Worst president? Wrong question.

Rolling Stone has just published an article titled: Worst President in History?  And for those of you who haven’t read the piece (and who don’t catch on real quick), I’ll assure you it isn’t about Millard Fillmore

So, what do ya think?  Will George W. Bush be remembered as the worst president in American History (assuming, of course, anyone’s left to do the rankings when he’s finally done screwing things up, far from a given)? 

I vote yes, but then I’m biased.  Having been forced to suffer through Bush’s fatal combination of hubris, incompetence and deceitfulness, I think it’s only fair that I at least receive the booby prize of claiming the distinction of having lived through (see important proviso above) the reign of the worst chief executive in the nation’s history.  Having him ranked as only, say, the second or third worst president would be such a zero, like kissing your sister’s ugly dog.

But on a more serious note, I also think that we’re asking the wrong question here.  In so far as it has any real relevance to our lives, the important issue isn’t whether Bush will someday be deemed by historians (applying their own subjective judgments) to have been the worst president in history: The question that matters today is whether, based upon the objective evidence, he is doing more damage to the nation than any other president ever has.

And as to this, the early indicators are pointing alarmingly toward the affirmative. 

We begin, of course, with what was almost certainly the greatest presidential foreign policy blunder of all times, the decision to start the War in Iraq.  The magnitude of the damage this entirely elective war is causing the United States is so widespread, and runs in so many different directions, it’s a hard issue to even get your arms around. 

There’s obviously the human price: Thousands of Americans already dead, tens of thousands more injured (many in life-altering ways) and the very real specter of a whole generation of America’s servicemen and women being dogged by recurrent psychological problems.

There’s the cost in dollars — hundreds of billions (and probably into the trillions) of dollars — wasted as surely as if the greenbacks themselves had been gathered up and flushed down some giant toilet.

There’s the damage to our military infrastructure, with the decimation of the supply of young and upcoming officers, the wearing out of military equipment and the ongoing destruction of the military reserves.

But, unfortunately, the war is just the beginning of the damage Bush has caused. Who could forget such oldies but goodies, for example, as his series of fiscally  ill-advised and morally reprehensible tax giveaways to the wealthy, draining the US Treasury, taking record surpluses and turning them into record deficits and mortgaging our children’s and grandchildren’s futures (and probably our own retirements).

Critical environmental issues have been ignored, most notably global warming, to the point where Bush Administration incompetence and deceit may actually be threatening the very survival of human life.

America’s reputation in the world stands fundamentally diminished.  No longer perceived as a beacon of liberty, we’re now almost universally regarded as a bully, a torturer and a tyrant.

Old alliances, critically needed in the fight against terrorism, have been carelessly shoved aside under the unwavering flag of US exceptionalism and unilateralism.

The extraordinary opportunity for national unity in response to Sept. 11 was misused in the drive for partisan political gain, leaving a nation more bitterly divided than at any point in recent memory.

The wall separating church and state, a doctrine that has served this nation so well for so long, has not just been breached; whole sections have been knocked down with a battering ram, leading to the rise of crony religion, damaging the integrity of government and faith alike.

And we could go on and on.

So, given all this, can any of the former presidents traditionally viewed as being among the worst in history top Bush in terms of the sheer harm done the nation?  Let’s take a very brief look at a few of them.

James Buchanan and Franklin Pierce, consistently listed as being among the worst presidents in American history, were unquestionably weak and ineffectual; both badly mismanaged the issues of slavery and Secession in the years leading up to the Civil War.  But in looking at the issue of the actual damage done, it seems unlikely that even the most gifted of presidents would have found a way to prevent the civil war, while at the same time solving the issue of slavery.  Buchanan and Pierce’s undeniable failings probably cannot fairly be blamed for the conflagration that followed.

Warren Harding was an ineffectual president whose administration was dogged by scandal, but it’s hard to see how he did damage to the nation that even approaches the havoc created by the current incumbent.

There were other bad presidents, of course, but I personally can’t see how any of them damaged this nation to the degree Bush & Co. has.

And the really scary thing, of course, is that he still has almost three years left to work on really clinching the title.  May God show us mercy.

6 Responses to “Worst president? Wrong question.”

  1. iowametal76 Says:

    The answer to both questions - Rolling Stone’s and yours, Steve - is undeniably, unquestionably, irrefutably and very, very sorrowfully, YES.

    While comparing present-day United States to 1930s Germany in the eyes of history is admittedly apples & oranges, the lasting efects and world perceptions are similar. Our nation and its image is forever tarnished, just like that of Germany’s following WWII. Even now, nearing 100 years later, Germany still bears that stain, that stigma of what happened (and justifiably so). The same will likely happen to the USA. We will forever be known as the nation that was once a beacon of hope and honor and human rights, the protective, cool big brother (no pun) and role model to the rest of the world. Now we’re just another sad and embarrassing chapter in the world’s history of failed empire and tyranny.
    What was once something grand and beautiful, something awe-inspiring to behold is now nothing more than a sweaty turd laced with poison-dipped broken glass. And we’re force-feeding it to everybody.

    There is still hope, however. The light has not gone out, the sun has not set, the Great Experiment has not yet totally failed. But we are at the tipping point between moving on and learning from our mistakes, becoming stronger and once again being what we can be and what the world needs us to be, and utter failure, devastation, death, chaos and unparalleled suffering.
    What happens between now and 2009 will largely determine in which direction we tip.

    May god show us (and the rest of the world) mercy indeed.

  2. Chuck Says:

    And more corrupt than Grants?

  3. alwayshope Says:

    Yes, more corrupt than anyone could have imagined.
    All the acts of destruction and unquenchable greed were allowed, encouraged and promoted by our media and our congress. Most especially by toads like Pat Roberts who refused to do their jobs and instead marched in lockstep behind their dim-witted dictator. Men like Roberts and Novak and Rove should be included by historians as architects of an attempt to use our government to enrich and secure power for themselves. Their agenda has nothing to do with keeping America safe, prosperous and free. It is about being king of the world, sitting on a great oil supply and permanently controlling all branches of government. It has never been about what is best for America and Americans, but about implimenting imperialistic plans they’ve had for decades. I think history will show that for a time, America was ruled by men and women who had nothing but disdain for her people and her promise. They tainted words like patriotism and conservatism.
    They mocked principles like human dignity and tolerance. They twisted the very tenets of faith by turning peace into a word for weaklings, and truth into a theory of relativity.
    If history judges “bad” by the standard of “someone who took charge of a nation prosperous, respected and emulated and then caused a 180 degree turnabout in that nations status……..Bush is the worst president in the history of the world!

  4. PK Says:

    Neither the Rolling Stone article nor you, Mr. Day, have mentioned one of the most frightening things that I see about the Bush Administration—the entrenchment of Republical control over the voting booth. Both the 2000 and the 2004 elections were stolen from the Democrats. The techniques pioneered in Florida in 2000, and exposed by Greg Palast, were applied everywhere on a massive scale in 2004—voter disenfranchisement, and the dishonest use of electronic voting machines with propriatory software, controlled by Republican appointees and produced and programmed by vendors such as Diebold and ES&S with publically stated strong preferences for the Republican Party. The electronic slot machines in Los Vegas are rigorously supervised by the State, to protect players from fraud, but there is no supervision over the electronic voting machines. The tally is done in secret by Republican appointees.

    The way things stand now, the party that controls the voting process will win the elections, no matter how unpopular they appear to be in the polls. The Help America Vote Act (an Orwellian name, if I ever saw one) is forcing states to “upgrade” to electronic voting machines. Only a few states, such as Arizona are making efforts to preserve a paper trail in the voting process.

    If you are a Democrat, good luck in getting admitted to the precinct polling place where you have voted for years! If you do get in, touch the screen in the appropriate places and don’t think too much about how your vote will be tallied. If there is a recount, don’t think about what the Deibold or the ES&S (Election Systems & Software) programmers are doing to the machines to prepare for the recount. It will just get you deparssed. And don’t read the book, Fooled Again, by Mark Crispin Miller. That will make you feel positively paranoid.

  5. iowametal76 Says:

    Excellent point, PK. That would explain why, for the most part, Bush & Co. never really seem worried about anything, you know? Maybe that’s why he smirks so much. He knows something we don’t - that it simply doesn’t matter WHAT they do while in office, because they’ve already guaranteed election victories in perpetuity. All they have to do is point to the results - “See? America voted for us again.”

  6. RJHall Says:

    Remember back when Prexy said “History, who cares? We’ll all be dead”? Maybe he had a more sinister meaning of those last four words in the back of his mind…?

    In the old Stephen King book and movie “The Dead Zone” the psychic protagonist has a vision of the politician Greg Stillson (incidentally, played in the movie by Martin Sheen!) one day becoming president and triumphantly shouting at a tense moment with the Soviet Union, “The missiles are flying! Hallelujah!” Of all the presidents in U.S. history, even Reagan and Nixon, only Prexy, only Prexy, can I see actually doing this. I hope that, like in the Stephen King story, this remains only a haunting vision and does not actually happen!

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.