I have written about the legacy of George Walker Bush several times on this site. Most notably, I did a 5 part series that tried to answer the question if GWB is the worst President ever. Now I read an opinion by Thomas Fleming, who is one of the most respected and well written presidential historians that we should all take a long sigh and relax for a bit before grading the man.
I respect the work of Mr. Fleming (and the WSJ) to quote too much of his article on this site. Please go to their site and read the full opinion but here are some highlights that I thought were interesting.
Several polls of historians have named George W. Bush the worst
president in American history. This baffles me. I’ve been writing about
presidents for a long time. What I know, and what I presume these
gentleman know, doesn’t connect.
Is Mr. Bush worse than John Adams? When a shooting war at sea started
between the United States and revolutionary France in 1798, Honest John
wrote a letter to George Washington, offering to resign so that George
could resume the job. How’s that for presidential leadership?
The American economy came to a horrific standstill; smuggling became
New England’s chief industry. Someone described the embargo as “cutting
a man’s throat to cure a nosebleed.” Nonplussed, Jefferson quit,
telling only James Madison, his secretary of state, who was de facto
acting president for the last year of Tom’s term.
Next, Wilson talked Congress into declaring war on Germany on the
assumption that we would not have to send a single soldier to France.
Before the war ended, we had 2,000,000 troops overseas, and in three
months of fighting lost 144,000 men.
Warren G. Harding confessed to reporters that he was not up to the job.
He told one newsman that he wanted to make the U.S. tariff higher than
the Rocky Mountains to help Europe’s industries recover from World War
I. The appalled reporter realized the president had one of the biggest
issues of the era exactly backward.
Worse than Jimmy Carter, the self- proclaimed Washington “outsider” who
presided over the most horrendous stagflation in our history? As his
poll numbers sank, Mr. Carter had the temerity to lecture citizens on
their “crisis of spirit.” His approval rating had plummeted to 22% when
Ronald Reagan defeated him.
In this light, however wavering, maybe it’s time to suspend the rush to
judgment on George W. Bush for 10 or 20 years. I suspect we will decide
Mr. Bush’s first term, with his decisive response to 9/11, deserves
some praise, and that his second term succumbed to an awesome amount of
bad luck, from his generals’ disagreements on how to fight the war in
Iraq to the Wall Street collapse of 2008.
So does all this mean that I will stop trying to figure out his rank among his peers. Probably not, but at least I know that my final opinions should wait 2020 or later. Stop by then and see what I think.