Consider this prescient 2006 piece from Rolling Stone:
Now, though, George W. Bush is in serious contention for the title of worst ever. In early 2004, an informal survey of 415 historians conducted by the nonpartisan History News Network found that eighty-one percent considered the Bush administration a “failure.”
I nominate George W. Bush as the second-worst President in U.S. history — behind only James Buchanan.
Why did “W” lose out on the top honors? Let’s examine the competition:
James Buchanan (1857-61). Under his watch, the country careened from “Bleeding Kansas” to a far bloodier Civil War — leaving Abraham Lincoln to pick up the pieces (we can take up Best Presidents later).
Richard Nixon (1969-74). Although he was forced to resign in disgrace over Watergate , “Tricky Dick” had at least a couple positive traits. Unlike Bush 43, Nixon cared about the environment and actually believed in diplomacy. Indeed, Nixon launched the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), signed the Clean Air Act, opened relations with China, and promoted peace in the Middle East.
Now let’s turn to our final contestant:
George W. Bush (2001-09). In eight years as “Decider-in-Chief“, he tricked the nation into a ruinous war, enabled his cronies to corrupt the U.S. Justice Department, and did nothing to prevent Hurricane Katrina from killing almost 2,000 New Orleans residents.
So what’s worse? Failing to prevent a catastrophic civil war (Buchanan)? Or recklessly going to war while disregarding public safety and civil liberties (Bush)? Let us know what you think: please comment below, or send us a blog post.
While my vote is for Buchanan, I must confess it’s a close call. At a recent Rosenkranz Foundation debate, two-thirds of the audience agreed that Bush was the worst President in the last 50 years.
Come Jan. 20, it’s time for change.
— Gautam Dutta