Historians say Bush is sinking fast

June 17, 2006

With increasing frequency, articles are being published which compare the performance of George W. Bush with that of earlier presidents. But there is a very real difference in the present ranking system and what was used on previous presidential studies.

Earlier studies of presidential performance used categories which had been accepted for many years: excellent, above average, average, below average and failure. At least two of the recent articles rank Bush only in relationship to presidents who have, by common agreement of recognized historians, been judged to have been poor presidents. In other words this study is judging the worst of the worst.

Examples of low-ranking presidents are James Buchanan, Andrew Johnson, Ulysses S. Grant, Warren Harding and Richard Nixon. A 2004 study conducted by George Mason University in a survey of 415 presidential historians concludes that George Bush should now be included in this list - or worse, designated as "the worst."


A summary of the results are as follows: Eighty percent considered Bush's first term a failure, half of all respondents considered it the worst since the Great Depression, more than a third said it was the worst in 100 years and 11 percent ranked his first term the "worst ever."

But, more damaging than the original study are follow-up opinions. One professor avers that, "When I filled out that survey, I said Bush was the worst since Buchanan (1857-61), but things have gotten worse and now I'd have to consider him the worst ever."

The criteria used by these historians by which to grade the performance of each president were: Fiscal management, economic stewardship, success in handling change and crises and how our international interests were promoted.

Space permits only one illustration of each of these criteria to appreciate why these historians have such low regard for this president.

Fiscally, the 2006 national debt ceiling was raised $781 billion to $9 trillion. Economically, huge tax cuts -mostly to a small percentage of the very wealthy - combined with massive spending raised the debt to roughly $30,000 for every man, woman and child.

The oil crisis will most certainly be a severe irritant with an uncertain solution. The war in Iraq has drained our human and material resources and stained our reputation as a humane society.

Each individual will assess who is worst in terms of their own scale of values and how much they know about each president's record. James Buchanan was a weak president who did nothing to stop secessionists from taking control of federal forts and arsenals with all the military supplies needed to conduct war.

Grant and Harding admired the rich and were naively ineffective in stopping the fraudulent behavior of the cronies appointed to office. Richard Nixon was devious and abused the powers of his office.

Surprisingly, his speech (in private) was vulgar.

It appears that President Bush is the equal of any of those noted above. But there is compelling evidence that President Bush may well deserve to be ranked as the "all time worst" by those who are qualified to pass judgment on those who serve as our chief executive.

As a citizen who has watched the presidents serve in the White House and have read biographies or biographical sketches of every other president that has served our country, it is possible to give some impression of this one. He appears to be a little man in a very big job.

Instead of trying honestly to learn how to deal with complex issues, he has used swagger and cant to appear to be on top of events. It is no surprise that he should be ranked at the bottom.

Allan Powell


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