George W. Bush's presidency appears headed for colossal historical disgrace. Barring a cataclysmic event on the order of the terrorist attacks of September 11th, after which the public might rally around the White House once again, there seems to be little the administration can do to avoid being ranked on the lowest tier of U.S. presidents. And that may be the best-case scenario. Many historians are now wondering whether Bush, in fact, will be remembered as the very worst president in all of American history.
Judging an event while it is happening does not allow for context. You can't decide if someone is best or worst while they are still performing. It would be like declaring someone the best or worst team at halftime.
. We assess the past from widely divergent points of view and are deeply concerned about being viewed as fair and accurate by our colleagues.
Shouldn't one start with the actual reality and be concerned about representing it as objectively as possible while being able to pass it on to future generations? This premise for how historians operate sounds horribly flawed and give credence to why so many today are willing dismiss those who should hold the most weight in historical discussions. However when a historian is simply someone who takes their point of view and tells a story while always being conscious of peer pressure, how is that historical scholarship?
Historians do tend, as a group, to be far more liberal than the citizenry as a whole -- a fact the president's admirers have seized on to dismiss the poll results as transparently biased.
Have Historians always been more liberal than the citizenry as a whole or is this a recent development? Simply stating this fact does not cause one to avoid the dismissal in order to avoid a false conclusion. Whether the poll is affirmed or dismissed, until there is a valid explanation for why historians take their liberal point of view (divergent though it may be) and explain it how it informs rather than distorts their work, then the work will be questioned.
Even worse for the president, the general public, having once given Bush the highest approval ratings ever recorded, now appears to be coming around to the dismal view held by most historians.
This stretches into a very long paragraph, all basically discussing approval or disapproval, ie popularity. How does popularity have anything to do with performance? Does the author offer up any sort of data to support his view? Growth or shrinkage of the economy? Unemployment data? Median household income? Life expectancy? Anything?
The problems besetting Bush are of a more modern kind than Polk's, suited to the television age -- a crisis both in confidence and credibility.
The author offers up as a second leg to his argument, the fact that Bush is both unpopular and uncredible, i.e. he is a liar. Yet there is not an assertion made by Bush that was not held by other administrations or even international bodies. The real issue is preemption. We are watching this come to the fore again with Iran and now many of the same previously attempted solutions are being bandied about. International negotiations, pressure, sanctions and so on are being discussed. While people can be critical of Bush in a multitude of ways, I've not heard a clear consensus view on what should have been done differently. This author does not offer one either.
Until the twentieth century, American presidents managed foreign wars well -- including those presidents who prosecuted unpopular wars.
So a war could be popular or unpopular and the president managed the war well. Does this really mean the president managed the war or the home perception of the war well? What is it that has changed since this time? Have the presidents conducting the war somehow become less effective? Have the people conducting the war someone become less competent?
The twentieth century was crueler to wartime presidents.
Indeed, but how or why?
Bush has more in common with post-1945 Democratic presidents Truman and Johnson, who both became bogged down in overseas military conflicts with no end, let alone victory, in sight.
Is there a war fought since 1945 in which any president has been able to persuade those reporting on it and the historians documenting it that victory and an end was possible? If Bush cannot is this his personal failing or a change in the institutions and their own views on these matters?
We will stop here for now... if there is real discussion instead of just ranting or dismissal, perhaps the rest of the article will warrent similar dissection.