Monday, October 22, 2007

Is George W. Bush the Worst President in American History?

Before assessing the question in the title, I should say that I am a liberal Democrat who opposed Bush and opposed the war before such positions were the norm for majority of Americans and that I can see how some good, thoughtful voters were scared into voting for Bush in the 2004 election. On a personal level, though he seems abrasive and stubborn at times, Pres. Bush is probably not a terrible person; I do not hate Mr. Bush or VP Cheney but instead hate their policies. But according to a strict record check, I can't help but wonder whether Bush isn't the worst president in American history, though I say this knowing that we often can't see beyond the political purview of our own political epoch.

At the beginning of 2004, just in terms of net job loss, Bush could have been accused of having one of the worst job creations records of any president, and with justification. With modest job growth, however compouned with job loss in the manufacturing and other such sectors, Bush cannot lay claim to that inauspicious designation that Hoover and others had. That said, the long-term fiscal health of the country is indeed in terrible shape, with a skyrocketing multi-trillion dollar deficit and the continued loss of American jobs overseas.

My criticism from Bush stems from his complete and total failures to address major threats such as global warming and the growing health care crises. Bush, for all intents in purposes, has no plan whatsoever to make health care more accessible and affordable for Americans, and his policies have contributed to accelerated climate change with very few caps on polluters and companies that pollute. These two moments of derilection, beyond his non-response to Hurricane Katrina, are also remembered in combination with the multiple scandals that mark the Bush administration -- his connections to Jack Abramoff and Tom DeLay, Scooter Libby's indictment for perjury, and many more such moments that have led to repeated calls for the impeachment of Bush and Cheney.

Princeton historian Sean Wilentz, writing in Rolling Stone last year, declared the Bush presidency one of the worst in history, at least among historians (and, I would argue, that opinion is shared by many Americans); this is so despite other administrations such as the Harding one being labeled as corrupt, the Buchanan administration not reacting to the impending civil war, and the scandals of the Nixon administration. So, yes, with the caveat that one needs a strong understanding of history and presidential administrations to make a definitive statement of which president has been the worst, I think there is empirical evidence to support Bush as being the worst president in American history.

(A Common Dreams article on the Wilentz article and Bush's abuse of power:


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