In an informal survey of 109 professional historians conducted over a three-week period through the History News Network, 98.2 percent assessed the presidency of Mr. Bush to be a failure while 1.8 percent classified it as a success.Overlooking the shocking disclosure that anyone could deem this administration a "success," this survey is devastating to Bush's contention that he'll be vindicated by historians.
But Bush has already declared that he can serenely ignore such judgments. As he said to Robert Draper, his official biographer: "You can't possibly figure out the history of the Bush presidency - until I'm dead." As mentioned in an earlier post, such declarations have the practical benefit, for Bush, of deflecting all criticism: "he cannot be held accountable by anyone during his lifetime."
The survey also revealed that 61% of the respondents considered Bush to be the "worst" of the 42 presidents, and another 35% considered him to be with the bottom quarter (see chart below). Only four historians ranked this administration among the "top two-thirds," which offers little consolation to Bush.
Robert S. McElvaine, who conducted the unscientific survey, describes its limitations and potential flaws in some detail. For example, the respondents were self-selected from a larger group, though participation was open to any professional historian.
Here are a few comments from the historians, as reported by McElvaine:
“No individual president can compare to the second Bush... Glib, contemptuous, ignorant, incurious, a dupe of anyone who humors his deluded belief in his heroic self, he has bankrupted the country with his disastrous war and his tax breaks for the rich, trampled on the Bill of Rights, appointed foxes in every henhouse, compounded the terrorist threat, turned a blind eye to torture and corruption and a looming ecological disaster, and squandered the rest of the world’s goodwill. In short, no other president’s faults have had so deleterious an effect on not only the country but the world at large.”McElvaine offers his own conclusion:
“With his unprovoked and disastrous war of aggression in Iraq and his monstrous deficits, Bush has set this country on a course that will take decades to correct,” said another historian. “When future historians look back to identify the moment at which the United States began to lose its position of world leadership, they will point—rightly—to the Bush presidency. Thanks to his policies, it is now easy to see America losing out to its competitors in any number of area: China is rapidly becoming the manufacturing powerhouse of the next century, India the high tech and services leader, and Europe the region with the best quality of life.”
One historian indicated that his reason for rating Bush as worst is that the current president combines traits of some of his failed predecessors: “the paranoia of Nixon, the ethics of Harding and the good sense of Herbert Hoover. . . . . God willing, this will go down as the nadir of American politics.” Another classified Bush as “an ideologue who got the nation into a totally unnecessary war, and has broken the Constitution more often than even Nixon. He is not a conservative, nor a Christian, just an immoral man . . . .” Still another remarked that Bush’s “denial of any personal responsibility can only be described as silly.”
“It would be difficult to identify a President who, facing major international and domestic crises, has failed in both as clearly as President Bush,” concluded one respondent. “His domestic policies,” another noted, “have had the cumulative effect of shoring up a semi-permanent aristocracy of capital that dwarfs the aristocracy of land against which the founding fathers rebelled; of encouraging a mindless retreat from science and rationalism; and of crippling the nation’s economic base.”
“George Bush has combined mediocrity with malevolent policies and has thus seriously damaged the welfare and standing of the United States,” wrote one of the historians, echoing the assessments of many of his professional colleagues. “Bush does only two things well,” said one of the most distinguished historians. “He knows how to make the very rich very much richer, and he has an amazing talent for f**king up everything else he even approaches. His administration has been the most reckless, dangerous, irresponsible, mendacious, arrogant, self-righteous, incompetent, and deeply corrupt one in all of American history."
Like a majority of other historians who participated in this poll, my conclusion is that the preponderance of the evidence now indicates that, while this nation has had at least its share of failed presidencies, no previous presidency was as large a failure in so many areas as the current one.With 98% of respondents in this survey describing his presidency as a failure, Bush will have to look elsewhere for signs that history might yet redeem him.
GRAPHIC: History News Network