04 December 2005

Worse than Buchanan?

James, not Pat. (Though he might be worse than him too.)

Richard Reeves writes:

He was the guy who in 1861 passed on the mess
to the first Republican president, Abraham Lincoln.
Buchanan set the standard, a tough record to beat.
But there are serious people who believe that
George W. Bush will prove to do that, be worse
than Buchanan. I have talked with three significant
historians in the past few months who would not
say it in public, but who are saying privately that
Bush will be remembered as the worst of the

There are some numbers. The History News
Network at George Mason University has just
polled historians informally on the Bush record.
Four hundred and fifteen, about a third of those
contacted, answered -- maybe they were all
crazed liberals -- making the project as unofficial
as it was interesting. These were the results: 338
said they believed Bush was failing, while 77 said
he was succeeding. Fifty said they thought he was
the worst president ever. Worse than Buchanan.

This is what those historians said -- and it should
be noted that some of the criticism about deficit
spending and misuse of the military came from
self-identified conservatives -- about the Bush

• He has taken the country into an unwinnable
war and alienated friend and foe alike in the

• He is bankrupting the country with a
combination of aggressive military spending
and reduced taxation of the rich;

• He has deliberately and dangerously attacked
separation of church and state;

• He has repeatedly "misled," to use a kind
word, the American people on affairs domestic
and foreign;

• He has proved to be incompetent in affairs
domestic (New Orleans) and foreign (Iraq and
he battle against al-Qaida);

• He has sacrificed American employment
(including the toleration of pension and
benefit elimination) to increase overall

• He is ignorantly hostile to science and
technological progress;

• He has tolerated or ignored one of the
republic's oldest problems, corporate
cheating in supplying the military in wartime.

And don't forget that he has also condoned and defended
the use of torture against “enemy combatants” that are held
indefinitely without due process -- a policy as ineffective as
it is inhumane.

David Cole explains:

... more than four years after President Bush
created military tribunals, not a single case has
gone to trial. Only a handful of the hundreds of
detainees have even been charged. One probable
reason for the military's reluctance is the real risk
that any trial will turn into a trial of the United
States' own interrogation practices. Although the
military tribunal rules do not exclude the use of
testimony extracted by torture, no trial will ever
be viewed as legitimate if it allows such testimony,
and defense lawyers are certain to make this a
central issue in any proceeding.

In short, by electing early on to violate the
universal prohibition on torture and cruel,
inhumane and degrading treatment, the
administration has not only inflicted unconscionable
harm on detainees from Abu Ghraib to Guantanamo,
and done incalculable damage to the U.S. image
abroad, it has painted itself into a corner. It is
becoming increasingly unacceptable to hold
so-called enemy combatants indefinitely
without trial. But we have shielded the vast
majority of them from being tried for the wrongs
they may well have committed.

President Bush vowed shortly after 9/11 that
he would capture the terrorists and bring them
to justice. But his own tactics have made that
promise impossible to deliver.

History will not be kind to this president -- not that it really
matters to him. Just remember how he answered Bob
Woodward’s softball question, “How’s history going to
judge this?”

“History, we won’t know. We’ll all be dead.”

That is, if we’re not dead already.