George W. Bush: The Worst President in U.S. History
Last night I was watching LINK TV, the only citizen – supported television news channel in the U.S., and they were showing a remarkable film on the current status of the U.S. media, called: “Orwell Rolls In His Grave.” Taken from an expat-BBC perspective, it shows how closely our current six-owner media situation fits with Orwell’s “1984” predictions.
I recommend this piece for anyone interested in understanding that they no longer have access to the real news, nor to media free speech, in the U.S.:
In the film, veteran White House press journalist Helen Thomas is asked about the current status of information freedom, at which point she says that things are as bad as she has ever seen them, and that George Bush is the worst president in the history of the country.
I happen to be the person who apparently first suggested such a thing, something I occasionally confirm with a Google search on the phrase. Today, looking through some files, I found this interaction on the subject which I thought readers might enjoy. This was written in 2004, about three years after I first made the call:
The following exchange was excerpted from the Ethermail section of the March 11th, 2004 issue of the Strategic News Service,
***SNS*** The Swing To Asia
As someone who lives inside the Beltway, when I see a comment such as “George Bush will be viewed historically as the worst president in U.S. history”, two things cross my mind: 1) Warren Harding, 2) it is extremely likely that every one of our 43 Presidents has been called by a writer of their time “the worst president” during their term in office.
You are being extremely era-centric when you say that a President who serves during your lifetime is the best or worst or smartest or whatever.
Statistically, the odds are just above 2% that any given President is the worst and just 37% that the worst would occur in one’s lifetime (80 years average life expectancy/215 years of Presidents). You would be much more objective, and less open to criticism, if you suggested that a President was likely to rate in the bottom quintile or, simply, as one of the worst.
I had to laugh when I read this, because these are exactly the kind of thoughts I went through before I wrote that statement. How can anything happening now be more (any adjective) than anything else in history?
Well, in fact, one easy answer is money, power and technology: any leader, not to mention any U.S. leader, can do more harm today than at any time in the past. Luckily we have not had a nuclear exchange yet, but that does underline the possibilities.
I also considered that we have had many, many presidents who were truly bad at at least one important area of enterprise: Hoover on Economics, Reagan on the Environment, Nixon on the general (and illegal) mis-use of power, etc. And Harding is certainly in the club. But these are amateurs, who generally only made world-class mistakes in one, or at most two or three, areas of their responsibility.
Here are the areas in which I think George Bush will be remembered, on an historic scale, for having been the worst:
1. The Economy. He has no serious economic team, nor policy, and his voodoo approach connecting cutting revenues while accelerating spending is taking us from the most extended economic expansion in U.S. history (there is that superlative again, and true) to the greatest debt, job losses, and deficits in U.S. history.
2. Foreign Policy. No one has ever in history so quickly destroyed our decades-long friendships with other nations; the fall into international pariah status has been breathtaking. The theory of pre-emptive strikes, borrowed from a failing Israeli plan, has alienated the U.S. not only from others, but from its own history of fairness and balance.
Much worse, Bush lied to the American people (and the U.N.) to take us into war. This may have been done before, but never – even including the Spanish-American War – on such a grand scale.
3. The Environment. Every agency chartered to protect the environment is being run by those who should be regulated. This isn’t cute political payback: it is destructive of the planet. Our air and water are getting more polluted, reversing a healthful trend of the last decade or so. There is a reason why members of the Union of Concerned Scientists said in a recent open letter that no administration, in history, had less use for science in its policies. Here is what they had to say about historic abuse of knowledge:
“When scientific knowledge has been found to be in conflict with its political goals, the administration has often manipulated the process through which science enters into its decisions. This has been done by placing people who are professionally unqualified or who have clear conflicts of interest in official posts and on scientific advisory committees; by disbanding existing advisory committees; by censoring and suppressing reports by the government’s own scientists; and by simply not seeking independent scientific advice. Other administrations have, on occasion, engaged in such practices, but not so systematically nor on so wide a front. Furthermore, in advocating policies that are not scientifically sound, the administration has sometimes misrepresented scientific knowledge and misled the public about the implications of its policies.”
I recommend that everyone who believes we should use current knowledge in policy formation, read their entire (short) report, at
4. Corruption and Ethics. If the Teapot Dome scandal was bad, how much worse was it to turn to Ken Lay, Bush’s top donor, and ask Enron to name its own regulator, and then write its own national energy policy? The failure of that regulator (FERC) to step in as mandated by law, as Enron and friends gutted California, endangering the nation’s economy, was a scandal far beyond anything in U.S. history. Disavowing his relationship with Lay, and Cheney refusing to discuss Enron’s role in policy, just adds obstruction charges to the earlier scandals.
There is much more, of course, beyond this, including then-Cabinet member Paul O’Neill’s claim that Bush had a map, three days into office, showing how Iraq would be divided among energy companies.
Finally, flying the bin Laden family out of the country while the U.S. skies were closed to aviation, and before the FBI could interrogate them, has to stand as the most scandalous and bizarre post-9/11 behavior yet discovered.
5. Stealing the election(s). You already knew about that one; it’s also historic.
6. Domestic governance. The outright destruction (and ignorance) of the Bill of Rights is a prolonged, concerted act which has never before been seen in U.S. history. Many other countries have been attacked by terrorists; why did they stand fast, and we surrender our rights, to a speedy trial, to counsel, to privacy, to facing our accuser, to our own citizenship, which may now be removed on a whim?
No one in history has tried, or wanted to try, this before.
I want to be particularly clear here: I am not objecting to George’s politics – whatever they are. I am referring to his evident inabilities, his obvious intellectual disinterest, and his apparent crony proclivities, all of which do great harm. If we someday find that Karl Rove made all of the White House decisions, based purely on winning next elections, it will help explain the lack of a more transparently rational process, but it will not undo the damage.
For the record, I am against allowing those regulated to write their own regulations. I am for a balanced budget. I believe in working with other nations to solve international problems. I strongly believe in hiring the very best talent in each respective area, from economics to the environment, to solve extremely tough problems. I do not believe in lying about reasons to go to war, and then playing the weakest of hands by pretending nothing wrong was done. I believe in trying to use modern knowledge to improve the world around me.
These are not political statements; rather, they are what I would expect of any U.S. leader. This is, after all, the 21st century. But I also believe that we should never trade off our Bill of Rights, no matter the threat: it is what we fight to preserve. That is a political statement which presidents swear to honor upon their inauguration, and which almost all have.
I am quite comfortable with the thought that George Bush is indeed the worst president in all of U.S. history.
But you’re right: you have to think it through before making such a grand claim.