For some time there’s been a kind of running tally as to whether or not George W. Bush is the Worst President Ever. Other candidates have been put forward—Buchanan, Fillmore, and Polk among them. My own worst of list contains Andrew Jackson—iconic as he may be, his feud with the United States Bank catalyzed decades of regional inflation, bankruptcy, recession, and enabled the continuation of Southern slave-holding policies that might have faded as economically unviable under some kind of national debt management.
Here is an article running down Bush’s record and arguing for his position as Worst Ever.
I find it hard to argue with. I’m not inclined to, for one thing, but when you think back, Clinton’s presidency feels like some kind of Golden Age now.
I have a theory about why Clinton was so hated among those who still support Dubya. I think it has to do with a streak of isolationism bred deep in the bones of Americans. Clinton made deals, sat down and talked to people—“foreigners”—and generally acted as a neighbor to other countries. It’s a mixed record, sure, but our status and respect in the world was pretty high then.
Some Americans see this as not quite but almost treasonous. All this nonsense about illegal immigrants—and for some it extends to legal immigrants—goes to a sense that we should isolate ourselves, preserve what we have from the ravages of foreign investment, foreign entanglements, foreign anything. It’s okay to occasionally buy a Volkswagen or a Toyota, but General Motors should still be the number one car company on the globe. America won the Cold War and ought to be the only nation to hold the title of Superpower. But we ought no use it the way Clinton did.
Bush not only carried the big stick but he used it. Even Teddy Roosevelt understood that the power of the Big Stick was in its unstated threat, that using it actually diminished it’s might. And what did Bush use it on?
Well, he—or at least his administration—is a bully. He beats up on those he sees as a threat and stalking the schoolyard with a mad-on is his idea of a foreign policy.
But it reflects his supporters, who really are afraid of “ferriners.” His supporters are mad at Bush just now because, well, dammit, he got us involved with them anyway, with this mess in Iraq.
Well. I don’t know if he’s the worst we ever had. But it certainly isn’t going to be difficult for someone to do better.