Wednesday, December 06, 2006
What makes the worst (or best) President?
One of the qualifications for greatness when historians consider the office is the times the President presided over. For my money, Abraham Lincoln is the best President in American history, with George Washington at number two. Lincoln saw this nation through our great Civil War with enlightened leadership. His Presidency was wrought with turmoil and beset by conflict, but he delivered a United States of America, and a freed race from his efforts. Truly remarkable.
George Washington is loved more for his generalship during the Revolutionary war than for enlightened Presidential leadership. Truth be told, Washington played at insurgency as commonly understood these days but with a decidedly more conventional mindset. His goal was to outlast the British and make it too costly for them to continue the struggle. He succeeded at this and truly is the father of our nation. He continued in his selfless ways as President, eschewing power when it was offered to him both as General and President. Once again, truly remarkable.
I believe to be termed great that a President must be faced with a dire emergency to the nation. Franklin Delano Roosevelt faced two such emergencies and must rank high on the list of greatest Presidents. On the other hand I believe President Clinton was a fantastic President, very effective as a leader, able to influence events even as the legislative branch obstructed him at every turn... just a very fine President. However he never had that national emergency which, if he had successfully navigated the nation through, would have propelled him to greatness. The common denomoninator of great leaders, regarded as the finest American Presidents, was that they each guided the nation in times of extreme emergency. And I believe it is this denominator that can lead to the nomination of G.W. Bush as worst President ever.
President Bush was handed greatness in the pantheon of his peers on a silver platter. Lincoln wrested greatness from the jaws of division, strife, and great turmoil. After the attack of 9/11 President Bush was given support of historically unprecedented levels, both internationally and domestically. The threat to the nation from terrorism is and was very real. President Bush was handed greatness and proceeded to steer the nation into a quagmire in Iraq. He used the enormous political capitol provided him by Osama Bin Laden to steer this nation to disaster. President Bush was given the chance at greatness, and gave us remarkable failure.
I don't need to recount the disasters that have befallen this Presidency. They are obvious for all to see. This did not happen as the nation coasted along in a time of peace and prosperity. President Bush was given an emergency, and a shot at greatness, but it is his response to that emergency that makes him the. worst. President. ever.
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