Sunday, December 03, 2006


This just in: Liberal historians don't like Bush

Apparently, the Washington Post has decided subtle doesn’t work and is making no bones about its animosity toward the President. Today’s Outlook section contains the entirely predicatable comments of a few historians on the subject of where Mr. Bush’s presidency stands.

Noted historian Douglas Brinkley has weighed the evidence:

“…after six years in power and barring a couple of miracles, it's safe to bet that Bush will be forever handcuffed to the bottom rungs of the presidential ladder.” Move Over, Hoover

Now before you get all gleeful and start quoting this guy, let me remind you: this is the same guy who once wrote – and I’m not making this up:

"It's as if suddenly, an entire generation's optimism is deflated, and all that is left is the limp reality of growing old." Douglas Brinkley - Slate Magazine

I know – that’s beautiful. Would you have guessed that he was commenting on the death of John Kennedy, Jr.? Stop laughing; he was serious. He thought it was a watershed moment.

This is also the same man who wrote “Tour of Duty”: that ground breaking biography of John Kerry that came out just as the 2004 primaries were kicking off. As you know, despite Mr. Brinkley’s kind words and best efforts, George Bush received more votes than any other presidential candidate in history.

And no, there was no mention of Jimmy Carter as a possible candidate for this worst ranking.

The Post also thought that Columbia University history professor Eric Foner could provide some useful insight. Mr. Foner calmly goes through his assertions that, if taken at face value, would have you packing your bags for the relative freedom of North Korea and concludes in his best Keith Olbereman style:

“I think there is no alternative but to rank him as the worst president in U.S. history.” He's the Worst Ever

I can only guess he slept through the Carter years. Anyway, the Post could have saved the space for someone else’s anti-Bush rant and just pointed us to Eric Foner’s article in The Nation back in December 2004:

RARELY HAS A PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION produced such widespread despair on the left. By any objective standard, George W. Bush has been among the worst Presidents in American history.” Looking Back, Looking Forward

Next to those two, Michael Lind of the New America Foundation comes across as practically a groupie, ranking this President as only the fifth worst ever:

“In the White House Hall of Shame, Bush comes behind four other Oval Officers whose policies were even more disastrous: James Buchanan, Andrew Johnson, Richard M. Nixon and James Madison.” He's Only Fifth Worst

Doesn’t anyone remember Jimmy Carter?

Mr. Lind makes it three-for-three in the no-surprise-he’s-bashing-Bush countdown. From the Publisher’s Weekly review of his book on the President:

Stopping the threat, for Lind, does not necessarily mean reelecting Democrats, although unseating Bush would be a first step. Provocative as his examination may seem to some, Lind's hyperbolic tone is comparable to that of the most incendiary talk-show host.” Made in Texas: George W. Bush and the Southern Takeover of American Politics (New America Books (Paperback)): Books: Michael Lind

David Greenberg makes it a grand slam. But the Professor, who teaches at Rutgers (who just lost a tough one to West Virginia in triple OT) does at least come across as somewhat nuanced in his disdain for Bush: At Least He's Not Nixon. Now I am no fan of Mr. Nixon – his enlargement of the federal bureaucracy and attempt at wage and price controls represent everything I don’t want in my national government. But Professor Greenberg makes a comment in passing that strikes me as kind of inane:

“And it's conceivable that the consequences of the invasion of Iraq may prove more destructive than those of Nixon's stubborn continuation of the Vietnam War.”

Most of our involvement in Vietnam happened before Richard Nixon took office in 1969 and for all intents and purposes, our involvement was over by his second inauguration. Of all the problems that emanated from our time in Vietnam, I can’t lay too many off on “Nixon’s stubborn continuation”. ...and, oh yeah, Iraq is no Vietnam.

But fear not - there is reason within the History Teaching profession and it comes from, of all places, Boston where Vincent Cannato teaches at UMass. Mr. Cannato worked briefly with the Bush administration but manages to avoid gushing and seems, uniquely among this group, to fully comprehend that this Administration still has a few years left:

I don't know how history will judge him. My guess is that, like most presidents, he will bequeath a mixed record. We can debate policies and actions now, but honesty should force us to acknowledge that real judgments will have to wait.” Time's On His Side

But what fun is that?

For the record, I’m not putting this President on any pedestal. Campaign finance, immigration, the unwillingness to use the veto – all this and more have been constant sources of irritation for me. But I remain with him on Iraq. I believe we are better off without Saddam in power.

Given a do over – I’d still enthusiastically vote for 43 over Al Gore or John Kerry. And looking back even farther in my lifetime, only Ronald Reagan and possibly Gerald Ford would get my vote over our current President.

As to worst president ever; in my lifetime it has to be Jimmy Carter, with Richard Nixon at best a blip on the radar. But all time worst: James Buchanan…and following him only magnified just how great Abe Lincoln was.

UPDATE: I could have used some of Pillage Idiot's succinctness on this subject.

Thanks. I could have used some of your thoroughness. Actually, I didn't need to be thorough, because I had a sense you'd do the heavy lifting.
That's what's nice about MC, he critiques the WaPo so we don't have to.
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