind to Lincoln and deservedly so. However the jury is still out on Truman, many like and respect his straight talk style, something sadly lacking from politicians of all stripes today, his handling of Korea and the nuking of Japan are still very contentious issues on his record.

I know you Bushies try to put a "positive" spin on everything, oblivious to the facts and reality, If I were a betting man I 'd say the odds of Bush getting vindicated by history are very low.

brian stouder
Fri, 08/17/2007 - 8:49pm

I don't understand why Lincoln's name came up in this; martyred presidents get an automatic pass from their contemporaries; and in Lincoln's case, veneration grew into apotheosis.

True enough, he had plenty of detractors when he was alive, but all of that was instantly silenced by his stunning assassination right at the apex of the victorious Union war effort - and on Good Friday no less - in April of 1865.

(for the record, Lincoln is my hero - that rare example of a fellow that the more you read about him, the more you admire him...including iconoclastic screeds like Lerone Bennett's book Forced into Glory)

But Harry Truman makes President Bush-43 look like a model of bipartisan statesmanship. Truman was an absolutely relentless partisan; forget Karl Rove - the Democratic machine in Missouri that put Truman into the Senate was second to none anywhere.

I don't quibble with Truman's decision to strike Japan with nuclear weapons; we were in a fight to the finish with those people....but Truman has ZERO excuse for Korea.

Think about it - President Truman managed to let his Korean 'police action' spiral quite literally out of his control (unless someone can show where Truman specifically said to Big Mac to race all the way to the Yalu River, and not to sweat about dangerously stretched supply lines and isolated units)....and President Truman ended up getting us into an Asian war-of-attrition versus the People's Republic of China, for God's sake!!!

If we're going to make a list of the 'worst presidents ever', I'd have Andrew Johnson, James Buchanan, and Harry Truman on there to begin with. We might add James Polk for starting the war with Mexico that gained us Texas and California, and set the stage for the 'house divided' crisis of the 1850's.

President Bush might make the list, if he's stupid enough to blunder into war versus Iran...but I wouldn't bet on that

Sun, 08/26/2007 - 8:46am

It is tough to rate former presidents from before your lifetime, because most of us base their presidency on what we are taught in public schools. In other words what the government wants us to know about their presidency. Which in many cases can be completely different from what their true presidency was like.
Lincoln is a great example of the winners revising history to make them look like the "good guys". They still teach in public schools that the Civil War was fought over slavery, which is a farce. It was fought over how much power the federal government had over States rights. The North didn't care about the rights of African Americans. If they did, it wouldn't have taken them another 100 years to begin removing the racial divide in this country. And another thing revisionist historians love to leave out is that Lincoln imprisoned 31 Maryland politicians for being supportive of the South's perfectly Constitutional decision to secede the Union. Of course Lincoln dreamed of the strong central government that Mao attained, so he could not tolerate such dissent.