Tuesday, March 21, 2006

 

The Worst President

It's stunning that Bush is on a campaign to promote the Iraq war. He's like a 300-pound man promoting a diet. In a recent poll, two top words Americans chose to describe him were "incompetent" and "untrustworthy," and this tour is doing nothing to change their minds. Is Karl Rove in a coma? What genius decided to let the buffoon out of his cage? Comically enough, as Bush claims the US will remain in Iraq for at least three more years, members of Congress quietly conspire to formulate a new plan for the war. Republicans need a more realistic policy than Bush’s if they want to survive the upcoming midterms. Heck, Congressional Republicans might even be genuinely concerned about Bush’s competence. So as we watch this former alcoholic and child of privilege talk up the “successes” of the Iraq disaster, the blogosphere oddly finds nothing of substance in his speeches to discuss. Instead, they look to place him in history. The debate is simple. Is he the worst president of all time? Or merely the worst president of our lifetime? Joshua Mica Marshall has a lovely post up comparing Bush to Reagan. Conservatives would have us believe -- as demonstrated by their posturing at his funeral -- that Reagan was the best president, ever. The facts say otherwise: the 1980s economy stuttered, he dumped thousands of the mentally ill onto the streets, the deficit grew rapidly, and his administration was riddled with scandal. Oh yeah, he lost his mind midway through his second term. His greatest accomplishment -- cracking the Soviet Union -- he helped bring about in spite of contemporary conservative policies by offering rapprochement and peace instead of isolation and perpetual war. Anyway. TPM:
Reagan had the ability, simply, to change his mind. You might say it’s the ability to allow the facts to overcome your mind or as our secular saint, President Lincoln, put it, far more eloquently, the ability to “disenthrall ourselves.” And that is the ability the current occupant of the White House entirely lacks -- a fact which is on display now as he again crosses the country arguing that black is white and up is down. President Bush represents something different from the normal sloshing back and forth between liberalism and conservatism. He’s a radical. He’s set on a destructive course, laced with corruption and fed by extremism. And he mistakenly believes that stubbornness and ignorance constitute a virtue he calls “leadership.” I don’t think there’s much question that President Bush is the most conservative president in modern American history. But the issue is not his conservatism; it’s his radicalism and destructiveness, his willingness to wreck the state. “Worst ever” covers a lot of ground. But I think there’s a good argument to be made that his is.
Ditto what he said. Until now US Grant was generally seen as the worst president in US history. He, too, like Bush was an alcoholic. His administration, too, like Bush’s, was riddled by corruption. Only Grant was a real soldier, and a brilliant general at that. (His Vicksburg campaign, in brilliance and nerve, equaled or surpassed any of those of his Southern counterparts, including Lee or Jackson.) And his memoirs, written as he died of throat cancer, are remarkably lucid and well-written -- so it’s obvious he was capable of intellectual achievements. Not this new guy. Or at least his public statements give no hint of such a quality. In fact, I can’t think of one positive achievement that Bush has done for this country. Not one. Seriously. Can anyone think of anything positive that Bush has done since taking office? And still 30-odd percent of the population thinks he’s doing a bang-up job...
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