Thursday, June 10, 2004

Is George W. Bush a great President?

Regardless of current political persuasion, those politically minded will find James Taranto's editorial in the OpinionJournal particularly strong in its historical analysis:

"George W. Bush could eventually end up joining the ranks of the greats. The three great presidents [George Washington, Abraham Lincoln and Franklin D. Roosevelt] have three things in common: All faced unprecedented challenges, all responded to them boldly, and all ultimately were successful. Mr. Bush so far meets two of these criteria: History dealt him an unprecedented challenge in the form of the 9/11 attacks, and no one can deny that he answered it with boldness. If he is able to overcome the current troubles in Iraq, and if he succeeds in his mission of combating Islamist terror by promoting democracy in the Middle East, history will be far kinder to him than are his contemporary critics."

In other words, regardless of current political screeching on both sides of the aisle, history will be the true judge of President George W. Bush, just as history has accurately judged the aforementioned three great presidents. Now, assuming that the judgement is the most favorable one possible:

"Should this happen, the reputations of his predecessors are likely to suffer, for they will come to be seen as having failed to address the problems that came to a head on 9/11. Both Lincoln and FDR were preceded by a series of presidents who today are held in low esteem: Zachary Taylor (who ranks 31st), Millard Fillmore (35th), Franklin Pierce (37th) and James Buchanan (39th); and Warren Harding (37th, tied with Pierce), Calvin Coolidge (25th) and Herbert Hoover (29th). The former group allowed the issue of slavery to fester until it nearly destroyed the nation; the latter, fairly or not, are blamed for the Depression."

Who are the predecessors of George W. Bush? The ones relevant to the topic of terrorism are Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton, as well as George H. W. Bush. (Reagan may end up somewhat immune to the terrorism topic because his forte was fighting and winning the Cold War.) What have Jimmy Carter, George H. W. Bush, and Clinton done to fight terrorism? Taranto has his own, slightly different take on the matter:

"George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton are likely to bear the brunt for not dealing decisively with the gathering terrorist threat. Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan can also be faulted here, but Mr. Reagan's reputation is probably secure, since it rests on other accomplishments, and Mr. Carter doesn't have much farther to fall."

And on one final, very interesting note:

"Those who believe that history runs in cycles will be interested to note that the three great presidents took office at 72-year intervals--Washington in 1789, Lincoln in 1861 and FDR in 1933--and that this November it will have been exactly 72 years since the election of our last great president."

Originally posted on

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