Wednesday, April 19, 2006

The worst president ever: semi officially.

Sean Wilentz has written a column for Rolling Stone that really is a must read.

The lengthy list of qualifications that lead Rolling Stone to term Mr. Wilentz as "one of Americas leading historians" can be found here . The judgement he passes on the Bush administration is cogent, factual, and devastating.

Mr. Wilentz demonstrates both on the international and domestic fronts how the policies of this President have resulted in monumental failures. Wilentz describes how even though the manifestations of failed policy are legion, that this President is incapable of changing those policies. This bull headed attitude in the face of failure is perfectly summated by Professor Wilentz thusly:
Bush has failed to confront his own failures in both domestic and international affairs, above all in his ill-conceived responses to radical Islamic terrorism. Having confused steely resolve with what Ralph Waldo Emerson called "a foolish consistency . . . adored by little statesmen," Bush has become entangled in tragedies of his own making, compounding those visited upon the country by outside forces.
There is no doubt that the President is resolute and steady in his goals. That does not make him right. When the President says that he will not govern according to the polls, we may only wish that while ignoring polls the President would heed the signs of failure and govern accordingly. President Bush is simply incapable of doing so.

Speaking of polls, Mr. Wilentz also shows how the President has squandered the most favorable ratings in the history of the Presidency, immediately after September 11, to near historical record lows of approval for his governance today. Mr. Bush had the opportunity to reach greatness in the pantheon of American leadership because of the circumstances he found himself following that historic day. Yet the President has chosen to squander the good will of the public, both domestically and internationally, by pursuing policies that divide us against ourselves. The constant harping on September 11 in pursuit of partisan goals that have nothing whatsoever to do with terrorism is nothing short of apostasy. They have taken an event which united us, an event of monumental historical significance, an event which literally changed the world, an event of horrid tragedy and national trauma, and bastardized it for their own political goals. Can you imagine the absolute depravity that would have been signaled by FDR if he had used Pearl Harbor to further his political goals? Imagine radio ads against Republicans in that time claiming they were weak on the war. It simply is unimaginable. Yet that is precisely what this President has done.

Using the tragedy of September 11 as a springboard to launch a needless war in Iraq will be thought of by future generations as near madness. Not only was this war unnecessary, it was the exact wrong action to take in conducting a global war on terror. This war arguably is one of the, if not the, greatest strategic blunder in American military history. We find ourselves bogged down with no end in sight. Our military conveniently provides targets to our enemies and is fomenting rebellion by occupying Iraq. Our leaders have been shown to be liars even as we face other threats internationally where-in our intelligence will not be taken seriously. We have alienated the rest of the world, from providing a united international front in the war on terror immediately after September 11, to now being distrustful and hostile to American goals and this President. The fracturing of the international coalition against terrorism due to this needless war in Iraq is precisely the opposite of what we truly need to effectively combat terrorism.

Indeed, in using September 11 to further his partisan agenda, and then insisting he is right after being repeatedly proven wrong, this Presidents governance has simply been a disaster.

I especially found Mr. Wilentz description of what generally makes presidents either great successes or failures enlightening. Basically the circumstances presented the President offer most of them a mediocre standing in the pantheon of their peers. It is the Presidents who govern in a time of crisis that are either deemed great or failures. Buchanan, widely acclaimed as the worst president ever, prior to Mr. Bush, governed as the southern states prepared for secession. His lack of action in that time is considered disastrous. Lincoln and Roosevelt both saw the nation through great wars, using their circumstances to unite the nation and govern wisely. Bush's great opportunity was provided by Osama Bin Laden on September 11, and this President has proven a manifest failure in response, dividing the nation during a time of war by being openly hostile to Democrats, and not correcting obvious mistakes in his policies.

I do believe that Mr. Wilentz has made a very strong case. President Bush may well be one of the, if not THE worst President in American history.

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