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Old 12-04-2006   #1
Fort Collins, Colorado
Join Date: Jun 2004
Posts: 12
He's The Worst Ever

By Eric Foner
Sunday, December 3, 2006; Page 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.

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Old 12-04-2006   #2
Georgia Moonshine
Join Date: Oct 2006
Posts: 173
Yeah, Truman sucks major wind.

BTW I'd like to thank El Flaco and/or Marko for emailing/signing me up for the Liberal talking points newsletters etc (spamming me in other words). Now I can read them before Marko even gets a chance to regurgitate them on here for us.

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Old 12-04-2006   #3
Join Date: Jun 2006
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Come on, worst ever...what about the pacifist peanut farmer who wasn't much smarter than his brother Billy. Jimmy Carter is by far much worse than George Bush could ever be. Showing your true this Marko with a new handle?
"any man who would trade freedom for security, deserves neither freedom nor security" Thomas Jefferson
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Old 12-05-2006   #4
Join Date: Aug 2004
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Super Patriot. I believe Carter didnt do enough good or bad to be anything but mediocre. Indecisively sitting on your hands is the very essence of mediocrity. He however single handily sent baby blue to the fashion shit heap for at least 3 generation's.

W on the other hand. He took a page out of the Coolage/Harding Book for his Fiscal Policy and Took a page out of the Johnson book for his Foreign and Coruption policy. Lets see were it lands him. sj
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Old 12-05-2006   #5
Join Date: Oct 2003
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Oh, man, this doesn't get us anywhere. There's no point arguing about this. Yea, things don't look good, but it's too early to decide how bad things will turn out.

Yea, the world hates us, our military is severly weakened, the US has a huge debt which is getting worse, and we aren't improving our education, health service availability, environment, or other domestic priorities, except for protecting the sanctity of marriage and allowing very rich people to pass $40 million to their adult kids rather than $30 million.

But, it is really too early to tell where things will go and arguing about it doesn't help. Let's argue about how to fix the mess we are in with either good Democratic or Republican ideas rather than dump on poor GW, which polarizes the argument.
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Old 12-05-2006   #6
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Thought-criminal, Colorado
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Poor GW? POOR GW?!! You gotta be shitting me. Not only does GW deserve to be dumped on, the complete idiots who put him into office -- TWICE! -- deserve just as much. Yes, if you voted for Bush you are an idiot. Period. ESPECIALLY the second time.

What it is they say...I'll use his words even..

"You fool me once, shame on fool me twice, shame on...ah..shame on?...?...ahh?...what I'm tryin to say is we won't get fooled again (stupid weesel laughter)"

Well, he fooled you the first time and then, after four years of embarrasing us as a nation every time he opens his mouth, he fooled you again. Shame on you. And I'm the one who has to pay for it. Dump on him all you want, he has my vote for worst ever.[/i]
I hope in the future Americans are thought of as a warlike, vicious people, because I bet a lot of high schools would pick "Americans" as their mascot. -Jack Handy
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Old 12-05-2006   #7
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Thought-criminal, Colorado
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the buzz sensed how pissed I am and posted my rebuke twice for good measure
I hope in the future Americans are thought of as a warlike, vicious people, because I bet a lot of high schools would pick "Americans" as their mascot. -Jack Handy
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Old 12-05-2006   #8
Join Date: Jun 2006
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Regardless of how bad a job Bush has done; in a Kerry vs. Bush rematch I believe Bush would win a third time. This country would be in worse straights with that nincompoop Kerry as President. Theresa Heinz would run this country into the ground.

BSOE, how would you like to have a Commander in Chief that thinks your in the military because you're stupid and didn't study hard?
"any man who would trade freedom for security, deserves neither freedom nor security" Thomas Jefferson
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Old 12-05-2006   #9
Join Date: Aug 2006
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It's funny what you are using to defend Bush. Pretty weak.
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Old 12-05-2006   #10
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Golden, Colorado
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Carter......Yeah, makes you pine for the days when the public would actually vote out an ineffectual and disasterous president. It's also telling that you have to try to deflect blame onto a president almost 30 years gone; rather than make a convincing case that Bush be considered one of the better presidents. Carter lacked leadership skills and a cohesive domestic plan, in a time when sky-high inflation and a nasty oil crisis were freaking the American public out. And so he was voted out after four years -either way, I was only about 10 at the time, so I can't speak to how he affected my life. How old were you, TeamA?

Nevertheless, history will certainly judge the facts, so let's check a few of them out:


JAN 1977 65,636
DEC 1980 74,563
NET = + 8,927

JAN 2001 11,1560
DEC 2005 11,2580
NET = +1,020

I prefer actual analysis with some basis in facts & figures, rather than gut reactions. Some of you will find this interesting:
(I know, it's tough to believe a document that cites sources like that commie rags Forbes & the WSJ, but bear with me).

This article distills the figures down to a few paragraphs:

Or take a simple ranking from Forbes:

Bush II doesn't make these rankings because his term isn't up, but I can't imagine that he's going to get anything done in the two years left with a Dem Congress, versus the past six years in full GOP control.

I will say this- Carter's overboard reaction to the Arab oil crisis might now be considered prescient- Raising the CAFE standards as he suggested (and the Dem Congress / Reagan shot down in the 80's) would likely have put us in a position where we could have eliminated all oil imported from the middle east by 1990. Kinda puts the Iraq war(s) in perspective.

But hell- if you can make a case for why Bush shouldn't make the bottom of the barrel, I'd love to hear it.

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