The Worst President in History

by Stephen Tall on April 21, 2006

Back in May 2004, Matthew Parris wrote a brilliant article, Why I will be rooting for a George Bush election victory:

What the President and his advisers are trying to do will be a colossal failure. But failure takes time to show itself beyond contradiction. The theory that liberal values and a capitalist economic system can be spread across the world by force of arms, and that the United States of America is competent to undertake this task, is the first big idea of the 21st Century. It should be tested to destruction. The opening American presidency of the new millennium — George W. Bush, 2001-2009 — should serve as an object lesson to the world for the decades to come. There must be no room left for argument. The President and his neoconservative court should be offered all the rope they need to hang themselves. When they do, when they fail, when America’s dream of becoming the new Rome dies, there should be no possible excuse, no straw at which Republican apologists can clutch.

Throughout history, failed ideologues have protested that they were never really given the chance to put their ideas into practice. Their disciples remain, still believing, still evangelising for the next attempt. Let the former President George W. Bush find no such cult to puff his memory. Give him the chance to see this thing through to the end, so that nobody will be able to claim that it was the American people who let him down; that the voters’ nerve failed before he could finish the job. Let him finish the job. Then the failure can be pinned to him and to his project, not to any infirmity of the people’s purpose.

It was a piece which stuck in my memory, and came to mind again today when I read historian Sean Wilentz’s article in Rolling Stone, The Worst President in History:

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.