Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Worst President In History?

As we approach 2008, we'll likely see more and more of this: experts and the like offering educated guesses that GW will go down as the worst U.S. president ever. Perhaps the best and most thorough take on this matter so far is by Princeton history professor Sean Wilentz in the Rolling Stone.

This past Sunday, the Boston Globe likened Bush to Warren G. Harding. From the editorial:
Genial with his many friends and bored with the trappings of high office, Harding entered the White House in 1921 with apparent ease and confidence, but it was soon clear that he was not up to the job, and his administration ended in a shambles of mismanagement and corruption.
Harding, like Bush, was a pro-business Republican who succeeded a two-term Democrat (Woodrow Wilson in Harding's case). Neither was confrontational by nature: Harding cast the fewest vetoes of any 20th-century president -- six; Bush cast his first last week. Both liked to golf and fish.

Some more basic personal similarities may be evident in descriptions of Harding by a biographer, Robert K. Murray: "Harding tended to accept the pat answer rather than reason through to a more sophisticated solution." "There is no indication that he ever spent much time reading." "His indiscriminate loyalty placed him in constant peril." "Often he simply endorsed a solution worked out by others."

With Bush, as with Harding, the performance raises the question of who is really in charge. Bush's earnest claim, "I am the decider," sounds much like Nixon's desperate "I am not a crook" -- a defensive cry that shouldn't have to be made because it is obviously true, but isn't.
Of course, Harding's administration was riddled with corruption and his subordinates were extremely powerful and called many of the shots (sound familiar?).

Many polls have consistently ranked Harding as one of the worst presidents ever. Look for Junior to edge him out in the next few years -- no matter how desperately the GOP attempts to invoke memories of Truman.

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