Tag: POTUS

Is George W. Bush the worst President ever? Part 4 of 5

Is George W. Bush the worst President ever? Part 4 of 5

For the last three posts we have been exploring the claim that George W. Bush is the worst President of the United States ever.  Some say that he is the worst, some say he is in the middle of the pack but just about everyone agrees he is not the best ever.  This post continues the job of grading W on the various issues that he faced in his two terms of office.  See the previous posts to get the background for where we are now.

Iraq occupation – D – same as Afghanistan.  A lot of good but the job is not done so W can’t get better grade until the job is done.  He can’t get better than a C ever since he messed up so bad by putting Bremer in place – Bremer’s decisions really messed up the nation for several years.  I think that history will eventually say that the US did better in Iraq than just about any other takeover of a foreign nation (Ukraine, Yugoslavia, Georgia, Poland, etc) although that is a terrible standard to compare us to.

Israel – B – he deserves better than a C because somehow he prevented Israel from pounding Lebanon and Syria to a pulp.  He made them take a huge loss in their skirmish with Lebanon when they could have simply finished the problem.  There was a lot of desire on the part of Israel to do that after the suicide bombings and missile attacks.  Unfortunately, that may have been a mistake because it is only going to get worse when Iran gets the bomb and the lessons that Israel learned they are now taking out on Gaza (as I write this).

Palestine – D – what a blown opportunity.  The fanatic, Arafat, dies, which was a great chance to make progress.  Instead the militants get stronger but then they blow it which was another fantastic opportunity to fix the problem.  W should have forced a multi-prong diplomacy at the time of the Lebanon skirmishes to make Israel make peace with Palestine but Iran was screwing it up at the same time.  The Palestinians are probably slightly better than they were 8 years ago but that is another reason to give a D since they need to get a lot better in order to prevent it from getting a lot worse.  Typically, status quo would be a C but the lack of progress and the ramifications of that lack of progress forces the D.  This problem has been around my entire life and I think it will still be making headlines when they bury me.

Iran – not sure – I really don’t know how to grade this one.  The problem is so fluid and so complex that I don’t know what should have been done.  No question that we scared the bejeesus out of Iran when we took over Iraq in about a month or two.  If I was them, I would have stepped up nuclear efforts also.  The Europeans aren’t helping much either and they are more at threat than the US.  The only thing we (meaning everyone) have done right is to restrain Israel from taking them out proactively.  If this time bomb doesn’t go off in the next 8 years, I will be amazed (and I will probably give Obama credit for at least not screwing it up).

North Korea – C – Putting NK on the evil axis list was stupid.  There was no “axis”.  Are they an evil nation, yes.  But they are not aligned with the others on the list except opportunistically.  If Iran and Korea were neighbors, they would likely be at war (Iran would probably win).  This is a status quo situation – it got a little better than under W but not a great deal and in some ways got worse (especially for the poor Koreans who have had to live and die there for another 8 years).  Bush just took them off the axis list but he should have gone farther and declared an end to the cease fire that has been in place for 50+ years and an end to the hostilities with that nation.

World opinion – no grade matters – this is BS. First, there is no consensus on this that is at all objective.  If you read foreign papers, then you know that most of those foreign countries have far bigger problems that the US in most areas.  Also, the scale is different and they judge us with only the bad things in mind not the good.  In addition, it is the opinion of people and not the countries and the people are not usually fully informed.  A few thoughts:

  • we are the only superpower so we will never get an amazing grade.  When things go bad, it is easy to blame us but we don’t get credit for the good things.  The Germans get mad at us all the time for stirring things up but if we would remove our military bases from their soil, their economy would plummet and unemployment would likely hit 20%.
  • France gets upset with us but they are more upset that American tourism has dropped since they started offending us.  They want our money but they don’t want us to be upset when they do things that upset our sensibilities.
  • There are two other semi-superpowers (China and Russia) and if we get graded on their scale are we that much worse?  Russia threatens Ukraine, Russia does military action in Georgia, Russia withholds gas from Germany, Russia nationalizes its largest energy company and imprisons its CEO, Russia poisons one of their citizens with nuclear radiation, China allows a neighbor to develop nukes, China allows a neighbor to have mass killings of monks, China imprisons political dissidents, China doesn’t really help a neighbor after one of the worst natural disasters of all time, China builds more coal plants than every nation combined, it is not healthy to drink the water in the majority of Chinese cities.
  • The US leads in assistance to Africa. We almost double number 2 (UK).  The other 2 pseudo-super powers?  Not worth mentioning and they don’t make the ODA (Official Developmental Assistance) chart.
  • The US gives over twice as much per GDP as any other nation!  The closest 2nd and 3rd are Great Britain and Canada but they don’t even add to our PERCENTAGE OF GDP!  China and Russia don’t even make the list
  • And it isn’t like we are military hawks either – even though we easily have the strongest military.  While this data is a bit old and may be influenced by military expenditures in Iraq, we spend less of our GDP on the military budget than the other two pseudo powers – approximately 3.3% for US and 4.1% for China and 4.8% for Russia.  That’s okay though because we have a military treaty with all members of NATO that says that if they are attacked, we will defend them to the same extent as if we are attacked.  Our umbrella of protection is why we have a budget of 500+B and the combined budget of the rest of NATO is only about 300B.  It is also why when something has to be done with Iraq 8 years ago, it was the US that foot the bill.  If it has to be done, the world expects us to do it but they are more than willing to criticize us as well.  If we would stop defending NATO, Japan and S. Korea, we would be able to easily cut our military budget in half as we have 90,000 troops in Europe, 26,000 in SK, and almost 50,000 in Japan.  While I don’t condone isolationism, we don’t get any credit for the huge number of dollars that these bases put into those local economies.

So I really don’t buy the “world opinion” argument.  We are in a class by ourselves in what we deliver to the rest of the world and we are far better than the other two semi-super powers on the planet.  If the world hates us so much and is fair and objective than why does it not hate Russia and China more?  It is because everyone hates the top dog that is pre-eminently the top dog.  People will cheer for the winner of a close contest but they don’t like a contest where the winner is always the same and is never up for dispute.  They are more than willing to accept our aid, accept our military defense, accept our financial support for their economy, accept our cultural leadership but then whine about us for the same.  There is no moral opinion of the US that makes sense and it is not possible nor preferable for the POTUS to worry about it.

More on this topic later!

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Is George W. Bush the worst President ever? Part 3 of 5

Is George W. Bush the worst President ever? Part 3 of 5

For the last two posts we have been exploring the claim that George W. Bush is the worst President of the United States ever.  This post continues the job of grading W on the various issues that he faced in his two terms of office.  See the previous posts to get the background for where we are now.

We are wimps – A – Osama Bin Laden and Sadam Hussein counted on the fact that the US doesn’t like to stay in the fight when the going gets tough (Vietnam and Somalia are great examples).  He stood his ground and got destroyed politically to prove this wrong.  Much of the animosity most Americans feel about W stems from his unwillingness to allow the cut and run mentality to take over. But now our enemies don’t just assume that we will run home to mommy when the bullets start flying.

Libya – A – no question about it.  He got them to give up their nuclear program.

Africa – B – compared to other Presidents he actually should get an A since no other President has done as much for this continent as W.  AIDS help, malaria help, better trade, etc.  Unfortunately there was a lot more to do and the amount of suffering on this continent belittles the suffering on all other continents.  He has done the best here.

Economy – tough to grade as he did great for awhile and then it fell apart – in general he gets a C only because it could have gotten a lot worse a lot earlier.  The fact that the economy didn’t tube after 9/11 and Katrina is a testament to his skill.  Unfortunately, the things that he needed to do to fix the problems of the Clinton era were not possible (politically or pragmatically) due to 9/11 and Katrina.  I am not giving him a walk on this, I am just trying to be realistic about the outcomes of other actions.  If he would have tightened credit earlier on during the thralls of pain from 9/11 and Katrina then the economy would have gone south for sure.  I am not convinced that anyone could have prevented this current banking crisis without causing the crisis to occur several years ago.  I would have given him a higher grade if he would have been making speeches warning of the problem though so that some small changes could have been been in place before it went over the cliff.  He could have provided more intellectual leadership in talking about the problem without actually proposing a solution that would have caused the economy to tank – thin line to walk though.

Enron crisis – corporate governance –  B – this was not just about Enron but the several issues that surrounded Enron.  This was really a mess by Clinton that reared its ugly head during Bush’s term.  Clinton would get an F in corporate governance!  I originally gave W an A here except he did two things that were less than great

  1. he tried to hide that he knew Lay which was stupid. 
  2. He also allowed Sarbanes-Oxley to go too far and is driving companies to go private and offshore.  SOX is a perfect example of overshooting the mark to get on track, we can’t govern like a pendulum but need to drive to the right answer and not cause more problems as we overshoot the mark. 

Iraq solution – C – something had to be done here.  We had about 4 options (with variations on the themes) and all of them really sucked.  All options that Bush took were going to give a C or D (the only option that would give an A was that SH would have taken exile and W at least tried that option although it is questionable that he tried hard enough or with enough convincing).  He gets a C because he took one of the options that resulted in less global calamity and fewer casualties than any of the others. 

Iraq invasion – A – faster and more successful and with less casualties on our side or among civilians than anyone thought realistic.  Was at the easy end of the scale compared to what we were worried about.  One of the things that the talking heads of the Democratic party lied about during the campaign was that we weren’t welcomed as liberators when we were.  The people of Iraq did welcome us at first – do you remember the Saddam Hussein statue party?  The big concern at the time was that we were going to cut and run (which we didn’t).  If W was President during Vietnam and Korea the world would be a decidedly different place today (not necessarily better since Vietnam and Korea were actually hot proxies for the cold war).

More on this topic later!

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Is George W. Bush the worst President ever? Part 2 of 5

Is George W. Bush the worst President ever? Part 2 of 5

It is probably too early to truly grade W and rank him among his peers.  Time will tell if his policies were somewhat effective or total garbage.  If you are going to grade a President, you need to take a more inclusive look and not just talk about his various failings.  Also the “what if” discussion in that grading is incredibly important such as, “What if President Bush had not gone after Saddam Hussein – what would the world be like?”

It is also difficult to grade individual events because they are so intertwined (Libya, Iraq, Iran, Israel, Al Qaida, Palestine, Syria are all different variations of the same problem).  That said – here are my thoughts on the 19 things that GW did (or didn’t do):

9/11 – Bush got an A for this. Massive aid to NYC (that the Dem Senators asked for but he said yes immediately), spoke to nation well and told them not to overreact.  Was calm and reassuring in a time of near panic.  Reorganized airport security quite quickly.  Reorganized CIA/FBI, et. al. to get them to work together (probably give him a B/C on that since he could have done more).  Told Americans to do EXACTLY what was needed – go shop and get on with your lives.  By the way, Mr. Clinton gets an F for this since it was under his watch that these guys were recruited, the plan was established, the people were brought in, individuals were trained to operate planes.  The intelligence network was messed up and Clinton took steps to make it WORSE.  Check out how bad things were that GW inherited before condemning him on this issue. .  Many of our current problems with terrorism are because Clinton did such a lousy job!  According to that article, Clinton passed on going after Osama Bin Laden (OBL) 16 times and yet some cite that Bush hasn’t been able to find OBL as him doing a bad job.  We were handed OBL by the Sudanese and we turned them down and were happy they sent him to Afghanistan!

Anthrax – W gets an A for the reaction to the various attacks.  The fact that they didn’t catch the guy and execute him before he died was more of an issue of our legal system and burden of proof (something we don’t apply to foreign terrorists thankfully).

Afghanistan invasion – A – decisive and complete.  Called on the leaders to hand over OBL and when they didn’t he overran the country in a matter of days.  Tremendous statement to the world on our ability to extend our power.

Afghanistan occupation – D – some would say he gets an F here but that isn’t fair.  A lot of good things have happened along with a lot of bad.  In general women have more rights and religious persecution isn’t quite so bad.  The President that we selected is still in power (and alive) but the insurgents are stronger now (I have seen rumors that this is because Russia doing to us what we did to them in the 80s) and political calm is not in place.  There is no reason to believe that the current President could step down and there would be a smooth and orderly transition to a new President.  W can’t get better than a D here because it hasn’t gone better but giving him less is not a fair assessment of what has gone well.

Al Qaida – C – he got most of the leaders save for 2.  The problem is that in order to prevent the regrowing of terrorist organizations it takes more than capturing people but re-educating people and giving them a reason not to hate.  He pretty much has these guys neutralized as a world player in about 6 months until the Iraqi resistance aligned with them. Which leads to the next one.

Preventing terrorism – C – no attacks at home which he gets an A for but the reason there are no attacks at home is that the terrorists are much more likely to have little skirmishes in Iraq and Israel so he really just transfered the problem over there and he probably has created more reasons to be a terrorist in his term than even Clinton did.  So he effectively protected America but the world at large is worse off by his actions.  Also, he gave terrorist sponsors a real wake up call in his actions with Afghanistan – don’t mess with the US.

More on this topic later!

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Is George W. Bush the worst President ever? Part 1 of 5

Is George W. Bush the worst President ever? Part 1 of 5

The web is filled with pronouncements that George W. Bush is the worst President of the United States ever (or not).  I thought I would spend a few moments on the subject. This is a multi-part post so come back later to read more on this subject.  Better yet, subscribe to the feed and you can get it delivered to your email or feed reader.

First, lets look at what the historians say about W or at least how they grade other Presidents.  Wikipedia has a pretty good write up on the subject so let’s start there.  As with all of the recent Presidents there is a lack of the number of surveys and rankings. We can see from the couple that are there that the Wall Street Journal ranked him 18th out of 42 and Siena put him at 23.  That is squarely in the middle of the pack and nowhere near the worst.  The worst Presidents tend to Harding, Grant, Andrew Johnson, Nixon and Buchanan.  Depending on your political bent, you could throw Carter or Coolidge into this mix for the worst.  W doesn’t appear to be in this company.

If you look at History News Network though, we get a slightly different picture.  There, Mr. McElvane cites several people and informal surveys that put him as the worst or among the worst.  Mr. McElvane is not exactly impartial though as his various writings on the web show (a quick look at Huffington Post shows he strongly favors Democratic ideals and liberal policies).  We can probably discount him as just another of the liberal herd that are saying W is the worst.

Rasmussen Reports did a poll that pretty much splits on the subject of being worst.  41 said the worst and 50 didn’t.  Unfortunately the poll didn’t ask was he among the 5 worst or the 10 worst.  To be honest though most Americans probably couldn’t get within 10 of the number of Presidents that we have had so this poll (and any other poll) probably is not a good barometer.

The US News and World Report interviewed Jay Tolson and he ranked the 10 worst Presidents.  George W. Bush doesn’t appear on this list but perhaps that is because he was being nice to a sitting President.  It is interesting that the reader poll that is on the page lists George W. Bush as the worst by 72% of the voters (as of this writing).  This is far from scientific or lacking of political slant since Bill Clinton and Ronald Reagan make the worst 5 vote receivers but there is little historic push to list those two gentlemen that low.  Even Mt. Rushmore President, Abraham Lincoln, received 8% of the vote in contrast to most lists that put him at or near the top of the group.  So obviously, polling data doesn’t really mean that much.

What we need to do is grade the President on his actions for the important issues of the 8 year tenure.  Read the next post to start to dig into that subject.

More on this topic later!

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