I’ve got a couple of George W. Bush countdown clocks (including the very bottom of this page) and they read “159 days” as I type this. As we get closer to not having a Bush or a Clinton in office for the first time in twenty years, the political pundits with too much noise in their mouths will soon start to squirm out of the woodwork and pass judgment on a presidency that’s had to deal with some of the nation’s worst crisis in its 200+ year history. I’ll jump the gun a little and, being as qualified as any of them, share my thoughts on the “W” Era.
Let’s get right to the question we’ll be hearing for the rest of our lives: was the presidency of George W. Bush the worst presidency ever? My suggestion to you, kind reader, is to not only not answer that question, but to wonder about the intelligence of the questioner. That person is trying to compare president to president and history simply does not work that way.
Like many historians, I believe there’s good reasons why history ain’t history until one hundred years have passed. For example: the press corps (along with professional liberal arts community of historians, sociologists, and others who should know better) blessed and praised to high heaven the JFK presidency soon after his assassination, and a generation learned to regard him as a saint. The problem is people learned to gloss over his notable mistakes in the Bay of Pigs and Vietnam, not to mention his personal life, and this is an injustice to the men and women who lived those events. That doesn’t take away from his administration’s successes in civil rights, space exploration, and the Cuban missile crisis. Not unlike now, emotions were strong back then and being objective was a challenge. Time must pass for a proper perspective on events.
Another problem with comparing presidents is we’re talking about 42 men serving 43 terms in office since 1789. In the beginning, electricity was a novelty, the most common hand weapon was a flintlock, the American country was the East Coast, and the only free Americans at the time were, for all practical purposes, white men. Since then, we’ve grown as a nation and a society, and each administration along the way has had its own desperate set of problems. Comparing them to the current administration is problematic:
- If you’re thinking about attacks on American soil, James Madison fled Washington D.C. to avoid capture by an invading army that eventually burned the presidential mansion.
- If you want to talk about a poor economy and homeless families, how about a 25% unemployment rate in 1933 during the Great Depression during a time when women were not the main or even alternate breadwinners in most families?
- If you want to bring up a seemingly endless conflict with thousands of casualties on Asian soil, we’ll have to bring five presidents to the table (Ike, JFK, LBJ, Nixon, and Ford).
- If you’re thinking about deaths of American military members, Abraham Lincoln fought a civil war that killed over 600,000 soldiers, sailors, marines, and civilians on both sides of the conflict.
In my mind, each presidency should stand on its own merits and demerits, and the current administration has both, all of which will be listed in detail over the next few months. Don’t be lead into historical fallacies. Make up your own mind about this presidency. Lord knows there’s plenty of material to work with.
That’s not to say I don’t have feelings on the subject.
In my opinion, I feel that the “W” Presidency has always ignored the American people and has made significantly stupid mistakes on both the domestic and foreign fronts. Their arrogance in thinking caused significant damage to our standing in the world political theater, the arena of international economics, and worldwide peace in general. All of this severely curtailed, if not ended, our effectiveness as the so-called last great superpower.
To put it another way, I believe more people than ever around the world hate Americans and they do so with thoughtful, legitimate reasons. It will take decades to fix the damage, if it ever can be fixed, and this fact will affect our safety and security for years to come. Thanks a lot, Mr. President.