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Monday, December 11, 2006

Worst President Ever? Or Merely Mediocre?

Yesterday's Milwaukee Journal Sentinel "Crossroads" section featured a series of op-eds that originally ran in the Washington Post the week before, by five historians trying to guage, three-qaurters of the way through, where George W. Bush falls when you rank the presidents.

Eric Foner says Worst. President. Ever. Douglas Brinkley says bad, but not a true villain. David Greenberg says he'll never be as bad as Nixon. Michael Lind puts him fifth from the bottom. And Vincent Cannato, fairly sensibly, argues that without the distance and perspective of time and history, it's really hard to judge. As an example, Cannato cites Harry S Truman, who was not well liked at the time but has gotten his props in more recent times.

(Bush must have taken Cannato's words to heart, as he tried to claim kinship with Truman this week--though forgetting that what he's done and what Truman did are nothing alike. He got kind of petulant when someone pointed that out to him. I don't think Truman was such a big baby, either.)

There's a lot more to say about all of those essays--you should read them all, of course--but I won't say it. Instead, I'll defer to the infinitely wiser Barbara O'Brien, who wrote about them when they appeared in the WaPo last week. Check out her take both on the Foner "Worst President Ever" piece and the other four. When what I want to say has already been said, may as well save us all the trouble, eh?

Oh, and for the record, I mostly agree with Cannato: It's too early to judge. However, Cannato seems optimistic that time will brighten Bush's star; I doubt that. Bush's star was never too bright to begin with.

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